Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease knows what an NFL running back looks like. For the past four years, he coached first-round pick Doug Martin at Boise State, who is quickly becoming a rookie of the year candidate after breakout performances in back-to-back weeks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
On Tuesday, Pease said his current running back, Florida senior Mike Gillislee, has a similar skillset and attributes that will translate well to the next level.
“He’s got good hands. He’s willing to block. He has all the phases that he can do it at the next level -- catching, running, blocking," Pease said. "I think those are the things they’re looking for first. They all want to know if you’re coachable."
Last year, Gillislee said his weakness was pass protection. Pease said Gillislee has made strides in that area in this season, but still has some work left to do.
"In the NFL they have way more protections than we probably have," Pease said. "They’re always constantly changing. Then physically, do you match up against the guys, linebackers that you’re going to have to block at that level with their strength and speed. ... He’s consistent. He understands the scheme. Sometimes we’ve missed a guy here or there, but you know everybody... you always learn. The one thing with Mike, he’s good at making adjustments and understanding what you need to get done within the game."
Most importantly, Gillislee has shown in his senior season that he has the speed and vision to run at the next level. Through nine games, he has 177 rushes for 797 yards and 7 touchdowns with a 4.5-yard average. Gillislee is on pace to become Florida's first 1,000-yard back since Ciatrick Fason rushed for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2004. Fason was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Although Gillislee likely will not reach the lofty preseason goals of 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns he set at SEC Media Day this summer, he said that doesn't matter as long as the Gators keep winning.
"I just want to finish the season and win out, win out at home," he said, adding that the NFL is also on his mind. "That’s always been a dream and a goal. With God’s will I someday will play in the NFL."