Whatever It Takes

Everyone seems to want to mess up the magic formula that has the Gators at 6-0 and ranked third in the country. A stout defense, exceptional special teams, and a strong rushing offense have led the way to the strong start, but folks are crying for more balance on offense. The Gators would probably like there to be more pop in their passing game, but will do whatever it takes to win games.

First things first, this non-balanced offense has one of the conference's best runners. Even if he wasn't on any pre-season watch lists, senior Mike Gillislee has made a name for himself and is getting the job done for Florida. Gillislee is second in the SEC in rushing averaging over 102 yards per game and is a guy that always gets positive yards.

Gator's sophomore tackle Chaz Green says Gillislee is a guy that the line has a great deal of pride in blocking for.

"He just runs hard… he's relentless," green said of the senior with over 600 yards on the season. "He doesn't accept stopping at the first contact. He just keeps going. It's great for us to block for someone like that. It makes us want to block even harder."

Why wouldn't Florida keep using a guy that can literally do it all just by handing him the ball?

"He can do a lot," Green continued. "He can beat you with speed, power and he's quick, too. He's a true back that's hard to defend so it's great to have him."

When defenses start to key on Gillislee, Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease and the Gators have come up with a plan to make teams pay for it. The "Read Option" has been a go-to play in some games this year and has allowed the offense to take advantage of teams going hard after the running backs.

A week ago, sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel scored on three touchdowns and was untouched on all three as the defense caved in on Gillislee on a fake handoff in the ‘Read Option. The attention to detail has been phenomenal when the play is carried out.

"It's funny because we'll be blocking plays and when we finally look at it on film, we didn't even realize that's what's going on in the back field and we're like, ‘Dang'," Green said. "I understand why some of these defenses have trouble finding out who has the ball."

Driskel has beeen a force on the ground.

Completing the ball in the passing game is about getting the ball in someone's hands and getting one-on-one matchups in space. The Gators have been able to do that with the Zone Read and to an extent using the ‘Wildcat', which is just the Read Option but inserting another running type quarterback into the position.

With junior Trey Burton manning the spot Florida has improved over a year ago in their version of the Wildcat. Green isn't sure why it is working better but agrees it is.

"Pease is a great offensive coordinator," Green said. "He has a lot of good calls, a lot of ways to put defenses in tough situations and make the competitor think. I'm not sure. We're just doing what we're asked to do."

Junior guard Jon Halapio was offensive lineman of the week in the SEC against Vanderbilt and he also believes the Wildcat is working at a higher level of success than a year ago.

"Yeah I would say so," he responded when asked about it. "I think we're just all around better."

With all the success running the ball, Florida's offensive coordinator knows they will have to also step it up in the passing game. The Gators have just 138 yards total passing in the last two weeks. Pease knows teams are going to find ways to react and change what Florida is able to do.

"Some balance has to come back," Pease said. "If you aren't balanced in what you do, they will start loading things up (in the box). If they have an answer, we have to answer back."

Still, when things are working like they are, you have to make teams stop it.

"Let's not get greedy here as a coach and say, ‘I don't like that… I'm throwing the ball because that's what we all love to do'." He said.

"If Jeff Driskel can carry the ball 70 yards and out-run everybody, he's getting the ball. If Mike Gillislee can carry the ball and out-run everybody, he's getting the ball. And if our Offensive line blocks like they block, we're giving them the ball. I'm not going to be stubborn as far as playing off numbers every week. I'm going to do what's best for this team and what they create for us to be productive and score points and win football games."

And that is just fine with his linemen. Florida was able to pound the ball down LSU's throat at the end of the game two weeks ago, much to the surprise of everyone. Halapio believes they can work the same way this week and beyond.

"I feel like we can do that against anybody, really," Halapio said. "Just the way we practice, just the way our mentality is this year. We're just really relentless—especially up front. We can wear down anybody. I feel strong about that."

Green thinks the offense can do whatever needs to be done and will.

"I feel like it just depends on the team we're playing and what they bring defensively," green says. "I mean we're going to do whatever coach (Pease) says. We have to run the ball pretty well. Teams look to stop it, but we just do whatever coach asks. If we have to pass more, we'll definitely focus in and work on our passing game and make sure that's right."

"We do pass the ball, too. It's not like all we do is run. It's not the same. We don't have as much success throwing the ball as running the ball, percentage-wise. But we feel like we can excel in whatever we're asked to do. I think we're ready to do whatever coach wants."

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