GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease couldn’t be more pleased with the way sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel has progressed in only three starts.
Especially in the area in which young quarterbacks often struggle: pocket awareness.
“One of the things I think he’s done a great job of is just his comfort zone in the pocket,” Pease said, explaining part of why Driskel appears built to perform as UF's starting quarterback. “Trusting the protection, then starting to use his feet when he has to. He hasn’t mastered it by any means, but he’s gotten a lot better at it on a week-to-week basis.”
Driskel was sacked eight times in Florida's victory at Texas A&M, and Gators coach Will Muschamp said five of those were Driskel’s fault. He ran out of bounds several times instead of throwing away the ball.
Driskel has been sacked only three times in the two games since. Against Tennessee, he showed how quick a learner he can be -- whipping a 17-yard pass to Solomon Patton just before he ran out of bounds. It was a scramble play, the same situation in which he had run out of bounds against A&M.
When Driskel scrambled against Kentucky on Sept. 22, he did so with his eyes down the field. When the play broke down he was thinking pass first, run second -- something rare for a young dual-threat quarterback, in Pease's opinion.
“... Sometimes they get a little skittish in there and want to get out of there,” Pease said. “He’s starting to develop as a passer as well as knowing he’s got his strength is in his feet that he can do something with, too.”
The 6-foot-4, 237-pound Driskel has completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns with only one interception. In scramble drills, he works on keeping his eyes down the field. But his improvement in that area doesn’t mean he’s not going to take off if the opportunity presents itself.
“I’m not watching the rush,” Driskel said. “If you get caught watching the rush you’re never going to be able to find your receiver on time. If you look down at the rush and then look up at the receiver you’re going to be late and throwing into bad windows.”
Driskel will have his toughest test of the season Saturday against LSU. The Tigers are giving up just 217.8 total yards per game and only 134.8 yards per game passing. It’ll be his chance to prove himself against one of the nation’s top defenses.
Pease believes he will prove himself. The coach wouldn’t normally be that confident about a quarterback in his fourth start, but Driskel’s progression has been quicker than Pease had hoped.
“Some of the guys I’ve worked with, he’s ahead of what they’ve done on a week-to-week basis,” Pease said. “Sometimes it’s maybe right on par. I don’t think he’s behind anybody. Each week he’s done a better job. You ask him this week, he’ll go back and say, ‘I missed a few things. There were a few things I could have done better.’
“That’s just part of the learning curve. Nobody’s perfect. He’s learning that, too.”