Snell’s Slant: What happened to the Gators?

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under 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 exactly happened to this Florida football team? In most cases, I can understand the “a win is a win” mantra. In most cases, I understand that winning by seven is perfectly acceptable even when Las Vegas predicts the team to win by more than two touchdowns. It’s not how much the Gators won by that is the issue but rather how the team looked while doing so.

The Florida football players that took the field Saturday did not look like the ones that were tough and dominant in man-handling LSU. These guys did not look like the group that went on the road to College Station, TX the second week of the season and came from behind to take down Texas A&M. The Gators seem to have no identity right now, especially on offense, and look to be in a state of regression.

Three weeks ago, I was praising the job that the offensive line was doing. This unit was responsible for a lot of the success of quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Mike Gillislee and others. It was opening holes big enough for Mack trucks to drive though, and the guys were even doing a decent job providing pass protection though there were a few issues. Back to my original question: What happened?

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

Florida’s offensive line was dominated by Missouri. Don’t get me wrong here, the Tigers’ defensive line played well and Sheldon Richardson looked like a beast, but the Gators keep letting the opposing team’s best player dominate them. This is not the same offensive line that looked dominant early the season. It is simply not playing championship football.

So, what’s the solution? I don’t know. This is a gut check. It’s time for this line to get back to basics and get back to business. With Florida State waiting down the line and boasting one of the best defensive lines in the country, UF’s offensive line better get its collective head on straight or a BCS bowl will be completely out of the equation.

That being said, Florida’s defense was impressive once again. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is playing at an unreal level right now. I would really dread having to go to practice every day to go against an animal like him. He had an unbelievable game and is having an All-American season, even if his numbers are not gaudy. I’ve had the opportunity to block guys like Darnell Dockett and Albert Haynesworth, and I personally think Floyd can be better. He is quicker then Haynesworth and stronger than Dockett. This is what is going to make him a first-round NFL Draft selection if he comes out this year and potentially a top-10 pick if he stays for his senior year.

One unit I have not discussed much this season has been the secondary but that is not because it has slacked in any way. It is obvious how dominant the Gators’ secondary has been. These guys continuously come up with big plays and their performances against the Tigers were no exception. Without those game-changing interceptions, Missouri probably wins that game because Florida was certainly giving up plenty of yardage. Safeties Josh Evans and Matt Elam are two of my favorite players to watch, and I personally refer to them as thunder and lightning.

There is no question that, looking back on UF’s 7-1 record in SEC play, the Gators have drastically improved from a year ago. No one, myself included, expected Florida to have only one loss and be in contention for a BCS bowl berth, so that a big feather in Will Muschamp’s cap.

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16 Responses to “Snell’s Slant: What happened to the Gators?”

  1. gatorboi352 says:

    It’s simple really: this team is absolutely deflated after that Georgia loss and rightfully so. There is one real, serious goal every year: get to Atlanta. The other secondary goal? Beat Georgia (and FSU). The fact that their two biggest goals are now shot, with the exception of the FSU game, can make a team look flat and frustrated, and they looked both on Saturday.

    It’s one thing back in August to say: “Man if we are 10-1 heading into FSU I will take that in a heart beat!” but expectations can and do change throughout the course of a season, and even given how poorly this team has played the past 3 years, this is one of the most empty 8-1 (soon to be 10-1) records I can recall from a FL team.

    • LeeB says:

      Gator,

      I can’t disagree more. even though the Mizz game was a dud, this has been a great season. the players seem to be buying in, it is team first, and I think they have been fun to watch. Pease is a huge upgrade. Give Driskell a little time to develop and I think we will really have something!

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    “Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is playing at an unreal level right now. I would really dread having to go to practice every day to go against an animal like him.”

    That’s probably exactly what’s wrong with the O-line; they are getting demoralized everyday in practice against the likes of Floyd and crew lol

  3. Tractorr says:

    It seems that we have been without all of the starters the last two games along the OL. How does that play into how they have played?

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Well, we know for fact that D.J. Humphries is a flat out upgrade over Nixon, but I am not sure how much better or worse any of the other back up o-linemen are than their starter counterparts.

      • Tractorr says:

        In theory yes, but from what I understand it the backups don’t get many reps during practice. This seems like it could be a reason they don’t understand their blocking responsibilities and why the big wholes haven’t been opening up we saw earlier in the season.

  4. BobG says:

    Certain people on another site maintain that the injuries on the OLINE since LSU have been more debilitating than people understand. The same people say that the lack of depth means that many starters must try to go even if they are less than effective. I have no way of knowing whether either assertion is valid.

    Shannon is probably in as good of a position to analyze those statements as anyone.

  5. TxGator says:

    What happened to the Gators? They went 8 and 1 with a new offensive coordinator and a first year starter QB.

  6. G2 says:

    And now we have to deal with the possibility of losing Pease?? 5 OC’s in 5 years?? That should kill our 2013 recruiting on offense. This has become bizarre, Gators can’t get a break in this department.
    Lets pony up and keep this guy. Although the offense is on life support, I think this incoming class has some of the playmakers we need to get back on top.

  7. Walt P says:

    I think they just thought it would be a easy win and Mizzo played hard plus the injuries on the O-line. They won ugly but they won. Let get the offense together before the 25th. Go Gators.

    • Tractorr says:

      Agreed, and while the OL did not look good I also felt like a lot of the problem was the D not having faced this sort of offense. Texas A&M spread it out but that was mostly to setup the run. Mizzou was the first spread passing team we have played this year.

  8. g8ter27 says:

    I don’t think pease is one of their top 4 choices right now.

  9. joe says:

    The main problem with this offense is that defenses have learned that we can’t go vertical and they have all 11 players within 5 yards of the los.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      First play of the game put Debose out wide and run a go route. Throw it his way and watch him put up 6. He did it last year against Alabama, it can be done again.

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