Chemistry made the 2006 team special, and it propelled the 2008 team to a national championship after a four-loss season. This year, chemistry could be what makes an inexperienced team succeed.
"I would even come close to saying we're a lot closer than the 2006 team," Terron Sanders said. "That's saying a lot. You can feel the chemistry between us and see how well we all get along. It's going to be real interesting to see how well that plays into our season."
The chemistry has come together because of what the team experienced last year. The 19-point trashing they received from Alabama in the SEC Championship Game resonated all summer. It played on screens in the weight room when they worked out, serving as a constant reminder of what happened.
"Everyone on the team last year felt the heartbreak that we experienced, and none of us want to do it again," Sanders said. "We're doing what we have to do to prepare."
The locker room scene after the game still sits in the back of Sanders' mind. The hard work Florida put in all season to play for an SEC Title all seemed worthless in that moment.
The expectations and pressure on the team for the entire season wasn't something any team wants to deal with, but the Gators did, hoping it would pay off in winning championships.
"You would've thought somebody died," Sanders said of the locker room. "It was very quiet, very grim. It's not what you want to experience after a big time game."
The reason for the loss is still something no player is certain of. In Sanders' mind, it was a lack of focus.
Despite how close some of the wins were, the team looked around the locker room and saw talent everywhere. They felt as if there was nothing they could do that would cause them to lose a game. That effected preparation, and eventually, their entire season.
"I would say we allowed a lot of complacency to set in on the team," Sanders said. "We got comfortable. We felt unbeatable. As a whole, we probably didn't prepare as well as we could have."
The Gators have now turned the page. They don't dwell on the loss to Alabama, but they've made sure to keep it In the back of their mind to provide extra motivation.
Sanders is just happy to be able to play this season. He was held out of the Sugar Bowl because of a torn ACL. He suffered the injury in what he called "a freak accident" on his scooter. He had the surgery in January and is now ready to go.
"The rehab time varies for different people," Sanders said. "I practically lived in the trainer's room. I wanted to get back since it's my last year. I didn't want to miss it for anything. The docs checked me out and said I'm good to go. We're going to monitor during camp."
Once the first four games of the season are over, the Gators will begin to focus on a trip to Tuscaloosa. It will be billed as a rematch game, but Sanders says the Gators won't look at it like that. But they are looking forward to it.
"We definitely will be ready by the time we play Alabama," Sanders said.
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