A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined OnlyGators.com in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He has returned to continue sharing his musings through the 2013 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 of those contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.
It would be a lie to tell you that I knew Tyler Murphy was talent enough to come in and play as well as he did Saturday. It would be a bold-faced lie to say I know anything about him – other than his name – before Jeff Driskel got injured. It is amazing how knowledge and perception can change in a couple of days.
Diving into the dynamics of which quarterback is better or whether this particular back-up can lead the team better than the starter is irrelevant at this point because only one is even healthy enough to be involved in the conversation. However, it is certainly worthwhile to consider that Florida’s offense, which has struggled as of late, found a nice rhythm after Murphy took over behind center.
In retrospect, the best thing that could have happened for the Gators during fall camp was Driskel being sidelined temporarily due to his emergency appendectomy. It gave the coaching staff a chance to give Murphy some valuable reps – and evaluate him with the first team offense – that otherwise never would have happened.
Even though offensive coordinator Brent Pease talks at length about the mental reps that reserves or injured players take during practice, nothing is a substitute for being on the field and going through the motions.
How talented and consistent Murphy can be remains to be seen, though he certainly flashed it against Tennessee. He proved that he’s a gamer, a guy that can step up when called on to take the reins. But managing the team off the bench is not the same as leading the Gators, one of the best programs in the country, through an entire week and for 60 minutes in a game.
Can Murphy be a true leader?
What does a new voice do to the dynamic of the offense and the team as a whole?
Whether you loved him or grew tired of his mistakes, Driskel was a leader. He said of the right things, accepted blame when things went wrong and earned the respect of his teammates throughout an entire season and offseason as the starter.
Trust me when I say this: It is one hell of a blow for any team to lose a guy of this caliber, especially when it’s the quarterback. While many these days may disagree, I believe Murphy has got some pretty big shoes to fill and will have to do so against an incredibly tough upcoming schedule. I am most anxious to see how this team and the coaching staff adjust and respond without their offensive leader.
Considering I spend a lot of time talking about Florida’s offense, let’s move on to the defensive line, which has been seriously impressive through three games.
As a former offensive lineman, let me tell you, we hate the guys on the other side of the ball. We’re like oil and water; we just don’t mix. I don’t compliment them. I’m not friends with them. That’s just never been my philosophy.
That being said, the Gators’ defensive line is definitely playing at an elite level. At defensive tackle, Dominique Easley has easily become my favorite player to watch. The combination of Dante Fowler, Jr., who made serious noise against the Vols, and Ronald Powell are going to give some of these Southeastern Conference offensive tackles stomach aches in the upcoming weeks.
I really feel for Florida’s offensive line right now because even though going up against the first team makes you better, practicing against these defensive linemen must be a freaking nightmare.
Moving forward, UF has its first road test outside of the state against Kentucky. With a new starting quarterback and a long streak to continue, the Gators take this game as serious as they would against a ranked opponent. Keep an eye on how the offense operates under Murphy and what changes Pease makes from a play-calling perspective. It will be interesting to see how the offensive game plan unfolds after Murphy gets a chance to prepare for a full week.
Losing Driskel means things have changed big-time at Florida, and as an observer outside the program, I’m excited for the ride.