GatorCountry.com continues its series previewing the players who will make up the 2012 Florida Gators football team this season.
Each day, we’ll count off another scholarship player until the Florida football season officially begins Sept. 1 against Bowling Green in The Swamp.
Today, we take a look at senior running back Mike Gillislee.
Rated the nation’s No. 7 running back by Rivals.com, Florida had to beat out South Carolina, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State for the services of this beastly runner.
However, since his decision to come play for the orange and blue, the hard-nosed Gillislee had been forced to wait behind speedsters such as Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
For three years, he was chasing smaller, faster running backs, but all the while, injuries were chasing him. Gillislee missed time last season dealing with both knee and ankle issues.
No longer. The bruiser averaged a whopping 8.6 yards per carry on a measly 31 carries back in 2009 and then more than five yards per attempt on a little more 50 carries in both 2010 and 2011, respectively. As the team’s vocal leader in the locker room and on the playing field, Gillislee has his sights set on some huge numbers come 2012.
Gillislee comes in listed at 5-foot-11 and 209 pounds, far larger than Demps, who is now sprinting for Team USA at the London Olympics, and Rainey, who will continue breaking ankles in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He knows what his size can bring to the table for his program. Florida coach Will Muschamp is entering only his second season at the helm and he has been working to mold the offense into a more ground-and-pound type of juggernaut.
While Gillislee does not have the breakaway speed to turn a five-yard run into an 80-yard burst, he does possess the power to go beast mode and turn a 10-yard draw into a 30-yard brute force run.
He loves taking the ball between the tackles, and he plants his feet and barrels into the teeth of the defense without fear. He is a decent blocker in pass protection due to his size, but his biggest strengths are also what causes him to struggle trying to take the ball around the edge or when trying to catch the ball out of the backfield.
What to Expect
Although he has not officially been named the starter, Gillislee is expected to be the featured back in this season’s offense.
If there is anything Gillislee does not lack heading into his senior season, it is confidence.
Attending the SEC Media Days recently, Gillislee provided some candid answers when asked what his goals were for the upcoming year:
– 1,500 yards. No Gators rusher has broken 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
– 24 touchdowns. One more than the record of 23 rushing touchdowns set by none other than one Mr. Tim Tebow.
He probably won’t hit either of those milestones.
Yet, after working so hard for so long, after waiting and sitting on the sidelines and watching so many others enjoy the spotlight in which he so strongly knew he belonged, who in Gator Nation would doubt him?