By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
What a difference a few weeks can make. Will Muschamp was basically tied up on a serving platter with an apple in his mouth two weeks ago. Then suddenly, he took the heat emanating from his seat and somehow transferred it to the team, lighting a fire under his players’ asses that has Florida playing with noticeably more passion and enthusiasm – and success.
As beautiful as it was to see the Gators pound the Bulldogs into the ground with a punishing running game, I think the game plan against Vanderbilt was equally impressive. I admit, before Saturday, I hadn’t completely bought in to the Treon Harris revolution as most others had. The realistic part of me knows that Harris is still a freshman – unproven and untested.
We all got to see him light up Eastern Michigan with a couple long throws in garbage time, but that’s EMU, a team that was never in any position to pose a real threat in any phase of the football game.
However, on Saturday night, Harris showed poise that allows me to believe he may be Florida’s quarterback of the future. The jolt he has given the Gators’ offense is akin to that which Willie Beaman provided the Miami Sharks in “Any Given Sunday.” He is doing things the right way from a football standpoint, and he is making very few mistakes, especially compared to the fourth-year junior who held down the position before him.
For the first time in a while, Florida has a passing game that needs to be respected. That’s not to say it is going to shred South Carolina, but the Gamecocks must recognize it and not overlook the fact that the Gators can now throw the football.
Look, Harris will make his fair share of mistakes in the next few weeks. He’s unlikely to be different from many young quarterbacks that start hot but ultimately get game planned against and struggle adjusting. Then again, maybe he’s that very special type of player that can buck such a trend.
But what does it really matter? For now, it is exciting to watch him pull the ball down and run. It’s exciting to watch him throw the deep ball. Hell, it’s exciting to watch this offense put up points again. Each of your parents have told you, at some point, that you will never know how much you miss something until it’s gone. Well, I missed what it feels like to watch a Florida football game and feel confident that we have a chance to make a splash, rather than spend three hours watching crap settle on the ground. It finally seems like the offense is changing for the better, and I’m excited to see what these guys can do.
I would be remiss if I did not discuss one other topic that popped up before the game, which was fifth-year senior defensive tackle Leon Orr not suiting up for the game – and actually being sent home from Vanderbilt – after he quit the team due to being upset that he was not named a starter. Listen, I liked Orr as a player. I thought he was tough-nosed and very talented. With that said, he’s a quitter in my book. He not only quit on his coaches who believed in him – as well as his teammates that he bled, sweat and cried with – but also the entire Gator Nation that cheered for him.
It is one thing to have a disagreement with a coach. That happens in the heat of battle sometimes and many players – and some coaches – can be much better for it at the end of the day. Ultimately though, he’s the coach and you do what he tells you, even if you do not like it. What Orr did is probably the most despicable thing a player can do to his own team – leaving them high and dry on a game day for a non-personal reason.
There’s no turning back from the decision he made. The unfortunate part is that his decision-making process here was that not being seen as a starter and getting a handful of extra snaps would affect his professional career. Well, he took care of that. NFL scouts are on notice now and not for good reasons.
While I don’t think he should be let back on the team for his actions, I personally believe he owes his entire team a sincere apology. He was wrong and there’s no getting around that. The best thing he can do now is be a man, admit he was wrong privately to those he actually wronged and work his ass off to get prepared for Pro Day – if the coaches allow him to compete – and potentially the NFL Combine – if he receives an invitation.
Back to football.
It would have been unimaginable two weeks ago that we would be sitting here today talking about the Gators still being alive in the SEC East. A lot has to happen, but it is still conceivable that Florida could end up in Atlanta as the SEC East winner. After everything that has happened this season, I think that would be one hell of an accomplishment – and it is absolutely something for these guys to continue playing for at this time.
It is always nice to see the Head Ball Coach back in Gainesville. This time though, I hope he leaves upset after his team falls to 4-6.
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.