Gillislee Gets His Chance

Anyone that has followed Florida football in recent years usually asks the same question—When will Mike Gillislee earn his chance? It his final season at Florida, but that chance will come in 2012 for the senior. Fans have clamored for more touches for Gillislee, but the lack of carries could be attributed to pass blocking. It's a big part of why he hasn't always been on the field.

Gillislee came to Gainesville without knowing much about pass protection. As it is with most highly recruited running backs, he didn't participate in pass protection much at Deland High School. He was trusted to run the ball and find the end zone.

When he came in as a freshman, there were times he was overwhelmed in the backfield. One of those times came when linebacker Brandon Spikes came flying off the edge. Gillislee stepped up and tried to block the best he knew how.

"It didn't go too good," Mike Gillislee while shaking his head and laughing.

Since then, there has been consistent improvement in pass protection. Gillislee also noted that the extra reps as the starter this spring should help him take the next step going into the fall.

There are two parts to it. The first comes before the snap. Gillislee has to identify who he thinks the unblocked defender will be and prepare to block. Once the ball is snapped, that can all change. If an offensive lineman picks up a different player than he was supposed to, Gillislee has to adjust.

"It's hard because you have to know who's coming, and you've got a route at the same time," Gillislee said. "That's the hardest thing about pass protection.

"Sometimes, the lineman may pick up my guy, so I've got to pick up their guy."

Injuries also played a part in keeping him off the field. Gillislee was one of the lone bright spots on the Florida offense in a loss at LSU last season. After that game, head coach Will Muschamp vowed that Gillislee would get more touches at Auburn.

After three carries against the Tigers, Gillislee came out with an injury. He has suffered from a right ankle injury since coming to Florida that has held him back. With a change in his mindset about taking care of himself, Gillislee is optimistic about his senior year.

"It was very frustrating," Gillislee said. "Every time it was time for me to step up, I ended up getting hurt. Now that I see taking care of your body is the most important thing, that's a big part of what I'm doing now. Every day after practice I'm getting in the cold talk and doing the little things before anything major happens."

With the struggles of pass protection and injury behind him, Gillislee knows the opportunity in front of him. After saying he "never knew" when he would touch the ball again after each run in the past three seasons, the senior has a straight shot at the starting position.

"This is my last chance," Gillislee said. "This is the opportunity I've been waiting on to take advantage of this."

Despite his lack of action, Gillislee said he never once thought about leaving.

"I was born a Gator," Gillislee said. "I've been a Gator all my life. I'd never change this. Now, it's my opportunity. I plan on keeping it that way."

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