Jeff Driskel wants to make something perfectly clear to everyone — he’s not Tim Tebow.
Did you read that correctly?
He’s not Tim Tebow.
One more time for good measure Gators fans — Oviedo Hagerty quarterback Jeff Driskel IS NOT former Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion Tim Tebow.
OK. Do you have that out of your system?
But Driskel is arguably the country’s best high school quarterback. He’s ranked No. 1 at his position by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, the Gator commit showcases a cannon for an arm and tremendous speed and agility for a dual-threat quarterback.
Through five games this season, Driskel has led Hagerty, a fourth-year program, to its best start in school history at 3-2. In that time, he’s thrown for around 760 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 621 yards and seven scores.
The good thing? With lesser talent around him, Driskel has proven he can make plays — lots of them.
The bad thing? His impressive numbers thus far will only keep the Tebow comparisons coming. Fortunately for Driskel, he doesn’t let that talk bother him.
He’s dealt with being called the next Tebow since his hype machine was cranked on during his junior year. And while he wants fans, he’s his own man. He is trying to mimic Tebow’s accomplishments at Florida.
“There’s no other Tim Tebow,” Driskel said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime-type player. I’m going to try and work as hard as he did and lead as hard as he did and hopefully have as much success as he did.”
Driskel’s arm and technique look to be stronger and more polished than Tebow’s, and he has very similar speed. He’s not the bruising runner Tebow was, but he might be a little more agile.
The next thing people want to know is if he has the intangibles that made Tebow — and Florida — so successful. After watching him in Hagerty’s 28-21 loss to Winter Springs last Friday, he’s getting pretty close.
With ESPN in town and all the attention directed toward Driskel, the senior did everything he could to pull out a win for the Huskies. He finished with 118 yards and a touchdown through the air and added 108 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
But it was his final drive that really showed Driskel’s determination. He scampered for around 17 yards on a third-and-15 to extend the drive early. He swatted off defenders to make tough throws. He wasn’t bothered by Winter Springs’ constant blitzes and took his team all the way inside the 10 before the Winter Springs defense smothered his receivers with some thick coverage, forcing Hagerty to turn it over on downs.
Having some playmakers would certainly have been nice, but Driskel is the last person to get down on his team. He’s happy with how his team has played and proud of the way his teammates have surpassed low expectations.
“No one expected us to do anything this year, but we put a lot of hard work in and surprised some people,” he said. “We have to continue that and hopefully get into the playoffs.”
When you’re the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the country, everyone will be scrutinizing you when you don’t win, no matter who’s around you, but Driskel said none of that has affected him. Not even all those ESPN cameras could rattle the soft-spoken leader.
“There’s pressure, but I don’t let it get to me,” he said. “If I let it get to me I’m not going to be able to preform well. There’s no reason for me to be nervous because I’ve put the work in and I know my teammates are going to make plays and I know I’m going to make plays on Friday night. That’s what we have to keep doing.”
What has also come easy to Driskel is his ability to talk to recruits. He’s developed a great relationship with most of Florida’s other 14 verbals and has used his time to recruit as many of the big-named guys on Florida’s board.
One recruit he’s putting in a little bit more time with is recent tight end de-commit A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville University Christian). Driskel’s other top targets include wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (Belle Glade Glades Central), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (Lake City Columbia), linebackers Curtis Grant (Richmond, Va., Hermitage) and Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C., Anson), and defensive end Curt Maggit (West Palm Beach Dwyer).
Besides Leonard, Driskel said the prospect he’s going after the hardest is Benjamin, who stands 6-foot-6, 210 pounds.
“I’m not going to push anybody, but he’d be a nice addition to our class,” Driskel said.
“We already have a good class, but there are a bunch of spots that need to be filled, and we want to get the better guys. I’ll be talking to them and I’ve developed a lot of relationships with them.”
If Driskel helps corral a bunch more studs into Florida’s 2011 class, those Tebow comparisons will only grow larger. Remember, he too was instrumental in getting Florida’s top-rated class back in 2006.
Well that last statement didn’t help …
Regardless, as long as Driskel continues to play like he has through the first half of his season, his hype will only escalate. Those Tebow/savior comparisons won’t be gone as long as he’s committed to Florida, which he says he doesn’t plan to change.
Driskel is set to enroll early and start working out with the Gators in January. But he assures that while his goal is to get playing time, he’s not expecting to surpass current quarterback John Brantley on the depth chart.
“I’m going to try and be the starter, even though that’s unrealistic,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to try and do. That’s going to be my mindset.”