Driskel Learning to Take What They Give Him

It will be a continual learning process for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel. The sophomore signal caller is in charge of an offense on a 5-0 and #4 ranked team in the country in only his first year starting. The road is treacherous with a lot of bridges to cross, and all Driskel is trying to do is take what the SEC's best defenses are trying to give the gators to play on.

That doesn't mean there won't be some mistakes along the way. Driskel had all of zero starts before this season and had to learn a new offense this season when Brent Pease arrived. He had a battle in the offseason and so didn't know until game week of the season opener that he would get to play as the quarterback in the first quarter of the opener. A week later he got his first start as the quarterback at Florida.

Taking what the defense is giving him is something that hasn't been easy, but what Driskel has done is not throw the ball away at a level that will hurt his team. Through five games, the sophomore first-year starter has one interception.

On Saturday, we saw something else though. Driskel is all of 6-4 and 235 pounds and he can run. He is big strong, powerful, and it isn't easy bringing him down. However, he was facing a tremendous pass rush and heat from a defense that was loaded up front with future first round draft picks. Those guys also happen to be big, strong, powerful, and fast. Driskel coughed up the ball in a very untimely manner in the game because he was trying to make a play when there wasn't one to be made. He fumbled the ball in a play that seemed a bit reckless.

In a 3-0 ball game at the time, he didn't need to hurt his defense and did when the ball was fumbled inside the gators' own ten yard line. The defense held and kicked the football, but it was learning moment for the young gun who wants badly to carry his team but knows he will have to learn the ropes first.

He didn't go backward on Saturday, but the level of competition sure put a different light on his progression.

"I don't think I regressed," Driskel told the media on Monday. "There were definitely times when I could have thrown the ball away or made a play here and there. But, I made some plays with my feet when I needed them and used my feet. That is a big part of my game and I made some big conversions for my team."

The Gators had all of 61 passing yards on the day and allowed five sacks in the first half. They settled down behind a powerful running game in the second half that surprised most if not all observers, but there were some chances early to make things even better for the Gators.

"It comes down to (them having) good players on that team… good coverage, and a good rush. I had opportunities and I didn't take advantage of some of the opportunities."

The deep threat has been missing a great deal from the Florida offense. LSU, with their talent, was willing to not really load the box like other teams have and that made Florida want to run the ball against the Tigers even more. The plan was a success, but Driskel knows a deep passing game will open things up even more for everything they want to do on offense.

"We are going to have to hit big plays down the field in the passing game," he said. "We haven't had to fortunately, because we are running the ball so well and been so efficient in the run game. When you start hitting more runs and more big plays they will start coming up and there will be more chances to get it over their head."

Driskel also knows in the heat of the moment he gets caught up in everything going on around him and the fact that big nasty linemen are racing to rip his head off. Proper steps and release is something that he has to work on during the games and he knows it.

"The main thing is that we have to have better timing in the passing game, the drops have to match the route and I have to get rid of the ball on time instead of moving up and patting the ball a couple of times," he said. "There were times I could have gotten rid of the ball on time and when I didn't the window closed up. When that happens I just have to throw it away."

The timing with receivers is something they work on all the time.

"We spend time on that in every day in practice," he said. "We have one-on-one, routes on air, and team stuff. We get a lot of work, but it's hard to simulate that in practice." ,p> Despite the notion that he struggled, Driskel said he won't spend any more time in the film room than normal. He spends a great deal of time already and the need is not there to change up his schedule. So far this week it is business as usual.

"I watched the film as much as I have any other game," he said. "I'm not changing because of not playing as well as I (would have) liked to. You have to always go into it with the same mentality that there is always room to improve and get better."

As the quarterback, he is somewhat of the leader on this Florida team. As a leader, Driskel believes the recent and new-found success of the team is something they will not let go to their heads.

"I think we'll be fine," he said. "We have a more mature team this year and aren't going to be satisfied. We know there are corrections to be made and improvements to be made. We are going to handle this week like any other week."

With the recent success in the fourth quarter, the Gators have yet to give up points in the final session of any game this year, Driskel says he and his teammates are playing as hard as a year ago, but have more to give.

"I don't think last year we had a lack of effort," he said about a season that included being outscored 72-22 in SEC contests. "I think we are more conditioned and more mentally ready to go. We improved in our endurance and in the weight room this off-season. We are playing with the same amount of effort; we are just more in shape this year."

And as a leader, he is getting some advice from some of the top names in Gators' football history. Gator Great quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Chris Leak both have national championship rings on their fingers from their senior seasons at Florida. Both have reached out to the sophomore in charge of the program now.

"I have talked to a few of them," he said of former players. "They said to keep it going and we have a long way to go. The season isn't over yet. I talked to Chris Leak and Danny Wuerffel. They talked general stuff and keep the team rolling, don't look back, and focus on the team ahead.

"I watched Chris Leak (when younger), not Danny Wuerffel, that was a little before my time. I know his achievements and how good of a player he was here. They were both great players here and it was great to speak to them."


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