Gillislee is a reluctant star for No. 4 Florida
Florida’s Mike Gillislee avoids interviews as well as he does
defenders, says little in the locker room and talks even less in
His play, though, speaks volumes for the fourth-ranked
Gillislee has rushed for 548 yards and seven touchdowns this
season, emerging as the key cog in Florida’s grind-it-out offense.
The senior from DeLand leads the Southeastern Conference with
nearly 110 yards a game on the ground and has been at his best
against ranked teams.
He had a career-high 146 yards rushing and two touchdowns in
Saturday’s 14-6 win against LSU, earning him the SEC’s offensive
player of the week award Monday.
”He just moves the chains over and over again,” said coach
Will Muschamp, whose team plays at Vanderbilt on Saturday. ”You
get kind of tired of tackling him. The fourth quarter, that’s where
he starts wearing on people.”
Gillislee’s second-half success is fairly fitting since he was
such a late bloomer in college.
Gillislee showed glimpses of talent during his first three years
in Gainesville, getting on the field mostly in mop-up duty while
playing behind speedsters Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. He ran for
930 yards and 10 touchdowns his first three seasons, averaging an
eye-popping 6.3 yards a carry.
But because of his position on the depth chart, his inability to
pick up blocking schemes and a nagging ankle injury, Gillislee
spent most of his career watching and waiting from the
He got his chance in spring practice and was impressive enough
that Muschamp penciled him as the starter. But by moving tight end
Omarius Hines to running back, hyping up highly touted freshman
Matt Jones and giving fullbacks Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer plenty
of carries, the Gators never seemed settled at the position.
Now, though, Gillislee has been the main reason Florida (5-0,
4-0 SEC) has been able to successfully transition from a perimeter
running team to a power attack in Muschamp’s second season.
”He’s just a one-cut guy,” Muschamp said. ”He’s going to
stick his foot in the ground and he’s going to get north and south.
… He hits a crease. He may not hit the big one every time, but in
our league it’s hard to hit big ones. You’re going to get run down.
A 5-yard run is a great run, and that’s what sometimes younger
players don’t understand. They want to hit the big run, and in our
league that’s difficult.”
Maybe the most telling stat for Gillislee is negative yardage.
He has lost just nine yards in 103 carries. He didn’t lose any
ground in his 34 attempts against the Tigers.
”I don’t know how they get all those guys, but they are super
fast,” Vanderbilt defensive tackle Rob Lohr said.
Gillislee joined former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and former
Arkansas star Darren McFadden as the only recent players to run for
140 yards and two scores against LSU’s vaunted defense. Newton and
McFadden both ended up in New York for the Heisman Trophy
presentation, with Newton winning in 2010 and McFadden finishing
second in 2006 and 2007.
What about Gillislee possibly being in the Heisman hunt?
”We’re in the fifth game of the year,” Muschamp said. ”Next
Gillislee probably would be even more reluctant to entertain
thoughts about college football’s premier award. After all, he
rarely does interviews – he has spoken to the media twice since
fall practice began – and barely talks to teammates and
”He’s definitely a quiet guy,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said.
”He keeps to himself. When he has something to say, it’s
important, so you’re going to listen when he starts to talk. He
doesn’t like talking to the media, but he’s a guy we kind of rally
around him. He can be funny at times, but he kind of keeps to
Florida is fine with that, especially if Gillislee keep talking
like has been on the field.
”Mike Gillislee is a great running back,” center Jon Harrison
said. ”He has a lot of heart, a lot of drive. … He’s going to
give it his all, even if it’s sacrificing his body. The best thing
about him is he that he just kept working.
”He just kept working and giving it his all every day, day in,
day out, practice, weight room, whatever it takes, and that’s what
we respect so much about him.”