GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Spring practice begins for Florida on March 13, less than two weeks away. With 10 days between now and then, GatorBait.net begins a series examining each position group to give you an idea what Florida has coming back -- and what it needs to happen -- at each position during spring practice.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel will have to make serious strides this spring now that he's the only QB with experience on the roster.
Incoming Players (Fall):
Max Staver - Freshman
Note: Returning starters listed in bold.
Jeff Driskel won the starting role after battling Jacoby Brissett for the job throughout spring and fall practice. Even so, he couldn't stay healthy for the entire season, allowing Brissett a chance to start a game late in the season. Driskel was named the full-time starter heading into the offseason, prompting Brissett to transfer in the offseason.
Driskel provided Florida with an excellent rushing threat and helped the Gators improve drastically during the 2012 season. Still, there wasn't as much progression during the season as the Gators would have liked after Driskel looked to be a future star following his first two road outings at Texas A&M and Tennessee.
- Rushing Threat
- Starting Experience
Driskel looked outstanding early in the 2012 season, but he seemed to regress or at least not progress very much after the first month of the season. His rushing ability helped make Mike Gillislee a serious threat in the running game, opening him up some serious lanes on the zone read.
In the passing game, Driskel made just enough plays to keep opponents honest. He didn't flash excellent throwing ability consistently throughout the year, but his rushing ability made up for that several times on third downs, keeping the Florida offense rolling enough to win games behind a strong defense.
Entering the second year under Brent Pease and his second year as a full-time starter should greatly help Driskel. He will no longer have to look over his shoulder at Brissett, which should give him even more confidence this offseason.
- Pocket awareness
- Timing in passing game
- Intermediate to deep throws
- Lack of quality backup minutes
Brissett's transfer leaves Florida with nobody on the roster who has ever thrown a pass in a college game outside of Driskel. That's concerning because Driskel has yet to make it through a full season without an injury keeping him out of at least one game.
Driskel's touch on throws more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage has been suspect. He still locks onto his primary read for too long at times and doesn't pull the trigger quite as quickly as he needs to. If he can speed up his decision-making and get rid of the ball as soon as he sees an opening, his game would be vastly improved.
In addition to the timing issues in the throwing game, Driskel still hasn't figured out how to avoid the rush as well as he needs to. Too often he rolls to his right into pressure rather than stepping into the pocket to give himself a cleaner look at a throw with more time.
Without a quarterback competition this year, Driskel will be able to focus on improving his game and not looking over his shoulder. He needs to continue to improve his playing speed and decision-making.
The thing he needs to improve most, though, is his timing with his wide receivers. That might be tough to do this spring with just four healthy scholarship receivers on the roster. Still, he needs to find a go-to target and develop a nice rapport going forward into the offseason.
With Mike Gillislee gone in the running game, too, it'll be interesting to see how the zone read element of the offense adapts. Gillislee and Driskel were extremely effective running it. If the remaining running backs can't run it at that level, it'll put more on Driskel's shoulders in the passing game.
It's going to be hard to identify just how much progress Driskel is making this spring with a revamped defense he'll be facing. In the end, it's tough to evaluate the quarterback position until live game action. But there's no doubt Driskel's quickness getting the ball out and timing in the passing game must improve this spring.
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