Thursday, January 10, 2013
It's now or never for Jeff Driskel
By Edward Aschoff
If Jeff Driskel is really going to lead the Florida Gators, the time officially is now.
With Jacoby Brissett deciding to transfer, Driskel can now call this his team. There's no more looking over his shoulder, and his teammates can stop wondering if there will ever be a quarterback controversy. This is Driskel's team, and if he's going to actually lead this group, he has to step up now and take control this spring.
All season, you never really knew whatáto expect from Florida's offense because you never really knew what Driskel would do. Would he look like the razor-sharp passer who picked apart Tennessee's secondary? Or would he look like the wide-eyed pi˝ata from the Georgia game?
But it's hard to get into much of a rhythm when your line is inconsistent in pass protection and you have one real receiving threat in the form of tight end Jordan Reed. That line will look a lot different in 2013, Reed is gone, and neither A.J. Green nor Julio Jones is walking through that orange-and-blue door.
The departure of Brissett could actually help Driskel and this offense almost immediately. Yes, his absence leaves the Gators with no real experience behind Driskel, but for the first time in a long time, Florida's receivers will be able to develop some real chemistry with Driskel. They couldn't do that during the spring, summer or fall with Driskel competing with Brissett. The team didn't even know who its starting quarterback would be until Week 2, and after Driskel's struggles, chances are that they still weren't sure who would be the guy.
Now, that's been put to rest and this is Driskel's time to take over this team. While he'll finally have a chance to really develop some true chemistry and rhythm with his receivers, he has to improve -- like, really improve -- between now and Florida's opener against Toledo. We know that Florida's receiving corps is as much of a mystery now as it was last fall, but Driskel now has ample time to get timing down. He has more than enough time to develop more trust in his guys, and his receivers have plenty of time to develop more trust in Driskel.
It's obvious that trust wasn't completely there in 2012, and it's tough to develop much when you have a quarterback battle like that, and when your receiving unit doesn't have an elite, go-to guy to take the pressure off the quarterback. While it doesn't look like the Gators will be adding any All-American-types to their group of receivers in the immediate future, that doesn't mean Driskel and this passing game can't be successful.
The line should be better and more athletic this fall, and if Driskel can get the chemistry part down in his second year in Brent Pease's offense, Florida will be more of a threat to pass. It will have to be, because living on the edge in 2013 won't work. Defenses won't see Mike Gillislee lining up opposite them, so the fear of having him slash his away around the field won't be there, which puts more on Driskel's shoulders.
Will Muschamp said all season that with the offense he had, the Gators didn't have much room for error. Look at the Georgia and Louisville games. Turnovers killed that offense because the Gators just couldn't rally with their "passing game."
Things have to get better through the air before Florida can compete for an SEC title again. It all comes down to Driskel's growth between now and Aug. 31.