Last summer, Jeff Driskel didn't make many decisions concerning the team. He didn't want to step on toes. Driskel was in a heated quarterback battle with Jacoby Brissett, both doing everything they could to win the job.
But the last thing Driskel wanted to do was step on toes.
He wasn't sure whose team it was, and frankly, no one on the team knew either. Pass catchers would work out with either quarterback on the practice field, but when someone needed to step up and say something during player run practice or even in fall camp, Brissett and Driskel didn't know what to do. They were both the nice guys that didn't want to do anything unpopular or step out of their comfort zones.
"You didn't want to step on anyone's toes," Driskel said. "You didn't want to cross any boundaries. It was a little different last year."
The difference has shown this summer. Driskel is the one organizing player workouts, especially with the wide receivers and tight ends. He's vocal and making his presence felt on the practice field. There's no experienced back up quarterback behind him. He knows it's his job.
Driskel said the lack of doubt around the quarterback positions "helps a lot" in his attempt to become the face of the Florida offense. It'll help even more as the team heads into fall camp.
"With the team, we're not going to have any question about who's the quarterback," Driskel said. "That helps a lot. It's a great feeling when you and everyone else know that you're the guy. It's a big thing. I can step up as the leader that the team needed. The guys responded really well to that. As the quarterback, I was the obvious choice.
"Everything was centered around me as the quarterback instead of some guys talking to me as the quarterback and some guys talking to Jacoby last year. It's good for the whole team, not just me."
There's no doubt now, even at the top of the program.
"It's his football team," Muschamp said. "There's a comfort level in understanding that."
The improved confidence is easy to see on the practice field, in the weight room or in the halls of the football offices this summer. Driskel walks and speaks with more confidence. He knows the expectation on him to step up, and his teammates know he's ready for it.
"He has become more comfortable with the role of being a leader," Easley said. "He has opened up more. It is huge because if you have confidence in your quarterback, you have nothing else to worry about. You can see the cockiness in him and see that he knows what he wants.
"You always want some cockiness in your quarterback. They have to be certain in what they do. The way he handles the offense and talks to us now, You just hear it in his tone of voice. He is not afraid to speak his mind."
The other note that should help Driskel is one that Florida head coach Will Muschamp was quick to point out multiple times in Hoover. For the first time since 2010, the Gators will have an offensive coordinator in his second consecutive season. Brent Pease led the offense last season and had the entire offseason to work with Driskel and the offense on the intricacies of what he wants to do.
The time watching film showed two glaring weaknesses in Driskel's game, and they're the two goals he wants to achieve this season. First, he had to gain a better understanding of the protection scheme up front. He spent countless hours in the film room with Pease, offensive linemen or other quarterbacks, watching film and improving his knowledge of what was going on up front.
The second goal is to be more successful down the field. The Gators struggled to find a downfield passing game throughout the 2012 season, and many criticized the wide receiver play for it. Driskel took some of the blame, too, but he has also seen the skill players on the Florida roster take the criticism to heart.
"They've been hearing it more than anyone that they're no good, and they're tired of it," Driskel said. "And I'm tired of it, too. They've put in the work and we're ready to show it off."
BASEBALL NOT AN IMMEDIATE OPTION: Driskel wanted to get the baseball questions out of the way, regardless of which media room he was in earlier this week. When he sat down in the main media room, he even joked that he wanted to "nip it in the bud" and get the conversations over with.Driskel found out about his selection after most people did. He was sitting in the woods of Arcadia, Fla., or as he referred to it, "the middle of nowhere." He was there hog hunting with his girlfriend, when he happened to look at his phone. Driskel, who grew up playing plenty of baseball, had a lot of friends eligible in the 2013 MLB Draft. He wanted to check and see if any of his friends were drafted.
Then it popped up.
"Boston Red Sox: Jeff Driskel. Outfielder. University of Florida."
Driskel had to think about whether or not he was even eligible. However, because he enrolled early in the spring of 2011, he met the requirements for a professional team to select him.
"(The Red Sox) called me the next day and explained that they were willing to risk a 29th round pick not showing up to get me. I ended up signing with the Red Sox," Driskel said. "Nothing else with my life changes. If I do decide to play baseball, I have to do it with the Red Sox. That's the whole deal there.
"Hopefully football works out and I never play baseball again, but it's nice to have baseball as a backup plan."