The New England Patriots sent a fifth round pick to the Buffalo Bills for the rights to sign restricted free agent RB Mike Gillislee. Gillislee averaged 5.7 yards per carry for the Bills over the past two seasons and projects to take over for LeGarrette Blount in the Patriots offense.
While Gillislee is in the middle of a crash course of the offense, he has the benefit of having experience playing in a similar offense back in 2011. Gillislee spoke with the Patriots team media about his adjustments and offseason plans with the Patriots.
“Just learning that playbook- but I played in this playbook in college my sophomore year under Charlie Weis,” Gillislee explained on Patriots All Access. “It was similar.”
Gillislee played at the University of Florida from 2009-12 where he gained 2,254 yards and 22 touchdowns. He saw his most playing time in 2012, but he played under former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in 2011 (alongside Patriots third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett).
The main Florida running backs in 2011 were Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, as Gillislee weighed less than 200 pounds at the start of his time in college. But despite his size, Gillislee had a penchant for producing in between the tackles.
"He likes to run in [between the tackles]," Weis said in 2011, via Jacksonville.com. "Most running backs can't get to the outside fast enough. But he likes it in there; he likes contact."
Gillislee believed that he needed to improve his pass blocking ability to have more time in Weis’ offense, reflected upon that weakness in his game, and set out to improve his skill set. Once he proved capable of pass protection, Gillislee saw more time in the offense.
"Most of these guys have illusions of grandeur and think they're the best guy on the team," Weis said. "[Gillislee is] a lesson for a lot of these guys that are backups to see what can happen if you prepare to be ready and they call your number and you produce. That's going to get him on the field more."
Gillislee eventually packed on the pounds, weighing 208 pounds after his senior year and weighing in at 219 pounds with the Bills, where he was 2016’s most efficient running back in the NFL. His hard-nose style of running comes from his time at Florida.
"Every time I run the ball, I never know when I'm going to get it again," Gillislee said back in 2011, "so I try to run it as hard as I can while I've got it."
Based upon his contract, the Patriots believe that Gillislee can step into the offense as a three-down back in 2017. Fortunately, Gillislee had a head start on learning the playbook.