Healthy Jeff Driskel helps Gators open up spring game
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Driskel wore tan flip flops and blue basketball shorts following Florida’s spring game. His calm demeanor contrasted with the frenzied offense that the Gators unveiled on Saturday in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Driskel finished 18 of 32 for 167 yards with a 31-yard touchdown to Demarcus Robinson for his first game action since suffering a broken leg against Tennessee last season. He took every snap from shotgun completing passes to eight different receivers in the 23-23 tie between the orange and blue teams. Florida hired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in December to improve an offense that finished its last three seasons nationally ranked in the triple digits.
The Gators had all four of their touchdown drives last less than four minutes departing from the ball-control clock-eating offense that characterized coach Will Muschamp’s first three seasons.
"As a quarterback, when you’re in a no huddle type of deal you can really get in a rhythm," Driskel said. "When you start getting completion after completion, it builds your confidence and gets you in a rhythm that sometimes it’s tough for the defense to break you of."
Florida played in front of an announced crowd of 35,834 that saw the two offenses rack up 36 points and 414 yards in the first half. Driskel completed 11 of his 18 passes after starting the game missing four of his first seven.
The redshirt junior threw several out routes to the sidelines. He found redshirt senior receiver Quinton Dunbar on an out across the field during Florida’s two-minute drill to end the half.
"In our defense, we try to squeeze the middle of the field and force the ball to be thrown outside," Muschamp said. "You can probably count on one hand the number of quarterbacks in college football who are going to consistently beat you with field outs, and he threw a couple today. They were well-thrown balls."
Driskel didn’t face Florida’s best cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. who sat the game out to prevent injury. Backups Skyler Mornhinweg and highly-touted freshman Will Grier completed 22 of 33 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a first-quarter interception in Grier’s first drive.
Besides Driskel, other bright spots included kicker Austin Hardin, who went 4 of 12 in 2013, drilling all four of his attempts and Trenton Brown who played a productive right guard in his first game there since shifting inside this spring.
Muschamp consulted with Archie Manning in the offseason to find out how Roper developed future No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning as offensive coordinator at Mississippi. So far so good for the Gators who have away games next year at Alabama, at Tennessee and at Florida State. Driskel has a handle on Roper’s system that generated 111 plays on Saturday.
"I’ve gotten more experience and more confidence. I think that comes with playing more football. I’m really seeing the field well right now," Driskel said. "It’s allowing the game to slow down for me."