Notebook: Managing Driskel

The advantages of having a quarterback that can be used in the run game are obvious, but it also creates a debate about how many hits a team’s starting quarterback should take.

It’s a balance every year. Last season, the Gators wanted to be smart about how many times Jeff Driskel was running, especially since there wasn’t much experience from the backup quarterbacks. Driskel had his season ended during the third game of the season, but it came while he was standing in the pocket and delivering a pass.

The coaches see it on film, too.

Kurt Roper pointed out on Thursday that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston almost suffered an ugly injury against Idaho last season. The Florida coaches were watching tape from the game this week and noticed Winston’s leg up in the air just as an Idaho defensive lineman was about to fall on it.

At the last second, Winston pulled his leg to the ground and was lucky to avoid an injury. It can happen at any moment and often has to do with luck of how a player’s body is positioned at the time he takes a hit.

“You’re always inches away,” Roper said.

The unpredictability of it is what kept Roper from saying they will cap the amount of carries Driskel has in a game. Even with as much as Florida tried to protect him last season, he broke his leg on a simple drop back.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re running the football or throwing the football, you’re always at a risk,” Roper said. “We want to be smart and minimize the amount of contact that we possibly can. We need to use his ability to run the football. It’s a balance.”

The conversation has been going on throughout the offseason in the Florida coaches’ meetings room. They’ve debated it and had multiple conversations, and those have continued even into this week.

But reading between the lines of Roper’s comments, he sounds like an offensive coordinator that wants to let Driskel run as much as he can.

“The number one thing is winning a football game and trying to find the way to win a football game,” Roper said. “Jeff does give us the ability with his feet to add to the run game and cause defenses more issues. You definitely want to use that, but at the same time you want to be smart. He doesn’t need to take any unnecessary hits. He has to know when a play is over and get down.”

GETTING MCGEE INVOLVED: The first depth chart released this fall had Jake McGee as the second team tight end behind Clay Burton. It doesn’t sound like that will keep the Virginia transfer from making an impact in the passing game.

"He’s going to be heavily involved in the role,” Roper said. “He’s going to be heavily involved in the passing game. He’s going to be running routes like we did with the tight ends at Duke last year. Sometimes they get it thrown to them, sometimes they don’t. But he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to make some plays.”

HARRIS THE BACKUP: When Roper took the job as Florida’s offensive coordinator, the Gators ramped up their search for a second quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class. Treon Harris was one of the top priorities, and the Gators were able to flip him from his commitment to Florida State.

Roper loved his high school film. His decisiveness and arm stood out and made Roper believe that Harris could play in his offense.

"I think he was a guy that made a lot of plays and that's what it really gets down to,” Roper said. “He was a decisive quarterback when you watched him in high school, whether he was going to make decisions in the passing game or decision in running the football versus a good pass rusher or whatever it was but I think I saw a decisive football player.

“He's working hard to get better everyday and he's obviously a talented guy that has a really strong arm, a fast arm and can make plays with his feet."

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