X-Factor Florida: Driskel's health crucial to success of Gators
In preparation for the 2014 college football season, Saturday Down South takes a look at the X-factor for every SEC team. Not only do these players have the opportunity to make major contributions for their respective squads, but they could also be the difference in a successful season or a losing season.
Today, we’re discussing the X-factor for the Florida Gators.
- OLE MISS
- MISSISSIPPI STATE
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- TEXAS A&M
QB Jeff Driskel
Yeah, I know. Picking the quarterback as the X factor for a football team. Real original!
But it’s true, especially for the Florida Gators in 2014. Look at their last season. A 4-8 overall record and easily their most disappointing season since 1979, the Gators were weak in several areas, but it was the absence of Jeff Driskel that made the biggest impact.
His season-ending leg injury that he suffered in week 3 against Tennessee commenced the eventual train wreck of a season. Although his career numbers aren’t spectacular – 12 TDs and 10 INTs – it was clear that an already weak offense was completely lost without their starting quarterback. Without Driskel for much of 2013, the Gators had the worst offense in the SEC last year (316.7 yards per game).
This highlights Driskel’s importance even more heading into the 2014 season.
Under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, the Gators are hoping that the offense will finally reach its potential and rise to similar greatness like the Gators’ defense has the past few seasons. His up-tempo, shotgun spread offense figures to give Driskel, as well as the running back, more space to operate in the backfield.
More space for Driskel provides more opportunities for him to utilize his dual-threat capabilities. He has not only the physical tools – he possesses great arm strength and can beat defenses with his feet at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds – but the upmost confidence from his teammates that he can get the job done.
“I think Jeff ‘s the best quarterback in college football,” defensive back Vernon Hargreaves said during SEC Media Days. “I think it showed last year. I can definitely tell during spring the offense has a different feel when he’s in there.”
Although it’s fair to say Driskel probably isn’t the best quarterback in all college football like Hargreaves believes, he does has a clear and positive impact on the offense. Playing under a brand new offensive coordinator can bring some growing pains, but it appears Driskel already feels comfortable playing under the new system.
“I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what we’re trying to do on offense,” Driskel said. “I think having the spring with Coach Roper really helped and carrying that into the summer with the guys. I don’t think we’ve had nearly as many busted assignments, even from the younger guys as I’d thought we would.
The Gators will have to navigate a tough schedule, but without a doubt it’ll be Driskel’s performance that’ll ultimately determine the success of this year’s squad and potentially Will Muschamp’s future in Gainesville.