Ahh, you just have to love the offseason. I have already seen three threads on Gator Country discussing the quarterback situation, which is going to be a hot topic all summer long I presume. The quality of the Gators’ quarterback play will play a huge role in Florida’s success this season, or lack thereof. It is safe to say that some coaches’ futures are riding on it.
It would seem that quite a few Gator fans have written Jeff Driskel off completely and are already pondering which of the incoming freshmen will win the starting job. I tend to disagree. The Gator coaching staff postponed spring practice for a reason and that reason was to give Jeff the largest amount of time possible to be at full strength for spring drills. Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper fully expect Driskel to be the starter this fall. And so do I.
At the risk of kicking a dead horse, I will state my beliefs about Driskel one more time. I think Jeff is very talented. I think he has gotten a bad rap because of poor offensive coordinating, even poorer offensive line play, poor development and some bad luck. Some Gator fans have made a strong judgment of Jeff based on what they saw last season. However, he missed nearly all of the August camp due to surgery which means he failed to get much needed reps to perfect timing with receivers and to polish his own abilities. I know I keep hearing that he cannot read defenses. But, I have yet to see any film replays where he had much time to make a read and when you are constantly running for your life in the backfield it becomes nearly impossible to go through your progressions on the rare occasions when you do have the time.
If Roper brings an effective offensive scheme and is able to work successfully with Mike Summers to improve the offensive line play I believe that Driskel can be very successful this season (barring injury). I also believe that the coaching staff will make every effort possible to avoid starting a true freshman quarterback. I know, I know, there are examples of true freshman quarterbacks being successful in the SEC but those are the exception and certainly not the rule. And I believe you will find that in virtually every case the coaches had no choice. If Driskel is healthy and isn’t completely inept, this staff will have a choice and they will take that choice.
Which means that, in my opinion, the real question is what will be the situation at backup quarterback? If 2013 taught us anything it taught us that you must prepare depth for even the most unthinkable injury circumstances. The Florida Gators signed two quality quarterback prospects in the 2014 class in Will Grier and Treon Harris. Grier was named Parade Player of the Year. Harris excelled against tough south Florida competition and led Booker T Washington High School to the national championship. Both of these young men have all of the tools to be successful at the collegiate level. At least one of them will have be play as the backup quarterback this season. It would be best for the future if one of them is afforded the luxury to redshirt.
The early thought process would have Grier as the most likely to redshirt since he and his family stated a desire to redshirt early in the recruiting process. One has to wonder if that is still the desire with another top freshman quarterback in the class. Grier may wish to battle for the backup spot this season in order to avoid falling behind his competition in the future. Top athletes are as good as they are because of their competitive nature, neither is likely to willingly take the back seat in this competition. This is not necessarily a bad thing for either young man or the Gators. Strong competition tends to facilitate faster and better development and it is important that at least one of them is ready to lead the Gators in the event that Driskel gets injured. He has been injured in the past multiple times. Based on 2013, Florida may need both of them before next season is over. Hopefully, an improved offensive line will keep all of the quarterbacks healthy. The rest will sort itself out on the field and should be interesting to witness.
All three of the above mentioned quarterbacks are capable of making plays with their arms or their legs, which gives Roper more leeway with his offense. Of course, there are other QBs on the roster already but I believe that last season made it clear that they are not real options as long term starters. For the Gators to get to where they want to be, one of these three will have to step up and lead the team.
Gator fans need to be patient and let the process play out. Drawing early conclusions in this may well lead to frustration and aggravation later. I hope that Gator fans will not line up behind one of the quarterbacks or another and create an unhealthy atmosphere around the program again. I believe Florida has the right staff in place to evaluate the talent available effectively and put the players on the field that give the Gators the best chance to win. In the end, that is all that any fan can hope for.