Caldwell Looking for Big Senior Season

Andre Caldwell can't help but be excited when he looks at all the offensive firepower that will take the field for the Gators this season. It's come a long way since two seasons ago, when Caldwell was sidelined for most of the year with a broken femur.

"There's a lot more speed out there at the skill positions," Caldwell said. "We have a lot more players that when they touch the ball they can take it to the end zone anytime. We have a lot of young guys but you can see the speed out there and it's going to show on September 1. "

In addition to being one of those players, Caldwell has taken on a leadership role. He draws on his own experiences to help teach the younger members of the team. He recalled his first game as a Gator.

"I remember running out of the tunnel," Caldwell said. "I ran as fast as I could to the other side of The Swamp. And then I had to go out there on kickoff return and I was dead tired."

He can relate to some of the feelings of a young player who wants to prove himself.

"It's hard because you're so excited and ready to go out there make a play," Caldwell said. "I tell them to stay humble and keep focused. Don't lose your entire energy running out of that tunnel. And that crowd will give it to you but your time will come."

With the graduation of Dallas Baker, Jemalle Cornelius and Kenneth Tookes, the youth and inexperience of Caldwell's fellow receivers is often apparent.

"Most of the guys I hang with I say ‘I'm 22 years old' and these guys are 18 and 19," Caldwell said. "They can't even get in some clubs. But as long as they go out there and make plays I don't care if they're 12 years old."

Defending the home turf has been a big part of the Florida program's resurgence under Urban Meyer's tenure. It's getting back to the point where any UF loss should be considered a major upset, particularly in The Swamp.

"If anybody comes into The Swamp and beats us, they deserve it," Caldwell said. "This is our house and we don't lose in the Swamp. We're going give them our best and we think our best is better than any other team."

Having already spent four seasons on the team, Caldwell has a perspective that few possess, having seen the program go from the depths of the Zook era to the heights of last season's national championship.

"I'm amazed that when I got here we had a couple down years, losing 4-5 games a season, Caldwell said. "Now we're back on top where Florida's supposed to be. With the players I've played with and seen come through the program it's not that big of a surprise. We just had to get together."

Winning the national championship has done more than return the Florida program to the country's elite. It's restored a sense of swagger to its players that hasn't been there since the Spurrier days.

"You can see their confidence has changed a little bit," Caldwell said. "They walk a little different and talk a little different. You can see the swagger and it feels good. We worked hard to get it so we flaunt it but not too much because we're still getting our work done.

Much like the Gators men's basketball team, defending the title will present new challenges.

"My confidence has always been high since I've been here so that hasn't changed for me. I just feel that we have that target on our back right now so we need to defend ourselves. We're going to get the best from everybody so we have to bring our best game week-in and week-out."

Caldwell's confidence shows when asked who the fastest player on the team is.

"It's probably either me, Percy [Harvin] or Murph [Louis Murphy]," Caldwell said. "Who knows? We aren't going to race but I'd put money on myself."

With talent like that, it's no wonder why many, including Caldwell, believe this year's Gators team is second to none when it comes to speed and playmaking.

"Easily, I think we're the fastest," Caldwell said. "We have too much speed out there and too many playmakers. This is fastest by far and the most electrifying team in the country."

Noticeably absent from the preseason discussion has been the chances of Florida repeating. Caldwell guessed at the reason for all the skepticism.

"I just think because we're a young team and we have nine new starters on defense," Caldwell said. "They don't think they're ready to step on that big stage and win all these games like last year. But if they come to any of our practices and see what we're doing, I think there'd be a lot more talk about it because everyone's working hard to get back to where we were."

It certainly hasn't kept Caldwell from being optimistic about the Gators' chances.

"That's my goal every year and I see how good a team we have with all the playmakers," Caldwell said. "We could be right back at the big show like were last year."

He also cited it as one of the main reasons he chose to come back for his last year of eligibility.

"We want to be known as one of the greatest teams," Caldwell said. "Nobody in Florida history ever won back-to-back and we want to be a part of that."

While many Caldwell's former teammates have graduated and gone on to the NFL, he still keeps in touch with them.

"I talk to them every other week or so," Caldwell said. "Twice a week sometimes. They're very involved with Florida football and always reminisce about the times when they were here and how the NFL doesn't compare."

Fightin Gators Top Stories