Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel underwent an emergency appendectomy last week, sidelining him for the first couple of weeks of fall camp.
That's certainly not the ideal situation for head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who need to find answers in the passing game after the Gators finished last in the SEC in passing offense in 2012 with 146.3 yards per game.
The silver lining is that primary backup Tyler Murphy will get the majority of first-team snaps in his absence. With a dual-threat quarterback like Driskel as the No. 1, you never know when the backup will need to come in for a play or two if Driskel takes a big hit.
However, Driskel's short absence should be a little more concerning for Gators fans given Muschamp's stated schedule for determining how his wide receiving corps will shake out.
Florida enters fall camp with wide receivers Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar, Solomon Patton, Latroy Pittman, Raphael Andrades and early-enrollee Demarcus Robinson jockeying for position at the X and Z spots, with veteran multi-purpose receiver Trey Burton at flanker.
Burton's spot is secure, but the rest of that group, along with several talented freshmen including Ahmad Fulwood and Alvin Bailey, have a rather large shadow looming over their heads during the start of camp.
Starting defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy worked with the wide receivers at times during spring practice and will do so again this fall, based on what Muschamp said at SEC Media Days in July:
He will be on defense for the first 12-14 practices. We need to find out what the new guys can do. Loucheiz is going to have a role on offense. How much is going to depend on how some of the new wide receivers progress, and how some of the younger guys at cornerback progress to build depth.
So, for at least part of that audition period, the wide receivers will be working with Murphy instead of Driskel.
All of a sudden, Driskel's absence is a bigger deal because the coaching staff won't get as much of a glimpse of its receivers with Driskel as initially anticipated.
Great route-runners are great route-runners. Possession receivers have good hands no matter who's throwing the ball, and the same goes for guys with 4.4 speed. But part of what makes a good wide receiver is developing chemistry with the quarterback, and nobody on the Florida roster has proven that they have that downfield.
Driskel finished 11th in the SEC in passing plays of 20 or more yards with 22, and only completed four passes of 40 or more yards—tied for 12th in the conference with South Carolina backup Dylan Thompson.
Florida's battle at wide receiver is going to go on all the way through fall camp and perhaps even into Week 1 versus Toledo. That was the most likely outcome no matter what.
With Driskel missing up to two weeks of fall camp, it's going to be even more difficult for the coaching staff to gauge the progress of the wide receivers.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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