HOOVER, Ala. — Other than the precious few carries he’s had over the past three seasons, Mike Gillislee has pretty much been a non-factor on the football field for the Gators. That’s about to change in a big way.

Not only does Gillislee figure to be the featured back in Brent Pease’s offense, the soft-spoken senior from DeLand also plans to be a team leader in 2012.

“It’s not any more difficult (being the No. 1 tailback),” he said at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. “I am a senior, so I also have to be a leader more than anything by keeping my team up and keeping them going.

“There is no feeling like that. I do extra things just because I know that I am going to get the ball, like working on getting out there with both teams and taking care of my body. I think the offense suits me a lot better with not just running the ball, but catching the ball out of the backfield and just being a complete back.”

Many UF fans were left wondering last season why Gillislee, a strong runner between the tackles, was not given more opportunities to run the ball in the struggling UF offense.

UF coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday he made a mistake by not putting the ball in Gillislee’s hands more.

“He has a great work ethic. He does everything right,” Muschamp said. “I should have played him more last year. I admit when I’m wrong. I say it. I’m excited about his senior year. He’s a guy we’re expecting to have a great year.”

Gillislee has been patient waiting for his time to come at Florida. He said he had a similar experience in high school. After waiting his turn, he had a big senior season. He said Muschamp should have no regrets for not playing him more a year ago.

“He told me he regretted it, but I don’t really see it as a regret because that’s in the past,” he said. “Now is my opportunity and I will keep it that way by going out there every day and keeping up with the other running backs. They are just as good as me.”

Very few seemed to know who Gillislee was as he walked through the Wynfrey Hotel on Wednesday. But he will be recognized soon enough if he has the kind of senior season Muschamp is predicting.