Gillislee Capitalizes on Long-Awaited Chance

When Mike Gillislee signed with Florida in February of 2009, his first day as the starting running back was on his mind. He just didn't know it would take so long. After waiting through three seasons in Gainesville, Gillislee started his senior year by taking advantage of his chance to start by carrying the ball 24 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns in Florida's win to open the season.

"This is the chance and opportunity that I always dreamed about," Mike Gillislee said. "I think I handled it good for the first time starting a football game and playing the whole football game in college."

The game plan Saturday was an opportunity for Gillislee to get in the flow of what the Florida offense wants to be known for. Head coach Will Muschamp spent the offseason preaching about toughness and running the football.

To prove how serious he was about it, Muschamp handcuffed first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease and made Florida run the ball. The goal was to get Gillislee and the Florida offensive line used to pushing through fatigue and fighting for tough yards.

"I've got to give the offensive coordinator a little more latitude to throw the football in those situations," Muschamp said. "That's on me—not him or the offensive line. I don't care who you face, we ran the ball extremely well. That's with me telling the offensive coordinator that we're running the ball right here."

Gillislee knew that was the game plan going into the weekend and it didn't surprise him. He was prepared for the offense and was happy about getting a chance to showcase his skills with extended carries for the first time in his career. It has been preached to him since Pease arrived in Gainesville.

"When Coach Pease came, he told us he wanted physical, down hill running backs," Gillislee said. "I felt like I fit that with all the other guys, too."

The idea to develop toughness didn't go as planned since the Florida offense struggled to convert the short yardage downs. The Gators converted one of their eight situations on 3rd and 2 or shorter.

"It was frustrating most of the time, but we went on the sidelines and all kept each other up because we knew there would be another opportunity," Gillislee said.

Gillislee said the Gators showed "most of" the offense on Saturday against Bowling Green, which is good news for the kind of season he could put up in 2012. There have been smaller injuries in the past few years that Gillislee has dealt with that kept him off the field at times.

He knows he'll need to take care of his body if he is going to be able to carry the load of the offense this season. After a 24-carry game on Saturday, Gillislee said his body still felt fresh after the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.

He's the type of running back Muschamp wants to feature in the offense.

"When you hand the ball off, his pads are north and south—not sideways. He's got multiple directions to take the ball as opposed to a gun set. He's a one-cut runner that gets the ball vertical."

Saturday in The Swamp wasn't pretty, but Gillislee was one of the few bright spots of a game without many others. He admitted that the close game wasn't what the Florida team was expecting going into the game.

"It was a little tighter (than the team expected)," Gillislee said. "We thought we were going to come in and put up 40 points."

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