QB Driskel says he is committed to Gators


Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel works with campers during the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University on Friday in Thibodaux, La. (Chris Heller/The Houma Courier)

Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 10:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 10:08 p.m.

THIBODAUX, La. — Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel never intended to create a stir by signing a Major League Baseball contract with the Boston Red Sox earlier this month.

But the junior quarterback did just that when he signed July 3 with the Red Sox, who drafted him in the 29th round of the Major League Baseball draft in June.

There was speculation Driskel's college football days could be ending in favor of a new career in baseball.

While attending the Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux this week, Driskel said signing the contract with the Red Sox was a non-issue and mostly a backup plan for the future. He wants to continue his college football career and eventually make a run at being an NFL quarterback.

“I'm focusing on football,” Driskel said during a Manning Camp news conference Friday. “Nothing is changing in my life. There's no distraction at all. My mind is completely on playing football at Florida.”

Driskel has many reasons to return for his upcoming junior year at Florida, where as a sophomore quarterback last year, he led the Gators to an 11-2 overall mark and a trip to the Sugar Bowl against Louisville in New Orleans.

The Gators suffered a 33-23 upset loss to Louisville, but the 6-foot-4, 236-pound Driskel completed 156 of 245 attempts for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns against five interceptions on the season as Florida's leading signal-caller. He also rushed for 413 yards and four touchdowns.

Driskel said he is extra motivated and excited to take the field again with the Gators this upcoming season, especially after Florida finished as SEC East runner-up last year. The Gators' only loss in SEC play was a 17-9 setback against longtime rival and defending SEC East champion Georgia.

“Last year we were close to making it to the SEC Championship Game. Real close,” Driskel said. “At Florida, our expectations are always high, so we can't wait to get back out there.”

As a quarterback, Driskel said one of the main things he has learned is that there are no off days when playing against the SEC schedule.

“In the SEC, if you lose one game, that could determine whether you are going to make it to the championship game or not,” Driskel said. “Every game is important in our league. We're going to treat them all that way.”

FOX Sports analyst Charles Davis, who is also serving as a camp counselor at the Manning Passing Academy this week, said he expects to see more improvement from Driskel as a quarterback.

“I think he'll make a big leap this year in terms of throwing the football with accuracy and becoming a pure all-around quarterback,” Davis said. “We've seen the body on him, and we've seen the running ability. He knows he has the arm. That's not an issue. I think all the accuracy and everything else will come together this year.”

Davis said Florida has several key positions to fill from last year, but he believes the Gators will be in the mix for another competitive season under third-year coach Will Muschamp.

“I think they are going to be a good football team,” Davis said. “Their depth isn't what it has been at certain positions, especially at the wide receiver spot. The defense will have to be as great as it was last year. The offense has to get better. I don't think they can do it the same way two years in a row with the defense having to create so many things, but they are Florida. They are going to be good, and they are a prime contender in the SEC East.”

Although the football season is on the horizon, Driskel said he is enjoying the last few weeks of the offseason before focusing all of his attention on training camp.

Driskel said he is enjoying his time at the Manning Passing Academy, which started Thursday and ends Sunday. He is serving as a camp counselor alongside Super Bowl winning quarterbacks such as Peyton and Eli Manning and other superstar college quarterbacks like reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and AJ McCarron of Alabama.

“It's awesome,” Driskel said. “I'm excited about the opportunity to come out here with tons of great quarterbacks from around the country. It's been a great experience, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the camp.”

Driskel said he is familiar with being in the Bayou Region. He participated in the Manning Camp as a high school student years ago, so he is used to the south Louisiana culture. Now as a camp counselor, Driskel said he is taking complete advantage of being around the Mannings.

“It's pretty cool to see how much work it takes to organize it and what it takes to put it all together for all these kids,” Driskel said. “They do a great job of putting it together and making sure everyone is getting a good amount of reps. It's an honor to be here. I like the way (the Mannings) handle themselves on and off the field. The way they speak to people. You just try to learn as much as you can from guys like that.”

Driskel also took time to talk about Florida defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, a Gibson, La., native who attended nearby H.L. Bourgeois High. Jacobs, a 6-foot-3, 286-pound defensive lineman, is coming off a good junior year, where he played in 12 games and had 10 total tackles (six solo, four assists) with 2.5 sacks.

Jacobs, who was the only Louisiana-born player on Florida's roster last year, had his two biggest plays of the year when he recorded sacks in Florida's win over LSU and in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville.

“Damien is a great guy,” Driskel said. “He's a good old country boy. He talks a lot about fishing and being out in the lakes. For our coaches getting him out of the state of Louisiana and bringing him to Florida is big time. He's going to be a really important player for us.”

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