Losses of Driskel and Brissett cost Gators chance greater success
Florida quarterback recruits Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are completing their college careers with solid senior seasons.
But not with Florida. And the Gators would have been better with one or both of them.
Who knows how good the SEC East champions would have been in Jim McElwain’s first season with an effective passer?
Driskel, who started as a freshman for the Gators and stayed for four years, has thrown for 3,575 yards and 24 touchdowns with only eight interceptions this season for Louisiana Tech, which is 8-4 and preparing to play Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl. Driskel has run for 307 yards and five TDs.
Brissett has thrown for 2,448 yards with 19 TDs and just four interceptions for N.C. State, which finished 7-5 and will play Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. Brissett has rushed for 303 yards and five TDs.
Meanwhile, back at Florida, the Gators struggled on offense this season after Will Grier was suspended for taking PEDs.
In eight games as a starter — 11 games overall — Treon Harris has thrown for 1,530 yards and nine TDs with five interceptions. But the Gators offense has scored only 55 points — 11 per game — in its last five games.
Harris’ inability to throw downfield effectively allowed opponents to stack the box against the Gators, who don’t have a big-play running attack, either. In two seasons, Harris has completed only 51.1 percent of his passing attempts.
Florida had potential in the passing game this season with junior WR Demarcus Robinson, big-play freshman Antonio Callaway, sophomore Brandon Powell and tight ends Jake McGee and DeAndre Goolsby.
Driskel and Brissett would have made a difference — at least in competitiveness — in losses to Florida State and Alabama. Florida’s defense was good enough to win 10 regular-season games.
If nothing else, Driskel showed that at least part of his struggles at Florida were due to poor coaching. In 2012, his best season with the Gators, he threw for 1,646 yards and 12 TDs with five interceptions as the Gators won 11 games with five victories over top 25 teams.
But with a new coaching staff coming in after the Gators’ horrific 2014 season, the much-maligned Driskel, granted a medical redshirt in 2013, transferred to Louisiana Tech.
Brissett was discouraged sitting behind Driskel had left Florida after his sophomore season.
Part of the same Florida recruiting class as Driskel, Brissett had a tremendous junior year with the Wolfpack, throwing for 2,606 yards and 23 TD passes with only five interceptions. He also ran for 529 yards and three TDs.
So evidence indicates the Gators would have been stronger this season if either of the two transfers had remained in Gainesville. But Brissett left with Driskel firmly entrenched at quarterback and Driskel left with his future under McElwain uncertain.
It was impossible for them to predict injuries or other opportunities that might spring up.
If Grier hadn’t been suspended at midseason, Brissett and Driskel might have spent this season on the bench.