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Florida Football: How the Gators Can Help Jeff Driskel Become an Elite QB

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Jeff Driskel #6 of the Florida Gators and Mike Gillislee #23 of the Florida Gators run a play during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Randy ChambersAnalyst IMarch 7, 2014

The quarterback discussion has been a touchy one for Florida Gator fans the last two seasons. Jeff Driskel has shown periods of promise, and then there were the moments that made you look up if Tim Tebow had another year of eligibility.

Driskel had less positives than negatives last season before getting hurt in his third game, and to be fair, he wasn’t even the greatest quarterback this program has seen in 2012, when the Gators made a surprising run to the BCS Sugar Bowl.

But whether or not Florida fans would like to admit it, Driskel does have potential and still can be that guy who gets this program back on the mountain top. There’s a new offensive coordinator in Kurt Roper running the show, and this is finally Driskel’s chance to prove he’s much better than the picture his critics paint.

So, as spring practice gets underway, here’s a couple of things the coaching staff can do to get the ball rolling.

 

Run the Ball, Please

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 16:  Kelvin Taylor #21 of the Florida Gators celebrates after scoring a touchdown during their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streete
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Despite Driskel’s 63.7 completion percentage in 2012 and his 68.9 completion percentage in two and a half games last year, it’s safe to say he isn’t the most accurate quarterback. He doesn’t have the greatest arm, he hesitates with his throws and he would rather make plays with his legs more times than not.

Jeff Driskel Throws-Per-Down Last Season
DownPass AttemptsYardsTouchdownsInterceptions
First24205OneZero
Second18180ZeroZero
Third1992OneThree
FourthZeroZeroZeroZero
CFB Stats

With pretty much the whole world knowing this, why in the world did he have more pass attempts on first down than any other down last season? Granted, this was only in three games, but that’s almost 40 percent of his throws attempted on first down.

Think it's a coincidence all three of his interceptions came on third down? 

Asking Driskel to make plays on the most important down with his arm consistently does nothing but sabotage the drive. More times than not it’s going to put the offense in second- or third-and-long, which then puts more pressure on Driskel, which then usually results in a punt or a turnover. The goal is to make the quarterback comfortable and create manageable situations when third down arrives.

Florida has a talented running back in Kelvin Taylor and a plethora of experienced runners behind him. They’re more than capable of getting the job done, and they should be the guys counted on to get the four to five yards on first down to help keep the chains moving.

In order for Driskel to be a more effective quarterback, it starts with making him more of a game manager rather than somebody who carries the offense for 60 minutes.

 

Let Driskel be Driskel

Now that Driskel is feeling a little more comfortable in the pocket, it’s time to let the lion out of his cage. Driskel may not be the second coming of Peyton Manning, but he’s without question one of the most athletic and fastest quarterbacks in the country. And there’s no taking that away from him.

The problem is Driskel didn’t run as much as he should have and wasn’t used properly. He ran only 17 times last year and only 118 times in 2012. Sure, the last number may sound like a lot, but Johnny Manziel ran 144 times last season. Jordan Lynch pounded the rock 292 times. Nick Marshall? How about 172 rushes, and there were some games where he barely even played.

The point is, when you have a talented dual-threat quarterback, use him.

But it’s not just the lack of running plays called, it’s the lack of designs being created. Driskel needs to run the zone read, the same play that has taken over the sport by storm. When he ran the zone-read offense six times against Vanderbilt, he shattered a school record with 177 rushing yards, which were the most by a quarterback. The problem is he only ran the zone read nine times in the previous five games, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Roper is a creative offensive coordinator who wants to spread the defense out, throw in the no-huddle and use, wait for it, the zone read once in a while. With Driskel’s athleticism and pure speed in the open field, this will not only make him a more effective playmaker, but it will also make throwing the ball easier due to passing lanes opening up.

The more Driskel runs the ball, the better off he and the Gators offense will be this season. In fact, it appears the key to the offensive success has more to do with the running game than the passing game.

Maybe Driskel wasn’t the problem all along.

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