Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has been the man of the offseason. Everybody is wondering how he’s going to recover from last year’s injury, if he can adapt to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and if he is truly ready to turn the corner and lead the Gators through a tough SEC schedule. After last year, Florida fans' patience is running thin.
But nobody has mentioned reasonable expectations for the starting quarterback.
What do you expect from Driskel this season?
Florida has question marks for wide receivers, an offensive line with no depth and a young backfield that is likely going to be asked to grow up quickly. Driskel has thrown for only 2,271 yards and has 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his career.
Given the circumstances and what we know at this very moment, here are the reasonable expectations for the Gators' starting quarterback.
Rushing for 500 Yards
Honestly, this expectation may be a couple hundred yards short.
I expect Driskel and the Gators to run the ball a ton in this new offense. Last season, Roper ran the ball 544 times at Duke, which was good for fourth in the ACC. While this will eventually become more of a passing offense, Roper is likely to play to Driskel’s strengths early on and rely on them throughout the season simply because he’s a much better athlete than passer at this stage in his career.
For whatever reason, the offensive coordinators before Roper never used Driskel’s legs as much as they probably should have. Driskel has just seven career games with double-digit carries. Nick Marshall topped that last season alone, and Driskel is bigger than the sophomore at Auburn.
You can’t convince me that Driskel can’t be a top rushing quarterback in college football this season.
In an April interview with Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, Roper touched on Driskel’s strengths:
He has everything physically. He does have great size, but he can really run. He's a fast guy. He can start quickly. He can change direction. His top-end speed is really good for a quarterback. He has a really good arm. He's accurate. I like his throwing motion. It's fast-twitch. He possesses everything.
Notice he touched on his running ability before anything else. Driskel is extremely fast for his size and can break off multiple long runs in a single game. He ran the ball 118 times in 2012, and 28 of those touches produced 10 or more yards. There’s no reason not to allow him to call his own number more this season.
Driskel has a career high of 408 rushing yards. He should have no problem shattering that record with at least 500 yards. That would mark the most rushing yards from a Florida quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009.
Passing for 2,000 Yards and 15 Touchdowns
One of the main reasons Roper was hired is because he is prolific when it comes to the passing game. He likes to spread the field, throw it around and put up big numbers through the air. He’s the perfect coach for this era that seems to be breaking passing records left and right.
Let’s take a look at Roper’s passing numbers in the six seasons he was in the ACC:
|Duke's Passing Offense Under Kurt Roper|
The numbers to pay close attention to are the passing attempts, as Duke finished no less than third in the ACC in that department in Roper’s last five seasons. It’s clear Driskel is going to get plenty of chances to toss around the pigskin and should have little problem topping 300 passing attempts for the first time in his career. If he completes more than 60 percent of his passes like he has his last two seasons, a new career high in passing yards will be set.
Again, another number that may be a little low in the grand scheme of things, but we are talking about an offense that finished behind Texas State, Akron and Idaho last season. Florida could barely move the chains without tripping over its own shoelaces, so it simply wouldn’t be realistic to expect an outrageous season from a quarterback who hasn’t shown much in his first three years.
Is there potential to have a breakout season? Of course. Florida fans should also expect more given what they saw during the spring game. However, if everybody is being honest with themselves, a better and more efficient 2014 season from Driskel should be considered a success.