Although recruiting has taken the forefront of the college football world with National Signing Day quickly approaching, it’s never top early to look ahead to spring football.
The Florida Gators became relevant again in 2012 with a 11-2 record, but the team took on some losses as key juniors declared early for the NFL Draft. Along with the seniors who graduated, the number of player departures will change the make-up of the 2013 squad.
Gator Country takes a look at each position on the team heading into spring football and breakdown the strength and weaknesses at each spot.
For the first installment, GC examines the quarterback position for the Gators.
Projected Depth Chart: 1st String—Jeff Driskel
2nd String—Skyler Mornhinweig
3rd String—Tyler Murphy
4th String—Max Staver
Analysis: Spring practice will feature a completely different scenario this year than in 2012. Jeff Driskel is the unquestioned starter at the quarterback position and it’s his team. In 2012, Driskel impressed early on, but had his struggles later into the season.
For the most part, the passing game was once again anemic for the Gators, however, one could argue that could be blamed on the wide receivers rather than Driskel.
Driskel excelled at the zone read plays. Often times, he showed good decision making when it came to reading the defense and whether to keep it or hand it off to Mike Gillislee.
And he is a talented runner, which is a skill that probably got Driskel the starting job in the first place. He not only has deceiving speed, but he runs with physicality and purpose. Very rarely does Driskel run out of bounds, rather he fights through tackles for those extra yards.
His five interceptions were encouraging as well. For a sophomore and a first-year starting quarterback, Driskel had tremendous ball security. Even though the offense wasn’t dynamic, the lack of turnovers had a significant impact on the team’s success and helped sustain confidence in the young quarterback. The Gators finished with a plus-15 turnover margin, which ranked eighth in the nation, and Driskel’s ball security was crucial.
Although he did struggle later into the season, the struggles aren’t enormous. He dealt with issues in running through his progressions as well as decision-making, but those are often typical of any young quarterback. Being sacked 36 times is indicative of Driskel’s tendency to hold onto the football far too long, rather than throwing it away.
The future looks bright for Driskel heading into 2013, but he absolutely needs to make strides in the spring and summer. He’ll be a junior and will be expected to lead the offense, so his abilities need to reflect that.
As for the backup quarterback situation, Jacoby Brissett’s transfer should propel Mornhinweig into the backup quarterback role. Similar to Driskel, Mornhinweig has dual-threat capabilities that will allow the Gators to run the same offense if Driskel happens to suffer an injury.
Murphy should slot into the third string role, barring any change in the spring. Although he has seniority at the position, it seems like the coaching staff trusts the skill set of Mornhinweig heading into the spring.
Staver is on the line to redshirt as an incoming freshman, so it’s likely he won’t have any impact in the quarterback discussion for 2013. He’ll need that redshirt year to improve his skills in order to compete at the next level. However, his strong arm gives him the potential to be a factor in the years to come.