Florida Football: Steady Jeff Driskel Validating Will Muschamp's Faith

Nick de la Torre@@NickdelatorreCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2012

Florida Football: Steady Jeff Driskel Validating Will Muschamp's Faith

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    Were you "Team Brissett" or "Team Driskel"? 

    The Gators quarterback battle divided Gator Nation like teenage girls who were fans of the Twilight series. 

    Gators fans were so divided that even after Driskel was named the starter following Florida's win over Bowling Green, people were crying foul, saying Brissett didn't get a fair chance. After two road wins those dissenters have quieted down considerably. 

    How has Driskel been able to silence his critics and make the coaching staff look like the smartest men in the room?

    Let's find out. 

Road Warrior

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    Going on the road is no easy task, especially for a sophomore making his first start. 

    Driskel handled the first test at Texas A&M and followed that game with an even better performance in front of over 100,000 people at Neyland Stadium. 

    In his first start at quarterback for the Gators Driskel completed 13-of-16 passes for 162 yards. Those are efficient numbers but nothing eye-popping. Driskel was efficient when he threw the ball but struggled going through his progressions and was responsible for at least five of the eight sacks the Gators allowed. 

    Against Tennessee Driskel had the best performance of his young career. Driskel completed 14-of-20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Driskel became more than just a game manager against the Vols. He was poised in the pocket, didn't turn the ball over and made plays with his arm and legs. 

    Driskel's ability to buy more time with his legs has helped the offensive line tremendously, and the more he shows he can scramble for big yards it will open up more in the passing game. 

    After playing two weeks in front of over 180,000 people, coming back home to play against Kentucky will be a piece of cake. 

A Quarterback Who Can Scramble, Not a Scrambling Quarterback

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    Most people assumed that Jeff Driskel was the scrambling quarterback and Jacoby Brissett was the pocket passer. 

    It turns out that Driskel is a pocket passer who just happens to be able to make plays with his legs. 

    Driskel is completing 71.2 percent of his passes this year and has thrown for 495 yards. That type of accuracy is not usually associated with a mobile quarterback.

    Driskel had several very impressive passes against Tennessee. His pass with two defenders in his face to Jordan Reed was a big-time throw. It takes a lot for a quarterback to hang in the pocket, knowing he is going to be hit and still make a throw across the field to a spot where only his receiver can make the play. 

    His most impressive throw came on a play where Driskel had to scramble to the short side of the field. Rather than tucking the ball and taking off with it, Driskel kept his eyes downfield and fired a strike to Solomon Patton along the sideline. 

    The coaching staff may have said publicly that Jeff Driskel won the job because of his running ability but he is much more than a scrambling quarterback. 

SEC Player of the Week

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    His performance against Tennessee earned Driskel SEC Player of the Week honors. What more validation does Will Muschamp need?

    Driskel was 14-of-20 passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 81 yards rushing, picked up some big first downs and evaded a couple of sacks with his running ability. 

    Driskel took the honor in stride and like a true leader. When asked about how the award felt he acknowledged that it was an honor to be recognized but gave credit to his teammates. 

    This kid gets it. 

Growth

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    Jeff Driskel is growing up, fast. 

    Just think about it. 

    Going into the Bowling Green game he wasn't guaranteed anything more than a quarter of playing time. After playing an alright game he gets the nod from the coaching staff but knows that the guy he has been competing with all offseason is on the sideline and ready to take over. 

    His first start was flawed but got the job done. He struggled going through progressions, didn't know when to tuck the ball and run, didn't see open receivers downfield and looked like a quarterback who was afraid to make a mistake that would cost him the starting job. 

    Going into the Tennessee game Driskel was more than a game manager. He was a quarterback who you can trust to make plays when they need to be made. Driskel was able to go through progressions, often finding his second and third receiver against the Vols. He was decisive in the pocket and evaded pressure. 

    Driskel is maturing every game and has the Gators back to being a contender in the SEC East.  

Tough October Test

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    The way Jeff Driskel is playing it certainly seems that the coaching staff made the right decision but a tough October slate of games will be the true test of the sophomore signal caller. 

    Starting your first two games at Kyle Field and Neyland Stadium only serve as the appetizer for an October that includes games against LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and a trip to Vanderbilt. 

    The Gators are lucky to get LSU and South Carolina at home, and Georgia is almost a home game being held in Jacksonville. While it helps to be at home, those three games are the real test of where the Gators are as a football team and how close they are to being the team to beat in the SEC East.

    Don't sleep on Vandy. James Franklin has his football team believing in his system and hungry to leave their stamp on Vanderbilt football. What a better legacy to leave than to beat Florida? The Gators will travel to Vanderbilt in between games against LSU and South Carolina. Can you say trap game?

    Starting the season off 3-0 is a big confidence booster for a young quarterback, but he hasn't faced a test like the defenses of LSU, Georgia and South Carolina will give him. They will get after him and test him as much mentally as they will physically. 

    Can he pass the test?

    Based on what we've seen so far, that answer is a resounding yes.