Camp preview: Quarterbacks

When Jeff Driskel was lost for the season with a fractured leg last year, the Florida season went downhill quickly. The Gators should have more talent behind him this season, but there still isn’t much experience.

It’s a big season for Florida coach Will Muschamp, but it’s just as big of a season for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel. He led the offense in 2012 when the Gators made it to New Orleans for a berth in the Sugar Bowl, even when the offense struggled. Last season was supposed to be the one where he had a big year and showed he was one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.

A fractured leg ended those dreams nine quarters into the season, and he was stuck thinking all offseason about a three-turnover performance in Coral Gables that cost the Gators the game. He spent all offseason hearing the criticism and trying to ignore it.

Now a redshirt junior, Driskel has another chance to show that he’s better than last season looked.

It comes with a brand new offense, one that is a much better fit for his skill set. First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper didn’t like to hear in the spring that this offense is a better fit, noting that Driskel could handle any type of scheme because of his talent. However, the truth is that this offense gives Driskel the best chance to succeed.

It uses his legs and athleticism more than what the Gators did last season. Instead of dropping back every snap and trying to read a defense before making the perfect decision, the Gators can now move the pocket and give Driskel the run-pass option.

Then there’s the tempo. The Gators will run a no-huddle attack throughout the year, limiting how complicated opposing defenses can be.

It all sets up for Driskel. His offensive line is experienced and healthy. His list of playmakers at running back and wide receiver is deep. He just needs to produce, and the Florida staff is confident this is the year that will happen.

When Driskel got hurt last year, the Florida offense wasn’t prepared. There was no one behind him with experience, and Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg were forced into action whether they were ready or not. In time, it proved that they weren’t.

And that’s something Muschamp wants to correct this season. The Florida coach said at SEC Media Days that he will play the backup quarterback early in the season, likely in the first game, to make sure they get time on the field to work with the offense in case anything happens to Driskel like it did last season.

The question now becomes who that backup will be.

Mornhinweg is back this season and looked much more comfortable throwing the ball in the spring. He wasn’t ready to play last year and Florida was forced to severely limit its playbook when he started. The ball came out of his hand more confidently in the spring, and he looked better.

But he doesn’t have the natural talent that Will Grier and Treon Harris do.

Grier enrolled early and went through spring practices, showcasing an accurate arm, especially down the field. He has similar athleticism to Driskel and can run the football, but he’ll make his money with his arm. There was talk during the recruiting process that Grier could prefer to redshirt, but that decision will be made at the end of fall camp.

Harris became a priority to Florida when Roper took the job as offensive coordinator. He was complimented throughout the process for his athleticism and multiple sites projected a move to cornerback or defensive back. However, Harris will play quarterback at Florida and could see the field this fall.

Roper has been successful in recent years at using multiple quarterbacks on the same offense. Harris could use his elusiveness and speed to force the coaches to create a package of plays just for him. If the coaches do prefer Grier redshirt instead of become the backup, it would make sense for Harris to do that and gain experience in games.

Walk-ons Jacob Guy, Ryan McGriff, Christian Provancha and Chris Wilkes will continue to provide depth.


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