By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
You do not need me to tell you that losing sucks. Watching uninspired football? That sucks, too. There is a problem in Gainesville, Florida, and the most frustrating thing in my life right now is the realization that the Gators, a top-tier program in the nation, are currently a bottom-tier team in the Southeastern Conference.
It may be tough to realize sometimes when reading this column, but I am a positive person and try to look on the bright side of things when writing about Florida. Part of that is from being a former player, caring so much about the program and wanting to give the Gators the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.
I would love to tell you about the progress Jeff Driskel is making at quarterback, but he’s not. This is as matter-of-fact as I can make this statement: he is not the answer behind center. He may have a strong arm, but he cannot consistently connect down the field. He may be athletic, but he does not get the opportunity to showcase that often enough. He may be a leader in the locker room, but turning the ball over three times in a single game – like he did on Saturday – is not an example to set for your teammates.
When I played for Steve Spurrier, he made it perfectly clear that if you didn’t play well in games, your ass would be benched. And one of the things that I respect most about him – to this day – is that he never played favorites.
In 2000, with Jesse Palmer and Rex Grossman fighting for the starting quarterback job, Spurrier had a tough decision to make. Palmer played like such, well, shit against Mississippi State (7-for-20, 106 yards, interception), that he inserted both Grossman and Brock Berlin. Those two combined to complete 16-of-35 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns. Guess who did not start the next game?
There were no second chances. There was no proclaiming to the media that Palmer gave us the best chance to win because of his experience. That would have been complete and utter crap, and the fans knew it, especially after Grossman, a redshirt freshman, completed 81 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns in the game.
Will Muschamp planned to play Treon Harris on Saturday and was unable to do so due to extenuating circumstances, but he gave no indication that he was going to start Harris. And now this week, despite Driskel’s lackluster overall performance (yes, he played better at times but the turnovers simply negated his progress), he is still in line to start the game even though the coaching staff plans to use Harris.
Gator Nation deserves something to get excited about. It’s been way too long. After four years, this team has yet to put together anything that resembles a functioning, balanced offense. Even in 2012, when Florida was winning, it was so run-heavy that even someone that appreciates great offensive line play – myself – wanted to see something more exciting. Trust me, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is not the one to blame despite supposedly being in charge of that side of the ball. Muschamp is the captain of this ship.
Some have questioned the talent on the Gators’ roster. Trust me, it’s there. Muschamp has recruited some quality players, and many of the guys struggling to produce are still young. But it is obvious to me that some of these guys are not being properly developed.
A week removed from a masterful performance against Tennessee, Florida’s defense was back to being mediocre; this time it got gashed by a true freshman runner rather than consistently down the field by a thrower (save for the one blown assignment that everyone just knew was coming despite LSU being faced with a 3rd and 25). It was bound to happen. One week prior, Auburn held LSU to seven points. Auburn. Seven.
Yet, the defense still played well enough to win the football game. Following the terribly-blown coverage, the Gators got a stop and gave the ball back to their offense. The offense not only failed to convert a touchdown from two yards out on its previous series, it was unable to gain 10 additional yards to try a potential game-winning field goal on the potential last series of the game. Instead, its quarterback threw over the middle for his second interception of the game.
This team is two plays away from being 0-4 in its league (yes, also one play away from being 3-1) and margins that razor thin should not make a single fan feel comfortable.
Something has to change. As a former player, I will always support this team – “Once a Gator, always a Gator” – but it is getting tough to sit idly by and watch what is happening to this team. We all deserve better.
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.