Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zook Unafraid to Pump Up Expectations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zook Unafraid to Pump Up Expectations

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

GAINESVILLE -- Before a certain ball coach came along, a common refrain from fans of the once perpetually underachieving University of Florida football program was: "Wait till next year."

No matter how ugly things got, even the pain of 0-10-1 could be soothed with the promise that good times were one turn of the calendar away. Steve Spurrier's 12-year run on the UF sideline put an end to all that. Gator nation is now so spoiled, it has about as much patience as George Steinbrenner on steroids.

That's why Ron Zook couldn't bring himself yesterday to step up to the podium on football media day and pull a Vince Dooley. If there ever was a time when Spurrier's successor had a legitimate right to ease the throttle on expectations, the 2003 Gators afford him that luxury.

Oh, the poor-mouthing Dooley could do if one of his Georgia teams had lost eight players to the NFL Draft. And was coming off the school's worst record since 1989, and had the fewest returning starters (nine) among 117 Division I-A teams. And was breaking in a new quarterback, plus virtually an entire front seven on defense.

With those kind of numbers, Dooley would downplay the Bulldogs' chances of success so much, his first public statement might have been to ask the government for disaster relief assistance.

Zook does just the opposite. He takes a half-empty glass, tells everybody it's almost full, and doesn't worry about the consequences.

"It's not my nature to be that way," said Zook. "Maybe that's right, maybe that's wrong. But I'm excited about this football team."

Then, while putting his arm at one level, he said: "We're going to start here, and . . ." then raising the arm slightly, added: "we're going to finish here."

Not a promise to be taken lightly when you consider that Zook has four quarterbacks vying for a starting job who have thrown a combined 10 college passes. …

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