Snell’s Slant: Gators winning with team football

By Adam Silverstein
October 23, 2012

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under head coaches Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell has joined OGGOA as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

Defense wins championships. How many times does that phrase have to be repeated until people realize it is true? The story of the South Carolina game had nothing to do with Florida’s offensive dominance, even though UF did best them in that phase of the game (and not just because of the short fields it was afforded).

The Gamecocks dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a menace. You know something is not going right when the offense has less than 90 yards for the entire first half. One thing I absolutely love about the Gators, though, is how they make second half adjustments. This coaching staff is obviously one of the best in the country at analyzing miscues and ensuring that the team does not commit the same mistakes coming out of the locker rooms.

However, when you see a player of the caliber of Clowney disrupting the running game, pressuring the quarterback and making sacks, changes have to be made immediately. This was on head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease. At some point in that first half, they should have realized that chipping Clowney with a running back and/or sliding the protection his way was a necessity.

A slide protection protects an offensive lineman from having to block a defender one-on-one. The lineman is basically protecting a “gap.” If someone tries to run through that gap, that linemen blocks it. This can be an advantage against a more athletic defensive end like Clowney due to the fact that he is forced to go up against not one lineman but instead every lineman that is sliding towards his side of the field. It was nice to see this adjustment in the second half, but it could have been made a whole lot sooner and quite a few opportunities were lost because of it.

Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!

What is nice to see is the running game continuing to produce long, clock-eating drives. While running back Mike Gillislee had a tough time finding significant chunks of yardage, quarterback Jeff Driskel continued to show why his ability to be a multi-dimensional player by using his legs is such a huge asset.

This is a great development for a Gators offense that is still trying to put everything in the passing game. If Florida can advance to the SEC Championship or BCS National Championship, it must be able to find a productive passing game. Defense does win championships, but it cannot do it on its own.

Speaking of the defense, the Gators’ is phenomenal having given up a combined 37 points to the three ranked opponents it has already faced. The +11 turnover margin is also incredibly impressive and a huge turnaround from a season ago.

A lot of comparisons have been made to the 2006 national title team. For me they start and end with the defense. The best thing about it is that there are no individuals on the unit. It’s great to have a player like Clowney on your team because you know he going to make a lot of big plays, and he a mismatch for whoever he’s playing against. The drawback is, if he’s not making those plays (as he did not in the second half last weekend), then who else will? That is why I think Florida’s defense is so special. Every week there is someone new stepping up and playing well. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Mike linebacker Jon Bostic, defensive end Dominique Easley and the defensive backfield have all been terrific.

As anyone reading this knows, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy played his best game in the Orange & Blue on Saturday. His strip sack not only gave the offense a short field and produced a touchdown, it set the tone for the game. A defense setting an offense up like that only provides additional motivation to go out there and convert that turnover into points. You don’t want to be that unit that is not producing and that your teammates cannot count on to play hard and match their intensity.

While there have been plenty of mistakes, especially with penalties, this defense does not have a lot of weaknesses. They are fast, physical and disciplined for the most part. The penalties must be cut down as soon as possible, especially the ones on third down that are extending drives and leading to points that should not be up on the scoreboard.

Of course, it is worth mentioning that punter Kyle Christy has been amazing all season. Saturday he showed the importance of special teams and why he was unquestionably the most valuable player in the game. One of the most important and overlooked aspects of the game of football is field position. Christy pinned South Carolina back on numerous occasions and his hang time even helped lead to a fumble.

Knowing the importance of the Florida-Georgia game, especially this year with the division on the line, expect the Gators to come out on fire. The finish will be just important as the start, and Florida must put together a four-quarter game to pull this one out.


  1. obgator says:

    Thanks for this piece. I always look forward to reading it (along with pretty much every post on this website).

    I also think Omar Hunter played very well. He is great at sniffing out those middle screens.

    • Shannon Snell says:

      OBgator- you’re right. Hunter has played very well. I thought some of those screen passes break for long yardage if he’s not there defending.

      David- Can you imagine him and Powell as bookends next year??? Jeez, scary stuff.

      GatorGrad- That’s probably the biggest difference I see with this year’s team. Shows that “team” football is still alive and well.

      Hippy- LoL! Nice biker analogy. Spit water all over my iPad laughing. Both lines have gotten significantly better, but with that, they need to be more consistent across the board, especially offensively. At times, you can see the mental farts. It happens, but it shouldn’t as often with this group at this point in the season.

      Kevin – thank you sir!

      Tractorr- Nice question. The problem with this protection is, if the defense guesses correctly and sends a blitz away from the side the offensive line is sliding away from, it’s going to be a sack or a QB pressure. There just isn’t enough guys to block everything. Generally when the center or QB calls that protection, they want to slide the protection towards the defensive tackle “three” technique on the guard (outside shade). That way, if both the defensive end and defensive tackle slanted inside, both the offensive guard and tackle would be protected underneath because they are ultimately blocking gaps.

      Jesse- thanks man! I’m a lot smarter than I look sometimes! 🙂

  2. David says:

    One person I think you forgot was Dante Fowler Jr. Watch him in the first half. He dominates the Gamecocks right side. I think its awesome that a true freshman can come in and have an impact. I hope he stays all four years so i can watch him develop and continue to dominate.

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Thank God the personality and ego issues of the past few years are GONE! This is the only way to win – to be willing to do whatever the TEAM needs and forego the individual stats and accolades for a team win!

  4. gatorhippy says:

    Oh man, Shannon…Have these guys on both sides of the line proven themselves or what?…I feel bad that we were reserving praise for them a few games back…

    And the defense…WOW…these guys are like a gang of biker thugs that roll in and beat the living hell out of a dude, kick him a few more times for good measure after he’s down and out then walk off with his old lady who is laughing at her former man as she willingly takes off with them…

    I’m not quite as worried about the passing game as you seem to be just because it does seem that when the need arises Driskel can make the throws that are required…as in the case of Omarius Hines’s TD reception that was negated by the chop block…

    As always…great piece and great take on the game…

  5. Kevin Glenn says:

    Excellent analysis Big Gator.

  6. Tractorr says:

    Shannon, what is the disadvantage to running slide protection? Is it the defense running some sort of overload blitz from the other side?

  7. Jesse says:

    What a great analysis of the game. I look forward to it every week and you did not disappoint. I’m confident heading into this game but in a rivalry, the best team doesn’t necessarily win. We need to limit the mistakes, keep tabs on jarvis jones and continue to play at a high level. GO GATORS!

  8. gator says:

    The dog receivers are going to be PUNISHED by are D-backs.the will wish that the had spent the day with Mike Vick instead.

  9. SeanD says:

    I lack confidence just a bit with the passing down field on both sides of he ball. Would like to see our DB’s posses more ball skill when it is up for grabs. Same with WR’s. Until they get used to seeing that ball flying their way a bit more, they won’t have the confidence required to have that, ” the ball is mine!” attitude. But what is exciting, is the coaches on both sides (Muschamp and Pease) are some of the best at instilling that knowledge, so it is just a matter of time/reps. When that happens, watch out!

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