Driskel using bowl practice to his advantage

Being away from the practice field gave Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel some time to reflect. He was able to think back over his first regular season as a starter and find some areas that needed to improve. It wasn't always easy to do that during the season. The constant week-to-week grind of game plans dominated his mind during the season, but he's using bowl practice to improve fundamentals.

"During the season, it's all game plan," Jeff Driskel said. "You're looking at the other team and not yourself. So this week and last week when we started definitely has given us time to look at mechanics, go back to little things, instead of looking at the other team."

The passing game has been one of the areas the team has worked on during practice. The rhythm wasn't there when the Gators got back into the flow of practice after taking time off after the win at Florida State, but it has come together quickly. Driskel and the receivers heard Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease talk to them about the importance of hard work in practice to keep that rhythm there.

As that improved, Driskel turned his focus to issues of his own. One of his biggest problems during the 2012 regular season was his inability to get the ball out of his hand quick enough. He was sacked eight times at Texas A&M during the second week of the season. It signaled a need for immediate improvement. He wasn't sacked once the next week at Tennessee, but the issues still returned at times during the season.

He tried to throw the ball away late in the first half against LSU, but the Tigers punched it out and recovered the ball for a turnover. The challenge for Driskel is discerning when to throw the ball away and when to tuck it against his body and take a sack.

"Any time you have practices where you're looking at yourself rather than an opponent, you have time to improve," Driskel said. "I think I've been improving all year long, but these extra practices have really helped."

It's still a challenge for Driskel. He was the focal point of the offense at Hagerty High School that burned the defense with his arm and legs. The coaches don't want to take that aggressiveness and desire to make the big plays out of Driskel. They're trying to harness it while helping him to make smarter decisions. It's still a natural progression after his first year as a starter.

The whole offense is going through it. After their 37-point output at Florida State to end the regular season, the Gators took some momentum with them to continue working hard in bowl practices.

"We've been working on what we need to improve for the six bowl practices or however many we've had," Driskel said. "We've all improved ourselves. We've all worked on our skills to get better. So it's a chance for, as well as everybody else, to get better."

After treating the first week of practice like another spring practice or an extra fall camp, the team is practicing with the energy its quarterback wanted to see. Surprising people across the country with 11 wins in the regular season was a product of their work throughout the season and preseason camp.

They haven't changed anything as they prepare for the Sugar Bowl.

"I don't think we're pushing harder," Driskel said. "We've been pushing hard all year long. You don't go 11-1 without having a good mindset or pushing hard. A lot of the young guys have stepped up and improved a lot, but I don't think we've changed our mindset all year. We're continuing to do what we've done all year."


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