Sunday, December 17, 2017
Colleges

Florida Gator running back Mike Gillislee tones down his big talk

GAINESVILLE — Nearly two weeks after he made headlines at SEC Media Days for expressing his desire to put up lofty numbers this season, Florida running back Mike Gillislee wanted to clarify something.

Sitting alone at a table during Florida's team media gathering Thursday, Gillislee didn't back down from his comments about wanting to rush for 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. But he believes they might have come across the wrong way.

"I wasn't making any predictions," said Gillislee, who last season had 328 yards on 56 carries (both third on the team) for 5.9 yards per carry (first among those with at least 10 carries).

"That's not me. Those were all goals; my own goals. I'm pretty sure nobody would expect me to set my goals real low. So those are my goals. That's all."

Gillislee doesn't apologize for thinking big, and the senior said his teammates won't either. Most, he said, have unspoken individual goals in addition to the team's goal to reach the SEC title game.

But while expectations are high for the former DeLand High star, UF has depth at running back. Mack Brown, Trey Burton, Oamrius Hines, Matt Jones (Armwood High) and Hunter Joyer (Wesley Chapel) are battling for carries.

All the better, Gillislee said.

"Everybody on this team is hungry," he said. "I'm going to get pushed every day. There's lots of competition."

With inexperienced quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett vying to start, how well Gillislee and the other backs perform could go a long way in determining how the Gators fare, especially early in the season.

Florida has not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Faison's 1,267 in 2004.

"In the running back room, we can see all the 1,000-yard backs (pictured on the wall)," Gillislee said. "I can picture myself being up there."

Will Muschamp said Gillislee will have that opportunity. The second-year coach said after reviewing film of last season, he "regrets" not giving Gillislee more carries. He insists the Gators will rely heavily on the running game. And while he isn't predicting specific numbers, he believes Gillislee can be a 1,000-yard rusher.

"You have got to create balance in this league," Muschamp said. "You become one-dimensional in this league, it's very difficult to have success, regardless of where you are at other positions."

The hiring of former Boise State offensive coordinator Brent Pease also has Gillislee optimistic. He has watched hours of tape of Boise State's offense.

"This is more my style, down-hill, getting tough yards; just a physical back," Gillislee said.

"Coach Pease is a guy that likes to run the ball. Now is the time for me to step up. I feel like this is the best opportunity for me. This is my last year. I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as a leader, a hard worker and a team player."

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