First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper wants to stretch the field and give his offense a chance to make big plays. To make that more likely, he worked with the mindset of the quarterbacks while throwing the deep ball.
Roper wanted the quarterbacks to put more air under the ball when they throw it deep.
“His thing is more air equals more forgiveness,” Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “It gives the receiver more time to adjust and receivers are just naturally better at locating the ball than DBs are, so just putting more air under it gives those guys more time to adjust to the ball."
With the new coaching on throwing the deep balls, Driskel took it to the practice field this summer. He orchestrated player-run practices, getting the skill players and quarterbacks on the field at the same time to face the Florida defense. They wanted to work on timing and make sure the work from spring practice wasn’t wasted when the Gators got into fall camp.
That timing is also important on the deep connections. Whether it’s Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood or Demarcus Robinson, Driskel has hit multiple different players for deep completions and expects that to be an important part of the offense this fall.
"It's just putting the time in during the summer with the guys,” Driskel said. “You can't get better at something if you just expect it to happen without working at it. With the defenses in our league, you're going to have to make big plays in order to score a lot of points, so that's something that I really try to emphasize in hitting big plays when they're there."
The addition of Roper to the coaching staff has been an important part in revitalizing the offense. Will Muschamp fired Brent Pease last season because he saw the players lose confidence in what was happening on the offensive side of the ball. Roper has given the offense life, installing an up-tempo spread that utilizies playmakers in space.
"Coach Roper has been great since he's gotten here,” Driskel said. “He's a guy that's going to be really positive and just hearing good words about myself from him is awesome. Coach Roper has been a big help to our offense and our team."
Every success in practice brings the offense more on board with what its doing this year.
“I think that our confidence is higher now than it was before just because we've done some things to boost our confidence up,” Driskel said. “We've made a lot of big plays against a really good defense. When that happens, you start to feel a little bit more excited and a little bit more confident. I think that we have a good thing going on offense and we just have to keep getting better."
Driskel has missed on practice this season, and it came on Saturday because he was walking across the stage at the O’Connell Center during graduation. He had family and friends in town for the event, providing a nice break from the intensity of fall camp.
He’ll start his Master’s program in management this fall and will leave Gainesville with a Master’s degree in the field.
For now, the focus remains on the field in Gainesville. Driskel has another shot to bring the Florida offense back to the normal expectation level. The installation is now behind them and they continue to focus on the fundamentals.
“I think having the spring with Coach Roper really helped and carrying that into the summer with the guys,” Driskel said. “I don't think we've had nearly as many busted assignments, even from the younger guys as I'd thought we would. I think we're doing a really good job just putting everything together and know it's executing, not just knowing what to do. It's executing as well."