Published September 13, 2012 - 10:00am
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Many watchful eyes will be on Florida running back Mike Gillislee this weekend. Florida knows what Gillislee can do in the running game, but the Gators will be keeping an eye on the groin injury he suffered last weekend. Tennessee knows he is the one guy who has to be contained in Florida’s offense.
Gillislee’s story can be one of perseverance, after seeing less playing time than he anticipated at Florida. Sitting behind jitterbugs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps couldn’t have been easy. Even in the pro-style system the Gators attempted to run last season under Charlie Weis, Gillislee only had 56 carries for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Rainey and Demps had 171 carries and 98 carries respectively but only combined to score eight touchdowns. Gillislee has four already.
However, Gillislee stuck it out for four years waiting for this opportunity to be the featured back in the Gators’ offense. He currently leads the SEC in rushing yards (231) and is tied for the lead in touchdowns (4). He’s the one guy who is indispensable in Florida’s offense.
Playing in Florida’s system with a mildly experienced quarterback, no game breakers at wide receiver and up-and-down offensive line play, Gillislee has been the one guy Florida can count on to make a play when his number is called.
He has tremendous vision and instinct when he hits the second level (linebackers). Gillislee has the force of a between-the-tackles runner but the athleticism and speed to make sharp cuts and get into open real estate. He’s a natural running back.
The biggest question for Gillislee this weekend is whether he will be able to tote the rock 20-plus times with his injured groin. He sustained the injury early against Texas A&M but aggravated it late in the game on his tiptoeing touchdown run. The Gators will undoubtedly need Gillislee to carry the full load in an effort to control the time of possession, as this game has been decided 21 of the last 22 years by the best running game.
Will Mushcamp maintains he will be fine for this weekend.
“He practiced yesterday,” Muschamp said on the SEC coaches’ teleconference. “He looked good.”
Freshman Matt Jones and sophomore Mack Brown will get some carries while some of the burden is taken off Gillislee. Both have combined for 18 carries and 56 yards. We’ll see how his injury responds Saturday night, and it could end up being a running back by committee for Florida.
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