Snell’s Slant: No surprises with Gators game plan

By Adam Silverstein
September 4, 2013

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He has returned to continue sharing his musings through the 2013 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.

While some may think the Florida started slow on Saturday, scoring just 24 points against a Toledo team that really struggles defensively, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how the Gators looked overall.

Those of you that read this column know I predicted that Florida’s offense and defense would both be rather “vanilla” on Saturday and that is basically what happened no matter what the coaches want to claim.

RELATED: Brent Pease – “We didn’t have a ‘vanilla’ game plan.”

Offensively, especially for playing with a toned-down game plan, the Gators executed quite efficiently. There were two 10-play, 80-plus yard drives in the first half alone.

It really seems that the strength of this year’s team, as it was last year, is the offensive line. Not having been able to watch practice, I was curious to see how this group would gel with so many parts having changed after last season. As an offensive lineman myself, I can definitely say I was thoroughly impressed with these gentlemen.

Mack Brown had over 100 yards rushing, Jeff Driskel had ample time to find open receivers and there were very few penalties tagged on this group.

It generally takes a few games for an offensive line to start clicking as well as the Gators’ line did on Saturday, especially when there’s new starters. That Florida line looked as if it was already in midseason form from the opening snap of the game.

While the passing game was decent – all respect goes to Driskel for his performance – it is fair to say that everyone was left wanting to see the kind of explosive plays that the Gators are going to need to take that step forward this season.

There was hope that Florida would really open things up vertically and give some of the young, inexperienced wideouts a chance to spread their wings against this non-conference opponent. Even though the game plan was expected to be simple, more vertical passes could certainly have been called.

People tend to give Trey Burton a lot of grief but to see him making big plays again was certainly a positive takeaway from the game. He and Driskel appear to work well together, and he was obviously the most targeted receiver on Saturday.

Watching the defense on Saturday, one would not know that eight starters – including the entire middle of the defense – had departed in the offseason. It was a great overall effort by everyone involved.

It looked like Dominique Easley was in the backfield on almost every snap. He’s what NFL coaches like to call a disruptive defensive tackle. Easley causes so much penetration so quickly that it disrupts blocking schemes and forces plays to bounce outside or go to a different gap than they were intended to be run towards. Losing Sharrif Floyd to the NFL was certainly a blow for the Gators’ defense, but if Easley can play at this level than Florida will be just fine.

While all are anxiously awaiting the return of Antonio Morrison in the middle, many seem to be overlooking what Neiron Ball did Saturday on the outside. He played very well against the run and showed great range to be out on the field on third down situations. He and Morrison on the field together surrounded by Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler, Jr., Michael Taylor and the rest of the rotational players will make a very formidable unit.

It is quite fair to be frustrated with the suspension of Loucheiz Purifoy, especially the school not announcing it until the day of the game, but Gator Nation did get to see a bit more of the future in Vernon Hargreaves III than it might have otherwise. The highlight play, of course, was his interception – yes, it was awesome – but what stood out to me was his aggressiveness in man coverage.

I had previously watched him play a few high school games in my hometown of Tampa, FL. He was as good as advertised then, and he started validating all of the hype on Saturday. It will be exciting to see how good this young man will be and what Florida’s secondary is going to look like when Purifoy is on the field with him and Marcus Roberson. (Not to take away from Jaylen Watkins, who also had a great game.)

Next up for the Gators is a familiar foe and a tough road test as Florida will travel to square off against Miami, a team that may be overlooked by some. “Vanilla” just ain’t gonna cut it against the Canes, so focus on how much more the Gators open up their playbook in order to pull out the important victory against an in-state rival in their last meeting in the foreseeable future.


  1. Michael Jones says:

    In all due respect to your superior experience and football knowledge, this team is always going to be a run-first, ball control, great defense, physically dominating team. However, I’ve seen teams like that through the years throw a few well-placed “curveballs” into their offensive schemes and play-calling that hit big and often enough to keep the defense off-balance.

    I would expect a good mix of run and pass this Saturday and maybe even a few of those curveballs, but Muschamp’s Gators will always be a tough, rugged, power football team. If that’s “vanilla,” then so be it, but I believe it’s a winning formula.

    I, like Muschamp, just want to win. A 16-15 win is just as sweet to me as a 48-3 win.

  2. Shannon Snell says:

    Understandably so, I like wins just as much as the next person. Take them how they come. But, take a look at the Georgia loss last year. Georgia with the same caliber players that Florida fields, was able to shut down their running game (which they knew was coming) and make Florida a one dimensional passing team, which we know they struggle with. Not to mention they had the luxury of Caleb Sturgis. (3-3 vs UGA) Minus those, the Grinding out wins come easier if you have a kicker that can make it from 50+. Sooner or later, someone is going to figure out the Gators game plan. I’m not saying it’s bad by any means, but lets say in needs to be “embellished” a bit to be considered a legit title contender.

  3. Gatormatic says:

    Awesome work Shannon! Thank you for this!

    @ Michael: I agree with you. I just want to win. And what I like about the Muschamp era so far is that even if we win by 15-16, it is a physically dominating 15-16. We destroy the other team in the trenches and literally pound the football down their throats, and they can’t stop it. It’s a joy to watch. It may be only a 15-16 point win, but the pure domination on both sides of the ball makes it more like a 40-50 point win. I love it, and I can’t wait until we can do it to Alabama in this year’s SEC Title Game. Go Gators!

  4. Joe says:

    Let’s face facts. Until Pease discovers the forward pass our offense will never overcome it’s own self inflicted adversity. Case in point. Second to the last drive of the game, Patton gets us down to the 3 on a reverse but 2 holding calls later and we are 1st and goal at the 18. Does Brent call the fade? The skinny post? Anything close to the goal line? No. We dink an incomplete pass across the middle, run Jeff into the line for no gain and lose 4 yards on a screen. We then have to settle for a MISSED 39 yd FG. Without Sturgis he had best grow a set and start taking some chances in the red zone or this is going to be a very frustrating season. Oh and is anybody expecting Burton to do anything other than run off tackle out of the wildcat formation? I didn’t think so.

  5. VO2max says:

    Florida should be able to line up and pound that UM defense Saturday. Straight ahead, between the tackles. Physically beat them the way football was invented to be. I don’t see where it will take more than that to earn the win. Just like last time The Gators played UM, they’ll probably use about 1/3 of the playbook. The shots downfield will be to keep SEC opponents honest, not Miami. This will probably be one of the easier weeks for the staff to plan for. The Hurricanes are soft right up the middle.

    Pre-game ball to Jeff Dillman.

  6. David says:

    I’m tired of hearing that there is a ‘rift’ between Muschamp and Pease. That Pease wants to open up the offense and Muschamp won’t let him. ITG’s Bryan Holt even tweeted that he believe’s Muschamps offensive game plan “frustrates” Pease. If people are going to make such comments they need to back them up. Simply comparing Coach P’s offensive system there and at Florida is not evidence in itself of a rift between he and Muschamp. Florida and Bosie St. are two different schools, in two different conferences, with much different rosters.

    I agree with Michael Jones, I just want to win. Fun n’ Gun or Ground and pound, I don’t care.

    P.S. You guys are great here at OnlyGators at responding to people’s comments and questions. Any chance y’all would do a weekly live chat for people to ask questions and such?

  7. Timmy T says:

    Driskel looked great to me….except when he had designed runs. Let him play QB and let the backs run by design. Let Jeff run when he decides to run. He appeared much sharper than ANYTIME I’ve seen yet. Let’s trust him and cut him loose.

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