|No. 6 Gators embrace repeat bid despite key losses|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 27 August 2007 12:28|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Quarterback Tim Tebow walked into Florida's meeting room Monday wearing a national championship T-shirt, a not-so-subtle reminder of how last season ended and where this one begins.|
Although the Gators haven't talked much about repeating as national champs, they haven't shied away from it, either.
``It's unfair to say forget that ever happened,'' coach Urban Meyer said. ``I want our kids to remember it. ... Let's just get back and do it again. Tiger Woods pretty much summed it up: Great programs, great players, they want to repeat. They want to do it again and again and again.''
Sixth-ranked Florida opens the season against Western Kentucky on Saturday, nearly eight months after hammering Ohio State 41-14 in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
The Gators lost nine starters on defense and another six on offense, but they haven't lost confidence.
``If you've gone to any of our practices and seen what we're doing, I think there (would) be a lot more talk about (repeating),'' receiver Andre Caldwell said. ``I see how good a team we've got and all the playmakers. We could be right back at the big show like we were last year, competing for another national championship. You can't help but talk about it. It's there. We want to go back-to-back.''
Florida became the first team in 15 years to repeat in men's basketball when coach Billy Donovan's program won it all again in April.
Donovan spent most of last season downplaying talk about a repeat bid, trying to keep his players hungry and humble even though he knew they were one of the best teams in the country.
He called all the hype and hoopla ``poison.'' Donovan reiterated that to Meyer's players two weeks ago, telling them, ``don't drink the poison.''
They apparently got the message.
``More than 50 percent of this team wasn't really a part of that national championship in terms of playing,'' safety Dorian Munroe said. ``We're hungry. We want one for ourselves. Coach Meyer doesn't talk about it and we don't either. But we're good enough to make a run at it. It's a matter of us coming together.''
No team from Florida has ever repeated. Not Miami after any of its five titles. Not Florida State in 1994 and 2000. And not Florida in 1997.
This year's Gators could have a tough path, too. They play LSU and Georgia and host Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State - five teams ranked in the preseason poll.
Nonetheless, Florida maintains that its primary goal is to get back to the Southeastern Conference title game.
``Last year, we didn't aim for a national championship,'' safety Tony Joiner said. ``We aimed for an SEC championship. By winning the SEC championship, we got boosted to the national championship game.
``That's what we aim for around here, to get back to Atlanta. Once we get back to Atlanta, everything takes care of itself from there. We won't talk about repeating until that happens.''
But they won't shy away from it, either.
``We have a target on our backs right now,'' Caldwell said. ``We have to defend ourselves. We are going to get the best from everybody and we have to bring our best in week in and week out. You can see the confidence in people. They walk a little different and talk a little different.
``There is a little swagger in everybody. We worked hard to get it. But we aren't showing off and we are getting our work done.''
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