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July 23, 2014

Fall camp positional preview: Quarterback


In the days leading up to fall camp, Inside the Gators will take a position-by-position look at Florida's roster and offer a look at every player. Today, we begin with quarterbacks.

By now, you've heard at least 100 renditions of the story. Jeff Driskel's 2012 season ended months before it was supposed to, grimacing on the ground and reaching for his broken leg.

He told trainers he wanted to walk off the field under his own power. He had just thrown a touchdown pass to a Tennessee defender. Football's machismo code made him feel as if he didn't deserve help walking.

It's stories like this that have never allowed anyone to question Driskel's toughness. He has been sacked 42 times in his last 14 complete games as a starter. Toughness is a fine attribute, but what the Gators need from Driskel in 2014 is durability.

Driskel not only needs to stay healthy throughout 2014, but he needs to prove he can be the kind of bright spot he was once expected to be. Florida's offense is now tailored to his abilities more than ever before while also giving him some breathing room with what should be a potent run game.

Behind Driskel is more talent than the Gators have had at quarterback since the Urban Meyer years, but that talent is extremely young.

Will Grier and Treon Harris are the future of Florida football, but the future is not quite here yet. Driskel still has two years of eligibility remaining, and quarterback is not necessarily a starting job you want to rush players into. Keep in mind, the past two Heisman Trophy winners were redshirted as freshmen.

It will be Driskel's job to make sure their development is not rushed out of necessity. He needs to both avoid injury and play well enough to win games for the Gators.

Position Rating: 8.0 - A lot will fall on what strides Driskel does or does not take in his fourth year, but the Gators certainly have the pieces to be one of the SEC's better quarterbacked teams in 2014. There is depth and ability and a determined starter that coaches are confident was about to play his best football before he went down last season. Most importantly, these quarterbacks are under the tutelage of Kurt Roper, easily the most effective developer of the position the Gators have had under Will Muschamp.


- Is there another level to Driskel's game?
The assumption is we have not seen the best of what Driskel has to offer; that injuries and offensive limitations have held him back and he is now ready to break through. But this is also a quarterback who has been asked to not lose more games than he has been asked to win. There have been flashes of good but also plenty of head-scratching moments.

- Who is No. 2?
Florida's backup quarterback situation was not settled following spring practice. It's a tricky situation for the coaching staff. Grier is almost certainly the most complete and capable option, but he is ideally a redshirt candidate in 2014. Harris has certain strengths but might not be ready for the full load of starting if need be as a freshman. Skyler Mornhinweg well, you saw 2013.

- Will we see hints of a two-quarterback system?
There have been rumblings that Harris will see immediate action as a change-of-pace quarterback. His running ability is something Florida can take advantage of immediately, and his football intelligence lessens the transition intimidation factor. Harris playing early could also lessen the hits Driskel takes running the read-option.

Pre-Camp Positional Ranking: Quarterback
Height: 6-4
Weight: 230
Class: Redshirt Junior

The Skinny: Thanks to a variety of factors, this is the most important year of Driskel's football career. He will either succeed as part of an offense that will utilize his athleticism and work to increase his confidence, or there will be serious talk about whether or not he should be "the guy" in his fifth year. All the exterior factors are in place for Driskel to have a big year.
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190
Class: Freshman

The Skinny: He has been anointed the golden boy of Florida football, even if he is not quite ready to carry the title. Grier is immensely talented and has the borderline cocky swagger that made past names like Rex Grossman such a big hit in Gainesville. He mostly lived up to the hype during spring camp.
Height: 5-11
Weight: 178
Class: Freshman

The Skinny: His size and knack for big plays drew Johnny Manziel comparisons when he was in high school. Not being an early enrollee was a bit of a setback for him in terms of competing with Grier, but Harris was still around Gainesville fairly often. Essentially handpicked by Roper, expect him to have some type of role immediately.
Height: 6-3
Weight: 212
Class: Redshirt Sophomore

The Skinny: What happened in 2013 was certainly not Mornhinweg's fault. In reality, the former three-star prospect from a private school in Philadelphia should have never been recruited to play at a place like Florida. Because of Muschamp's "one quarterback per year" recruiting policy, he was. The results weren't pretty.

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