Jeff Driskel, as we are all well aware of, has been the most highly criticized quarterback in the Southeastern Conference the last 3 years. Even after helping lead the 2012 Gators to an 11-1 regular season record and a BCS Bowl game appearance.
His struggles have been well documented and analyzed by many. But the question is, have they been fairly criticized with actual merit?
My answer is: YES.
Let me first start off by qualifying myself. I played football growing up, starting at age 5. Played quarterback and wide receiver in high school. I have coached youth football on and off for the last 4 years. My father was a quarterback in high school and state champion his senior year. My father put a football in my hand in my crib when I was several weeks old (that is a true statement). I have broken down game film of quarterbacks and have studied the position since I was a youth.
With that being said……
I ask you to rewind to both the Alabama game on Saturday and the Kentucky game from 2 weeks ago.
There are 3 things that quarterbacks should have running through their minds after each snap.
- A mental clock on when to get rid of the ball before the pass rush arrives
- The progression of receivers that will be running routes on the play (usually by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and checkdown options)
- The route patterns of each receiver on the play
One thing I notice with Driskel is, he struggles to find his 3rd option or beyond when going through his progressions. Very rarely will a defense be so bad that your first option is open on every play. If you break down game tape of the last game, it is very clear to see Driskel forcing the ball into his first or 2nd progression when his 3rd or 4th option is visibly wide open. Could it be nerves (especially after the gruesome injury he suffered last year)? Of course it can be. But I have also noticed that problem previous to his injury.
Driskel has a bad habit of staring down his receivers on many plays. Defensive backs feast on quarterbacks with that trait. It is a tell that they will recognize in film study and abuse it when it comes time for the game. On 1 of Driskel’s 2 interceptions on Saturday, he stared at his receiver for 20 yards before he threw it. And then the ball was intercepted by Alabama’s Landon Collins.
Driskel also has a lack of “feel for pressure” in the pocket. When Kentucky’s defensive line was coming at him, I noticed 3 times where he was inches away from having been stripped in his throwing motion. And this has been a problem of his for several years. Most quarterbacks can “sense” pressure from their blindside and can instinctively shuffle their feet to avoid the oncoming pressure or “escape the pocket”. This is where I believe Driskel needs to adjust his mental clock. He needs to count the play off in his mind and “sense the pressure” to avoid costly turnovers and/or sacks.
Fortunately the Gators offensive line was one of the few bright spots on Saturday or Driskel could have had several more turnovers.
Now without sounding like I am being a “Driskel basher”, do I think these issues can be corrected? Yes, of course. But I am concerned about if they actually will be corrected considering Driskel is in his 4th year at Florida and has showcased these blunders for a bulk of those 4 years.
Now, to get to my point.
If Driskel feels pressure from behind him and knows his job is not safe for the remainder of the season….
One of two things will happen…
Either he will adjust accordingly and should improvement or he will fold as he is expected to do and then Gator Nation can move on from him.
Let me clear my stance up a little…
Do I believe behind Driskel is Superman? NO. Do I believe it is the “savior of Florida Football”? NO. Do I believe it is the second coming of Timothy Richard Tebow? HECK NO. It might not even be an improvement. But what it is, is a change.
A change that could spark a team that has great potential if coached properly. the talent on this Florida roster is being wasted with each pathetic performance. If true freshman Treon Harris can come and provide a spark for this talented young team, then that is what is needed. Clemson was putting along with veteran QB Cole Stoudt against conference rival Florida State on Saturday night. But then enter freshman phenom Deshaun Watson and the Tigers looked like a different team. They were energized, they believed and nearly won if not for their head coach making a huge blunder in overtime (but that is a different story).
I am rooting for Jeff Driskel! Trust me, I am! When he was selected to start over Jacoby Brissett in 2012 (which angered many fans and players according to reports) I was excited. I was one of the lone voices at that time showing my support for Driskel. But let me be honest, I feel burned a little bit. I stuck up for a kid that I had high hopes for and most did at one time. But over the last 2 years, I have seen nothing to warrant improvement. I have seen the same mistakes, the same bad decisions, the same Jeff Driskel.