Snell’s Slant: Life not easy for the these Gators

By Adam Silverstein
October 8, 2014

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

I have to admit, as I sat in front of my television on Saturday, I was sweating bullets. For the first time in a decade, I honestly thought Tennessee was going to defeat Florida. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind.

The product that the Gators’ offense put on the field in the first half was, for a lack of a better word, atrocious. Actually, that’s the right word: atrocious.

For some reason Jeff Driskel, a redshirt junior in his third year as Florida’s starter, is regressing. He has made plenty of mistakes in his career, but Driskel has also helped the Gators win plenty of football games. Now the team is simply rudderless with him in the game. Despite all that, he is not playing as poorly as everyone insists. Yes, Driskel is playing with very little confidence; considering that Gator Nation goes on endlessly about his performance and demands his benching, you can probably understand why he is having some mental struggles.

It also needs to be made quite clear that the skill players around Driskel are not making life any easier. The simplest thing to do is blame the quarterback for the offense’s problems, but he cannot control receivers dropping the ball or running the wrong routes, or the offensive line blocking in the wrong protection scheme. These issues all affect his – and the offense’s – performance just as much as Driskel’s mental lapses.


Of course, we all got our first taste of what Treon Harris can do, and at first glance, he appears to be the Gators’ latest version of “instant offense.” I wish I could draw a more direct comparison between Driskel-Harris and Chris Leak-Tim Tebow from 2006, but obviously Driskel is not producing like Leak and no one in their right mind would link up Harris’s limited action to Tebow’s tremendous success as a freshman. However, it is noticeable that Harris energizes the offense very much the same way Tebow did when he would jump into the game during that national championship season.

Florida was sluggish with Driskel in the shotgun for three quarters and did not put a single point on the board; Harris entered to a hero’s ovation and, well, he delivered. To be completely honest, I expected him to fail, not due to lack of belief in his talent but because of his experience and the circumstance. Will Muschamp put a true freshman in the game at quarterback with less than 15 minutes, following a key turnover, on the road in one of the most intimidating atmospheres in the Southeastern Conference. That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

As Adam alluded to in his post-game story on the quarterback situation, Harris did not play well; he was about average. But, he didn’t make any mistakes and was able to convert a couple key plays when they were needed the most. Whether Driskel had been a victim of circumstance or Harris a culprit of opportunity, Harris got the job done…and now the Gators have a legitimate quarterback controversy on their hands.

[Editor’s Note: This week’s edition of Snell’s Slant was written prior to Harris’s off-the-field incident becoming public knowledge. Therefore, his opinions on the quarterback situation are based purely on talent and potential, not ability to see the field as Harris is currently indefinitely suspended from the program.]

Harris has proven Muschamp’s long-held statement – that Driskel gives Florida its “best chance to win” – to be at least somewhat incorrect, and he is no longer an unknown commodity as a player. Unproven, yes; unknown, no. Remember, this kid is still a freshman. He has not been on the field as a starter nor has he played a team that has schemed against his specific talents and abilities.

Onto the defense. Wow.

The Gators were so dominant defensively that the closest comparison I can draw in terms of effectiveness is what that unit did to LSU back in 2012. When you consider how much NFL talent was on that team – and how poor UF’s secondary played against Kentucky and Alabama – that is saying something.

Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin have received more than their fair share of well-deserved crap this season, but what these two did to fix – whether with a Band-Aid or cement remains to be seen – the defense is praiseworthy. And before you bust on Tennessee’s offense, realize that unit put up 32 points against Georgia.

Saturday’s defensive performance proved how effective the Gators can be when they avoid numerous mental mistakes. Sure, Marcus Maye and Brian Poole each had their issues once again, but those miscues can be overlooked when the end result is a first down and not a busted coverage for a touchdown.

Florida’s pass rush also helped clear up some of the secondary’s minor mistakes with Bryan Cox Jr. finally showing up. And not only did he show up, he kicked the damn door off the hinges. Not only did he register three sacks, Cox played exceedingly well against the run. I’m sure his dad is proud of what his son did on Saturday, because I know I am.

LSU is as important a game as UF will have this season. The Tigers are surprisingly at the bottom of a loaded SEC West, and the Gators are somehow in a dogfight atop the SEC East. Florida can still accomplish all of its goals this season, but with multiple exceptionally-tough games against ranked opponents upcoming, it needs to take care of every opponent that it has a more than 50-50 chance of defeating.

Whatever the case, it continues to be an interesting season for these Gators.

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 third year sharing his musings and will do so through the 2014 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.

38 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    Good, even-handed analysis of the QB situation.

    I too thought the defense played well. Thought that some players, including Maye, got criticized more than they deserved.

    • 5wideU says:

      Michael,

      I’m not one to criticize players freqently but Maye gets beat almost everytime he has to cover downfield (beyond 10 yards). He is being specifically targeted by every team. It’s happened consistently since KY burned him multiple times in the 2nd half and it’s going to keep on happening until we make a change there, in my opinion. Otherwise, our defense played completely lights out last week.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Maye’s tight coverage on UT’s last offensive play was largely responsible for Worley’s overthrow int when he tried to force it in there. I understand that’s just one play, but I mention it under the “credit where credit is due” department.

        Our whole secondary is young and can get better. Hopefully they will. Tabor looked good and the idea of Hargreaves at one corner and Tabor at the other is hard to not get giddy about.

        • gatorboi352 says:

          “Tabor looked good and the idea of Hargreaves at one corner and Tabor at the other is hard to not get giddy about.”

          Agreed. And this is what I thought and expected the starting CB situation to be before the season began.

  2. PapaMurphy says:

    Snell you made a good point. To Driskel’s credit, our wrs have not made plays all season. Demarcus had one good fluke game against Kentucky. WR play has been non-existent with lack of separation and consistent drops. Also, our running back and offensive line play has been average. There has been very few times were Driskel has had a clean pocket to throw from. Still I think Driskel must do a better job of going throw his reads when giving time in the pocket. Obviously he’s lost his confidence. I think we should employ an exclusive wildcat package for him to get his confidence back and give our offense a boost this weekend. Put him in situations were he’s running the ball and making positive plays and also rotating Kelvin Taylor in as the wildcat QB with Debose in the mix. Kentucky destroyed South Carolina with their wildcat package last Saturday. Let’s simplify things for Driskel. He’s our QB moving forward so we need to root for him.

    • Michael Jones says:

      The most frustrating thing for me about Jeff is his inaccuracy, which mostly shows itself in overthrows. The kid has a world of talent and arm strength. Not sure if he’s just pressing and not playing loose enough, over-thinking, trying to aim the ball, or what, but I can’t help but still believe that he’s better than that. Maybe he’d benefit from taking a little off the ball.

      I agree that we need to cheer him on. He’s a great kid AND HE’S A GATOR so it’s easy to do.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I think the pressing and forcing and unstable in the pocket are all reasons for his inaccuracy. Early in his career his accuracy downfield and ability to stretch the field was one of the biggest features in his skill at QB, and now he is so skittish he can’t hit the broadside of a barn. It has to all be mental.

        • gatorboi352 says:

          “Early in his career his accuracy downfield and ability to stretch the field was one of the biggest features in his skill at QB”

          I can’t recall any point in Jeff’s career where the deep ball was one of his strong points.

          • Ken (CA) says:

            Perhaps you can’t, but look at his 70% completion rating in 2012 with his td-int ratio and many 20+ yard downfield passes (Not RAC 20 yd + but in the air). Other than his pocket mobility his ability to get it quickly downfield accurately was one of the big points for him. You don’t lose that ability unless you are overthinking everything and constantly worried about when the hit on your blindside is coming rather than looking downfield and focusing on the throw

  3. Michael J. says:

    “He reads defenses very well. He takes the ball to the right spots.” Will Muschamp after the Tennessee game on Jeff Driskel. That should say it all. Florida has no chance of becoming a good team with Will Muschamp as the coach. 2012 was an anomaly. I predict UF will lose to LSU Saturday. This is a team that got seal clubbed in it’s last to games and has an offense that is as bad as Florida’s and has the worst rushing defense in the SEC. But I’ll take Les Miles over Will Muschamp every day of the week, including Sunday. Florida has been horrible on offense for years now. Muschamp has cultivated a culture of mediocrity on offense. Maybe Jeff Driskel isn’t as bad as I think he is, it’s hard to see anyone thriving on offense under Will Muschamp. Two of Florida’s starting receivers and one offensive lineman from last year’s terrible offense are now on NFL rosters. I was in agreement with Foley on waiting until the end of the year to make a decision on Muschamp. I now think that is not the right thing to do. He needs to leave immediately. Yes, Florida won at Tennessee, but they were still awful, only Tennessee was slightly more awful. Then, after the game, Muschamp acts like he is a silly fan. It was embarrassing to think he is Florida’s head coach. Florida needs a professional to be the coach, not a child like Muschamp displays himself to be at times. Remember his query about if someone knew what a “midline” was after the Georgia Southern game? Now he makes this ludicrous statement about Driskel. Guess what, Will? Your prediction that everyone would be proud that Jeff Driskel was their quarterback before the Tennessee game was nonsense, with a bye week to prepare. No, Muschamp needs to go now before he makes the hole even bigger for the new coach to have to dig out of. Have someone be an interim, at least they may be a professional. Will Muschamp has no business being a head coach anywhere.

    • 5wideU says:

      Honestly, not sure any of us really care what a nole thinks. Why not take your rambling posts to a nole site and analyze how Winston has been enabled from the day he set foot on campus ?

    • 5wideU says:

      To add to my thoughts …. as a nole fan, why do you care and spew such vitriol towards Driskel and Muschamp ? Why are you on this board constantly throwing jabs ?

      Firing Muschamp now (win or lose vs LSU) won’t benefit anyone, particularly the players, and would serve no purpose. Coming from someone who constantly bashes everything and clearly does not support this program, your viewpoint lacks complete credibility.

      Adam, I know you’ve been tempted before to nix this guy from the boards … is it really worthwhile to allow this guy to keep posting when he clearly isn’t a fan and just posts to try and incite ?

      • Michael J. says:

        I guess you don’t agree with my point of view, but I am not a person that hides their head in the sand. If I’m wrong, let me know why, but I feel confident in standing behind what I have said, it’s usually been accurate. I just think there isn’t any hope for the team as along as Will Muschamp is the coach, his record speaks for itself, and after his childish display after the Tennessee game, I don’t see the point of prolonging the inevitable. If you think how he acted is how you want you think the university should be represented by it’s most visible representative, touche. Maybe it could be overlooked if he was winning, but to have a guy that is a losing coach act that way is intolerable in my eyes, and on top of the idiotic way he’s acted numerous times before, he needs to go right now. Of course that’s not going to happen, Foley is as delusional as Muschamp, evidenced by his celebrating after the Kentucky and Tennessee games. That is how far Florida has fallen under Muschamp. No wins against a ranked team since 2012 and celebrating wins over Kentucky and a bad Tennessee team. You can ignore it and say everything is fine, but I think the longer Muschamp remains the face of the Gators, the worse it will get.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      You know, I think we could have Adam post an article about 4 bunny rabbits that were seen crossing campus and people like you and USA would use that as a jump off point to hammer the coaching staff again. We get it. You don’t like them. You have made your point. Many of us don’t like them either, but there are times to discuss (in articles about the staff and their deficiencies) and times to lay off (in articles about sexual assault or articles about how the players stepped up and made it happen, along with good corrections by the staff).

      You guys need to learn to pick your battles and stop posting the same tripe over and over. WE GET IT!

  4. uf_84 says:

    You are absolutely right about the defense. I have to give credit where credit is due. I’ve been as critical of our HBC as anyone (Although I haven’t commented this year seeing no need to pile on), but the adjustments he and Durkin made for the Tennessee game were magnificent!! After what UT did to Georgia, I figured they would throw for at least 400 on us. Great job coach! Bryan Cox Jr deserved to be SEC defensive player of the week IMO.

    In spite of all the turmoil off the field and not looking that good on it so far this year we are indeed 3 and 1 and very much alive in the SEC East race. If our defense can continue to improve upon last week’s performance, and our offense could find a way to be productive this could still be a good year. This is where the Treon Harris situation really sucks, but we have to get behind who we have and move on. I really don’t see Harris playing another down this year and probably never again at UF. It’s a damn shame if it turns out he’s innocent, but that’s most likely how it’s going to play out. I just hope all of the distractions don’t kill us this week against LSU.

    Take the red shirt off of Grier and let’s go!

  5. Joonas says:

    That defensive performance on Saturday was one of the best displays I’ve seen in a while. Even with the offense staggering and not being able to stay on the field, the defense was determined to make sure the Gators were leaving Neyland Stadium with a win.

    • 1974Gator says:

      I agree. The defense was the reason we won the game! Harris scored on the short field after the D got to turnover.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        Scored on a short field, sure. But Jeff doesn’t score on that short field. So yes, Treon contributed to the win.

  6. gatorboi352 says:

    “Yes, Driskel is playing with very little confidence; considering that Gator Nation goes on endlessly about his performance and demands his benching, you can probably understand why he is having some mental struggles.”

    Leak caught a lot of grief (unwarranted IMO) from Gator fans in 2006, and was even booed at a home game. Didn’t seem to affect him any, though.

    • No major sports social media then, even with Facebook existing. Completely different world now.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        The guy was booed. At home. In the Swamp. For simply returning to the field of play after a Tebow stint.

        This level of fan-dumb hasn’t even happened to Driskel (yet). Some guys just have the gusto to be the QB at a big division 1 school; others don’t.

        I’m not discrediting the social media aspect entirely, but Leak was freaking booed at home by Gator fans, man. And then went on to win us a title and become the MVP of the game no less!

        • senuod says:

          This probably proves your point….but Leak was definitely on a different level of talent when it came to throwing the ball AND we had a much better offense team back then. Looking back we had some great WRs in that period of time.

  7. Mr2Bits says:

    Shannon,
    While I respect your opinion, I have to disagree with the following statement: “It also needs to be made quite clear that the skill players around Driskel are not making life any easier.”

    What I continue to notice every week is that Driskel lacks finesse and touch to his throws. 5 yard in’s and he is throwing it 90 MPH, same for swing passes and the same for his hitch and go routes. I would really like the coaches to work on his touch and arm speed.

    Something else he needs to continue to work on are his progressions, yet again wide open crossing routes and he throws into triple coverage. Lastly, he needs to learn how to use his body better. 3rd and 3 he gets a yard and goes into a slide that resulted in a near concussion….put your shoulder down and get the first down like you care and know where the sticks are.

    To digress, if he can learn how to put touch on his throws, his numbers improve drastically.

  8. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    I don’t think the boos were directed at Leak because of his play. He had a pretty good season. I think the enigma that was Tim Tebow fueled that. The fans wanted him in from the day he walked on campus. It didn’t matter what Leak did. The second string QB is generally the most popular guy on the team. (i.e Harris)… Unfortunately, you can’t compare what happened 8 yrs ago vs today. Social Media did change that.

    • Mr2Bits says:

      I for one am really glad social media did not exist during my days at UF or in school for that matter. Has really given people a face to simply hide behind and is creating a disconnected culture.

      Funny thinking back but having a Nokia 5110 with interchangeable face plates and being able to play snake was badass

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Like I said before, I’m not entirely dismissing the social media aspect of today’s world and how it may be affect Jeff in relation to his situation as Florida’s starting quarterback.

      But being booed by your home fans is being booed, I don’t care how you slice it. I’m pretty sure Leak wasn’t trotting out on the field, hearing the boos and then going “I think the enigma that was Tim Tebow is fueling this. The fans wanted him in from the day he walked on campus. It doesn’t matter what I do.”

  9. W2 says:

    Man speaking of Leak he was poised and mature. He played in a offense that wasn’t meant for him,was pulled out the game when in the end zone, and still he lead the team to a national championship.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      PRetty much exactly what I’m saying.

      I mean my god the guy won a national title (MVP of the game) as a drop back pro style QB running Urban Meyer’s spread offense.

      Flip side of the coin, you have Driskel running (supposedly) an offense tailor made for him, in his RS JR year, and he’s looked as bad as he’s ever looked in his entire career.

  10. Pick6 says:

    Anybody know the true story of the Treon situation on that Sunday morning ? Curious as to what happened that night.. If the rumors are that he’ll be transferring after this situation then we need to take Grier off the redshirt and get him in the mix. Grier has talent and is a smart qb who is very mobile. I don’t think he is better than Treon but I think he has a good skill-set.

    • Let me make this very clear.

      I approve 99.9% of comments on this website. However, I will not post any rumors about a sexual battery allegation. Period.

      This is not a private message board behind a pay wall. This is a news site, and I am not in the business of speculating here, **especially** about something this serious.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      The only thing I know for sure about the situation is that seldom does anything that happens at 3 am in the morning be something good other than sleeping.

  11. Ken (CA) says:

    I think we should stop calling them the “skill” positions and start calling them the “offensive positions where the tip drill is constantly practiced”

  12. Shannon Snell Shannon Snell says:

    You’re comparing apples and oranges. Being booed is the same in any situation, I get that. But, Leak was playing very well, and winning games. Driskel isn’t playing well and losing. Two totally different situations almost a decade apart. It’s very hard to compare something like that, hence, why I did not.

  13. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    My opinion, Bullard should play Inside and Cox JR and Fowler at End. I feel Bullard plays better inside than End plus, he”s a better player than ORR who should be a Backup NOT starting….

  14. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    I agree with Shanon in regards to WR”s NOT helping Driskel. Case in point WR Screen plays IMO other teams run this play and get Multiple yardage. But, our blocking WR”a get Beat and surrender an Easy Tackle for CB or Safety…. Execution and Effort is lacking in WR Screens and other plays… What is your opinion Shannon on this point?

    PS Adam and Shannon I”d like to get both of your opinions in regards to Humphries being Starter which I believe He should NOT be….IMHO Rod Johnson is a better Tackle plus, Don’t forget Humphries was the one who got Beat of Edge and caused Driskel leg to be Broken….. Your thoughts please?

  15. Ejlgator says:

    Mr. Snell, thank you for showing Cox Jr. some love. That kid was an absolute beast-freak against Tennessee. At this point I know everyone’s opinion about Driskel and Champ but none of y’all choose to focus on the bright sides of this weekend. We had some young guys step up HUGE and like you said Durkin called a hell of a game and got that Defense ready. Cornerback blitz was a perfect call.

    I hope Cox Jr. continues to be a dominant presence. His impact on that game was undeniable. Players seem to impact the game the closer they are to the line of scrimmage. If Cox and Fowler play at high levels, we are gonna be a tough team to scheme against.

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