Mike Gillislee Caps Off Florida Gators Career With Magical Season

Okay, so I admit using the word “magical” is a little much, but do you expect any less from me? First of all, it’s 6:00 in the morning as I write this. Second, I have a five-month-old child, which is basically the equivalent of having a drunk person that has lost the ability to speak in your house at all times. And finally, we all really do want to believe it was magical.

Mike Gillislee - Florida Gators

Mike Gillislee set lofty goals for himself entering the 2012 college football season–1,500 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns–and while the Florida Gators’ senior didn’t reach those goals, he did hit a milestone we’re all proud of. Gillislee capped off the regular season with 140 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against the Florida State Seminoles to give him 1,104 yards and 10 TDs on the season. Not only did he become the first true Gators’ running back to break the 1,000-yard mark since Ciatrick Fason did in 2004, but he also became the first to carry the ball 200 times or more and rush for 10 or more touchdowns since Fason. Tim Tebow did both and Trey Burton and Percy Harvin found the end zone 10 or more times, but Gillislee is the first running back to do it since Ron Zook patrolled the Gators’ sidelines. And now is as good a time as any to quickly move on from Zook and forget I even mentioned him.

Back to the wonders of the Gators’ rediscovered running game. Gillislee was a bright spot in a season that was about as odd as odd can be. But, as we saw against Florida State, he wasn’t alone. Overall, there weren’t many wow moments to the running game outside of Gillislee, but that’s also because Florida decided early on that he would be the go-to back as long as he remained healthy. Sure, Jeff Driskel has his moments and Burton had a few of those plays that made you believe in his aura once again, but the running game belonged to Gillislee. Although, we did see glimpses of the future and it made us smile.

For Gillislee though, we don’t know what that future is. He has one game remaining as a Florida Gator. It’s easy to imagine him getting plenty of carries against the Louisville Cardinals in the Sugar Bowl. He was the workhorse all season for an 11-1 Gators’ squad and both Will Muschamp and Brent Pease will want him to go out with a bang. Maybe not a Tebow-sized exit, but a good one all the same.

That game will bring an end to a career we hoped for more from, but got all we ever wanted during one final season. Years prior, we imagined a final season during which Gillislee would finally become the number one running back. Saying he didn’t disappoint would be an understatement. When the offensive line stepped up its play, Gillislee was great. When they were average, he was above it. When they were down, he was still the shining spot. Yes, he had better games than others and some that were nothing to praise, but we’re looking at the overall picture here.

We congratulate the Florida Gators on their successful 2012 season, but we single out Mike Gillislee. There are many reasons we’re looking forward to the Sugar Bowl, but watching Gillislee one final time is very high on the list.

Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Kentucky Wildcats; Gators Look To Replicate Magic Of Seasons Past

The Florida Gators play host to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in an SEC game that has had a very familiar outcome of the years. For the last 25 seasons, the Gators have won this contest and the last four haven’t been close.

2008 marked the second-straight season during which the teams would meet in October instead of September. It confused those of us that don’t do well with change, but the result wouldn’t deviate from what we were used to. The Gators scored 63 points on only 446 yards of offense. Not that 446 yards is a small number, but 63 points is usually accompanied by much more. The first half was good to the Gators. Florida was up 28-0 at the end of the first 15 and headed to the locker room with a 42-3 advantage. A redshirt freshman quarterback that went by the name John Brantley even got into the action, finding David Nelson for a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

The game would return to September in 2009 and the Gators would get out of the gate on fire yet again. 31-0 after the first quarter had us believing we could see records set on that day. Urban Meyer called off the dogs though and Florida would only add 10 more throughout the final 45 minutes to win 41-7. Senior quarterback Tim Tebow would only attempt 10 passes during the game, but would rush for 123 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Gators to victory. Brantley, now a redshirt sophomore, would come in late once again and add another fourth quarter touchdown pass, this time to Riley Cooper. This was the famous Tebow concussion game. For many long minutes, as Tebow lay motionless on the field, we thought the season and even his Florida career may be over. We all know now, it wasn’t.

Before the game in 2010, Florida and Kentucky came to an agreement that touchdowns would only count if scored by players wearing the number eight. 60 minutes and nine touchdowns later, both teams had lived up to the bargain. Fortunately for the Gators, their No. 8s were just a tad better. Freshman Trey Burton was introduced to the nation, scoring six times. Burton ran for five touchdowns and caught another (from Brantley; for those keeping track at home, that’s touchdown passes in three consecutive Kentucky games for the quarterback). Jeremy Brown – wearing No. 8 on defense – even got into the action with a 52-yard interception return for a score. The Wildcats had a solid No. 8 of their own – Chris Matthews – but could only get him into the end zone twice as the Gators prevailed 48-14.

2011 would be the game to rival all rushing games. The Gators would put up 405 yards on the ground in the 48-10 victory. Jeff Demps would lead the way with 157 rushing yards. He was followed by Chris Rainey who also went over 100 with 105. The current starter – Mike Gillislee – came close to joining the club with 84. Overall, seven non-quarterbacks would get carries. Brantley would only need to attempt 14 passes, but he would again get his one touchdown, a first quarter toss to Gerald Christian.

This time around should be no different. I hate saying “should be” because that generally means it will be different. The Gators need a victory and seem poised to delivery one. The Wildcats aren’t expected to make much noise this season and shouldn’t pose much of a threat; however, we’ve all seen games before where Florida has won, but in far from spectacular fashion. This is that game where spectacular fashion would go oh so far. Bye week ahead followed by LSU. A big win will carry momentum into the coming weeks.

We’ve seen a team improving right before our eyes and are excited for the future. Today isn’t about the future, it’s about the Kentucky Wildcats. Another Saturday, another win on the horizon. Go Gators!

Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After The Win Over The Tennessee Volunteers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar–but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long. Let me know how you think this goes.

Also to take note: I AM NOT CRAZY. I know it’s Tuesday. Sadly, the idea came to me Monday night, so I figured why let a week go to waste?

Let me start this off by saying this was a fantastic college football week. The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in stunning fourth quarter-shutout fashion, and Florida moved up to No. 14 in the polls, just behind Lane Kiffin and USC, who, to top it all off, lost to Stanford 14-21. And if there’s one thing Tennessee and Florida fans can agree on, I think it’s the happiness brought by seeing Lane Kiffin fail.

Beyond that, there’s not a great deal the Volunteers would be willing to agree with us about, after our 37-20 win in the hostile Rocky Top-land. For the Gators, it was a tale of two halves. The first half was slightly ugly, which featured Mr. Muschamp screaming at the top of his lungs at a referee, and the second half was, as TBG said, “glorious.”

What We Learned

Jeff Driskel is improving, quickly: I don’t think we could ask for much more than what Driskel has given us so far, and he looks like he can be so much better. He was extremely accurate, and his touchdown pass to Jordan Reed with defenders surrounding him was a thing of beauty. I feel bad for Jacoby Brissett, but Team Driskel all the way!

Driskel, calm and composed: The knock on Driskel coming into this year was his composure level. After showing he can effectively control the football game, accurately facilitate the football to his receivers, and thankfully handle the football without coughing it up, Driskel would appear to have better composure tenfold. Seriously, you couldn’t ask for much more from a sophomore quarterback who was starting in only his second game.

Against the run, Tennessee is tough inside, extremely flawed on the outside: If you noticed a trend in Florida’s results from different run plays, you weren’t alone. The Gators busted out long runs, including an 80-yard run by Trey Burton by avoiding the middle of the Tennessee defense, which was stuffing Florida at the line all night. The Vols have a few kinks to sort out on the corners of their defense.

Trey Burton can be a factor running the Wildcat: Burton was potently effective Saturday, running for 91 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries. We knew Burton had a chance to make an impact from the Wildcat, but it’s been a while since he has made much of a difference.

Frankie Hammond Jr. looks like Percy Harvin: Hammond Jr. is nowhere near the athletic level that Harvin is, or was, but Hammond sure has looked explosive and surprisingly smart in the open field.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: Not so great in the first half, but I think preventing opposing teams from reaching the end-zone in the fourth is somewhat impressive, especially against a couple pretty good offensive teams. Jeff Dillman’s conditioning probably has a lot to do with this.

The safeties are all over the field: Josh Evans was everywhere at once during the first two games, despite getting knocked out of the second. Matt Elam also seemed to be picking up the slack during the last game by leading the team with 10 tackles.

Our defense, Marcus Roberson can’t catch: Very disappointed by Roberson’s hands. He’s always there for an interception, only to find it just beyond his grasp.

Things We Already Knew That Proved To Remain True

Will Muschamp is somewhat of a hothead: Haha, TBG seems to be unhappy about this.

Gilly’s good: Mike Gillislee is continuing to live up to his role as the probable best player on offense.

The Vols would be very sad when they lost: I wish I could have found a picture of the fans crying when they realized there was no chance of a burnt orange win, but if you watched the game on ESPN, you know what I’m talking about.

Surprise Of The Day

Derek Dooley may also be a hothead: Spiking the ball down is not an appropriate reaction after his quarterback Tyler Bray delivered a perfect pass to the disgruntled coach.

Play Of The Day

Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run: This was just great. The Tennessee guy took an awful angle, though.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 37 – Tennessee Volunteers 20

The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 37-20 on Saturday night after putting together a near perfect second half. I’ll get into the game as a whole, but first, a new feature I call What I Wrote at the Half. (Everything in italics was written at the half without any knowledge of the final 30 minutes. No, I can’t predict the future.)

The offense might not destroy the Florida Gators chances of success. The defense not reaching the highest levels of greatness that everyone expected might not either. What could, and probably will, ultimately kill any chance of the Gators competing throughout the entire 2012 college football season will be penalties. Against Bowling Green, it was infuriatingly comical. Against Texas A&M, it was like a different team was out there…in a good way. In the first half against Tennessee, stupid took on a whole new meaning. Luckily, the Vols had their own problems with penalties too.

This is a team with heaps of talent in the defensive backfield. So much talent that I used the word heaps for probably the first time ever (and hopefully the last). But there is pass interference and holding and pass interference and holding. There are occasions where those penalties are okay. If you’re just flat out beat and the receiver is going to make a big play, take the penalty. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than a big play or a touchdown. But when you’re in coverage and you have position and don’t need the hold, well, don’t hold.

And then there was the removal of a helmet on the field. Xavier Nixon, you’re better than that. Or at least, you know better than that. You got dug into by Will Muschamp when you came to the sideline and rightfully so. That wasn’t smart football by any means of the term. That’s just not something you do. You knew where you were on the field and you let your emotions get to you. It was a moment of stupidity. We’re sure you’ll learn from it, but it can’t happen. Not again, and not even once in the first place.

Since I mentioned Muschamp, I might as well express my feelings toward him as well. Yelling, screaming, crazy, red-faced Muschamp used to be funny. Then it became a disturbing sideshow act. Now it has reached the point that I’m about one more profanity-laced tirade away from being disgusted. Get in the face of a player that commits a dumb penalty. Get excited when something goes right. But cut out whatever it is you think you’re doing when you go after the referees. There are bad calls; every game has them. There are also calls that were right on even if they negatively impact the Gators. You screaming and yelling at a ref does nothing and it makes you look like a joke. 16 games into you’re head coaching career at Florida, I’m sick of it and I’m not the only one. You’re the head coach at the University of Florida. It’s a job desired by many. Quit the antics and coach your team.

I now go back to the game and the second half. The Gators are down 14-10. There’s been good and bad, but that’s common of Florida teams of late. I’m surprisingly calm overall, but that’s because I may just be used to this. I’ll throw out another JUST WIN and head back to the television.

That was the first half. The second half was oh so wonderfully glorious, I don’t know what to cover first. Let’s start with the arrogant fan route…

(more…)

Trey And Clay Can’t Wait For The Day When Together They Can Play

Sorry, but if you’re siblings and have names that rhyme, this is what happens.*

Junior Trey Burton and his younger brother sophomore Clay Burton are lining up on the same side of the ball this season and are looking forward to it. Not only may they see the field at the same time, they may actually line up next to each other. The Florida Gators have run out some looks with Trey at slot receiver and Clay a few feet away at tight end. This all became possible when Clay moved from defensive end to the offensive side of the ball.

While Trey will see the field much more than his little brother, there is a chance we’ll see them together – especially around the goal line.

*True story, I knew twins when I was growing up – Shawn and Shauna.

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: The Gator Grind – Day In The Life

It’s the summer break. While that doesn’t mean much besides warmer air and more annoying kids outside for all of you year-long workers, summer means more free time for students. We hope that you will be spending more time reading The Bull Gator, as I will be spending more time posting at it. That means it’s time for a new series at TBG. The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD for short) will feature, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. And if you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title.

So we’re no longer alone. We’re now in a world where not only do we, the Gators’ fans, blog about Gators’ sports, but the athletes do too. Yes, you heard that right. The Florida athletes now have a blog called The Gator Grind, which consists of 35 student-athletes/writers that post some of the many experiences of the life of a Gator.

In addition to their creative blog, they also produced this astounding video that’s supposed to represent the life of the Gator student-athletes.

In the video are: Patric Young, Megan Pak, Brian Howell, Taylor Travis, Haley Reeb, Jo Dragotta, Trey Burton, Sam Robey, Frankie Hammond, Jr., Michelle Moultrie, Zane Breakiron.

Pretty cool, huh? Does it help you appreciate the work these athletes are putting in on and off the field? What do you think about their blogging?

The Great Trey Burton Debate

An interesting thing happened when One Eyed Willy and I were drafting the Florida Gators last week to form two starting lineups to battle each other head-to-head in the imaginary stadium that exists only in our heads: neither of us seriously considered adding Trey Burton to our rosters.

The entire situation was interesting because of the figure Burton has become over his two years at Florida. He came in as an athlete we thought would be a quarterback and quickly became a utility man of sorts. During his freshman season in 2010, he ran the ball only six times and caught half as many passes in the Gators first three games. And then that magical night happened.

On September 25, 2010, Burton went from a freshman with the potential to become a weapon at a variety of positions to a legend. You surely remember it vividly: Burton carried the ball five times and ended each run in the end zone. He would also add five receptions with another touchdown. When the dust settled, Burton had finished with a fairly average 10 touches on offense for 77 total yards. A good yards per touch average sure, but nothing spectacular. But then there were the touchdowns – six in all. Burton solidified his place in Florida football history in just one night and suddenly expectations were sky-high.

The rest of Burton’s freshman season showed he could be used in a variety of ways. He wasn’t exceptional, but he was solid. There was a flash – a 51-yard run against Georgia – but most of all there was effort. Fans fell in love with the way he played and the way he interacted. Burton took heavily to Twitter, communicating with fans on a regular basis. He was a star in the making…then Urban Meyer resigned for good (well, we now know what “for good” means).

With Will Muschamp coming on as head coach and hiring Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator, no one knew what to expect of Burton. He had enough talent to find a place on offense, but what place would that be? There were even whispers that he could be given a look on defense – anything to give him a chance to get on the field. When the 2011 season came to an end, Burton’s carries were cut in half (75 in 2010, 37 in 2011), his receptions dropped (31 in 2010, 19 in 2011), and his touchdowns trailed off (12 in 2010, 4 in 2011). He was banged up in the season opener against FAU, but overall his position was far from defined and his chances were limited.

(more…)

Hunter Joyer To Be Featured More In Gators Offense

When Hunter Joyer first committed to the Florida Gators, it was difficult to predict his future. The fullback position has been in question for years at Florida. There have been traditional blocking fullbacks in the past, but there have also been seasons when FBs were converted to other positions because it wasn’t a viable role in the offense. Times have changed though, and with the hiring of offensive coordinator Brent Pease, it appears the fullback position may have its time in the spotlight.

Joyer provided a spark at times for a struggling offense during his freshman season in 2011. He instantly became a fan favorite and was the type of hard-nosed, extra effort player everyone loves. Despite that, his role with the Gators was in question; remember, Trey Burton was once a “fullback.”

Although his carries in 2011 were limited, Joyer looked like he could be a viable option running the ball (something he proved in high school), but heading into the 2012 season, his other abilities may be more exciting. In Pease’s offense, Joyer should not only get a chance to carry the ball on occasion and block for whoever is behind him toting the rock, but we could see him catching passes out of the backfield as well.

Joyer is a diverse talent with the ability to contribute to the Gators offense in many ways. Pease will look to utilize the soon-to-be sophomore in a variety of situations while he sees more and more playing time.

For more Florida Gators coverage, like the TBG Facebook page and follow TBG on Twitter.

“10 Things I Want Out Of The 2012 Florida Gators Football Season” – One Eyed Willy

We spend so much time discussing what’s best for the Florida Gators; what will help the sports teams both on and off the field. From time to time, we decide to be selfish though and discuss what’s best for us. These thoughts could help the football team or they could help us as fans. We may want a certain player to succeed because he’s a vital part of the roster or just because we like his jersey number. Whatever the case, these are the things we want out of the Gators’ 2012 football season. Up first, One Eyed Willy.

10. Less trouble off the field. Let’s be honest…ultimately it’s what happens on the field that we all care about. If we were going 12-0 and in the BCS Championship game, few fans would have a problem with the recent “misfortunes” of our players off the field. But, being a graduate of the University of Florida, I would hope that at some point the players can start realizing that any trouble they get into will be on the cover of the next day’s sports section and will be a black eye not only on themselves, but the entire football team and the university. At some point the double-digit arrests per year have to stop – or at least slow down.

9. A big time punt returner. I still remember sitting in the stands chanting “Lito, Lito, Lito!” before #3 would take one to the house. And while our punt block team was superb last year, I am still waiting for the next Brandon James or Keiwan Ratliff to step back there are take a couple punts the distance. We have tried several different punt returners over the last few years, but none have been very impressive in my eyes and some have been downright awful. So maybe 2012 is the year someone surprises me and becomes another weapon to compliment those 10 guys up front who have certainly been holding their own.

8. Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. As a self-proclaimed recuitnik, I realize that recruiting is a 365-day process. The 2013 recruiting class is off to a great start – probably the best start that we have ever had – but we are to the point now where we don’t just need great recruits, we need great recruits to fill some great big holes we have in the roster. Priority #1A and #1B is to find several highly rated wide receivers and offensive lineman. With our defensive line being stacked as much as I remember it being in the recent past, it’s time to focus on the offensive side of the ball and attract some guys that can not only play right away, but help this team win sooner rather than later.

7. More Matt Elam. I don’t care where he is on the field or what he is doing…I want to see more Matt Elam! Even though Elam is only a junior next year, there is a good chance that this could be our last time seeing him wear the Gator orange and blue. Elam is the heart and soul of this defense and we live or die by how much he gets involved in the game. So let Elam throw a couple of passes. Let him play running back some. Hell, let the guy punt or placekick. I really don’t care. Just put Matt Elam in a position to make plays and let’s see what happens.

6. Beat Texas A&M in Week 2. I talk more about wins in general further down my list, but I truly believe that this is a big game for the Gators. Not only are we playing a good team in week 2 (something we don’t often do), but we are playing at their stadium (one of the tougher places to play in the country) and against a team that will be playing in their very first SEC game. The Aggies would like nothing more than to send a message to the entire league that they have arrived by knocking one of the big boys off the first chance they get. We cannot let that happen. In order for the 2012 season not to be over before it really even starts, we must take care of business in College Station.

(more…)

Offense: Auburn Tigers 17 – Florida Gators 6

From Saturday: first thoughts.


Auburn has had a rough go of it this season in terms of defensive performances. The Tigers gave up 110 points in their first three games before holding FAU and South Carolina to 27 combined. Auburn’s defense would take a step back against Arkansas and give up 38 to the Razorbacks – the third time the Tigers had given up that total in their first six games. Due to the points and yards put up against Auburn, it was easy to expect more from Florida’s offense on Saturday night. Then the game started.

With the quarterback position being manned by two true freshmen and a sophomore that had only been asked to throw the ball a handful of times during his career the worst was feared, but progress was hoped for. Jacoby Brissett’s arm and escapability would be accompanied by Trey Burton’s ability to run the option and Jeff Driskel occasionally coming off the bench to give the defense different looks. We didn’t expect a 35-point explosion or 400 yards from scrimmage, but we expected more than two field goals and a total of 194 yards on 59 plays. What could be most frustrating is that the Gators were in the game according to the scoreboard. The Tigers’ offense wasn’t lighting the world on fire either and Florida had its chances, but couldn’t capitalize.

We’re all aware the quarterbacks were going to struggle. Inexperience will do that. It’s not a surprise to anyone that neither Brissett nor Driskel looked like All-Americans. What was surprising was Charlie Weis’ rotation of his passers. No one knows which one will be the Gators’ quarterback of the future, but neither is getting a chance to get into any kind of rhythm. Brissett threw an interception early, but was far from awful. He throws a nice ball when he plants and has the chance to fire it in to a receiver. It’s easy to see why Florida wanted to add him as the second quarterback of the class. No one on the offensive side of the ball was great during the first half, but why bench your quarterback in a one-point game? Again, it goes back to rhythm. Brissett was only given one half to find his and Driskel coming off the bench cold didn’t have any either. If John Brantley isn’t able to go in two weeks against Georgia, Weis may have to pick one QB and stick with him unless the wheels completely fall off.

The running game was a liability yet again. What was the Gators’ most dangerous weapon during the first four games has become something Florida can’t rely on. Brissett enjoyed the long of the night with an 11-yard scamper, but that was it for excitement. Chris Rainey shouldn’t be getting the ball as much as he does. Not to say he can’t be a great asset to the offense because he definitely is one, but he’s not an every down back and it shows. Unfortunately we didn’t see Mike Gillislee nearly as much as we were led to believe. He carried the ball only three times for 16 yards and at one point we saw his ankle being taped on the sidelines. Regardless, all of this goes back to one key item we keep having to bring up: offensive line play.

What more can we say about the offensive line at this point? We can’t. They aren’t opening lanes for runners and they aren’t protecting the quarterbacks. It’s a unit that struggled for most of 2010 and came into 2011 with even less experience. That lack of experience has shown and it was apparent last night. At the seven-game point of the season, you have to have a solution. Correction: Weis has to have a solution. This line will continue to get dominated if it doesn’t improve now. And if this is the best they can be, the points won’t come. 10 points. 11 points. Six points. 4-3 will quickly become 4-4 if that keeps up.

Next up: the defense.