Mike Gillislee’s 24-carry, 148-yard performance in Florida’s 27-14 win against Bowling Green was certainly a coming-out party for the senior running back.
Having waited three years to be the main guy, Gillislee capitalized on his opportunity, displaying a mix of speed and vision, power and quickness.
Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp was consistent with his message in the offseason: Gillislee is the guy.
Through one game, it is easy to see why.
Now, Muschamp and the coaching staff need to find out who can augment Gillislee in the rushing game.
“As we move forward, Matt [Jones] and Mack [Brown] need to separate themselves in some form or fashion to continue to get Gilly the touches we need for him to have in a game,” Muschamp said Monday.
Looking at the numbers, he is correct.
Last season, in games played between two FBS opponents, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore led the Southeastern Conference with 23.29 carries per game. Second was Alabama’s Trent Richardson, averaging 21.77 carries per game.
It would be imprudent to ask Gillislee to carry such a heavy workload and expect similar results.
Tuesday, Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease admitted while he believes Gillislee is built to handle more carries, it would be better to limit his carries in some ways.
“I think he’s the kind of back that’s got the strength and stamina to do it,” Pease said. “I think that’s where backs, about 15-22 [carries], somewhere in there is where they start to get a rhythm.”
Saturday, Muschamp admitted his stubbornness resulted in the Gators running the ball in situations where Pease may have otherwise been more creative.
His rationale was he wanted to make sure the team played a certain way. A physical, grind-it-out way that was conducive to running the ball.
In the future, it is likely Pease will not be handcuffed to the extent he was Saturday. However, it is clear what the identity of this team is.
The Gators will win games by having the ability to run the ball with success a high number of times.
As a result, someone must step up and produce alongside Gillislee.
Freshman Matt Jones is one candidate. His 17-yard run showed promise, but he didn’t gain any yards on just two other carries.
Likewise, Mack Brown had one nice carry but was otherwise not often heard from.
Closing out the trio of second-string running backs is Omarius Hines, who also had just four carries, fumbling once.
The small sample size indicated little as to who would be the back-up to Gillislee. Still, there is no question there needs to be a dependable back-up, sooner rather than later.
Gillislee said his body still felt “fresh” after getting the opportunity he had always dreamed about.
If he is to continue living his dream, he is going to need some help behind him.