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.
What an incredibly satisfying win for the Gators on Saturday. Florida not only demonstrated its unbelievable toughness but also the ability to completely and utterly dominate both sides of the line of scrimmage against an opponent the caliber of LSU.
As an offensive lineman, obviously the first thing I noticed is the spectacular job that unit did. I must admit, before the game, I thought UF would not be able to match-up against the athletic defensive front seven of LSU. The Gators had not faced players of that caliber up to this point in the season, and it was a test that those guys aced.
Saturday’s game proved, without a shadow of doubt, that not only is this offensive line tough and aggressive, but they are one of the top units in the SEC. During the first half, the Tigers’ defensive line was worn down with power-style runs between the tackles that may not have done much at the time but would wind up playing a bigger role.
On the stat sheet and to the untrained eye, it looked like the LSU defense dominated the first half. That may be true in a yards-per-carry sense, but it is not necessarily the case. It seemed to me like the game plan was simply to beat up on the Tigers’ defensive front as much as possible in the first half in order to wear them out and allow UF to grind out a win over the final 30 minutes, which is exactly what happened in the end.
Those, including myself, who have doubted this offensive line certainly owe them an apology. Head coach Will Muschamp gave awards on Monday to the entire line as well as the fullbacks and tight ends for their blocking. Well-deserved, if you ask me. Those gentlemen did one heck of a job and gave one hell of an effort. While LSU was able to match them talent-for-talent, they could not come close to Florida’s intensity and conditioning, which made all the difference in the end.
Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
Mike Gillislee continues to be the unquestioned workhorse in this offense. He is what defensive coordinators like to call a “triple-threat back.” He can get his shoulder pads low to the ground and grind out extra yards in the run game. He’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield. If that was not enough, he also has the speed and shiftiness to take the ball to the house any time he gets it in his hands.
It is obvious that he and the offensive line have great chemistry; that is super-important for the Gators moving forward. Whether or not he will be in contention for the Heisman Trophy remains to be seen but what is known is that Gillislee is one of the elite running backs in the country right now because of his productiveness and consistency.
Even though Jeff Driskel did not have the best numbers, the unbiased observer can tell has total control of the offense. His athletic ability is usually a gift, but it was also a curse at times on Saturday as he tried too hard to keep plays alive when he should have either gone down or thrown the ball away. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s decision to not burden Driskel with more than he can handle is paying off, but sooner than later he is going to have to have the freedom to throw the ball more. The way he does run-checks at the line proves that he has a good mind for the game and can probably handle a bit more on his plate.
Defensively, as many of you are already aware, this was the best all-around performance the season up to this point. LSU never had a chance to get its run game going because Florida’s defensive line continuously blew up plays with penetration. They were getting off the ball so fast that they could have been standing in the offensive huddle getting the snap count from the quarterback.
Throughout the entire game, the Tigers looked clueless on how to get a first down against the Gators defense, which was evident by the fact that they only converted one third down the entire game. It is tough to verbalize how frustrating it is for an offensive player to not have any success whatsoever against a defense.
Sharrif Floyd continues to be fantastic. The quickness and agility he showcases is impressive for a guy his size. It was a mismatch every time he lined up over an LSU offensive lineman. Dominique Easley also looked very explosive coming back from an injury. His rotation seemed to be a bit quicker than the others on the line, which leads me to believe he was not necessarily at 100 percent (though he did play that way when he was on the field). I love the way he comes off the ball. He may not make every play, but he’s always going to try to blow it up while giving great effort.
Coaches like Muschamp always say that “battles are won in the trenches.” Saturday was evidence of that mantra being true because Florida did not just win in the trenches, it dominated.
The young linebackers all played well around senior Jon Bostic, a player that I believe should and will be on a few All-American teams at year’s end. He is the unquestioned leader of the defense and his play has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. I watched him on four consecutive plays, and he made every single tackle. That is impressive.
Matt Elam. Wow. What else is there to say? Not only did he have the play of the game stripping Odell Beckham, Jr. on the long pass completion, but he was running through and over anything that was in his way. Look at his teammates when he makes tackles. They get fired up over the way this guy plays. He is the classic example of a player that leads by example. There is absolutely no way that the defense would have played as well as they did without him, which is something to keep an eye out for next season because this kid is a candidate to leave early.
Heading into a new week, the Gators must focus on maintaining their momentum and not suffering a letdown. While Vanderbilt gave Florida a fight last season, the Commodores are simply not as talented as LSU, especially on defense. UF must focus on playing its own brand of football and continuing to do so at a high level.