The 2014 Gators are on a mission. Last season was unacceptable in Gainesville and you’ll hear those exact words from Will Muschamp throughout his summer speaking tour.
Florida’s road won’t be easy with trips to Knoxville, Tuscaloosa and an end of the season date with the reigning national champions and the current Heisman Trophy winner. The road isn’t easy but it’s what the Gators have grown accustomed to and they’ll need to weather the storm to save Muschamp’s job.
With a younger team heading into this season, Florida will need to rely on players stepping into new leadership roles. This change will put more pressure on a few players who we’ll spotlight this week as the five that have the most pressure on their shoulders this season.
After getting things going with Austin Hardin and Andre Debose and Dante Fowler, we turn our attention to the player with the most pressure riding on this season; Jeff Driskel.
Overview: His importance is obvious. The team moved back spring practice roughly ten days to accommodate Driskel who was cleared for spring practice just days before camp began.
Driskel may be the most enigmatic player on Florida’s roster. Performances like his career high rushing performance against Vanderbilt two seasons ago (11 att, 177 yards, 3 TD) and his passing performance against Tennessee (14-20, 219, 2 TD, 0 INT) that same season leave fans sanguine and thirsting for more. Inconsistency has been the biggest issue with Driskel. At times he looks like the five-star rated player and No. 1 overall rated quarterback that Florida recruited. Other times he looks like a quarterback in over his head, just biding time as he treads an overwhelming amount of water.
Which quarterback is he? The one that almost singlehandedly won a game on the road against Vanderbilt, or the quarterback who takes too long to get rid of the ball and throws interceptions in big spots?
Like the rest of the offensive players Driskel will be acclimating to a new playbook — his third since he arrived in Gainesville. However, this playbook — at least early on — appears to do what the previous two play callers couldn’t; accentuate Driskel’s strengths, while hiding his weaknesses.
Driskel struggles to go through his progressions and make decisions? No problem, Roper spent the entire spring barking at his quarterbacks to play faster. If the first option isn’t there don’t be afraid to tuck it and run, especially Driskel who at 6-4, 230-pounds has proven to be an adept runner.
Why is he so important?
He’s QB 1. Florida cannot and will not be successful this season if Driskel doesn’t take a step forward in his progression. Plain and simple.
Can he live up to the pressure?
Based on what we saw this spring Driskel looked the same as he always has. He still made ill-advised decisions, looked uncertain or unsure of himself at times and threw too many interceptions during open practices.
To his credit, Driskel hadn’t played football in more than six months and was learning a new playbook. There was going to be rust and Driskel slowly improved throughout the spring.
This offense is suited for him. He has an offensive coordinator who has only been on campus a few short months but has already shown more flexibility than his two predecessors. Roper will tinker with the playbook. He’ll mold the offense around his quarterback, putting Driskel in positions where he can be successful both as a passer and a runner rather than trying to make Driskel fit his style or his scheme; no more trying to slam a square peg into a round hole.
Driskel can live up to the pressure because he finally has a coach who will put him in a position to be successful.