GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Jeff Driskel #16 of the Florida Gators runs for yardage during a game against the UAB Blazers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Scouting Report is a series that will run through the rest of the Florida football season, spotlighting players who could have major impacts on the Gators' games. It will run on Fridays.
The thing to know about Jeff Driskel (Fr. QB) is this: Could be. Driskel could be the next great Florida quarterback, could be the next Tim Tebow, could be a better passer than any Florida quarterback since Danny Wuerffel, could be some unholy mix of the above.
But given that he's all but certain to start for the Gators at No. 1 LSU on Saturday, he could be nothing more than a memory by Sunday, a smear on the Tiger Stadium grass Les Miles loves so much. Driskel could be fantastic at some point in his career, but he could not be in a worse situation for his first collegiate start.
Driskel's got a very good arm — some say it's the best of Florida's quarterbacks, others have put Jacoby Brissett's a notch ahead. Either way, Driskel has the arm strength to make every throw he is asked to make, and has the confidence in his arm to try fitting throws into windows that are very, very small. That arm strength is certainly at least on par with Tebow's, and may be the best for a Florida starting quarterback since Rex Grossman. (Cam Newton, of course, would have the strongest arm since Grossman for a Florida quarterback.)
Driskel also has the frame of an NFL quarterback as an 18-year-old: Listed at 6'4" and 235 pounds, Driskel can see the field from the pocket and take hits if necessary. His height's probably not a fabrication, either: I'm between 6'3" and 6'4", and I was about Driskel's height when I walked by him last month.
But it's the athleticism and mobility that Driskel possesses that made him such a tantalizing recruit. According to GatorZone's Scott Carter, Driskel runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and "can dunk a basketball from a standstill wearing flip-flops." That's the sort of athleticism that allows a quarterback to do things like this.
Of course, it's bad news that the best highlight reel for any team's starting quarterback is from a high school all-star game. Driskel's been on the field very briefly for the Gators this season, and always in relief of Brantley. He has completed seven of 16 passes for 73 yards, throwing two interceptions. Driskel also has 12 carries for 26 yards; without a 31-yard scamper against Alabama that brought back vivid memories of Tebow, he would have negative yardage as a runner in 2011. Clearly, Driskel is a work in progress.
The leadership qualities Driskel has have sort of yet to be seen, but virtually any person who covered his Hagerty High School team came away impressed by Driskel's ability to make the most of meager talent. Driskel led the Class 5A Huskies to their first winning season in their fourth year of existence, and did it without the sort of talent most other Florida schools have.
Driskel's mechanics and patience in the pocket need some work. But his instincts as a runner are incredible, as you can see in the video above, and he could be a dual-threat quarterback in any option system.
In Florida's Offense
Driskel's likely going to be asked to run modified version of Charlie Weis' pro-style offense as a freshman. Florida doesn't quite have the personnel to run an Oregon-style spread option/zone read offense, and probably doesn't trust Driskel to do that, so the happy medium between maximizing Driskel's talents and distributing the ball to Florida's playmakers will likely be additional use of rollouts and bootlegs.
That said, Driskel can certainly do most of what Brantley has been asked to do; he's just not nearly as refined a passer and doesn't yet have the patience necessary to go through a progression and settle for the good play instead of the game-breaker.
Projection Vs. LSU
Those rollouts and bootlegs will be helpful for the Florida offense: Moving the pocket and forcing LSU to play containment instead of blitzing to a spot might give Driskel more time to make plays. But it's hard to see Driskel's game against LSU not fitting into a couple of outcomes.
First, the Gators could choose to run a run-heavy offense, reducing Driskel's responsibilities to third-down passing. Driskel throwing for fewer than 150 yards is a distinct possibility in this scenario, especially if Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps can run for 200 yards combined.
Second, and more likely, Florida could head into Tiger Stadium looking to leave no playbook page unturned, and give Driskel all the authority that Brantley has. It's a pretty safe bet that Driskel would throw for 200 or more yards in that scenario, but it's also likely that he'll throw at least one interception. Driskel's arm isn't strong enough to make every gamble work against LSU — because maybe three or four quarterbacks playing football have that sort of arm strength — and his touch isn't good enough to make the inevitable throw over the middle perfect.
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