A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under head coaches Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell has joined OGGOA as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.
After consecutive weeks of tight, close-call games, it was nice to see Florida put together an overall dominant performance against a clearly outmatched Kentucky team. Games like that one are great building blocks that teams can use to improve their confidence before heading into a bye week or big game (such as LSU in two weeks).
Jeff Driskel has become the clear leader of the Gators’ offense. He is, for the most part, making sound decisions and legitimately looking good while doing it. His scrambling ability has – and will continue to be – a threat until people start to respect it, which will only open up things in the passing game even more for UF.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease appears to be confident enough in the sophomore quarterback’s abilities and, despite the fact that Florida remains a run-first team, may very well call more vertical plays than one might expect against LSU. Pease and the Gators are now in the position where they can call passing plays with confidence instead of trepidation. This will be a huge step considering LSU’s defense is on another level compared to that of any of Florida’s first four opponents.
Praising Mike Gillislee has become a standard feature of this column over the last few weeks, and I have no problem maintaining that he is still the best running back in the SEC. But how about Matt Jones? He received double-digit touches out of the backfield this week and did a solid job. This guy is a beast. He has a nasty downhill running style and will only get better with age. It’s impressive how it seems to always take more than one defender to bring him down.
Jordan Reed continues to be an offensive nightmare for opposing defenses. It was shocking that he was able to hold on to the ball after taking that big hit over the middle, especially considering it was announced this week that he suffered a head injury. Talk about fearless. That’s the kind of toughness you want to see out of every player.
Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
The offensive line put together another strong performance despite playing a team with a not-as-talented defensive front seven. The running game that the line helped produce was decent but lacked big plays, partially due to Kentucky stacking the box with eight defenders on multiple occasions. Pass protection, on the other hand, was impressive. The Gators do have a very talented group up front. Their ability to be equally as efficient in run and pass blocking is a rare commodity for a team. Usually that group specializes in one area and lacks somewhat in the other (especially on the collegiate level). Kudos to them because they are making a huge difference this season.
As expected, Florida’s defense once again dominated and this time pitched a rare SEC shutout. Though at times it did not seem like they were into the game, especially early in the contest when UK was moving the ball with ease on the ground, UF turned things around and came up big. It was remarkable to see the defense walk away with three picks (including one returned for a touchdown by Jaylen Watkins).
As evident in the second quarter, turnovers can dramatically change a game, which is why the defensive staff has been preaching about forcing them all offseason. Though the Gators only scored seven points off of those three interceptions, it changed momentum and field position, two of the most critical parts of a football game.
Michael Taylor, the only linebacker to grab a pick on Saturday, continues to stand out for me. For being such a young guy, he’s making a big impact and can always be found around the ball at the end of plays.
That’s very important for Florida considering that the team’s linebacking depth has been depleted a bit due to injury. Should Jelani Jenkins be out again for the LSU game, Taylor will once again be relied on as a key rotation player for that unit.
Most importantly, as head coach Will Muschamp mentioned on Monday, the Gators need to use this bye week to get healthy. Confidence can come with wins and big plays but it can also grow simply by knowing, as a player, that you are physically able to perform to the best of your ability when you step on the field.