Projections for Jeff Driskel's Junior Season
The Gators entered the 2012 season still unsure of who would be their quarterback in the following months. After splitting time under center with Jacoby Brissett in the opener against Bowling Green, Jeff Driskel emerged as the better option and took his position as Florida's gunslinger. From a team standpoint, Driskel's sophomore campaign was a huge success; he took over a mediocre 7-6 football team and led it to a Sugar Bowl appearance. It was one of the most unexpected runs in college football last season.
In terms of numbers, however, there was nothing special about his season. He ended up with only 1,646 passing yards and 16 total touchdowns. In this regard, he was easily overshadowed by fellow SEC quarterbacks Johhny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray.
As the 2013 season approaches, I expect to see improvement from Driskel in a variety of statistical categories. The Gators will be relying on this improvement, as they will likely need to score more points next season in order to win games.
Here is a breakdown of how Jeff Driskel will fare offensively this upcoming season.
Last season: 63.7%
2013 projection: 65.5%
Many young quarterbacks struggle with accuracy during their first year at the helm of an offense. Although Driskel struggled on occasion in 2012, his accuracy was solid for the most part.
The numbers, however, can be a bit deceiving. A big reason why Driskel's completion percentage remained relatively high was that many of his passes were safe throws for short gains. A key example was the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Driskel completed 81 percent of his throws in that contest, but he only ended up with 98 yards. This means that 12 of his completions in that game resulted in only 68 passing yards.
Numbers like that will not cut it this fall.
Because he will be asked to take more chances with deep passes, I do not expect Driskel's completion percentage to significantly rise. However, he should improve as an overall passer.
Last season: 1,646
2013 projection: 2,300
It is no secret that Will Muschamp and Brent Pease like to run the football. With Matt Jones returning and ESPN 5-star recruit Kelvin Taylor joining the Gators next season, this plan should remain intact.
However, Driskel will have his opportunities to throw the ball and do so with greater efficiency. Therefore, I think he will hover around the 2,300-yard plateau in terms of passing yardage.
Obviously, he is not going to put up ridiculous numbers as a result of Florida's offensive scheme. Still, the Gator offense needs to be more dynamic than it was last season. This means that Driskel will be able to make a bigger impact with his arm on more occasions than he did in 2012. With a talented group of young receivers coming to Gainesville, this becomes all the more apparent.
Driskel will not put up anywhere close to 3,000 yards because it simply is not necessary. However, I think it is safe to expect a nice increase over his 2012 total.
Last season: 408
2013 projection: 400
After a full offseason of reps with the first-team offense and time to refine his mechanics, Driskel should make the transformation from nervous scrambler to great pocket passer. That means his running ability should take a backseat to his arm next season.
Even though he should be less inclined to take off and run, Driskel's yardage total should be nearly equal to what it was last season. This is mainly because Driskel should take fewer sacks next season. Because yards lost on sacks count towards a quarterback's rushing total, his total of 408 yards last season was actually not a good indicator of how much he helped the Gators on the run.
However, taking 36 sacks is not the formula for success, especially for a quarterback who takes hits after scrambling downfield.
As fast as Driskel is when he reaches top speed, Pease cannot risk his health by having him repeatedly run bootlegs. Look for Driskel to stay in the pocket, make good reads and deliver solid passes. This should cut down on the hits he takes and keep his rushing total similar to that of last season.
Last season: 16
2013 projection: 23
Jeff Driskel is a special quarterback in that he can find a receiver in the end zone or take matters into his own hands and run for a score. Last season, he had four rushing touchdowns, including three against Vanderbilt. While I believe this number will be nearly the same in 2013, his number of passing touchdowns should increase and lead to a larger amount of total touchdowns.
Driskel does not have the raw explosiveness needed to accumulate 30 touchdowns in a single season. In addition, his tendency to take off and run puts him at an immediate injury risk. This in itself makes him no threat of being an overworked contributor to the offense.
More importantly, Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor will be the primary goal line options next season. This will take away a few potential touchdowns from Driskel.
Despite all of this, Driskel will be a more productive offensive weapon next season. I think a total of about 23 touchdowns can be expected, but a number closer to 30 is not completely out of the question.
Last season: 5
2013 Projection: 8
In my opinion, the most pleasant surprise from Jeff Driskel last season was his lack of interceptions. He made it through an entire SEC season and a BCS bowl with only five picks. If he can repeat that mark in 2013, the Gators will be right in the thick of things.
Of course, there are a couple of factors working against a repeat performance.
First off, Driskel will simply be attempting more passes next season. It will be his third year in the offense and his second as the man in charge. Brent Pease should be more willing to go to Driskel at all points during a game, especially in the first quarter. This will lead to more pass attempts, and common sense would dictate that more interceptions will follow as a result.
In addition to throwing more passes, he will likely face a greater degree of difficulty. If this offense wants to move the ball, it needs to have a viable intermediate and deep passing game. This means that Driskel will not see as many "safety" passes of fewer than 10 yards, especially since Jordan Reed is now gone. He will have to look for options downfield, and the risk of throwing an interception will be greater with these deeper routes.
Still, Driskel was pretty responsible with the football last season; I do not expect that to change drastically. However, a mark of five or fewer picks is not going to happen.
The biggest key for Driskel next season is whether or not he can put together four quarters of solid football.
There should be no doubts about his clutch gene. He led the Gators to second-half comebacks over Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Florida State. The biggest challenge for Driskel was starting strong. Too often, the Gators were forced to play from behind. As they learned against Georgia and Louisville, this can only happen so many times before it results in a loss.
If Driskel can play clean football for four quarters and limit hits in the backfield, there is no reason why his numbers should not improve next season. He will not light up the stat sheet like some of his fellow SEC competitors, but he should show marked improvement and keep Florida in contention every week.
Tyler Piccotti is a Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. Read more of his work by clicking here.