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.