I think I speak for the group when I say this: having Alec Ogletree and Christian Robinson go down to injury during the first two weeks of the season freaked me the hell out. There. I said it. Even as someone who spent the offseason telling people that the 'Dawgs had more depth at linebacker than many were giving them credit for, I was legitimately concerned.
Then along came Mike. Junior Mike Gilliard has consistently led the team in tackles this season, most recently in a 12 stop effort against Tennessee that earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. As Seth Emerson notes this morning, Gilliard was not an overnight success. He's a guy who's had to wait his turn, and seemed like he might not really ever get a turn. Rumors that Gilliard was prepared to transfer flared up a couple of times in the past few months, and no one would have been terribly surprised if he had. Now with Gilliard's ascendence and Christian Robinson working back into the rotation, inside linebackers coach Kirk Olividatti finds himself in the enviable position of having to find a place to put Alec Ogletree when he comes back. That is a good problem to have.
Gilliard's situation is also a cautionary tale for fans. As recruiting coverage has become a more prominent part of the college football landscape, there has arisen a completely irrational expectation that college football players will come in and contribute meaningfully as freshmen. But not every player is Isaiah Crowell. What's more, if you show me a team that's starting a ton of freshmen in the SEC, I'll show you a coaching staff that has done a poor job of recruiting, developing or retaining players in the past. All other things being equal you'd rather be playing a bunch of guys who've been in the program for a couple of years learning the system and developing into men. While some guys (A.J. Green, Malcolm Mitchell, the puppy-hoisting-chillbro--in-chief) just aren't going to be kept off the field, they are the exception rather than the rule. For most college football players (and fans), patience is a virtue.
I salute Mike Gilliard for his. And I'd like to honor Mike's patience with a signature cocktail: the Mike Chill-iard.
First you'll need to make an orange ginger syrup, which will serve as the base for the drink. No, it's not that hard. Just add a cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon of orange juice, 2 teaspoons of orange rind and 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice to a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer it for 2 minutes*. Discard the ginger and orange rind, then chill it. After chilling for an appropriate amount of time (Mike Gilliard waited 2 years for regular playing time, you can wait overnight for your flavored syrup to cool, you big baby) serve it over ice mixed with prosecco (if you want to have several) or vodka (if one or two will do ya).
Until later, stay patient, my friends. Consume responsibly (and never before getting in a car to speed through Jackson County) and . . .
* If you stir this stuff constantly and let it thicken for an additional 2-3 minutes it becomes the ice cream topping of the gods. You can thank me later for that info.