It is no secret that Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has a lot of work to do to become a better quarterback. The Gators finished last year ranked 118th in the country in passing yards, and the coaching staff is resorting to bizarre tactics to try to motivate Driskel and the other QBs.
The approach must be—do whatever it takes to get more production out of the position.
The coaches can pull out all of the stops, but it is up to the player to take that next step and improve. While most were quick to knock Driskel and his play, he does have talent and could develop into a solid quarterback in just his second full season as a starter.
Here are the main areas where Driskel must improve to reach elite status.
Talk with the Coaching Staff
Before pointing fingers at Driskel, the coaching staff deserves mention. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease came over from Boise State, where he had terrific success, and installed his pro-set offense, which worked well with Kellen Moore. But Driskel is not the same style quarterback.
Even though Moore had an awkward throwing motion, he could put the ball in the receiver's hands. Driskel struggles with accuracy at this point in his career. He's more of an athlete playing quarterback than a natural signal-caller..
With that being said, why haven't there been more designed runs for Driskel? He spent much of last season in a system that didn't quite fit him and wasn't built to take advantage of his athletic ability. He spent a lot of time in the shotgun formation, and the only time you would see him run was when the play broke down and he had an opening.
It wasn't until the last month of the season that Driskel was reaching double-digit rushing attempts a game on a consistent basis.
Here you see some of the best running quarterbacks from last year. Notice how all of them had more than 200 rushing attempts, while Driskel wasn't used nearly as much. The Florida quarterback has incredible size at 6'4", 247 pounds to carry the ball and could easily be thrown into the same category as some of those guys, but he isn't used the same way.
While those quarterbacks are put in a position to use their legs, Driskel is asked to make plays with his arm, which is clearly not his strength.
There's no need to throw the entire pro-set offense out the window and create a new offense just for Driskel. But Pease must install more formations that give Driskel the option to use his legs more. The read-option play above shows just how dangerous he can be with the ball in his hands—he just needs more opportunities to be aggressive.
Instead of trying to force a square peg in a round hole, Driskel should work closer with the coaching staff and help draw up more running plays that would make him more effective.
Read Progressions Quicker
Regardless of how Driskel is used this upcoming season, he will still be asked to play quarterback in the shotgun and make plays with his arm. The best way he can improve in that role is by learning to go through h his progressions quicker than he did a season ago.
Locking onto one receiver the entire play not only tips off the defensive backs, but it can result in sacks due to holding onto the ball longer than you should.
Some of those sack issues were addressed in this article, and a lot of that had to do with just trying to do too much. However, not making quicker reads and finding the open receiver in a timely manner didn't help matters.
Here, you see Driskel looking toward the right side of the field where he had two receivers running a route. Neither is open, but he is determined to throw the ball to one of them. You can clearly see that he does have another receiver at the top of the screen (circled), but Driskel is not going to look his way in time.
As the pocket is beginning to collapse, Driskel is still locking on to one of those two receivers and hasn't looked to the left side of the field whatsoever. Due to tipping off the play, the defensive backs have both receivers blanketed in coverage and Driskel has nowhere to go with the ball.
Driskel then decides to back out of the play and get what he can by running. The problem is that there aren't any running lanes available and the play results in a sack. This was not an issue due to poor offensive line play, it had more to do with a young quarterback not making quick reads or going through his proper progressions.
This is common with young quarterbacks, especially guys who have that instinct to take off and run the ball. Driskel only looked toward one side of the field—nothing was there—so he decided to bail out of the situation and get what he could with his legs.
As he gets more comfortable in the system, learns defenses, studies film and the game begins to slow down, Driskel should have little trouble looking at all of his receivers and making a better decision with the ball.
This has a lot to do with being comfortable in the pocket and resisting the urge to run so quickly. With a full offseason to calm down and learn the offense a little more, this is an area where Driskel should improve.
Once the junior quarterback is able to go through his progressions quicker than he did last year, everything else will begin to fall into place. The mistakes will be reduced, the accuracy should improve and the sack total (36) won't be as high.
Driskel has the tools to reach elite status. Now it is all about putting it together this upcoming season.
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