Pease Not Surprised by Gillislee Success

Brent Pease said running back Mike Gillislee practiced on Monday after suffering a groin injury at Texas A&M. Pease wasn't specific with the number of reps Gillislee took, but the Gators are being careful with his touches this week. The senior has made his mark on the Florida offense through the first two games of the year, and as the Gators prepare for Tennessee, he's an important part of it.

"He's very talented," Pease said of Mike Gillislee. "He provides such a downhill running attack and yet you can see when he starts to bounce plays, he's elusive enough and he's great in the open field. He does a good job of reading blocks down field. You can use him. He's not just a downhill runner, but he can be if he has to. He has good hands. We just have to continue to get him the ball."

That's the plan going into Neyland Stadium on Saturday. The Gators have focused on ball control and winning the time of possession battle while having success on the ground. The offense was more open on Saturday at Texas A&M, but the focal point of the offense remains—the Gators want Gillislee to put up big numbers.

That's what has happened during the first two weeks. Gillislee has run the ball 38 times for 231 yards and four touchdowns. He came into the year as the only running back on the Florida roster with experience, and the senior has made a big impact this year.

His success hasn't taken Pease by surprise. The Florida offensive coordinator saw this coming after watching Gillislee in spring practice and fall camp.

"I didn't know Mike from what's happened in the past, and I didn't look at him that way," Pease said. "I looked at him from what I saw in the spring. I knew in the spring, this kid's got something."

The coaching staff will continue to be smart with his touches and reps this week in practice. Gillislee will "take what he can" during Tuesday's practice and continue to manage the groin injury.

"He doesn't need as many (reps)," Gillislee said. "That's where you try to get the other kids (involved) and build up their repetition base because he's taking so many, and he gets such live situations in the game he doesn't need to continually take those and take those."

With his reps in practice being used carefully, the Gators are spending the week trying to get the less experienced backs ready. Even if Gillislee is healthy when the game starts, the groin could reinjure itself at any point in the game, and the Gators would be going with an inexperienced back.

Mack Brown and Matt Jones have both seen time on the field this fall, but Pease is trying to get both over their learning curve before Saturday.

"I think it's just more experience," Pease said about the difference between Gillislee and the running backs. "Mike's been around. Mack had a good game. When he was in there, he hit the hole real well, saw the hole. (Jones is) still young and he's getting better every day, and he'll be good. He's going to be good, we really think that."

Jones has made an impact this fall

If the Gators are forced to go by a committee approach at running back, Jones could be the one that gets the third down reps. Pease said the freshman has the best hands out of any of the running backs, and he will get more touches in the future.

"It's just an experience thing. He might not have the speed that Gills has right now, but he hasn't been through an offseason program. He's coming straight from high school."

STRENGTH OF THE OFFENSE: Pease said on Tuesday afternoon that he believes the strength of the offense is the offensive line. That might not make sense after Texas A&M registered eight sacks over the weekend, but Pease said that film showed only two of the eight were because of protection issues.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel either held onto the ball too long or was sacked while trying to create extra yards on the ground. Driskel took the blame for those sacks on Saturday after the game and again on Monday morning.

"You can't put that on the o-line," Pease said.

There have been short yardage issues in the first two games, and the offensive line has spent the early part of the week addressing them, but Pease said there isn't much to complain about considering how well the line has allowed the Gators to run the ball.

Florida has run for 362 yards in the first two games, and he credits Gillislee and the offensive line for it.

"I think they've been consistent from spring on because there's some good kids up there," Pease said. "But the thing I'm encouraged about is that everybody is finding where they're fitting into this. You're finding out more and more out about the guy."

PASS CATCHERS: The Gators don't have a clear target in the passing game on third downs, but Pease is okay with that at this point in the season. He sees it as tough for the defense to cover if there isn't an obvious receiver that the ball will go to on the play.

"I don't really think you necessarily have a number one guy emerge because you want to have balance in those guys," pease said. "If you have balance, that means production is in each guy. I don't want a defensive coordinator looking at it and saying ‘they're throwing it to this guy all the time.'"

The Gators have been waiting on Andre Debose to be that guy since he showed up on campus. Through two games, Debose hasn't caught a pass. He's getting reps at receiver and is on the field enough to make an impact, but he hasn't caught a pass in the first two games of the year.

"He was in there at wide receiver," Pease said. "He had two great run blocks downfield that made some big plays. When he was in there, he did a great job."

Tight end Jordan Reed is starting to become a consistent part of the offense. He leads the team with eight catches and 92 yards so far.

"I think he's developing tremendously," Pease said. "He's in a lot of different positions if you look at it from the other day. He's learning, he's doing a great job in the run game, he's got good hands, he had a big catch and a run after it. He's coming along. He provides a big opportunity for us to be able to put him in a lot of spots."

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