Driskel ready for return to The Swamp

Saturday will mark the first time Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel plays in a game at The Swamp since September 21 of last season.

The emotions will be there as he runs through the tunnel of The Swamp around 7 p.m. on Saturday, but even more than that, the excitement of a new season will be on his mind. It’s a chance to erase the memories from last season -- the three-turnover game at Miami and the pick-six that ended his season against Tennessee.

Driskel’s improvement was on display during the spring and in the open practices this fall, but none of that matters if he can’t translate it to the game field on Saturday. And he’s excited to make that happen.

"I think I understand what we're doing really well,” Jeff Driskel said. “Schematically, where we want to go with the ball in certain situations, when we want to do run checks, when you start to do that you can focus on the defense as well. I really do have an understanding of how to study film, how to look at an opponent and what to look for. All the time I've put in is really starting to pay off. The game has really slowed down a lot."

The confidence in first-year coordinator Kurt Roper’s offense started to build before the players even got on the practice field in the spring. They spent time watching film with him, seeing the numbers his offense posted at Duke last season while leading the program to a 10-win season.

Seeing it in action in spring practice only made it more obvious. The Gators hit big plays through the passing game, restoring the excitement that was lost through the dull offense in 2013.

“I think our confidence comes from making a lot of plays,” Driskel said. “In the spring, we made a lot of big plays and that carried over to the summer. During (fall) camp, we had a really great, great camp. We protected the ball and made big plays. When you put those two things together, you’re going to be looking at a pretty good offense.

“We have a lot of players that can make plays in space. But Coach Roper is always up-tempo. He’s always a positive guy, and we needed that around here. He’s not one to have an off day. He’s always going to be bringing the energy, and that’s what we need in a coach.”

The plan for Florida was to go to more of an up-tempo offense last season. When Driskel went down with a broken leg, the plan changed because backups Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg didn’t have the reps in that offense during the offseason.

When Will Muschamp went out to find a coordinator to lead the offense this fall, he wanted someone with that up-tempo experience and gave the reigns to Roper. With him more comfortable in an offense that fits his skillset, Muschamp puts himself in the group excited to see what Driskel can show this season.

“We never really, as a fan base, got to enjoy the progress that was made from year two to last year,” Muschamp said of Driskel. “I see much more command, comfort level, also (we’re) much better around him. We’re better upfront, we’re better at wideout, we’re better at running back, we’re better at tight end. I think all those components come together.

“He’s a much better player because of the people around him. But I also see a guy that’s very driven, which he always was driven, very competitive which he was always competitive. But I don’t think we ever got to see the improvements he made going into last year because of the limited time he had.”

The time to show what he can do begins on Saturday.

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