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Florida QB Driskel Must Ditch Training Wheels

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For the Gators to make the leap from the Sugar Bowl to the championship, the offense will have to improve. The burden of that improvement rests on junior Jeff Driskel.

Driskel was the starting quarterback for Florida last year, throwing for 1,642 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. In the days of Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer, those numbers would be alarming, but those numbers seemed pedestrian by design.

Will Muschamp wants the personality of his team to be physical. On offense, that means running the ball. So Driskel did not have many opportunities to showcase his talent.

It was easy to see that Driskel was on a tight leash last season. While he took a few chances downfield, he seemed preoccupied with protecting the ball. This led Driskel to develop the frustrating habit of holding the ball too long and absorbing too many sacks. It often left the offense in third-and-long situations, stalling drives.

“Some of the things we pointed out were negative plays. I’m just talking in terms of sacks, tackles for a loss and penalties. We created a lot of issues for ourselves as far as down and distance is concerned," Muschamp said in a recent press conference.

Muschamp further noted that he was looking for improvement from Driskel.

“I think in year two, you’re looking at execution being much cleaner in what we’re doing offensively,” he said. “Jeff’s really attacked the offseason from a mental standpoint as far as film is concerned and studying what he can do to be a better quarterback.”

Said offensive coordinator Brent Pease: “We’ve got to be a better throwing team and that starts with [Driskel],”

All of this is not to overly criticize Driskel. He is a young player with room to grow. It is only to say that everyone knows the evolution of Florida from contender to juggernaut rests with Driskel. For him to make that leap, he will have to show more accuracy on deep throws and take fewer sacks. Driskel must also build on the positive things he did last year. He was great at protecting the football and Muschamp spoke of him highly as a leader.

It was clear last season that Driskel was focused on minimizing the negative plays. This year the expectation will be on him to maximize the positive plays. With a stable of upperclassmen receivers and a year of starting experience, coaches, players and fans will all be looking for Driskel to show improvement and carry the offense to the end zone.