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.
Defense wins championships. How many times does that phrase have to be repeated until people realize it is true? The story of the South Carolina game had nothing to do with Florida’s offensive dominance, even though UF did best them in that phase of the game (and not just because of the short fields it was afforded).
The Gamecocks dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a menace. You know something is not going right when the offense has less than 90 yards for the entire first half. One thing I absolutely love about the Gators, though, is how they make second half adjustments. This coaching staff is obviously one of the best in the country at analyzing miscues and ensuring that the team does not commit the same mistakes coming out of the locker rooms.
However, when you see a player of the caliber of Clowney disrupting the running game, pressuring the quarterback and making sacks, changes have to be made immediately. This was on head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease. At some point in that first half, they should have realized that chipping Clowney with a running back and/or sliding the protection his way was a necessity.
A slide protection protects an offensive lineman from having to block a defender one-on-one. The lineman is basically protecting a “gap.” If someone tries to run through that gap, that linemen blocks it. This can be an advantage against a more athletic defensive end like Clowney due to the fact that he is forced to go up against not one lineman but instead every lineman that is sliding towards his side of the field. It was nice to see this adjustment in the second half, but it could have been made a whole lot sooner and quite a few opportunities were lost because of it.
Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
What is nice to see is the running game continuing to produce long, clock-eating drives. While running back Mike Gillislee had a tough time finding significant chunks of yardage, quarterback Jeff Driskel continued to show why his ability to be a multi-dimensional player by using his legs is such a huge asset.
This is a great development for a Gators offense that is still trying to put everything in the passing game. If Florida can advance to the SEC Championship or BCS National Championship, it must be able to find a productive passing game. Defense does win championships, but it cannot do it on its own.
Speaking of the defense, the Gators’ is phenomenal having given up a combined 37 points to the three ranked opponents it has already faced. The +11 turnover margin is also incredibly impressive and a huge turnaround from a season ago.
A lot of comparisons have been made to the 2006 national title team. For me they start and end with the defense. The best thing about it is that there are no individuals on the unit. It’s great to have a player like Clowney on your team because you know he going to make a lot of big plays, and he a mismatch for whoever he’s playing against. The drawback is, if he’s not making those plays (as he did not in the second half last weekend), then who else will? That is why I think Florida’s defense is so special. Every week there is someone new stepping up and playing well. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Mike linebacker Jon Bostic, defensive end Dominique Easley and the defensive backfield have all been terrific.
As anyone reading this knows, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy played his best game in the Orange & Blue on Saturday. His strip sack not only gave the offense a short field and produced a touchdown, it set the tone for the game. A defense setting an offense up like that only provides additional motivation to go out there and convert that turnover into points. You don’t want to be that unit that is not producing and that your teammates cannot count on to play hard and match their intensity.
While there have been plenty of mistakes, especially with penalties, this defense does not have a lot of weaknesses. They are fast, physical and disciplined for the most part. The penalties must be cut down as soon as possible, especially the ones on third down that are extending drives and leading to points that should not be up on the scoreboard.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that punter Kyle Christy has been amazing all season. Saturday he showed the importance of special teams and why he was unquestionably the most valuable player in the game. One of the most important and overlooked aspects of the game of football is field position. Christy pinned South Carolina back on numerous occasions and his hang time even helped lead to a fumble.
Knowing the importance of the Florida-Georgia game, especially this year with the division on the line, expect the Gators to come out on fire. The finish will be just important as the start, and Florida must put together a four-quarter game to pull this one out.