Gators excelling as unit, family

The Florida football team's offseason efforts are sharply poking through both on the field and in the stats. Five games into the 2012 season, the Gators' record stands spotless, complimented by focuses on stamina in the fourth quarter, physicality on the field, and maturity in the mind. But there's one motto the team has been towing with them beneath their pads and in their hearts: family.

Senior offensive guard James Wilson said "family" is something the team has been honing in on since the offseason —"grinding for each other." He said this year's team is different from Florida's former squads in its prima-donna-free status.

"In the past, we had guys who stuck out more," Wilson said. "Now, it's just more of a team effort."

This collective effort has been especially prevalent on Florida's defensive side of the ball. UF's overall defensive statistics are evenly spread — no one man shining above the rest. UF's top eight defensive leaders have posted more than 15 tackles each.

Junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins pinned the balanced efforts to the players' selflessness. "We're all playing together and trusting each other," Watkins said. "No one is playing selfish and thinking about their future, everyone is thinking about the now."

Specifically, Watkins said, the defense is entrusting in one another to stay put in the gaps and that one player isn't trying to make a play over his own teammate.

"When we play as one, it obviously shows," Watkins said. "And we do a good job of stopping the run."

While UF junior safety Matt Elam and senior running back Mike Gillislee both snagged SEC Player of the Week honors for their performances against LSU this weekend, their teammates maintain that the two uphold that unified, family mentality.

Elam, who notched seven solo tackles against the Tigers, is someone Watkins dubbed as a "star" on defense, but he's a player who uses his fire on the field to lift his teammates up, too.

"He brings a different type of energy to the defense," Watkins said. "If he's down, I feel like the whole defense will be down. But when he's up and he's going, everyone plays around him."

Gillislee, or "Gilly," the SEC's leading rusher, is anything but a showboat according to his teammates. The senior has plenty to boast about of this season's run from his seven rushing touchdowns to a stellar 548 yards gained on his 103 attempts. But his lips are tight and his ego is dim.

"He's very humble about it," Watkins said of Gillislee. "That's how he is as a person in general — he's quiet."

Watkins said the team is remaining quiet, too. He said after Saturday's clutch win over LSU, it would have been easy to keep talking about it. But when the Gators returned to the locker room on Monday, that simply wasn't the case.

"Nobody talked about the game," Watkins said. "That was the weekend and now we're focused on Vanderbilt."

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