Driskel and teammates think he's ready

A year ago, Jeff Driskel rocked his Gators jersey as the new kid, the freshman — the guy with something to prove. The quarterback, straight out of Oviedo's Paul J. Hagerty High, even enrolled in January of last year to make his impact early. By the time the 2011 season started rolling, Driskel started grinding. But Florida's future 2012 starting quarterback wasn't always ahead.

Jeff Driskel's first true test as a Gator hit at his new home in the confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida was in the midst of its conference game against Alabama, when starting quarterback John Brantley was retired to the locker room. At the tail end of the second quarter, the senior was sacked for a loss of 10 yards, and the heavy blow of an injury.

It was Driskel's time.

Teammate and defensive back Cody Riggs said he remembers when the freshman quarterback was put into the game. Though Driskel was nervous, Riggs said he was confident in the freshman.

"I wasn't scared," Riggs said. "I knew he was good, so I wasn't worried."

The Gators eventually notched their first loss of the season in the 38-10 contest against the Tide. However, Driskel did run for a 31-yard gain to round out the third quarter, which chalked up the longest rush Alabama gave up that year.

Jon Halapio described the game as a way for Driskel to get over being shy, jittery or nervous.

"Coming in the huddle now, I feel like he's more prepared and more experienced," Halapio said. "He's just a good player."

However, a few games following the Alabama loss, Driskel experienced a personal upset.

Florida was playing Auburn on away turf and Driskel entered the game in the third quarter following fellow freshman Jacoby Brissett and sophomore Trey Burton playing in the quarterback slot. The Gators were leading the Tigers, but Driskel overthrew a pass to Jordan Reed — who was wide-open. Auburn soon ended up securing the win 17-6.

It was after that game, Driskel said, that he was told Brissett got the spot as the No. 2 quarterback behind Brantley.

"(The coaches) thought he was doing a little bit better job than me," Driskel said. "Obviously, it was tough. But I didn't let it get to me too much."

He said at first he was having a difficult time with the coaches' decision, but that he had the support of his friends and family to keep him working hard.

Now named as Florida's starting quarterback — something Driskel called a "life-long dream" — Driskel's hard work throughout spring and fall practices has finally paid off.

"I'm just excited to really be able to take command of the offense and really hone in on what I have to do and be ready to go to winning Texas A&M," Driskel said.

To the coaches, Driskel has proved with his mobility and running game that taking on the Aggies is a situation he can handle.

Looking back to that Alabama game last year, Riggs said Driskel may not have been prepared. But now, he's singing a different tune.

"He probably wasn't ready for that situation," Riggs said. "He's a lot different now."


Fightin Gators Top Stories