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.
I truly don’t know where to begin with this team. The “a win is a win” mantra can only take you so far. Like a lot of the victories by the Gators this season, Saturday’s was quite ugly. There was nothing in sync with the offense and the defense looked vulnerable. It was a game that, should the Ragin’ Cajuns have managed it correctly, probably would have been a loss for Florida.
From the first snap of the ball, it looked as if the Gators were taking this team lightly, perhaps preparing and looking ahead to their showdown with Florida State in two weeks. That is not how you approach a game, no matter the opponent.
What happened to the identity of this offense? Who exactly are they? When the season started, head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease led spectators to believe that the offensive line had gotten tougher, the receivers had become more precise, and the quarterback position trending upward. For the most part, up through the South Carolina game, Florida had proven all these things to be true. From that point forward, something strange happened. Very strange, actually.
The Gators’ offense, one which had had shown promise and the potential to develop big plays and touchdowns, has become very much like vanilla ice cream – ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I love vanilla ice cream on occasion, but just like Florida’s offense, ordinary is just not good enough most of the time. It is no secret to anyone that this Gators team depends on defense and special teams to win games.
What is frustrating is that the offense is playing so poorly that UF is beating teams it should blow out by surprisingly small margins. Beyond popular opinion, I do not believe Florida fans are spoiled. I do, however, think they would like to see a high-scoring game for once or maybe a game where, at least, the defense and special teams did not have to bail out the offense.
All the problems cannot be blamed on the offense line. I know I’ve questioned these guys over the last few weeks, but it is very hard to overcome all the injuries they’ve had across the board. While he may be making it look relatively easy, an offensive lineman playing with a hyper-extended elbow is no easy task and that’s what center Jonotthan Harrison is doing. It’s not easy for these reserves, playing for a unit that depends on cohesiveness and experience playing together, to be put in that position and expected to play flawless. It just does not happen.
Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
Unfortunately, the quarterbacks know first-hand how much the lack of depth along the offensive line hurts, both physically and in the game plan. The Gators certainly hope these ailments can be cured by the Florida State game in two weeks.
Quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were both effective on Saturday despite the lack of protection, though Driskel obviously was able to do more with his legs. With that being said, some extra praise needs to go Brissett’s way. Coach Muschamp has been saying all season that he was one snap away from being the starter. Coming in cold off the bench only to toss a game-tying touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter is what a quarterback’s dreams are made of. I was impressed by Brissett’s composure and poise, especially coming into that situation.
This might have been the first game that Florida’s defense did not impress me. For much of the contest, especially the two long scoring drives for Louisiana-Lafayette, it seemed like they were asleep at the wheel. This was UF’s defense playing down to the talent of ULL’s offense. The Ragin’ Cajuns had a game plan to control possession and keep the Gators’ offense off the field with long drives. They succeeded and nearly split the time of possession in the game, a category that Florida has dominated this season.
The defense did not have the best day but still limited Louisiana-Lafayette to 13 points. It is nice to know that, even on a day where they did not play their best, the defense can still come though in the end.
Kicking is often overlooked but hopefully Gators saw the difference in confidence that the coaching staff had with Caleb Sturgis back health. I cannot stress how important he is to this team, especially with the offense struggling with putting points on the board.
Without anymore unforeseen hiccups, Florida should walk into FSU with a 10 -1 record. No matter how the Gators win these games, that record is impressive for a team that is in the middle of rebuilding and still has tons of question marks. Florida fans should be proud of this team and what it has accomplished already this season.