Nothing defines a man more than how he responds when his back is against the wall. And the No. 19 Florida Gators (6-3, 4-3) are pinned against the wall following consecutive conference losses.
Head coach Dan Mullen addressed the importance of finding out how tough his football team is coming down the stretch.
“We got a great opportunity to see where we’re at as a program right now. More than just as a team, also as a program. When things get tough, how are we? This is when you gotta buckle down and the toughness comes through. We got three more games to go play here in the regular season, and then we get a bowl game.”
With the College Football Playoffs and Southeastern Conference Championship out of the equation, coaches are preaching that there’s still something to play for: pride and restoring the Gator Standard. That begins with buying into the coaching staff's message and playing for more than themselves.
“And we get to go see what we’re all about as a team and what this team is made of and where the program is at a little bit, with all of us pushing and moving forward,” Mullen said. “There is still an awful lot to play for as the season goes on. Most important, everybody in that locker room, hopefully, gotta play for each other, play for the Gators, play for our team.”
“Man, I, either you're a competitor or you’re not. That’s all I need. Right? That is all I need. Certainly, I hope that rubs off and that’s the attitude of every single guy in the locker room.”
Receiver Josh Hammond spoke about how maybe some players on this team have lost their focus following the loss to Georgia.
"I think it just comes with the preparation throughout the week of practice. I think after the Georgia loss and lot of guys kinda knew we're out of the playoff, playoff race. It kinda got into a lot of guys mind that it's kinda like up in the air, like what to play for in a type of way.
As the season begins to mirror the downfall from a season ago, Mullen is unsure if there are true leaders inside the locker room to keep this season alive.
“No, I think guys. … we have the potential to. I don’t know that we do right now. It’s also the first year within the program and there are a lot of guys that are learning. We have guys that potentially could be leaders.”
A member on the team, whose contribution level on Saturdays is very low, seems to be one of the only guys who’s beginning to take charge. However, it’s tough to determine how many players will absorb R.J. Raymond’s message.
Hammond, a veteran on this football team, detailed Raymond’s postgame address to the Gators in the locker room.
“I think R.J. kinda talked after the game and really put it out there and called some guys out like we still have a lot to play for, like the season's not over yet and we gotta tighten it up.”
“You don't ever wanna be called out as someone who just you know like wants to lose or just doesn't care about the sport. So, I think R.J. calling everybody out was definitely like a big eye opener and getting a lot of guys like really back on page of what we're here for and what's our goals and things we wanna accomplish this year."
South Carolina is a tough, physical team that’s capable of coming into The Swamp and leaving victorious. If Florida wants to get back in the win column and shake off the previous weeks, they’ll need leaders to emerge within the locker room.