It won’t be long before fall camp takes place for the Florida Gators, and quarterback is a position that everybody is going to be watching closely. Then again, quarterback almost always is the most-watched position regardless of the team.
The signal-caller can either make or break Florida’s success this season. After getting almost no production out of the offense a year ago, this position must improve by leaps and bounds if there’s going to be a major turnaround.
Florida’s starter is coming off a major injury and is now learning a new offense. The backup didn’t show much promise last season and is still fighting to hold that spot on the depth chart. Florida also has a couple of new faces who could make a splash if a few bounces go their way.
Here’s a look at Florida’s quarterback depth chart heading into fall camp.
QB 1, Jeff Driskel
Driskel will once again be the captain of the ship and must have his breakout season if Florida is going to turn things around from a year ago. He’s coming off a broken leg and has a lot of fans holding their breath given the fact he’s never quite fulfilled expectations. Driskel has 10 interceptions to 14 career passing touchdowns and was a turnover machine in the limited time he saw last season before suffering the injury.
The reason to be positive if you’re a Florida fan is Driskel will finally play in an offense suited for his skill set. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is going to mix things up, spread the field and give Driskel chances to run with the football. That’s something that has been missing from his game but is sure to be a key part this season.
Roper feels like Driskel is the perfect quarterback for his system and expects big things from him, according to Robbie Andreu of Gainesville.com:
'He's really talented,' Roper said of junior quarterback Jeff Driskel. 'I didn't get to see him much before I got here. I watched him in high school and knew he was heavily recruited and those things. I don't know that I was one of his choices, so now I get the luck of the draw here, I guess I should say.
'But that's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He's talented, folks. I mean we're sitting here talking about a guy that's really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It's not his first rodeo.
'I mean when we start talking coverages or fronts and how pressures are mirroring each other, he understands. So his eyes end up in the right places a lot right now.'
Driskel has improved his deep-ball accuracy, as he still leads receivers out of bounds. He also has to get more comfortable in the pocket and not get happy feet, which leads to a lot of his poor decisions with the football.
It’s no secret Driskel has the skill set to become a terrific quarterback for the Gators. The problem is the fans have been hearing that for the last three seasons and not much has happened. Fall camp will help prove whether or not he’s ready to take that next step.
QB 2, Skyler Mornhinweg
Mornhinweg left little to be desired as a backup quarterback last season. Yes, his completion percentage of 69.8 percent looks good on paper, and he did throw the only touchdown in the blowout loss against Florida State, but he looked lost much of the time out there and padded his stats on short dump passes. Mornhinweg didn’t look like a reliable backup quarterback in the limited time we saw him last year.
However, Mornhinweg was a top player in spring ball and did a nice job of solidifying his spot as the backup quarterback. He did a nice job of running the backup offense and even had an OK spring game as well.
Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports (subscription required) called Mornhinweg one of the most surprising players in spring practice:
After a rough 2013 season and a horrible opening practice to the spring, Mornhinweg went on to show marked improvement throughout spring practice. Even with Will Grier showing off a superior arm, Mornhinweg held onto the No. 2 job and looked competent running the second-team offense for the majority of the spring.
To be fair, Mornhinweg was thrown into the fire last season, and two of his three games were against elite defenses such as South Carolina and Florida State. Assuming he can continue to improve in practice, it looks like that little playing time has helped him get over the learning curve a bit.
Although hoping Driskel remains healthy is the safer option, as long as Mornhinweg continues to make positive strides, the coaching staff has to feel a lot more confident having him as the backup.
QB 3, Will Grier
Grier is the future of the Gators at the quarterback position and could see a redshirt if Mornhinweg continues to hold down the fort as the backup.
A 4-star recruit, Grier has everything you look for in a starting quarterback from the arm strength to the mental makeup of his game. He reads the field well, has great size at 6’3”, can make any throw on the field and even has a good deal of athleticism. If there wasn’t already an experienced quarterback on the roster, there would probably be no issue with throwing him on the field right away as a starter.
But despite the talent level, there’s pretty much no chance Grier sees the field this season as long as Driskel remains healthy. If another freak injury happens, well, all bets are off.