GAINESVILLE (AP) - Florida has a new coach, a new offense, a new defense and plenty of new starters.
The Gators also have some new motivation. It stems from relatively low expectations.
For the first time in eight years, maybe even longer, Florida has little preseason hype. No Heisman Trophy hopefuls. No players on the All-Southeastern Conference first team. And the Gators are widely picked to finish third in the Eastern Division.
First-year head coach Will Muschamp, the former coach-in-waiting at Texas, believes the lack of attention might be a good thing. His players, though, insist they will use it as fuel while preparing for the Sept. 3 season opener against Florida Atlantic.
"It is motivating when these guys are saying we're not good enough, we don't have enough star power, we don't have enough this and that," guard Ian Silberman said. "Maybe we don't, but there have been some great teams win without star power, without a great quarterback, without a great receiver. As long as we come together as a team and play to our ability, I don't think there's anyone who can touch us."
The Gators open fall practice Saturday - amid all sorts of questions.
Muschamp kicked his best defender, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, off the team in April following his third arrest in less than two years. Florida also lost a linebacker, a punter, both safeties, two defensive linemen and three offensive linemen. Throw in a new coaching staff and about 70 players on scholarship, and there's legitimate reason for doubt.
"We did lose a lot of key players, but we have great talent here," safety Josh Shaw said. "We know what people are saying about us. We talk about it, but we don't let it get the best of us. At the end, it's about what you're doing, how you're progressing and what you show on the field."
Muschamp does have one thing in his favor: The element of surprise.
Muschamp closed spring practice for the first time in school history, so outside the two-hour glimpse into Florida's revamped offense and defense provided by the spring game, media, fans, and most importantly fans, don't know what to expect.
"No one knows what we're doing, what we're going through, so I think we can surprise a lot of people," Shaw said.
Florida hasn't been in this position very often, at least not in recent years.
The Gators have been a perennial favorite in the SEC and have landed numerous players on the preseason All-SEC team, but most believe this will be a rebuilding year for the Gators.
Urban Meyer stepped down after six years and two national championships.
Florida took a chance by hiring Muschamp, who had no previous head coaching experience. He responded by filling his staff with experienced coaches, many of whom have years of NFL experience, but how quickly can they turn things around.
The Gators finished 8-5 last season, with most of the problems coming because quarterback John Brantley was misfit in the spread offense. It didn't help that running back Jeff Demps missed several games because of a foot injury and running back Chris Rainey was suspended five games.
Brantley got the brunt of the blame. He completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,061 yards, with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He became the first player to lead the team in passing and throw more INTs than TDs since Kyle Morris in 1988.
Brantley considered transferring following the coaching change, but decided to stick around when Muschamp hired former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis to run the offense.
The one spot that seems ready to carry the Gators is the defensive line. With Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley, Omar Hunter, Jaye Howard and William Green, the Gators have the talent and the numbers to dominate the line of scrimmage. That certainly raises expectations on the defensive side of the ball.
It does little to change Florida's overall perception.
"Everybody's doubting us," Silberman said. "We don't have enough experience, we're too small. As long as we can put it together on the field, we'll be all right."