Injuries are never a good thing but sometimes good things can come from them. It’s possible that Jeff Driskel’s injury could turn out to be the best thing for his career.
Shortly after Driskel’s fifth interception of the season, a pick-six against Tennessee, and before it was discovered he was seriously injured, I wondered aloud if Driskel and the Gator Nation needed a break from each other.
Driskel’s mistake was booed by the home crowd, shameful but it happens. His injury was cheered by some, which is inexcusable. However, the embattled Florida quarterback probably needed time away from this game, the fans and the pressure that was clearly getting to his head.
The irony is the same fans that booed Driskel (or cheered his injury) were probably among the ones that were so excited to see him take the field when he signed with the Gators in 2011. He was the nation’s top-rated quarterback coming out of Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida. Driskel had the physical talent that made him a natural comparison for Tim Tebow.
So it wasn’t surprising to see the sort of buzz surrounding Driskel when he arrived to Gainesville. And when he took his first snaps as a starter in 2012 many fans expected a wide-open spread offense with this dynamic dual-threat quarterback orchestrating the attack. Instead the fans got a lot of grind-em-out games with running back Mike Gillislee doing most of the damage.
Driskel proved to be an effective game manager most of the time but when he was asked to win the game with his arm, he failed against Georgia and Louisville. The struggles against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl have to stuck with Driskel in 2013. He was a tentative quarterback, completely uncomfortable in the pocket and unable to read pass rush.
Florida promised more downfield plays but through two games and one quarter it was much of the same. As good as Driskel’s physical talents are he has yet to figure out the mental toughness needed to survive in major college football. He worked hard this offseason to become a better passer but his work failed to show results early. Driskel’s development continues to be incomplete.
Now comes Driskel’s biggest challenge – waiting for another turn. His season is over. His career at Florida is at a crossroads. When he returns next season he’ll be battling Tyler Murphy, a fifth-year senior that will have eight games to make his mark, and Will Grier, the next big hotshot freshman QB to walk through Gainesville. If he can make his way back on the field, it will be due to the mental toughness he gained in these months while he was unable to play.
Last Week: 12-2
Around the State: Miami over USF, 27-8; South Carolina over UCF 31-23; FSU over Boston College, 45-21; Florida over Kentucky, 27-13; Rice over FAU, 30-27.
Around the Region: LSU over Georgia, 38-31; Alabama over Ole Miss, 30-21; Clemson over Wake Forest, 44-17; Texas A&M over Arkansas, 34-24
Elsewhere: Notre Dame over Oklahoma, 21-17; Ohio State over Wisconsin, 41-31; Oregon over California, 61-38; USC over Arizona State, 20-16; Washington over Arizona, 37-27.