Hammond Wants to Set the Tone

Hammond Wants to Set the Tone

Every team wants to start the season off with a positive game. This Saturday's season opener against Bowling Green is about more than that for the Gators. It's focused on forgetting the struggles that happened during the 2011 season and starting to look forward with the program. Wide receiver Frankie Hammond didn't shy away from the first game being a good barometer of how the season can go.

"It's very important," Frankie Hammond said. "It's the first game of the year. We want to go out and get things going. We've been going against each other for so long. Finally, you get to go against an opponent and see all the hard work that we put in pay off."

While all eyes of Florida players are on this Saturday and the start of the new season, it's going to take a lot longer for players and coaches to forget about the 2011 season. There were positives on the defensive side of the ball last year, but the offense sputtered from the first game to the last.

The Gators haven't had a season with a losing record since 1979, but it took a Gator Bowl win over Ohio State to keep that streak in tact and sputter to a 7-6 record.

"I don't think it'll ever get put out of our mind until January at the end of this season," Hammond said. "To me, it's just motivation for our whole team. As the game keeps going, you can look back and see where we were last year. You want to keep working hard so that we don't repeat last year."

The players have talked throughout the fall about the perception of the Florida program. The upperclassmen on the team signed with the Gators when the program was one of the most dominant, recognized programs in the country. After a combined record of 15-11 in the last two seasons, the veterans feel like it's their responsibility to get the program back to where it was when they first showed up in Gainesville.

"That's definitely not what we came here for," Hammond said. "We want to get back on top. We came here to win. That's what we came here to do—win championships and get rings. That's the standard here."

The first step to getting the program back to where it was comes on offense. The Gators sputtered throughout last season when they had the ball. Whether it was injuries or a lack of playmakers, first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease has installed a new offense that players believe could fix it.

Most players have said that the pre-snap shifts and motions are the only part that is different, but Hammond sees a big difference between what Florida ran last season and the offense Pease installed for this year.

"It's a totally different offense, so quite naturally, it's going to look different," Hammond said. "We're all piecing it together. It looks a lot different with more balls being completed and things moving a lot faster. It's more shifts and things. It looks a lot better."

The quarterback battle will continue through Saturday's season opener, and that isn't a surprise to Hammond. Catching passes from both quarterbacks in practice hasn't produced a leader in his eyes. Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel will run a few plays in practice before switching it out and letting the other go.

When that switch happens, Hammond said the talk among the receivers is that they can't tell a difference who they're catching the ball from.

"We've been rolling with them since January and they've been splitting time," Hammond said. "When one comes in, another goes out. There isn't a drop off. It doesn't make a difference."

The decision at quarterback is the first big choice Pease has to make while running the Florida offense. He has already won the locker room over. Players have spoken about Charlie Weis not being a player's coach last season, but Pease has given the players an opportunity to be more vocal and involved in the offense.

"It's very positive," Hammond said about the addition of Pease. "He wants it more of a player-run environment. He's not out there making the plays for us. If we make a play, you own up to it for the other ten guys that are fighting for us. He just wants everybody to be as one so that I know what the guy next to me has. It's less thinking when you know the guy next to you will get his job done."

FightinGators.com Recommended Stories