We all know that the receivers haven't been as explosive as Florida Gators are accustomed to and the Florida passing game has to improve dramatically in 2014 for the Gators to make a dent in what is a brutal schedule. But, the weight of that passing game is going to have to fall on the quarterback and namely junior starter Jeff Driskel for Florida to really get out of the offensive dog house this year.
A quick look at the statistics of Driskel in his first three years on campus and they aren't that bad. He's completed 62.9% of his passes for 2, 271 yards in what amounts to a little more than one season as the starter. He has been pretty careful not to turn the ball over and in his 15 starts he has only committed eight interceptions.
But, a couple of numbers really stand out when you are talking about Jeff Driskel and throwing the ball. In his 15 starts he has thrown only 14 touchdowns. Likewise, he has three passes of 50 yards or more in those 15 games.
There has to be a fine line that has to be managed between Driskel the safe quarterback and Driskel the guy that can help put the ball in the end zone. This is where we need to see marked improvement.
The issue for most of his career has been lack of ability to see the full field and make the throws necessary to the open man. The new Florida offense is made to simplify that part of the game for the quarterback and allow him to make quick reads and throws. In the end, it doesn't matter if the pass travels 10 yards and the receiver runs for 70 and a touchdown or the pass goes 40 yards and the receiver runs for 40 and a touchdown. Getting the ball in the end zone is the key here and the thing that Driskel has to be able to manage this year.
The new Florida offense should also be enhanced by really appreciating the running ability of Driskel. Driskel had a 20 yard run or longer in eight of his 12 games as the starter in 2012. We have seen the ability to run and his ability to put his team on hs back as a runner and carry the team to wins, especially that season. He averages 6.9 yards per carry and that factors sacks into the equation.
Still, it is that big play dynamic in the passing game that has to improve. For that to happen, he is going to have to improve his vision of the field, to avoid the drastic mistakes like that of the Miami game last season. He is also going to have to really work on his touch on the deep ball. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper loves to throw 5-7 deep Go routes or fades down the sideline to open up the defense. That defense isn't going to do anything if Driskel continues on with his normal way of throwing the ball without enough air for the receiver to run under and catch it.
In the end, Driskel can make all the throws. He does need to work on that touch pass, but he can beam the 12 yard out or the deep corner pass with the best of them. He should be able to open up defenses further with his ability to run the ball. Draw the safeties and linebackers in and throw it over their heads. But, he has to make those throws count and with a receiver group that should be the best he has dealt with in his four years on campus.
If Driskel can has a big year throwing the ball, this will be a very good Gator team. The coaching staff and especially head coach Will Muschamp has spent the summer praising his signal caller. It is time for him to live up to that praise.