As many spectacular plays as Jeff Driskel made last season with both his feet and his arm, there were many times when his inexperience as a quarterback and a team leader were quite obvious. Often, he held on to the football too long or overthrew an open receiver downfield. If the Gators want to take the next step in 2013, it is clear that Driskel needs to bring his game to another level.
The good news for Gator fans is that Driskel's head coach, Will Muschamp, has noticed significant improvements in the junior signal-caller's performance throughout spring practice.
Those are certainly strong words from the head Gator.
Defensive end Dante Fowler echoed the positive candor of Muschamp by telling the Sentinel, "He looks really comfortable. I was just watching film [Tuesday,] and he made a beautiful throw. He's doing really good."
These noticeably positive reviews of Driskel are music to the ears of Gator fans. Despite leading the team to a BCS bowl last season, he had drawn considerable ire from a few members of Gator Nation, especially after the team's drubbing in the Sugar Bowl.
Of course, it is easy to forget that Driskel had no clue he would be the starting quarterback until the Gators' season opener against Bowling Green. He had split all practice reps with fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett during spring and fall camp.
Now that he has gone through an entire spring as the established leader of the offense, however, Driskel has become much more familiar with Brent Pease's system.
"Just watching practice and seeing where he has taken the balls," Muschamp remarked. "But again, another year in the system, second year starting, understands where he's protected, where he needs to go with the ball against certain looks."
Perhaps the only problem for Driskel at the moment is the health of his offensive line. This unit has been decimated by injuries, leaving the Gators with no choice but to alter the format of their spring game.
On a more positive note, Driskel may actually have dependable receivers on his side during the 2013 season. Quinton Dunbar has quietly emerged as the top target, and freshman Demarcus Robinson has made early strides. Even cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy has shown promise while catching passes from Driskel.
Ultimately, however, Driskel is the key piece of the puzzle. He took too many sacks last season, which resulted in a multitude of stalled drives. Based on the comments of Muschamp, Driskel is making better reads and getting the ball to wherever it needs to go. If he can do this and continue to limit turnovers, the sky is the limit for the Gator offense.
With his dual-threat capabilities and a renewed confidence in himself, Driskel looks poised to break out as a star SEC quarterback. Well, at least Will Muschamp is confident that this will be the case.
If Driskel continues to perform like he did during the past month, his boss will not have to worry once college football returns to the Swamp.