Muschamp pleased with Driskel's offseason progress
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.
TAMPA — Florida's passing offense plodded last season. The first steps of progress, UF coach Will Muschamp said, start with Jeff Driskel's offseason development.
“It's huge, not just from the standpoint of Jeff. Obviously, the quarterback position is key — him continuing to mature and grow in the role of being quarterback at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said Thursday while addressing the media before an appearance at the Tampa and Pinellas Gator Clubs.
“Again, I've been nothing but pleased to this point of how he's attacked the offseason mentally and how he's worked.”
Florida, 11-2 last season, averaged 146.3 passing yards per game, which ranked 13th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference. Driskel, a first-year starter, threw for an average of 137.2 yards a game, productivity that the Gators' coaches hope will improve with additional self-evaluation.
“It's watching film, it's understanding schematically where to take the ball, (understanding) where you're protected,” Muschamp said. “The film study, the mental repetition is so vital for all players, but especially as cerebral as the (quarterback) position can be, that's vital.
“Then you go into where coaches can't be around (in the offseason). Now you've got a guy that's taking an entire offense and an entire team on the field and going through a player-run practice. Those are things to me where his growth and importance of his role on our football team is so critical.”
Although Driskel will be counted on to improve his passing, Florida once again will likely rely on its running game. Gone is Mike Gillislee (1,152 yards, 10 touchdowns), the Gators' leading rusher last season. His expected successor is sophomore Matt Jones, who amassed 275 yards on 52 carries as a freshman.
“He will have a huge role next season,” Muschamp said. “He attacked the offseason. He's up over 230 pounds. He looks great. He's got great endurance. He really had an outstanding spring practice. I was really pleased with his performance.”
The potential of Florida's receivers is still uncertain. Tight end Jordan Reed was UF's top pass catcher (45 catches, 559 yards), but Muschamp feels confident others — veterans and newcomers — can pitch in enough to offset Reed's departure to the Washington Redskins.
“Quinton Dunbar, as I've said before, is as improved a player as we had on our roster last season,” Muschamp said. “From Game 1 to Game 12, the guy took some steps. (Freshman) Demarcus Robinson is the right guy to be coaching. Watching when was healthy, even when he was hurt, he did some really good things. He's got really good body control. He's got really good ball skills. He's got vertical speed. He's a tough match, because he's a bigger receiver. He's a strong guy. Latroy Pittman's done some nice things. … Andre Debose just needs to be more consistent, but did that through most of spring. We're looking forward to seeing some things. Hopefully, he can give us positive production. Again, I saw positive signs with each one of those guys.”
The Tampa stop was Muschamp's second Gator Club appearance this spring. He said he feels more at ease than in the past, because he's more confident in his team and the direction of the program as he prepares for his third season with the Gators.
“I don't know if there's any one thing that you put your finger on and say, ‘This is it,'” Muschamp said. “I really don't. I think that there's different challenges in any situation you go into, different things that present themselves.”
Some questioned Muschamp's lack of head coaching experience when he got the Florida job in December 2010, but the former Texas defensive coordinator doesn't regret his career path.
“Every job is different,” Muschamp said. “Just because you've been a head coach before doesn't mean you're going to be successful here. I get frustrated when I see retread head coaches, and the athletic director hires him because he has head coaching experience. What does that mean? At the end of the day, it's fit and understanding where you are. It's understanding the culture. It's understanding the league and the recruiting territory as much as anything to me, because that's where you can flip your roster quick.”
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