It's now been nearly two full months since the Florida Gators lost to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl in Dec. 2020.
A season that ended 8-4 felt much more like a 10-2 finish due to the mitigating circumstances. But, regardless of how Florida's season ended, three straight losses, the team is moving on, looking forward to a fresh start this year for the 2021 season.
"I think guys really excited to get back, excited to get... hopefully looking forward to more normalcy moving forward into next season. I know excited to be able to have spring practice. When you look, we were kind of like on stage normal, normal," Mullen said at his pre-spring press conference last season.
"You go back to a year, which I mean it seems like it's less than a year, but probably for everybody in the world, seems like we're headed in this direction. We're meeting, we're about to head out to our first practice, boom, (the) whole world changes."
A sense of "normalcy" comes after one of the most convoluted and mentally taxing seasons a football player at the University of Florida has likely faced.
Mere hours before the first spring practice of the 2020 season, Florida - and the entire world - was faced with what would become one of the toughest challenges anyone has faced - getting through a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus.
There would be no spring practice, there were plenty of doubts regarding whether or not a season would even take place. In the midst of the global pandemic, social justice protests, and more also erupted, all before players could even take the field to begin training for the upcoming season.
Simply put, it was a complicated and complex start to the year and the season as it moved forward grew even more complicated, setting the stage for one of the best and worst seasons in Florida football history.
Now, Florida can begin anew, while the team will still have to deal with the ongoing pandemic via social distancing and all of the other protocols the team had last year such as mandatory testing, it at least understands how to navigate it - a new normal.
"So I think now, having a little bit more of a schedule that now, I know socially we're a long way from where we need to be, but I think there's a little bit more familiarity with what's going on and we're going to get back to a little bit more of a regular routine," Mullen added.
"You know, get out to practice hopefully this week. So I think guys are kind of excited about that aspect of things."
The team is now ready for a fresh start. One of its featured players, wide receiver Justin Shorter, is set to take on the challenge of a renewed role as one of the team's go-to receivers. With time to reflect, Shorter is moving forward onto the next year, hoping to learn from his mistakes from the previous season.
“I’d say really just after the season ended, we just took the time to look back at how I played and what I need to work on. Not just me but as a whole offense, as a whole unit," Shorter said last week.
"I feel like my answer to everything is just to work harder and work smarter. I feel like, really, after the season ended, I just looked at how I played last year and just tried to find all my little, small flaws so I can just work at them every single day.”
Shorter would finish the season having caught 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. One of his favorite plays of the season, he says, would come against the Arkansas Razorbacks when he caught a pass from former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask in the back of the end zone, going up and making the snag.
It's a new year, and while the past accomplishments and failures are points to move forward from and learn off of, the Gators would be best served to leave the past in the past, moving on from its disappointing end to 2020, and hoping for a revival of sorts in this upcoming season.