Florida Football: 5 Areas Where Jeff Driskel Needs to Improve Most
The transfer of Jacoby Brissett means the Florida Gators will be without a safety net at quarterback in 2013. That makes this the most important offseason of Jeff Driskel's young career.
For a first-year starter, 2012 wasn't a bad season for Driskel, but there is a lot of room for improvement in his game.
While Driskel showed flashes of the quarterback he can become against Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida State, there were two games (Georgia, Louisville) where he and the offense were exposed.
Driskel will be a junior next season and in his second year of Brent Pease's playbook, so the excuses that he is still young and learning the offense are no longer valid. It's time for Driskel to realize his potential and take the next step in his development.
With the backup quarterback job still up in the air, let's look at the top five areas Driskel needs to work on in the offseason to become the leader the Gators offense will need in 2013.
It's no secret that Jeff Driskel isn't going to be the kind of pocket passer that Chris Leak was during his time in Gainesville. Driskel is a dual-threat quarterback, and his mobility gives him an advantage that most quarterbacks don't enjoy.
With that being said, Driskel must improve his accuracy this offseason.
Last season, Driskel completed 63.7 percent of his pass attempts, placing him as the No. 40 ranked quarterback in terms of completion percentage. His high completion percentage is due in part to the offense that the Gators ran.
Driskel wasn't asked to take many shots down the field, rather working a short to intermediate passing game where he would often check down to his running backs and tight ends.
At times last season, Driskel would tend to miss high and sail some of his passes. This can be corrected through better footwork. Being able to step into your pass and not throwing off of your back foot will keep passes from sailing on a quarterback.
4. Reading Defenses
One of the biggest challenges for a quarterback moving from high school to college is reading defenses. In college, the defenses are bigger and faster, and the schemes are more diverse.
Too many times last season, Driskel would stare down receivers and take too long to go through his progressions. This led to sacks, incompletions and interceptions.
As a junior and second-year starter, Driskel should be given more responsibility heading into next season. This means that Driskel will need to be able to read the defense before the snap, call out protections and audible the call at the line of scrimmage. After the ball is snapped, Driskel needs to go through his progressions quicker, be able to look off safeties and be more decisive in the pocket.
These are all things that should come easily, as Driskel will have the same offensive coordinator and same playbook for a second straight season. Being comfortable in the playbook will give Driskel more confidence and should allow him to make the necessary corrections.
3. Learn When to Run and When to Throw
Did I mention that Jeff Driskel can run?
Driskel's greatest asset is his mobility, but he has yet to find a good balance between running and throwing.
Driskel's best rushing game last season came against Vanderbilt. Driskel set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback when he ran for 177 yards and three scores.
However, Driskel had his worst passing day of the season in the same game. Driskel set lows in completion rating, yards, yards-per-attempt and quarterback rating against the Commodores.
Finding a balance of when to stay in the pocket, waiting for a play to develop or just simply using his athleticism to make a play will go a long way in Driskel's development as a quarterback.
The Gators would be foolish to not let Driskel run with the football, but the onus is on Driskel to have a better plan for what he is going to do with the football in different situations.
2. Pocket Presence
It's hard to feel comfortable in the pocket when your offensive lines plays as poorly as the Gators did in 2012.
Help for the offensive line is on the way, and Driskel should benefit from improved play from the unit.
Still, Driskel needs to develop a better pocket presence in 2013. Driskel struggled feeling pressure from his blindside and developed happy feet in the pocket. He needs to develop a better sense of feeling pressure and being able to step up in the pocket, step right or left or dip a shoulder to avoid the rush rather than just taking off on the ground.
Being comfortable and poised in the pocket will lead to Driskel throwing more sound, confident passes and will open up more running lanes for him and his running backs.
1. Play with Confidence
As much as Will Muschamp and the coaching staff told Driskel that the team was his, Jacoby Brissett was always looming in the background waiting for a chance to take Driskel's job.
With Brissett gone, the team is now truly Driskel's, and he should find a new confidence in being the unquestioned starter. After Driskel, the Gators don't have a quarterback on the roster who has attempted a pass at the collegiate level, so the safety net is gone.
Driskel has been given the keys to the program, and he can't afford to be scared or tentative in his junior season.