Jeff Driskel looks the part, but he’s not ready to compare himself to another running quarterback from Florida’s past.
Still, the sophomore showed on Saturday why he is mentioned in the same conversation as Tim Tebow.
On a first-and-10 in the first quarter, Driskel and Omarius Hines muffed an exchange on a wide receiver sweep. Driskel picked up the bouncing ball in the midst of an oncoming pass rush and ran 10 yards for a first down.
His improvisation consistently extended drives for Florida.
“I’ve definitely heard those comparisons, even back in high school,” Driskel said. “Just because of our body size and the way we can run the ball. It’s nice to be compared, but I wouldn’t go that far and say I try to be like him, or watch his film and try to be like him. But I guess we do play similar styles.”
Driskel earned Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors after racking up 219 passing yards, 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee.
Through his first three games this season, Driskel has 608 yards of total offense. His 113 rushing yards rank fourth among SEC quarterbacks.
In 2007, his first season as UF’s starter, Tebow amassed 192 rushing yards through three games. He also won the Heisman Trophy.
Driskel may not belong in the same conversation as Tebow, but like the Heisman Trophy winner, he isn’t afraid of an oncoming tackler.
“I try to make a vertical cut and get as many yards as possible,” Driskel said. “I don’t really try to get out of bounds.”
The threat of a 6-foot-4, 237-pound running quarterback presents the same quandary for defenses that Tebow did for his three years as a starter.
Add in versatile Trey Burton, and the Gators have a deep backfield with Driskel and running back Mike Gillislee.
“A one-back set is a two-back set now,” Muschamp said. “A two-back set is a three-back set. You create a lot of issues for a defense when a guy has legs at the quarterback position and all of the zone-read opportunities and the different things that you’re doing in the misdirection off the run game.”
Driskel used the running game to set up his passing on Saturday. On a third-and-7 in the fourth quarter, he recognized a cornerback blitz and found receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. for a 75-yard touchdown.
Gators coach Will Muschamp mentioned the play as one example of his quarterback showing his maturity on the field.
“He made really good decisions,” Muschamp said. “He got us in and out of the right runs. He got us out of some run situations versus a bad run box to the other side or to a pass, and he was able to do those things at a very high level.”
Muschamp named Driskel the starter ahead of Jacoby Brissett after a six-month quarterback competition. The experience of the past three weeks has improved Driskel’s intangibles.
“It comes with the game reps and getting those live reps,” Hammond said. “I’m sure the game is slowing down for him, and he’s starting to read things out and just playing quarterback and playing fast and making good decisions.”
While Driskel has started to grasp the mental aspects of quarterback, his natural ability is nothing new to his teammates.
“We hated two-minute (drills) because we turn our backs, and he takes off running,” senior linebacker Jon Bostic said. “Then, we’ve got to turn around and run and try to catch him. So, we always knew he could run. We knew he could throw. Basically, it’s just putting everything together and being able to go out and help us win the ball game.”
Contact Adam Pincus at [email protected].