By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
Forget that “Big Boss” nickname I’ve carried for so long. Pardon me, Floyd Mayweather Jr., but you all can just call me “Money” now. Take a look at how I ended last week’s column, as Adam so generously reposted on Sunday:
“Now, here comes No. 3 Ole Miss. Almost no one gives Florida a chance to win this game, which makes the Gators even more dangerous. Florida has nothing to lose and everything to gain. UF is supposed to be two or three years away from making a serious run at the College Football Playoff … but what if the Gators beat the Rebels? What if Florida comes in and plays their best games of the season while Ole Miss takes them lightly? Auburn has made this type of turnaround before. It is not impossible. Head coach Jim McElwain will have the Gators ready to play Saturday night; the Rebels better be ready for a dogfight.”
Look, I’m no football genius, but I can say that I’ve been in similar situations in my life when it pertains to football. Ole Miss started reading its own newspaper clippings and thought it was a lot better than it was in reality. No doubt about it, the Rebels are a talented football team. A mere two weeks ago, they knocked off one of the best teams in the country in the Alabama Crimson Tide. But this is SEC football at its best. If you do not come ready to play every single week, you can get beat very convincingly by an opponent you underestimate, such as Ole Miss did Florida. The Rebels clearly did not match the same intensity that the Gators started with from the first snap.
Now, let’s give credit where it is due. Head coach Jim McElwain – wow. There are early talks about him for not only SEC Coach of the Year but National Coach of the Year. That level of praise is a bit premature, but anyone that has followed Florida football for the past four years knows that the Gators remaining on this path would give him a great chance at picking up one or both of those honors. To this point, he has taken this group of youngsters and transformed them into a top 15 contender.
Coach Mac has underplayed the level of talent of this team. Even last week, he spoke of how good Ole Miss was and how Florida had a ways to go before it could compete with a team of that caliber. The jig is up, Coach. After the 28-point ass kicking on Saturday, he’s put everyone across the country on notice that the Gators are as real as the August sun in the south.
And how about Will Grier? This young man could not have played any better Saturday night. Remember: He’s a freshman. That’s just incredible. As I mentioned last week, I love his command of the offense; even more than that, I am a huge fan of his toughness. On his first touchdown pass of the game, he was drilled hard. However, he knew that he probably would not have completed that pass had he not stood strong in the pocket and taken that hit. I’m proud of Grier. I’m proud to say he is the quarterback of the University of Florida. He’s a phenomenal talent that is playing outside of his mind right now.
You guys know I’m always going to evaluate the offensive linemen, and I am proud to say that Trip Thurman really stepped up Saturday. The rest of the young, inexperienced talent: job well done, young men. For those that don’t know, that unit faced one of the best defensive lines in the SEC, spearheaded by a sure-fire NFL top-10 pick in Robert Nkemdiche. He was held to one tackle and one quarterback hit. Wow. Those guys up front deserve a big bear hug after that performance.
That was one of the best performances I’ve seen in the last few years along Florida’s offensive line. And you know I’m not just going to throw praise like that around. For all the talk of Coach Mac being coach of the year, there should be a bigger conversation about what offensive line assistant Mike Summers is doing. In the words of my man Roman Reigns, “Believe that!”
Florida’s secondary – led by cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, he of the late interception and near pick-six, and mouth-busting safety Keanu Neal – shut Ole Miss and Laquon Treadwell down. Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis are making a case that they’re one of the best linebacking duos in the nation, especially with other teams losing their stars due to injury.
And while the rest of the defense deserves praise, folks, defensive lineman Jon Bullard has arrived. Not only is he playing well, he’s making himself some first round money. A couple of months ago, he came into my restaurant and joked with me that none of Florida’s offensive linemen could block him. Well Jon, it turns out that no one in the nation can, either. I love his motor; he’s a heavy duty playmaker that is really living up to that five-star billing he had coming out of high school.
Now to this week, yes, trap game alert. By all means, the Gators will be favored to beat Missouri this week – and they are by 5.5 points. No doubt about it, Florida should beat the Tigers this week. Florida doesn’t need the press clippings or Twitter hype that comes with the No. 11 ranking. It needs to hunker down and attack Mizzou with the same mentality it did Ole Miss. If Coach Mac can get them to play with that same intensity and precision, they will continue to get better and win. If not, maybe the Gators will have an idea how the Rebels felt on Saturday.
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 is now in his fourth year sharing his musings and will do so through the 2015 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.