Sunday Night QB: Gillislee's Heisman case

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Geno Smith. Collin Klein. De’Anthony Thomas. Braxton Miller.

Mike Gillislee?

Absolutely, say Gillislee’s Florida teammates. The senior running back deserves to be on the list of Heisman Trophy candidates after what he did against one of the nation’s top defenses Saturday afternoon at Florida Field.

"Mike had an amazing performance," center Jonotthan Harrison said. "After every play he was like, ‘Let’s go. I’m going to get the yards.’ He never quits.

"I’m all behind him [for the Heisman]."

Gillislee ripped through LSU’s run defense for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the 10th-ranked Gators’ 14-6 upset of the fourth-ranked Tigers. He ran for 112 yards on 22 carries in the second half against a defensive front that has two projected first-round NFL draft picks in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo; two of its other players -– DT Bennie Logan and LB Kevin Minter –- are projected to be taken in the first three rounds.

Gillislee carried the Gators in the second half, gaining more than half of UF’s total yards (190) and scoring both touchdowns on 12-yard runs. Those were his longest runs of the day. He just kept chipping away at an elite defense.

"Mike Gillislee did a great job running the football and finding the holes and putting his pads down and gaining 4 yards," coach Will Muschamp said. "That’s what Gilly does. He just moves the chains, and over and over again you get kind of tired of tackling him. The fourth quarter, that’s where he starts wearing on people."

It’s only logical that Gillislee should start getting some Heisman hype, left guard James Wilson said.

"This is the SEC and this is the best conference," Wilson said.

Gillislee leads the SEC and is 18th nationally in rushing yards per game (109.6). He is third in the SEC in rushing yards (548), trailing Georgia’s Todd Gurley (575) and South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (549).

Only one running back has won the Heisman since Ricky Williams (1998) and Ron Dayne (1999) won it in back-to-back seasons. Alabama’s Mark Ingram won it in 2009. Quarterbacks have won the award 10 of the past 11 seasons.

Three observations

  1. Florida’s trouble in the punt return game is almost getting to the point of being ridiculous. Regardless of which player goes back there, they struggle with the decision to field the punt. De’Ante Saunders fair caught three punts, including one in which he had about 15 yards of space between him and a tackler. Andre Debose did a good job of fair catching one punt, but the Gators have got to find somebody who can make the right decision because it’s costing the team yardage.

  2. LB Michael Taylor got abused several times in pass coverage in the middle of the field, but he was the one who blew up LSU’s jump-pass try at the end of the first half. LB Darrin Kitchens briefly held up TE Nic Jacobs at the line of scrimmage and Taylor hit Jacobs as he tried to release into the end zone and that threw the timing of the play off. That forced Terrence Magee to keep the ball and he got stopped for no gain. Check out our film study blog for a further breakdown of the play.