From a physical standpoint, Jeff Driskel is as gifted as any quarterback in the SEC and maybe in all of college football. He’s got the rocket arm, the quickness and power to be an outstanding runner and the size and strength he needs to take on defenders. Physically, he’s got it all. The big question is what is between his ears.
Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper heaped praise on Driskel for his mental toughness Tuesday and said that since he’s been in Gainesville, he’s never seen Driskel lack confidence. If the Gators are going to have the kind of season that will allow them to rejoin the living among the college football elite, Driskel will have to carry a big load. He can’t allow his confidence to dip even one iota and come September 20, when he takes the field against Alabama, his mental toughness will be put to the test.
Once he steps on the field in an environment like that or in any SEC game, Driskel is going to have to block everything out except doing his job and focusing on the next play. What separates the average quarterback from those who are above average or even great is that ability to forget what just happened and consider the next play the only one that is important. For the most part, Driskel has done a good job of doing that in his career, but he’s had those moments when he let all the outside elements get to him like Georgia 2012, Louisville in the Sugar Bowl and last year’s Miami game.
Eliminating those breakdowns could be the difference in the Gators contending for the SEC East title or just making a nice comeback from last year’s uncharacteristic 4-8.
“There is one guy in this world that can take Jeff Driskel’s confidence from him and that’s Jeff Driskel,” Roper said.
Florida’s success could very well come down to a distance of about eight inches – the distance between Driskel’s ears.
#2 ALABAMA: Lane Kiffin is running it, but the offense is really Nick Saban’s. There is one change to the status quo, however. Kiffin had put some hurry-up into the Alabama offense, which is interesting since Saban lobbied for a rule that would require a 10-second runoff on the play clock before each snap ... Suspended linebacker Tim Williams returned to practice along with defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (sprained knee) and O-lineman Dominick Jackson (sprained ankle).
Arkansas: Defensive end Deatrich Wise, set to start opposite Trey Flowers, is still MIA at practice due to a sprained knee. His status for game one remains a mystery ... Starting middle linebacker Brooks Ellis (knee cap) is back at practice and is expected to be ready for the season opener at Auburn.
#6 AUBURN: Auburn started working on game preparations for its August 30 season opener with Arkansas ... Head coach Gus Malzahn still hasn’t announced how quarterback Nick Marshall will be punished for his marijuana citation. All we know at this point is that Jeremy Johnson will get the start in game one ... LaDarius Owens returned to practice. He has been battling an infection stemming from offseason surgery on his right leg to repair a stress fracture.
#12 GEORGIA: Head coach Mark Richt says the Bulldogs still have more unanswered questions than he would like as fall camp ends and practice begins in earnest for the season opener with Clemson. “I think as far as the organization of it and what we were trying to accomplish and players for the part trying to do it the way we wanted them to do it, it [fall camp] was pretty darn good in those areas. But as far as settling a lot of questions like who’s playing where and who’s going to start and what kind of rotation there might be, I don’t know if we know as much coming out of this as I would have liked to at this time.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats bounced back from a mediocre Tuesday practice with one Wednesday that defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said was “competitive, enthusiastic ... one of our most enthusiastic practice of training camp, which is good” ... Head coach Mark Stoops indicated that the Wildcats are being slowed down by minor injuries. “There’s nothing major,” Stoops said. “A lot of lingering issues, bumps and bruises like you’d expect but we’ve got to get some guys healthy and get them back out there, start our prep here for our first game here soon.”
#13 LSU: It seems that every year is a rebuilding year on the defensive line at LSU. That’s because the Tigers have 13 former defensive linemen currently on NFL rosters. LSU’s defensive line will be very young again this year but there is no dropoff in talent. Four names to remember: defensive ends Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter and tackles Frank Herron and Greg Gilmore.
Mississippi State: Depth is not an issue anywhere on the field except the O-line, which is where the Bulldogs took a hit Tuesday when Damien Robinson (6-8, 320) suffered a season-ending ACL tear. His spot on the line will be taken by Justin Malone ... Deshon Cooper, who went through camp with the Bulldogs, has been declared ineligible by the NCAA. He will go to Copiah-Lincoln Community College where he will join Donald Gray, Jonathan Calvin and Lashard Durr, who didn’t qualify after signing with MSU.
#24 Missouri: The word to describe Mizzou’s offense so far is “inconsistent” according to starting left tackle Mitch Morse. “We’ve still got guys who are making mental errors, including first team guys, including myself. I’m not going to be pointing fingers without pointing fingers at myself.”
#18 Ole Miss: Head coach Hugh Freeze still won’t name a starting center. Ben Still and Robert Conyers are neck and neck. Right now, Freeze is inclined to play both players once the season gets under way ... Freshman wide receiver Sammie Epps, who was battling for playing time at slot receiver, was arrested for driving without a license and possession of marijuana.
#9 South Carolina: If the season were to start today, South Carolina’s front four on defense would have Darius English and Gerald Dixon at the ends and Gerald Dixon Jr. and J.T. Surratt at the tackles. Deon Green and Abu Lamin are the backup tackles while David Johnson and Mason Harris are the backup ends ... The Gamecocks have also incorporated a 3-4 look into the defensive scheme and that could become the base defense against spread teams.
Tennessee: Critical for Tennessee’s very young defense is the return of linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt, who missed all of last season with an injury. A healthy Maggitt coming off the edge is expected to boost a pass rush that produced only 18 sacks all of last year, last in the SEC. Right now Maggitt is being held back as a precaution due to a nagging ankle injury.
Texas A&M: Freshmen Armani Watts (safety) and Victor Davis (corner) are listed as starters on the Aggie defensive depth chart ... Freshman wide receiver Speedy Noil, one of the best prep players in the country last year, will be a starter, but that comes as no surprise to anyone.
Vanderbilt: Last year’s leading rusher Jerron Seymour (716 yards, 14 touchdowns) is finally back at practice but he is doubtful for the Commodores’ season opener with Temple.
David Climer, the columnist for The Tennesseean, came out with his stadium rankings, basing his ratings on fan experience. Climer’s list: (1) LSU; (2) Georgia; (3) Texas A&M; (4) Tennessee; (5) South Carolina: (6) Alabama; (7) Florida; (8) Auburn; (9) Ole Miss; (10) Arkansas; (11) Mississippi State; (12) Missouri; (13) Kentucky and (14) Vanderbilt. It’s hard to disagree with the bottom five, but I would make a few changes in the first nine. I would keep LSU and A&M at the top two spots, but #3 would be Auburn followed by Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
One of the most addicting television shows in recent memory is “Naked and Afraid” on Discovery. A guy and a girl are dropped onto some desolate location where they get to spend 21 days naked, battling the elements, trying to make fire and eating grubs, worms and other nasty stuff. Having watched this couple survive 21 days in the Amazon jungle where the river is infested with piranha, 25-foot anacondas, crocodiles and electric eels, the jungle infested with poisonous snakes and man-eating jaguars and the night sky is thick with mosquitos, my question is why? Why would anyone volunteer to do that? My idea of survival is being able to drive by Five Guys or Burger Fi without automatically turning in to the parking lot.
Last year Under Armour pulled a shocker by stealing Notre Dame away from adidas. Now the Baltimore-based sports equipment/apparel manufacturer is offering NBA superstar Kevin Durant a 10-year deal that is worth at least $265 million. Nike has a chance to match, but if Nike matches, it’s going to have to come up with an even bigger deal to upgrade LeBron James. Nike has to be reeling a bit right now. The company wouldn’t match the adidas deal to steal Manchester United away and last year Under Armour won the bidding war for Stephen Curry. With Florida’s deal with Nike coming up for renewal very soon, you have to wonder if Under Armour will make Jeremy Foley an offer he can’t refuse.
Former Gator offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert got a well-deserved six-year extension on his contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers ... UCF’s season opener against Penn State, scheduled for Dublin, Ireland, could be in jeopardy if the volcano erupts in Iceland. The last time the volcano blew in Iceland it canceled 100,000 flights to and in Europe ... Florida Atlantic will name its field after Howard Schnellenberger. Nice choice, Owls! ... Former Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling says chewing tobacco caused his bout with cancer of the mouth. I hate to rag on someone who has cancer, but isn’t that why they put these warnings on all tobacco products? ... A lot of folks in Cleveland seem to think the best rookie quarterback on the roster isn’t Johnny Football but South Carolina’s Conner Shaw ... Good news for NFL Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly. Docs say there is no evidence of cancer ... Former Gator Darren O’Day, who has found his place in baseball as a middle reliever for the Baltimore Orioles, has a 0.95 ERA.
Is this the year that Jeff Driskel finally lives up to the hype that accompanied him coming out of high school?
The Broadcast is this very cool Asheville, North Carolina band that reminds me a lot of Big Brother and the Holding Company back when Janis Joplin was their lead singer. Caitlin Krisco has a powerful bluesy voice that some have favorably compared to a young Grace Slick. I hear a lot of the sound that was coming out of the San Francisco area in the years right after the Summer of Love in their music. This is “Hide Yourself Away” from their 2013 album “Dodge the Arrow.” The Broadcast will be one of the featured bands at the Bear Creek Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park November 13-16.