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.
In a game that most experts predicted was going to bring the Gators back down to earth, Florida came out and once again proved all the naysayers wrong, completely dominating Florida State in the same way they did LSU and South Carolina. This was, by far, the most complete win the Gators have had in the last two seasons and probably the most satisfying, too.
The Gator Nation should give quarterback Jeff Driskel a standing ovation. Ankle sprains, whether severe or not, don’t heal in just two weeks. The training staff obviously worked Driskel over and ensured that he was ready to go on Saturday. One could tell from some of his facial expressions that the ankle (and other parts of his body later in the game) was hurting him quite a bit. That’s true guts, people. That’s one quality of a good leader. He cared more about this team and helping them win than about a bum ankle or the massive shot he took to the side of his body.
Everyone needs to come to the understanding that, at this point, the genetic makeup of this offense, especially at the QB position, is not to put up gaudy, ridiculous video game numbers. Driskel is doing what head coach Will Muschamp and in turn offensive coordinator Brent Pease have asked him to do all year: play smart and make solid gains while taking care of the ball.
This is a big reason why Florida crushed FSU and improved to 11-1 on the year. Driskel, for the most part, managed games very well and ensured his team was always in a position to win. Though he struggled against Georgia and had a costly turnover on Saturday, he also did what was necessary down the stretch to give the Gators a shot in the former game and bring them back in the latter.
He has made crisp, sound decisions, and he has not put the offense in too many situations that were impossible to dig out of. All of this and he is a true sophomore who is still learning how to play college football in his first year with a new offensive coordinator. It is crazy that people were giving him such grief at times because this young man gave you all that he had this year.
Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
I’ve spent the last few weeks here questioning the validity of the coaching staff’s claim that the offensive line was that much improved from a year ago. Though it certainly had its moments earlier in the season, the unit appeared to be crumbling over the last few weeks even taking into account all of the injury issues. It got to the point where I didn’t think they stood a chance in hell against the amazing athletes on the defensive front for Florida State. Man, was I wrong.
The O-line didn’t just win the battle up front; this was a good ol’ backyard woodshed ass-kicking. This performance was by far the best I’ve seen out of this team’s offensive line in a long time. Take away the two sacks and lucky turnover recovery by FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner, who is an incredible pass rusher, and their defense line did absolutely nothing. These guys were getting blown off the ball time after time and what resulted was the Mike Gillislee and Matt Jones show.
It is a joke that, heading into the game, the Seminoles’ defense was known as the best in the nation. I guess that’s what happened when you get to play Maryland and Virginia instead of South Carolina and Georgia. Florida’s offensive line saw on tape that this defense was overrated and easily rose to the challenge.
Left tackle Xavier Nixon deserves a special shout out for playing a hell of a game. First, he had an incredible monster block on the first Gillislee touchdown run. Second, FSU DE Tank Carradine, a future first-round pick, did not even get a whiff of Driskel. If Nixon can keep up that level of play through the bowl game, he will have a great opportunity to enhance his stock and get the chance to continue playing like that on Sundays.
There is no doubt that Gillislee was once again impressive, but when the Gators wanted to run the ball to end the game and he was hobbled on the sideline, Jones had a coming out party. I have watched a lot of talented running backs play and blocked for plenty of them, and I’m telling Florida fans right now to get on this kid’s bandwagon. He is the absolute truth. His running style reminds me of former Oregon State rusher Stephen Jackson of the St. Louis Rams. Jones is going to have some stiff competition in the backfield next season, but he may very well emerge as the next great UF running back.
Though the Seminoles may have wound up with 26 points when the night was over, the most the Gators had allowed this season, anyone who watched the game knows that UF just pushed FSU around all night. There is a lot of competition from some other good programs, but I would feel comfortable going out on a limb and saying Florida’s defensive front seven is the best in the country. It can single-handedly take over a football game.
Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley were their normal selves, causing problems up front and creating havoc in the backfield. But leave it to the redshirt senior in Omar Hunter to put together an incredible performance in his last rivalry game. Three separate times, on his own, he stopped Florida State on third-and-short. Not only that, but he made plenty of other tackles and assisted on some, too. Hunter gets the unsung hero award for this game. His consistency was instrumental in Florida pulling off the victory.
Like Jones, linebacker Antonio Morrison gave fans another glimpse into the future of the Gators with his game-changing hit on E.J. Manuel. I still cannot believe Manuel got up and returned to the game after that.
With Jelani Jenkins going down as many times as he has this season, Morrison has proven to be a worthy replacement and has accomplished this as a true freshmen. He is just one of a number of underclassmen that Florida fans should be excited to watch next year and in the future.
Be proud of this team, Gators fans. You have to take 11-1 every day, including Sunday. The wins may not have all been pretty, and the team certainly struggled at times, but winning is winning. Florida defied the odds. No one expected this type of season for the Gators. A BCS bowl after two years of playing just-above .500 football? That’s a dream. Muschamp, the coaching staff and these gutsy players have made it a reality.