Driskel ignoring the criticism

The bye week means two weeks for Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel to hear the outside criticism. He learned in the past to block out the feedback, whether positive or negative, and that has come in handy since Florida's loss at Alabama.

The criticism started in the early part of his career when Driskel was still learning the ropes as the starting quarterback at Florida. Through his struggles, criticism began to start, whether on social media or in his every day life.

It hasn’t slowed down in time. After completing 9-of-28 passes in Tuscaloosa, the criticism reached new levels. Fans and media called for freshman Treon Harris to get reps under center, but Driskel blocked all of that out.

"There's a lot out there so you can't really shield yourself from all of it,” Jeff Driskel said. “That's just part of playing quarterback here. I've never been one where that stuff gets to me, whether people saying you're the best or people saying you're the worst. You've just got to be even-keeled and keep moving forward. I'm grown. I can handle it."

His head coach continues to stand by his side.

Will Muschamp said Driskel continues to get most of the first team reps because he needed to improve the timing with his receivers. Harris got some first team reps in some smaller packages of plays, and Muschamp said he’s willing to play two quarterbacks if that gives the team the best chance to win even though it isn’t being discussed at this time.

The criticism around the quarterback position continues to build through the bye week, and while Muschamp knows it comes with the position, he remains confident that Driskel will be successful this season as the quarterback.

“Be careful what you ask when you want to be the quarterback at Florida,” Muschamp said. “I don't know if -- physically or mentally -- there's any tougher kid that I've been around. He takes the heat and understands that comes with the territory. [He's] about all the right things, and I think again, will continue to move forward this season.

“He'll make the Gator Nation proud he's their quarterback. I know the majority are -- that's the frustrating part, that you've got to listen to the negativity of a small few. But that's part of it."

Multiple former players, including Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, called out Driskel on social media and wanted change. Smith called and apologized to Driskel and Muschamp for his comments. Driskel understands the frustration from the fan base and knows he has to play better, but the passion of the fan base is what creates the criticism.

"People are passionate about the Gators either way,” Driskel said. “I don't think there's any panic in this building. Obviously, we'd like to play better but we didn't. At the end of the day it's an SEC game and it's a big deal but we have a lot more of those and our goals are still attainable. Fans have the right to get all over reaction, but we're not panicking here."

Until Driskel does play better, the external push for Harris to get reps will continue. Will Grier didn’t practice last week and won’t this week because of back spasms, but the coaches are hoping to get him back on the field next week in practice. It seems likely to assume he will redshirt baring injuries at the position.

The coaches had plays in place for Harris to get on the field against Kentucky and Alabama, but Muschamp said the situation never presented itself. The package of plays will be there this weekend against Tennessee, especially when Florida gets into the red zone.

His practice habits continue to show that he’s ready for reps if the coaches find the correct opportunity to put him on the field.

“Treon continues to improve,” Muschamp said. “He's going to be a really good football player. I've got all the confidence in the world in him and his abilities and what he presents to our football team. When that opportunity presents itself, he'll have an opportunity."

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