Here we are again, preparing to take the leap into the great unknown that is a college football season. We’ve been here before, but not quite like this.
The 2006 season was about a lot of things, but it largely was the story of a coach and a quarterback, polar opposites who stuck together to bring home a crystal trophy. The 2007 season was mostly just about a quarterback, with his Herculean efforts carrying the team and capturing a bronze trophy.
The 2008 season should be, and must be, different. If the trophy case is to expand in the winter, it must be a story about a team.
The quarterback will have more options around him, and he must use them to preserve himself. Those options must step up and take some of the burden, shouldering it with the same fervor as the one who carried it last year.
The defense is really where the team model must prevail. Individually they cannot stand, and last autumn we had 13 games of falling to prove it. The line and secondary must set each other up for success, with the linebackers providing the glue in the middle.
Nothing less will be enough in this new world of 2008. There are giants in the land, and those wearing red, scarlet, crimson, and cardinal will not be impressed by a one-man show on offense. Those wearing navy blue, black, purple, and burnt orange will not be impressed by a defense that cannot get a stop.
The players will compose plenty of stories throughout the year. The defensive line will. The running backs will. The secondary will. The wide receivers will. The possibility of another bronze trophy will be there too. In the end, the thematic thread that ties them all together will be whether the team as a whole came together to grow into more than a sum of its parts.
Who can say what accolades await? Who can tell what disappointments lay ahead? Perhaps the season will not come down to anything more than a pop heard in a shoulder, or a twinge felt in a knee. Perhaps it will come down to a final play in a hostile stadium. Perhaps, or maybe there will be no suspense at all.
We will be there, with open arms and open eyes, crying foul at undeserved flags and celebrating every score. We will travel to the unwelcoming places to make sure that we are heard. We will defend our name, and we will sing the songs that we have known and loved since before we can remember.
We will hope. We will hope because it is the greatest of all. We will hope because others wish they could. We will hope because it’s all we know. And in four months, we will stand by a remarkable team of men. We will congratulate them on a job well done, and we will say those words that have never been truer.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator.