For better or worse it’s time for a change at QB

Will Muschamp likes to say that your tape is your résumé.

Through the first four years of Jeff Driskel’s career, the quarterback has played against nine teams that were ranked by the AP. He’s completed 100-177 passes (56%) for 1,013 yards (5.7 yards per attempt), with seven touchdown and six interceptions.

Driskel’s numbers increase slightly against non-ranked opponents but the numbers and the tape still show that Jeff Driskel is not getting the job done.

In defense of Driskel, Muschamp and some people point to the 2012 season. Driskel “led” the Gators to an 11-2 record and the Sugar Bowl. That season, however, it was the Florida Gators defense that did the heavy lifting. Florida was ranked in the top-five in the nation in total, rushing and scoring defense. The Gators +15 turnover margin (forcing 30 that season) was ranked eighth and Florida was the 10th best team in the country on third down, allowing opponents to convert just 31.02% of the time.

Not to mention how many holes punter Kyle Christy dug Driskel and the defense out of that season. In 2012, Christy was a Ray Guy Award finalist with his 45.8 yards-per-punt average.

Through three games this season Christy has been fantastic. His 50.38 yard-per-punt average tops the nation but the Florida defense is not the same dominating force they were in 2012. Driskel’s indecision, poor timing and inconsistent play are still writing the same checks it did in 2012 but the defense can’t cash them this time around.

Following a 42-21 loss at the hands of Alabama, Will Muschamp said, “we need to go back and evaluate the decisions we made going into the game and during the game.”

One of those decisions was not getting true freshman quarterback Treon Harris a single snap against the Tide. All offseason, Muschamp preached about how important it was for the Gators to get a backup quarterback experience — meaningful snaps — so that the backup would be ready to go if something happened to Driskel.

Harris got experience in the first game of the season. He threw two passes — both of them touchdowns — and played throughout the game.

However, playing sparingly in the first half and them a ton in garbage time against what could be the worst team on Florida’s schedule is far from getting Harris ready to play the rest of the season.

SEC play started. Driskel was abysmal against Kentucky in the first half. Harris watched from the sidelines, helmet in his hands.

Driskel played marginally better the rest of the way; Harris continued to be a spectator.

Sep 20, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson (7) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson (7) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

“Jeff gives us the best opportunity right now,” Muschamp said following the Alabama loss. “For us to win a football game like that, Jeff Driskel needs to play.”

He did play against Alabama and it was the worst performance of his career– which is saying a lot. Still, as Driskel was 4-12 for 47 yards a touchdown and an interception in the first quarter. He was 1-5 in the second quarter and still, Harris saw as much playing time as the more than 100,000 Tide fans that filled Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Jeff Driskel gives you the best opportunity to win? Here’s the drive summary from the first half (when the game was still close) against Alabama: punt, punt, Touchdown (after the defense forced a fumble and the Gators started at the Alabama 31 yard line), touchdown (scored by Keanu Neal on a fumble recovery), punt, interception, punt, fumble, punt, end of half.

For better or for worse, will Muschamp is attaching himself to Jeff Driskel. It makes sense, in a way. Although Jeremy Foley is actively looking for reasons to keep Will Muschamp rather than looking for reasons to fire him, Muschamp is still a coach who’s on the hot seat, coaching for his job. Foley can’t sit by and watch the Gators miss another bowl game and keep Muschamp as head coach. Florida needs to win football games this season and the schedule doesn’t get any easier.

Muschamp is choosing to stick with a quarterback that he knows. Driskel is a known commodity. Even if that commodity is not good, Muschamp knows what he can expect out of Driskel. A control freak, Muschamp doesn’t want to go with a true freshman quarterback because he’s an unknown commodity. How will a freshman perform against teams like Tennessee, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina? You just don’t know and won’t until you try it.

Treon Harris, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida
Treon Harris warming up before the Gators take on Eastern MichiganGator Country photo by David Bowie.

Jeff Driskel’s ceiling isn’t high. He’s an average — at best — quarterback when he’s on his game and a liability when he’s off. That’s it. That’s your known commodity. The problem is, and it is a problem that became evident the past two weeks, Florida’s defense isn’t as good as they were in 2012. They aren’t going to shutout SEC teams week in and week out.

So Muschamp is sticking with what he knows because his job is on the line. He’s the captain of the ship and rather than cutting ties with Driskel — who’s becoming an increasingly heavier anchor — and moving on to something new, he’s going to go down with the ship.

Or is he?

Muschamp did say that the team would reevaluate things this week while the Gators are idle on the field. The first evaluation needs to be at quarterback. It shouldn’t be hard to see that Driskel alone will not get the Gators over the hump. He’s not going to lead Florida to wins over SEC rivals or to Atlanta.

Is Treon Harris the answer? We don’t know. But that unknown is better than what we do know about the other option.

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC


    • False.

      Recruiting rankings are based on PROJECTED talent. Guys watch someone play against high school talent and guess how they would do in college. It is not an exact science at all, and anybody who pays attention to recruiting will tell you that. People get rankings wrong all the time, and in Driskel’s case, the analysts were wrong in projecting him.

      I will agree with you though in that there are more problems with this team other than QB, but none are more glaring than Driskel’s play.

  1. I posted the following under the previous post by Ryan…felt it’d be more appropriate here…

    My issues, along with other obvious ones that have been belabored here on this site in many posts, are the “intangibles” that you just can’t teach. Things like leadership, command, confidence and willingness to put the team on your back and fight are things that I have not seen from Driskel. I know Jeff has been dragged around the internet and I think we have seen his ceiling. I just don’t get that “feeling” from him. He has a modicum of mental toughness certainly because he is playing QB in the SEC. I don’t see that toughness, command and leadership that Tebow displayed when he gave us the “Promise” speech. Tebow was a class act and a great football player who loved this game and loved the Gators. He didn’t want to let us down and you could see the fight in him as he got in guys faces on the sidelines to lift them up when the chips were down. He motivated them, he accepted responsibility and he lead them. Even though he wasn’t the best passer, Tebow had “intangibles.” When he stepped on that field, you knew that he was going to give everything to push this team towards victory. It was urgent with him. I don’t see any of that from Jeff. I see a kid who is just trying not to make mistakes under the enormous pressure of playing QB for Florida. He’s making mental errors and seems shaky and unsure sometimes. Even when he does get it right and the receivers fail to catch the ball, it sticks with him and frustrates him to the point of making costlier mistakes to right previous wrongs.

    Jeff has physical skills and I don’t doubt that he has the heart. I just wish he possessed some of those intangibles that we saw in Tebow and Wuerffel. When times are rough, the team wants to rally around their leaders and sadly, I don’t get the feeling that they feel that way about Jeff. I’m not saying that Treon is the immediate answer but there has to be some answer apart from where we are now. One thing is for sure, we know what we have with Jeff Driskel. What we don’t know is what we have in the freshman in big time situations. Truth be told, if Treon can show those intangibles, everything else should come along a little easier. Confidence is key. Sometimes freshmen QB’s rise to the occasion.

  2. It seems like a no-brainer to give someone else a chance to give someone else an opportunity to get a chance to take over at quarterback. The only problem is that it doesn’t matter what is obvious to you or I. There’s only one person whose opinion matters and that’s will Muschamp. It appears that Will Muschamp doesn’t share the same opinion. I have the feeling that we are watching the end of the movie “Thelma and Louise” with Muschamp and Driskel in the car going off the cliff. The die has been cast.

  3. Coach Boom may regret dancing with the devil he knows compared to the one he doesn’t. Treon deserves a legitimate shot at playing time…meaningful playing time, not mop-up duty. If the Gators truly want to develop other options at QB, particularly if there’s an injury to JD (which he’s been a couple of times previously), then Coach Boom must change or adapt, or else face being ridden out of Gville on a first-class seat into oblivion.

  4. if treon doesn’t get any meaningful playing time and muschamp is still coach look for him to transfer, grier will then have a chance provided he stays, he might even leave with this coach. i think grier is a great prospect love to see him play too

  5. I would like to thank you for writing such a good and really specific article, I can go on for hours ref this team , but I will stick to QB play, it cannot get any worse , and when u recruit players to UF supposedly is because u feel they can play. you should have shown the people what TH did in high school , BTW has been a super power , winning the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP last year , their schedule is not a patsy one , they play at a high level , this kid is a winner , there is no way he would perform worse than JD did in the first half of K and in the Bama game , Florida’s hero Steve S would have yanked him in a jiffy , why do we have to have a coach who is so hard headed so stubborn , JD cannot play QB to the level that UF needs period nothing else to say about it , there fore he has to give an opportunity to another player , does anyone recall and wonder why NCS AND BC have former UF QBS performing really well , they left , why? and why does a 5th year senior Riggs who had play well for UF decides to leave and now plays first team for ND while our D backfield seem lost , AND WHY DID OUR ALL AMERICA PUNTER under perform last year , could it be because they had him punting that other style ? look at this year when he is back to classic style , he leads the nation………….can anyone really understand what needs to happen to the FLORIDA GATORS ??? ——–IT IS OBVIOUS TO ME