For the first time in nearly a year, a healthy Jeff Driskel will be the starting quarterback for the Florida Gators, and after all of the positive news coming out of camp, he’ll be the topic of conversation in this weekend’s game against the Idaho Vandals.
Driskel, who missed much of last season with a broken leg and has been an underachiever and a turnover machine for much of his career, has more than his coaching staff believing this year will be different. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports said Driskel will be the most improved player in the country and help save head coach Will Muschamp’s job.
So, what should Florida fans expect to see from the new and improved starting signal-caller in his first game?
While a game against an Idaho defense that allowed 46.8 points per game last season isn’t going to silence the critics completely, Driskel should finish this game without any turnovers. Last season, Driskel had three interceptions on just 61 pass attempts, and he’s averaging an interception per 34 pass attempts in his career. It doesn’t matter how much faster the offense is or how much the offensive line has improved, it’s tough to win games when the quarterback is completing passes to the other team.
Decision-making was one of the many areas Driskel has worked on during the offseason, and he’s improved, according to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.
"He’s making better decisions with the ball and more smart with it," safety Jabari Gorman said. "He’s seeing guys who are already open and making good decisions."
No turnovers regardless of the competition is a positive step moving into the next game.
Driskel should also be treating this game as an extra practice to perfect the tempo of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s offense. Florida’s coaching staff wants Driskel to get the ball out of his hands quickly and allow his teammates to make plays in space. They would also prefer to run each play at a much faster pace than last season but keep things under control as well, per Garry Smits of Jacksonville.com.
If we get it snapped with around 18 seconds on the play clock, we’re keeping a pretty good tempo," Roper said. "We don’t say, ‘let’s go 92 plays [in one game],’ If we execute, let’s score in two plays. We don’t talk about the number of plays or how fast. We want to look up and see points on the board.
There are certainly going to be wrinkles that still need to be ironed out, as nobody perfects a new offense in just one game. However, after all the praise Driskel has received this offseason and the lack of competition in the opening game, Florida fans should have fairly high expectations and expect to see a different quarterback than past years.
Given the circumstances, Driskel should have one of his better games of his career and begin the process of convincing everybody he has what it takes to lead Florida to a promising season.