There is no question that the Florida Gators defense will have a lot of ground to cover after a disappointing 2020 season. Florida's defense, particularly against the pass, was one of the worst in the country - there's no denying that, and the players are motivated more than ever to get it sorted.
Speaking with the media for the first time since spring, Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam shared his motivation to improve this season, reflecting on the team's three-game losing streak at the end of last season.
“We lost the last (three) games, I feel like that really motivated everybody, everybody in my class I know that for sure, for a fact because that’s unacceptable, that's not the Gator standard," Elam said on Friday.
"People can say we ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’, at the end of the day I feel like that just left a bad taste in your mouth, that last final game against Oklahoma. So I feel like guys are motivated off of that.”
Florida's worst game defensively came against the Oklahoma Sooners in the final game of the season, the Cotton Bowl. While Florida was certainly down plenty of key players due to opt-outs, the performance on the field was simply unacceptable, with few excuses to go around.
Florida would finish 100th in pass defense last season. The program was unable to have a spring nor an offseason around each other. Even with those built-in preseason excuses, Elam says that is no excuse - every team was on the same playing field last year.
This year, though, Florida did have a full spring, offseason and are now starting their fall camp. There aren't any more excuses and Elam expects everyone to play much better a year removed from one of the worst defensive performance seasons in its history.
“I feel like last year we looked a little out of whack, not communicating like we should, not everyone on the same page," Elam explained. "So I feel like this year hopefully we can clean that up so we can do everything we can to win every single game, every single week we can get better.”
The Florida secondary has already been hard at work completing each and every day to get better. With Elam and safety Trey Dean becoming the veteran leaders of the group. With veterans now departing for the NFL, Dean and Elam have had to step up, something that Elam says the two are embracing.
"The whole corner group and Trey’s looking over the whole safety group," Elam said of the players he's helping out this year.
"But if one of the safeties asks me for help, I’m down helping them. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be Avery Helm, Jason Marshall, all our corners, [Jordan] Young. Anybody who wants help, I’m willing to help them. Anybody that needs help, I’m willing to help them.”
For Elam himself, consistency is key and that's been his primary focus this offseason and into the fall.
" I can have dominant plays on film and then I might have just a whole, like ... So just being more consistent and being where I’m supposed to be," he said. "So, I feel like nobody better than me. I feel like I’m supposed to dominate every single play and every single game.”