Jeff Driskel just may be the SEC’s most important spring player, and if Florida were to have an Auburn- or Missouri-like turnaround – which is completely possible with the talent on the current roster – Driskel has to be leading the offensive charge.
RELATED: Florida’s spring football forecast
Will Muschamp confirmed this week that Driskel is distancing himself as the quarterback this spring, according to the Orlando Sentinel, despite being rusty because of his rehab from a broken ankle suffered last season.
“Those guys will continue to split reps and Jeff has certainly distanced himself at this point,” Muschamp said Tuesday. “But those guys have done some nice things at times. Jeff’s been through change before, so I think the more times you go through that stuff you kind of can handle it and move forward, the maturity takes over.”
Driskel has been sharing snaps with early enrollee and high school All-American Will Grier and returner Skyler Mornhinweg this spring, with Driskel taking about 50 percent of the snaps and Grier and Mornhinweg splitting the other 50 percent.
Did we actually think Grier would push Driskel? Not really, especially as a freshman during spring practice, but Grier has actually looked pretty strong this spring. Had Grier entered spring practice and never allowed Driskel to pull away, it would be trouble. We saw a Driskel-less offense in 2013, and it was unwatchable.
The highly-touted Driskel may have lost some of his shine since he arrived on campus, but he hasn’t been close to playing his best football yet. Driskel, like Will Muschamp, is going through his third offensive coordinator in four years – Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and, now, Kurt Roper, and he finally has a system that’s conducive to maximizing his gifts.
Muschamp and former offensive coordinator Brent Pease were trying to turn the dual-threat Driskel into a pocket passer similar to AJ McCarron, when he’s probably more comparable to a quarterback like Nick Marshall. Can you imagine Marshall playing in a pro-style, pocket passing system? He did, and he played defensive back at Georgia.
So, for Driskel to be effective, the offense had to change, whether it was forced upon Muschamp or not. And Roper is doing just that this spring. All indications from Muschamp is that he loves the new offensive philosophical change and what Roper brings to the table. He also indicated he loves the scheme change, primarily to put his quarterback into the best position to utilize his assets.
RELATED: SEC’s 10 best returning quarterbacks
“I think it fits his skillset better, and I’ve been very pleased with his maturity and handling it,” Muschamp said. “He’s running well, he’s moving it around well. The ankle is not bothering him as far as those things are concerned. I think continuing just to work on the fundamentals because he really didn’t throw much to my knowledge until we started practice.”
When Will Muschamp was hired, I bet he never saw himself moving from a pro-style, downhill running attack to a spread offense. But credit Muschamp, who has been totally against this style of play in the past, for knowing the offense had to change, because he couldn’t keep doing the same things over and over again.
How much do we really know about the 2012 11-game winner? The new offense could make Driskel’s game much improved and more efficient. The offense should allow quicker decisions; it should allow for easier reads; and most of all, it will use his greatest asset: his running ability. Driskel is third on the SEC’s career passing yards among active players with 2,271 yards. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in a little over 15 career games. He’s technically an SEC veteran at the position.
Remember when Driskel rushed for 177 yards in a road win at Vanderbilt two seasons ago? Florida could get used to seeing some Nick Marshall-like rushing numbers from Driskel in 2014.
Photo Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports