The most important spring practice session in Will Muschamp's short tenure as the Florida head coach will come to a close on Saturday in the Orange and Blue Debut at "The Swamp" in Gainesville.
New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in to revitalize an offense that has been stagnant since former Gator Tim Tebow was taking snaps. Quarterback Jeff Driskel returns from a leg injury that cost him the final two-plus months of the 2013 season, and is finally in an offense that suits his dual-threat capabilities.
What does Roper and Muschamp need to see from Driskel and the rest of the Gator quarterbacks in the spring game on Saturday?
Can Driskel Stretch The Field?
Driskel has been rather efficient through his first three seasons in Gainesville, posting a career completion percentage of 62.9 percent (214-for-340).
Well, not really, because he's only passed for 2,271 yards—for a mediocre 6.7 yards per attempt average. For reference, that would have placed him 12th in the SEC last year among qualifying passers, according to CFBStats.com.
Florida has a stable of running backs and will likely evolve into more of a ground-and-pound spread team like Auburn was last year under Gus Malzahn rather than one that slings it all over the field. But for that to happen, Driskel has to keep defenses honest by stretching the field.
That means a guy like Demarcus Robinson, who was a hotshot recruit from 2013, will have to show that he's matured as a player and between the ears. He was suspended twice for a total of three games last year, but has been impressing the coaching staff this spring.
Whether it's Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood, Quinton Dunbar or somebody else, Driskel has to find a way to take the top off of the defense every once in a while to make sure the offense clicks the way Roper intends.
It's been clicking so far this spring.
“When you turn on the film you see a bunch of guys making big plays,’’ Driskel said according to GatorZone.com's Scott Carter. “It just gets guys really excited for this offense. I feel like it’s coming together pretty quickly."
We'll see on Saturday.
Will Driskel Make the Right Reads in the Running Game?
The majority of Florida's offense will come out of the shotgun, which is a whole new world for Driskel, who has been under center for the majority of his Florida career.
Just how much rust needs to be knocked off in the read option? Will that leg injury impact Driskel's decision-making?
Quarterbacks won't take hits during the spring game, but Roper will still run his offense. When the Gators run zone reads, keep an eye on Driskel. Is he properly reading the defensive end? Is Florida advanced enough in its offensive installation to run some zone reads off of the outside linebacker?
Don't worry about that leg injury, though, because Driskel is confident that he's back.
“I want to show them that I’m confident, that I didn’t let the Miami game or the injury take away from my confidence,’’ Driskel said according to Carter. “And I want to show everyone that I’m having fun out there playing the game.”
Is There a Viable Backup?
Driskel is the unquestioned starter at Florida, but let's be honest, he doesn't instill a ton of confidence based on his track record. He is set for a bounce-back season in this offense, but what if that doesn't happen?
Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg weren't ready for the big stage when they both got shots last year after Driskel went down. Mornhinweg is back, along with hot-shot early enrollee Will Grier. Grier, a former 4-star prospect, has the athletic ability to be a dual-threat but is a passer first.
Is he the future of the quarterback position in Gainesville?
He'll get a shot to impress the coaches and fans on spring's biggest stage.
The ideal scenario for Florida would be for both Mornhinweg and Grier to prove that they are viable backups and can win games. If that happens, Mornhinweg can be the backup that steps on the field in a pinch or in mop-up duty, and Grier could possibly redshirt unless the staff needs a long-term replacement for whatever reason.
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