From the first few days the freshmen class showed up on campus last summer, the divide was noticeable. The older players had paid their dues at Florida and won national championship. That seemed to give them a sense of entitlement that only escalated when hearing about how highly ranked the incoming class of freshmen were.
The freshmen, admittedly so, had the same sense of entitlement. They knew all about their rankings in high school and heard the whispers of one of the best recruiting classes ever on paper. They built chemistry before even enrolling at Florida.
"The freshmen class was so together and tight," Matt Elam said. "We came in expecting to play because we were so highly ranked in high school. You're confident coming in, and you just get broken down. We went through camp, and we got broken down because it was hard and we weren't used to it. We expected to play more than we did. It was just hard."
Making things tougher for the freshmen was a division that kept them from having older players to learn from and to voice their questions. The older players felt like it was their team.
"There were just sections," Elam said. "We had the freshmen and then the older guys. You had older guys that had won national championships, so they were the guys."
Now heading into their sophomore seasons, the recruiting class is doing their best to make sure the divide doesn't happen as long as they are on campus.
"You can always learn from what it's like," Matt Elam said. "We saw what caused us to lose games, and we've learned from it. We're trying to help the freshmen that come in. We're building chemistry and get closer as a team to win games.
"We're just closer as a team this year," Elam said.
Elam remembers tough situations last season that caused the team to back into a corner. The leadership was non-existent on the team, so when they were put in a tough situation on the road in an SEC environment, there was no player that the entire team looked up to.
That has driven the team this season to have leaders step up.
"It brings you closer because you have to be close as a team," Elam said. "You have to be close if you want to win games. When it gets hard, everybody would just go away. When it gets hard now, everybody will come together."
After spending most of his time with the secondary this offseason, Elam is impressed with the freshman class of defensive backs. Cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Valdez Showers caught his eye immediately after workouts started, and they continue to impress.
"I'm expecting a lot of great things out of them," Elam said. "It shocked me how much they knew coming in."
Roberson brings height to the cornerback position, officially listed at 6-0. He also brings cover skills that make him a candidate for early playing time.
"He's a great cover guy," Elam said. "He's very impressive with the footwork and the things he knows. You don't expect that from a freshman."
Elam seems like the only player with a starting position in the secondary locked up. After seeing time off the bench backing up strong safety Ahmad Black last season, Elam will step into the spot this year.
However, he says the new defense doesn't differentiate between the two safety spots. There won't be a listed strong safety and free safety, instead showing two safety positions that are similar.
"I expect to be all around the field," Elam said. "It's not a strong safety and free safety. It's just both safeties, and we'll all be all over the field."