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HOOVER, Ala. — After a short break following spring drills, Florida returned to campus to bury last season.

The last rites came during a team meeting conducted by Will Muschamp and strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman, and came at the Gators' request: Florida's roster and staff gathered together to say goodbye, once and for all, and to officially turn the page on an unmitigated disaster.

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The team brought shovels.

"We wrote everything down on a list," defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. said. "We wrote down our team goals. We just … we buried it. We buried it. We literally buried it and put it in the ground, just left it behind us. So we're not worrying about last year. It's about this year."

The process of moving forward demands this don't-look-back mentality, but the scars remain.

Last year's Gators weren't just bad; the Gators were historically awful. Florida lost eight games, the program's most since 1979. The Gators lost seven games in a row to end the season and dropped seven wins from their 2012 total, when Muschamp's second team came within a single regular-season victory of a shot at the national championship.

Blame injuries, a heavy culprit for the Gators' decline. No positional grouping was spared: UF lost offensive linemen, receivers, defensive ends and quarterbacks in equal measure, with no loss more crippling than Jeff Driskel's leg injury in late September.

Florida won two in a row without Driskel – Kentucky and Arkansas, two SEC bottom feeders – before dropping seven straight, lowlighted by a 26-20 loss at home to Georgia Southern, then a member of the Football Championship Subdivision.

"It was tough," Driskel said. "That's not something you want to talk about every day. It's a sore subject. But at the end of the day it still happened. We have a long way to bounce back from, and we're going to hear it until we show otherwise."

But spare blame for another round of offensive incompetence: Florida's offense ranked last in the SEC in both scoring and yards per game, in both cases by a distinct margin, leading Muschamp to hire former Duke assistant Kurt Roper as the Gators' new coordinator.

"It humbles you a little bit as a player, as a coach," Muschamp said of last season. "And for me it's been hard. I'll be honest with you, I always feel like you can learn so much from wins and you can learn so much from losses.

"It was a miserable year, but hey, use it and learn from it. That's what I've tried to be able to do. It's been frustrating, but there's no question they buried it to begin the summer."

Out of sight, out of mind, buried six feet under – to a degree.

Last season lingers in Muschamp's volatile job security; athletics director Jeremy Foley said last November he has "total confidence" in the staff, but also termed last season "unacceptable." The pressure is on: Muschamp needs to deliver – and understands this stress comes with the position.

"Be careful what you ask for," Muschamp said. "You want to be the head coach at Florida? Then you better learn to take the criticism. It's part of the deal. They didn't hold a gun to my head to take the job, I can tell you that.

"There will be a lot of chatter about hot seat business. That's part of it. The way you combat that is having a winning football team and winning football games, which is what we're going to do."

Yet the aftershocks could be viewed as more positive than negative. Motivation isn't hard to find: "We're still using it," Fowler said. There's a silver lining to be found in the injuries: UF's roster is deeper, in essence, thanks to the game-day experience the slew of bumps and bruises afforded this year's core returning personnel.

Perhaps the biggest boost comes from Roper's arrival. The Gators will ramp up the offensive tempo in his friendlier system, running more plays out of shotgun – something UF did very well in 2012 – and spreading and stretching the field, a pipe dream a season ago.

"I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that's a balanced offense," Muschamp said. "Probably what excites me the most is this is probably the most talent we've had on offense in my four years at Florida."

Florida can only improve; Florida can't get any worse. Muschamp's confidence in a rebound is a familiar preseason refrain enhanced by the circumstances.

"I think this is the most complete team I've had since I've been at Florida," he said, and even if that rings only partially true – this team will win more than four games, but an SEC title would come as a surprise – the positivity has trickled down through a humbled yet hungry roster.

"Why can't we take it the whole way?" Fowler asked. "That's how I feel about it. I'm glad our whole team has the type of mentality as well. So once you have everybody having that mentality, the sky's the limit."

HIGHLIGHTS FROM SEC MEDIA DAYS

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