By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist
Just two weeks ago, I had no doubt in my mind that the Florida Gators would handily beat both Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic. But I had no clue that either game would have been so close or so ugly to watch. I knew at some point during this football season that Florida would eventually struggle.
I mean, this is Jim McElwain first year as a head coach in the SEC, and he inherited a program that was short on explosive playmakers and leadership. That’s recipe for disaster. The thing is … the Gators started the season white hot behind the arm of unknown quarterback Will Grier and a bunch of young inexperienced guys in the skilled positions. For all it’s worth, everyone knew the defense – led by Jonathan Bullard and Vernon Hargreaves III – would be good, but it’s exceeded expectations.
But then something happened. Grier was suspended, injuries have started piling up, and this team doesn’t resemble anything near what I it was a month ago.
I personally know that football is a team sport and no one individual should be blamed for a team’s shortcomings. But I don’t think Treon Harris is the answer at quarterback. I know most will think I’m Captain Obvious for saying that, but I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen a Florida quarterback look as confused as he has these last few weeks. Wait a minute, yes I have; his name was Jeff Driskel.
The offense has almost hit rock bottom, and if it weren’t for some of the big plays from guys like Antonio Callaway and Jake McGee, this unit would be dwindling in permanent obscurity. Look, this isn’t a bash Treon Harris story. I refuse to let my feelings get the best of me and trash a young man for putting on the Orange and Blue every week and going out there and playing his heart out. That, I can appreciate.
What frustrates me is the offense making each opposing defense it faces look like the best in the country. At some point, McElwain is going to have to take a real look at this offense and the quarterback position. With two guaranteed games remaining past Florida State, does Harris really give Florida the best chance to win? Defense can keep a team in games for only so long before the offense has to put up some points. With some tough games coming up the next few weeks, this offense needs to get its act together quickly.
With that now said, let’s turn to it being FSU week. I hate Florida State, even though I grew up a FSU fan as a kid. Here’s a funny story: In 1998, when I was a junior in high school, FSU gave me my first scholarship offer. The recruiting coordinator was defensive line coach Odell Haggins. As soon as I got the offer, I accepted and committed to FSU. Over time, FSU quit calling me because the coaches figured they had me locked up. I didn’t hear from them for a few weeks. Meanwhile, Florida was pressing hard for me.
Eventually, I knew I wanted to be a Gator. A week before National Signing Day, both Haggins and head coach Bobby Bowden called and asked if I was ready to come to Tallahassee. I told them both no and that I had my heart set on playing for the Gators. I remember Bowden asking, “Now why would you want to go and do a dumb thing like that?” And I told him, “Well, maybe if you guys decided to pick up the phone and call me once in a while, I would have ended up in Tallahassee. Sorry Coach.” And I hung up. It always feels good to relive that story.
This is going to be a tough matchup for the Gators. The Noles are a well-coached football team. Dalvin Cook is as dangerous as they come; he has breakaway speed and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Florida is going to have its hands full if Bullard does not play. The Gators have to stop that guy if they want any shot of winning this game.
The main key to winning this game will lie in Florida’s offensive line. It has been a mix bag of emotions throughout the season – playing well early, faltering as of late. The offensive line has played to the level of its competition this season, so if that’s the case moving forward, it will play well this week. I have faith that Mike Summers will motivate these guys enough to play well and make up for the crap they put on the field against FAU.
I think Florida has the talent to win this game, no doubt about it. But if the Gators are not running on all cylinders, the Seminoles could pull out an easy win in The Swamp.
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 fourth year sharing his musings and will do so through the 2015 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.