Best individual seasons of the Muschamp era

One of Will Muschamp's three seasons at Florida brought positive memories to Gainesville, and unsurprisingly, most of the best individual seasons for his players have come during that 2012 run to the Sugar Bowl.

5. Punter Kyle Christy and kicker Caleb Sturgis (2012): It might seem strange to put specialists on this list, but the Gators wouldn't have been in a BCS bowl during the 2012 season without these two. Christy flipped field position, which was imperative with an average offense, and anytime the Gators were able to get past midfield, Sturgis was as much of a sure thing as there was in the country to secure three points.

Christy hit 25 punts for 50+ yards, putting 27 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line with only six touchbacks. His 45.8-yard average set a new school record. Sturgis went 24-28 on field goals, including going 3-3 on kicks 50+ yards. Two of his four misses came from between 20-29 yards, going 6-7 on kicks from 30-39 yards and 5-6 on kicks from 40-49 yards. Christy finished as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award while Sturgis was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

4. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (2012): As a sophomore in 2011, Floyd spent most of his time at defensive end because the Gators lacked production at the position. When he moved back to his natural position in 2012, he blew up. Floyd led the Gators with 13 tackles for a loss, adding 46 total tackles and three sacks. He was second on the team with six quarterback hurries and even blocked two kicks.

Teams purposely game planned to try and slow Floyd down. He saw double teams for most of the season and still managed to be a disruptive force in the middle of Florida's defense.

3. Running back Chris Rainey (2011): The lone representative from any team other than 2012, Rainey impacted every facet of the game for the Gators during Will Muschamp's first season in Gainesville. He led the team with 120.9 all-purpose yards per game and was the team's leading rusher and receiver.

Muschamp took over a roster without much offensive talent, and Rainey was forced to put the entire offense on his back. He rushed for 861 yards, had 381 receiving yards, 106 punt return yards and 103 kickoff return yards.

2. Running back Mike Gillislee (2012): Rainey averaged more all-purpose yards during 2011, but Gillislee was a versatile back that could run between the tackles or use his speed on the edge. He became the first Florida running back to rush for 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason did it in 2004. For all the rushing yards the Gators posted under Urban Meyer, they needed a back to top that 1,000-yard mark to erase the negative viewpoint of the program's rushing attack. Gillislee provided that.

He rushed for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 159 yards and one touchdown through the air. He surpassed the 1,000-yard mark during Florida's 37-26 win at Florida State while putting up 140 yards on the ground.

1. Safety Matt Elam (2012): He finished second on the team with 76 tackles, but whenever the Florida defense needed a play in 2012, it was often Elam that provided it. His versatility allowed the Gators to use him in coverage or play him in the box, where he became a nightmare for opposing offenses.

Elam was second on the team, behind Floyd, with 11 tackles for a loss on that team. He led the Gators with four interception and added five pass breakups. He only had one forced fumble, but it was one of the biggest plays of the year. It came against LSU while Florida leading 7-6. The Tigers hit a 56-yard pass play, but Elam ran down receiver Odell Beckham and stripped the ball from behind. After that turnover, the Gators went down the field to score and push the lead to 14-6, where it would stay.

Though he was quiet off the field, Elam was the heart and soul of the Florida defense in 2012. Muschamp puts a lot of responsibility on his safeties, forcing them to make checks at the line of scrimmage and get everyone else in the right position. Elam handled that role and still managed to be a difference maker on every snap.


Fightin Gators Top Stories