Roper’s key for a quarterback is confidence

Kurt Roper needs two key attributes from his quarterbacks before they start working together. He wants unshakable confidence and quick decision-making. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is making progress in both areas.

With that confidence comes a toughness that has to be present at the quarterback position. It’s a toughness that makes the quarterback the unquestioned leader of the offense, and if it’s not there, the offense is destined for failure before it even takes the field.

“I think he’s got the right look in his eye to go out,” Kurt Roper said. “He’s got a great look in his eye. He’s a bright-eyed guy. I don’t think he’s ever lacked confidence. I think where you see the confidence growing is in understanding what we’re doing offensively. The more understanding you have, the faster you can make decisions, the faster you can play, which you have to be able to play fast and be decisive. I think that’s probably the most attribute a guy has is being decisive as a quarterback. I think I see his confidence growing in that realm.”

The extra experience has added to Driskel’s confidence this fall. If there’s anything a quarterback can go through, Driskel has likely seen it. He has played in a BCS Bowl, been on the road in some of the toughest environment and won in those. He dealt with a season-ending leg injury last season and had to sit and watch his team lose eight games.

The battle scars have produced a tough quarterback ready to take the next step.

"I think experience is unbelievable,” Roper said. “The whole challenge is not to ever lose confidence in yourself. It’s mental toughness -- a guy that all the time never lose confidence in himself. The first thing that I want is a guy that is mentally tough that you can’t shake him. It doesn’t matter if the crowd boos him running off the field. It doesn’t matter if you have a four-interception game. It doesn’t matter if you go on social media and everybody tells you, ‘You’re not any good.’

“There’s one guy in this world that can take Jeff Driskel’s confidence from him and that’s Jeff Driskel. It’s not me as a coach. It’s not anybody else. And if he will but into that and believe that, now you got a mentally tough guy that can go play the game. And I think that’s very important."

Driskel has built that confidence through the rest of his teammates with his performance in fall camp. They’re seeing a quarterback who knows the offense and can get them in the right looks. But it’s his confidence that makes them believe the offense can take a big step forward this year.

“You’ve got to have a confident quarterback and a guy who thinks every play is going to score for you,” Tyler Moore said. “You’ve got to have a guy who’s high tempo and high energy. Jeff definitely is that.”

The race continues behind Driskel, too.

Florida continues to rep Will Grier and Treon Harris with the second team offense, trying to make a decision on which will serve as Driskel’s backup. Roper admitted on Tuesday that they’re getting close to decision time, and they’d like to know how to draw up the reps during game preparation for the season opener against Idaho.

“It’s fun to watch,” Roper said. “I think those two guys are talented individuals, I think they’re good people, so they understand how to compete and still be a good teammate. And that’s not easy to do, but I enjoy being around them.”

Roper has experience with using two quarterbacks in his offense, and that could be the case this season. The Gators will play the backup quarterback in the season opener to try building depth and make sure they avoid a situation like last year where the starter got hurt without any experience behind him.

There’s a chance that the backup role won’t be limited to that. Roper could elect to use a second quarterback in a smaller package of plays as a wildcat quarterback. He did it with Sean Renfree, the pro-style quarterback, at Duke and used Brandon Connette as the runner years ago. He has also used it in other seasons and could put it into the Florida offense if Grier or Harris prove capable of handling it.

“It really got down to just taking advantage of strengths,” Roper said. “We’ll use two if they earn the right, but really, it gets into how does it help us win.”

Heading into the final days before a final decision is made about the backup, the Florida coaches are focusing on production in practice.

“The biggest thing is you look for production on their team reps as big as anything else,” Roper said. “Sometimes production isn't making a play, it's keeping a bad play from being worse. If we can turn 1st-and-10 and all we are is 2nd-and-10 at worst, then that's sometimes a productive play. I think we need to see more of that, instead of going 1st-and-10 to 2nd-and-15 because we can't make a decision."

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