Driskel Needs to Become Super Sophomore or Else…

Back in the Gators heyday, ESPN’s College GameDay came calling three or four times a year. The anticipation for Herbstreit, Fowler and Corso pulsed through campus by Friday afternoon. The crowds gathered overnight and definitely by first light for a chance to hold signs and boo Corso’s picks at the top of our lungs. These days, though, the arrival of College GameDay brings me nothing but dread. Because it signifies a big game. And we don’t win big games anymore.

You used to want this. Not anymore.

During last week’s “win”, Gator Nation was rabid on Twitter with confusion, trepidation, disgust and venom. It was at about the halfway point of the first quarter when I tweeted that this team appeared to be pretty similar to last year’s team, which may or may not have been the worst team in Gators history. It was just too much of what we saw last season with penalties, missed tackles, lack of big plays, missed blocks and drops the few times receivers were actually open. I may have blacked out shortly after the pooch punt call where Jeff Driskel shanked one about 10 yards. The gnarly play calling was just too much for my body to take.

But after the game, Sonny Beam gave me his usual pep talk. I was being too hard and expecting too much. He said he had removed all expectations so therefore any win becomes something to celebrate. He said this is where we are now, Florida doesn’t deserve expectations. Strip it all down and start from scratch. Others took a different route, suggesting the Gators were holding back, not wanting to show Texas A&M anything.

Whatever you might believe, it is too early to know for sure just what we have with this Florida team. Mike Gillislee was finally freed and showed what Charlie Weis couldn’t see over his belly but that just about every member of Gator Nation knew last year – dude can play. To be honest, and I’m not sure if other Gators of my generation felt the same, Gilly reminded me a lot of Errict Rhett. They are the same size, both more powerful than they look between the tackles. Gillislee is faster and Rhett was a better receiver but close enough for me. Other bright spots included Caleb Sturgis and Jeff Christy, who again appear to be among the better players on the team. True freshman Dante Fowler showed some promise. The rest of the team was just too uneven to have stood out much.

With a trip to College Station just days away, the key to Florida’s linchpin game of the season will be Jeff Driskel. Many have speculated that Driskel won the job before the opener and I tend to believe that because it isn’t like he played that much better than Jacoby Brissett in the first half. Regardless, a decision needed to be made and the team had to move forward. So now it is Driskel’s team and he has to rise to the occasion. Can he?

The sophomore year has been a pretty good one for Gators quarterbacks over the years. Of course, Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007. His numbers were straight out of a video game – over 3,100 passing yards, almost 900 rushing yards, 55 total touchdowns. It was arguably the greatest statistical season in college football history.

Sophomore seasons don’t get much better than Tebow’s. No pressure, Jeff.

Before him, Chris Leak led the SEC in passing yards per game, total offense and TDs during his sophomore season in 2004. He had 31 total touchdowns, all while dodging the distractions of the end of the Ron Zook era. Really every way you look at it, Chris Leak has been underrated and under-appreciated by Gators fans.

Our Two Bits demands you respect the hell out of Chris Leak

They don’t compare to what Tebow later did, but Rex Grossman’s numbers his sophomore season were ridiculous. He led the nation in passing efficiency and pass completion percentage. He threw for almost 4,000 yards, including nine straight 300-yard games, and totaled 39 TDs. And in what was one of the closest votes in Heisman history, he finished second to the immortal Eric Crouch.

Sexy Rexy was a blast to watch.

Going way back, the original super sophomore was probably John Reaves. In 1969, Reaves teamed with classmate Carlos Alvarez to form one of the most potent passing duos in school and SEC history. That 1969 team may have been the best Gators team ever until the 1990s.

So why can’t Jeff Driskel follow in his predecessors footsteps and have a similar breakout sophomore season? The optimist can scream that he absolutely can. Driskel has all the tools to be successful. He was one of the top rated QBs coming out of high school two years ago. He should have a good offensive line and running game to compliment him. The pessimist? He’ll say all of the above mentioned guys gained substantial experience and playing time their freshmen seasons, except for Reaves. And perhaps that is the greatest factor of all in making the leap in the sophomore season.

Like or not, the 2012 season hinges on Jeff Driskel. Come Saturday, we’ll probably have our answer.

Here’s this week’s OTB Top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Southern Cal
3. Oregon
4. Oklahoma
5. Arkansas
6. LSU
7. Florida State
8. West Virginia
9. Georgia
10. Clemson
11. South Carolina
12. Michigan State
13. Wisconsin
14. Ohio State
15. Nebraska
16. Oklahoma State
17. Texas
18. Virginia Tech
19. Louisville
20. Michigan
21. TCU
22. Notre Dame
23. Kansas State
24. Florida
25. Washington

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4 Responses to Driskel Needs to Become Super Sophomore or Else…

  1. Rob says:

    Agree 100% to this article! I too thought we did not use Gilly the way we should last year. He and Rainey would’ve been a great one-two punch, with Raineys speed and Gillys power we probably could have won more games. That is the past though. I too agree we strip it all down. Tebow is gone, Urb is gone, and so is the rest of that class. I to think that we didn’t show much Saturday. I watched the game and I was mad because I am a die hard Gator fan, but I recorded it and watched it as a “coach” would do. I have watched it probably 4 times now, and we showed nothing. We established that we can run the ball a lot better than last year. As far as our QB, we will know Saturday, and the week after when we play a much improved UT team. I honestly believe we have the potential to beat any team we play. Call it optimism, bias, whatever you want to call it. But, if Brent Pease can take that Boise offense as far as he did for those years, he can take Florida just as far if not further. Remember Boise beat the SEC East champs last year when they played UGA. This week should be better with a more open offense, and if we can learn how to not jump offsides or get a false start every other play. The defense seems improved if anything at the corner position. Oh well enough of my “know it all” comment. Go Gators!

  2. Dan says:

    Time will tell, but this team’s receiving corps has not given us any indication that they have the talent or depth to allow Driskel to approach the numbers put up by Leak, Grossman or Reaves. Not to say the Gatrors can’t be successful this year (success = at least 9 wins and either a victory over Georgia or the SEC East Championship).

    • Sam McCorkle says:

      Excellent point about the receivers, might be more important than the experience factor.

      Tebow had Harvin, Bubba Caldwell, Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram. Grossman had Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and Taylor Jacobs. Reaves had Alvarez.

      Leak was most comparable to what Driskel has with OJ Small and young Caldwell, Chad Jackson and Dallas Baker.

  3. Fan says:

    Watkins showed me something,we saw nothing no motions nothing,wouldnt bet the sky or put to much into a preseason game.Tenn should give us a good comparison.Until then I still support Champ and Foley.

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