Snell’s Slant: Florida’s team mentality paying off

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.

Good ol’ Vanderbilt. What is it about this team that, year-in and year-out, gives Florida fits? And this is not just the last two years. Even when I was playing, Vandy always found a way, regardless of the talent differential, to make their showdown with UF a competitive game even though the Gators always came out of it with a win. This season was no different, and the Commodores actually had a better chance to pull off an upset than they had in years prior.

Make no mistake about it, for as well as Vanderbilt played and as bad as Florida looked at times, the Gators had this game in hand. Fans need to realize that not every win is going to be perfect and most come with plenty of ebbs and flows in the game, even against opponents believed to be on a lower tier heading into the game. It is also important not to lose sight of how many injuries UF was dealing with on Saturday.

When exactly are opposing defensive coordinators going to realize that Jeff Driskel is a threat to pull the ball down and run with it? Seriously, the guy has 4.5-second 40-yard dash speed and is 6’5” and 230 lbs.

Read the rest of Snell’s Slant…after the break!

It will be interesting to see if teams, starting with South Carolina, begin defending him differently. It is damn near impossible to contain a player that can throw for 300 yards one week and then run for 180 yards the next. It’s almost like you have to pick your poison, which is good news for the Gators’ offense considering it needs as many wrinkles as it can get at this point. That being said, Florida needs to ensure that the passing game comes alive very soon. With games against USC and UGA on the horizon, UF needs to be more than a one-dimensional offense.

By the second quarter on Saturday, Florida only had two starting offensive linemen in the game. The most encouraging thing to take away from this occurrence was how well the reserved stepped in and performed. As a second-string offensive lineman, there are not a whole lot of repetitions to go around. A lot of the times in practice that group has to take what I like to call “mental reps.” That means watching the play and learning it without going through the actual physicality of the play. It is incredibly tough to expect to play 5-10 snaps in a game and suddenly go in as a primary player and go full speed for the duration of the game. Very solid effort by those three.

The offensive production of the wide receiver group has been less than stellar over the past few weeks, but I do think these guys should be commended for their downfield blocking. These long runs on the outside are due in big part to their efforts. Week after week, these guys are noticeably getting after people. That’s the kind of team mentality that has the Gators ranked where they are today.

After a week of total dominance against LSU, Florida’s defense did not look as sharp against Vanderbilt. There were way too many mistakes and missed assignments. It was frustrating to watch the Gators give up fourth quarter points to this team as it just did not look like the unit was playing with the same fire that they did against LSU or even in the second half of the Texas A&M game. This was a clear case of playing down to your opponent, and you can bet that head coach Will Muschamp made a point of that when he met with the team on Monday.

There is a huge difference between being good and great on defense. This season, Florida has proved that it can be great and has exhibited that in some of its games. But if you are truly going to carry that moniker and stick out your chest, you cannot afford to take a week off and expect to cruise by. I, for one, expect a lot more out of this defense because I know how truly dominant it can be. To draw a comparison, it is like a child bringing home a report card filled with A grades. Once your parents see that you can do it, they will expect that level of excellence all the time.

Everyone saw the Gators once again dominate on special teams Saturday and as a former player that always makes me smile. Though there have been more starters paying on that unit under Muschamp (and previously under Urban Meyer) then while Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook were coaching me, I know first-hand how hard those guys work to impact the game.

My son and I were watching Caleb Sturgis kick one of his field goals. After Sturigs made it, he asked me, “Does that man every miss?” I replied, “Does the Joker ever beat Batman?” I don’t think there is any doubt right now that he will be a finalist for the Lou Groza Award come the end of the season. That man is automatic.

While many are dismissing the importance of the No. 2 BCS ranking for the Gators, I think it is a huge accomplishment (even early in the season). Florida controls its destiny and with the big red bull’s-eye of No. 2 on their collective back, every team will be giving its absolute best effort. I do not think anyone would have guessed that UF would be in this position six games into the season, so this is an amazing accomplishment in itself. The Gators are not surprising anyone anymore, so let’s see what happens from here.

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3 Responses to “Snell’s Slant: Florida’s team mentality paying off”

  1. Gators22 says:

    Sturgis and Christy have both had incredible seasons kicking/punting for the Gators.

    I’m sure the emphasis is on hang time and coverage this week. Carolina’s return man, Ace, reminds me way too much of Brandon James.

  2. Tractorr says:

    As always it is great to hear your take on the game. I did have two questions.

    1) How much of the defensive issues did you think came from Easley not playing? It seems to me that he is very disruptive to the flow of an offense.

    2) If South Carolina brings up safeties in run support will that allow more down field passing or are out receivers not getting free of the corners and LBs who are covering them?

  3. Walt P says:

    Lets get the passing game going before its too late. So WRs need to catch the ball.

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