AUBURN, Ala. – Jeff Driskel was a blue-chip quarterback prospect, recruited by Urban Meyer, who envisioned Driskel as the next Tim Tebow. Of course, Tebow was king of the collegiate spread, and also a disciple of current Auburn offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s at Florida in 2009.
In late April 2010, Driskel committed to Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and none other than Loeffler. (Yes, this ties back into Auburn. Stay with me.)
Since then, Florida has brought in new head coach Will Muschamp and made two changes at offensive coordinator, with Charlie Weis in and out after a disappointing 2011.
In 2010, Florida’s last year of Meyer and the spread (and Driskel’s senior year of high school), the Gators went 8-5 with an Outback Bowl victory, averaging 29.8 points and ranking 83rd in national offense.
In 2011, Florida’s first year with Muschamp in a transition to pro-style (after Addazio had accepted the head coaching job at Temple and taken Loeffler with him), the Gators went 7-6 with a Gator Bowl victory, dropping to 25.5 points and 105th in national offense.
Now? With uber-efficient Driskel at the helm under the tutelage of former Boise State architect Brent Pease, Florida’s up to 27.2 points, ranked fourth in the country at 5-0, and while the Gators still languish in total offense ranking 89th, Driskel has a higher QB rating (151.6) than John Brantley had the previous two years.
Not bad for a guy who was supposed to run spread.
I asked Muschamp how he’s done it on Wednesday’s SEC conference call.
“Jeff’s very bright. He’s able to assimilate things from what this is what we used to call, this is what we call now’,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp gives Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis much credit, as well as holdovers Brian White (running backs) and Derek Lewis (tight ends) for seamlessly blending old methods with new terminology.
“There’s not so much change for the players,” Muschamp said. “I’ve been in this situation of being a new coordinator when I was at Auburn and Texas of inheriting a staff. You can either ask one guy to learn some terminology, as opposed to asking 40 kids to learn it. Hats off to Brent and those guys for adapting some things to what has been set in place, but also changing our culture offensively.”
Muschamp remembers everything clicking around the third day of fall camp, when he knew Pease had something special with this offense.
“Sometimes, it takes a little time, maybe longer than others, when those things start to happen,” Muschamp said. “We’re a year older, we’re more mature, we’re a stronger group from the weight room than we were a year ago. We had a talented team last year, but a young team. We’ve been able to stay injury-free at some key positions. I think they’ve seen the mentality I want on this football team and what I want for the organization.”
The glass is half-full: Florida struggled at first with a new system, and it just took until the 2nd year for spread-happy players to grasp a pro style.
The glass is half-empty: excuses that true sophomore Kiehl Frazier, notoriously a spread option QB, doesn’t sprechen sie de pro-style under Loeffler are invalid, because true sophomore Driskel’s doing just fine when he’s been asked to convert in roughly the same fashion.