Snell’s Slant: Murpry’s turn, Florida’s elite defense

By Adam Silverstein
September 24, 2013

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.

6 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    “I’m excited for the ride.” – SS. Can’t agree more, I’m excited every year but with all the recent revelations this one will be particularly fun to watch.

  2. Joaquin says:

    Hate to say this but this may be what the Gators needed. Some one to rally behind. It seemed like everyone stepped it up on Saturday when Driskel went down. I for one am a Driskel believer so it is a sad to see such a terrible thing happen to him and wish him a speedy recovery. As far as this season goes, hopefully we can continue the momentum from the ut game and all become believers in Murphy. I know I am behind him.

    • G2 says:

      Think you are right. SEC championship upside is with a sharp JD but just wasn’t working this year so far. This will at least be fun to watch and who knows?? Hope we can get a big lead and get the #2 qb some snaps in case Murphy ever goes down.

  3. gatorboi352 says:

    What happened to Driskel was tragic and you’d never wish that on anybody. He will bounce back.

    HOWEVER…

    The Jeff Driskel Project was reaching an ugly head. The progress wasn’t there like it needed to be at this point in his QB career. It’s been said on the radio and other places about his first “call of duty” against Alabama a few years ago: that ‘deer in headlights’ look he had when Brantley went down. There has always remained a little bit of that ‘deer in headlights’ with Jeff. He’s never truly looked in command or poised, in true control of the entire offense. He was always _thinking_ too much about it all, instead of just playing.

    Who knows if Murphy will be the answer, or heck even serviceable. But when his number was called on Sat, I sure as heck didn’t see any deer in headlights look about him. Some kids when the lights come on, they just know exactly what to do and how to do it. I think people are reluctant on Tyler because of how many stars are by his name. He certainly didn’t look any worse than Brantley, Driskel or Brissett out there though.

  4. Joe says:

    I wish Shannon would have addressed the play of the offensive line against Tenn. While the coaches said Jeff was a better choice for QB over Jacoby because of his running ability, Given our problems with the O line, I think Tyler’s ability to slide around the pocket escaping the unblocked or poorly blocked rush, while still keeping his eyes downfield, is exactly what we need at this time.

  5. 305Gator says:

    Murph in fact looked better than Driskel, Brantley and Brisset ever did, especially in the second half of the game after he settled down. He ran with a purpose when needed and completed some nice passes too. More importantly he threw no interceptions. Iam more excited and confident in the Gator offense with Murph at the helm than with Driskel. He just threw too many INTs and fumbled too many times.

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