We're doing things a little differently this year, with Florida's 48 for 2014. Yes, the numbering is intentional, but these will mostly be reasons to be excited about the 2014 season, or ways to look at it. And I'm going to have a lot more fun with it than anyone did with Florida's 2013 season, trust me.
Even though college athletes are totally not working jobs or anything, every team in major college football has to let its players have some interaction with the media. Some players are awful at speaking to reporters. Some players are good quotes. Some players are great quotes, and thoroughly entertaining people.
I, like most journalist types, like the latter bunch best.
2013 was a bad year for Florida for any of many reasons, of course, but all the injuries made the Gators' weekly press conferences almost farcical by the end of the season. The quarterbacks were largely uninteresting: The most compellinng thing Jeff Driskel did in a press conference was squint a few times, which — I'm not kidding — prompted message board speculation about his eyesight; Tyler Murphy was honest and soft-spoken, but never really much more than that; Skyler Mornhinweg looked like a deer in the headlights for all of his appearances.
And the non-QBs weren't much better. Solomon Patton sounded like T.I., except quieter. Dominique Easley could've become an all-time media favorite had he talked to the press in 2013, but he was hurt so early in the season that it never made sense for him to field questions. Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins were fine, but never really more or less than that. The one guy who was fun and funny was Dante Fowler, Jr, who has a boy's heart in a grown man's chest, and he was far more fun when he spoke during the week after the Arkansas game than after the Missouri game or after the Vanderbilt game.
2014 is already showing more promise.
Fowler's SEC Media Days interview is a riot. He begins it by waving at a reporter and saying "I'm here," and it only gets goofier from there. Vernon Hargreaves III said, with a straight face, that Kentucky was his favorite road stadium to play at — without mentioning that it was the only road stadium where he and Florida won in 2013, and thus the only place he's ever won on the road — and also gave quotes you might expect a bright NFL player to give. He's both smart and funny.
And Driskel, so frequently a little unsteady on big stages on and off the field, sounded relaxed, comfortable, and maybe even loose. That's a welcome change from his past nervousness, especially if it sticks.
Now, granted, these are quotes and interviews from before the season's begun, when hope and confidence are what every representative of every program wants to sell, but there are players and programs who sell hope and confidence better than others, and I thought Florida's contingent did a good job of that on Monday.
But I think a year of interviews with a grinning Fowler, a quietly cocky Hargreaves, and a fully-realized Driskel might be pretty fun — and then there are other players on Florida's roster, like Nick Washington and Max Garcia, who might be better public speakers than the Gators who went to Hoover.
The quality of the answers players give to questions reporters ask is a truly minor part of a program, but it's one that means something to me, someone who listens to and reads those answers. After the first test, I'm pleased with the answers from 2014 Florida so far.