Appendix out, wound healed, Driskel ready to work

By Adam Silverstein
August 9, 2013

Six days standing on the sidelines.

Six days watching someone else take his snaps.

Six days waiting to work with the teammates he corralled and led through player-run practices over the summer was more than enough for Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who returned to practice on Thursday less than two weeks after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis and undergoing an appendectomy.

“It was good. Everything felt good in my stomach. I thought I threw the ball really well, and I thought we had a good day offensively,” Driskel said of his first practice back.

“I wasn’t limited at all. I was full-go, didn’t have any pain, no issues. Didn’t get all the reps I would like to because I’m still in the acclimation period, so I couldn’t be out there in pads, so there was a couple things I couldn’t do. But other than that, I wasn’t limited.”

According to NCAA rules, Driskel must return to practice by working in shorts for the first two days. He can then move on to two days of practice in shells before putting on the pads for the duration of fall camp.

Driskel spent the previous six days attending meetings, watching film and standing next to coaches during practice. He felt right at home when he put on his red non-contact jersey on Thursday, like nothing had changed during his short time not wearing cleats.

“I didn’t miss too much. I missed six days and feel like I didn’t miss a beat,” he said. “I definitely didn’t like standing there. Practice goes by a lot slower when you’re not involved, that’s for sure. …

“I think I’m up to speed. Second year in the offense, so there’s not really anything I haven’t done yet. I think I’ve done a good job staying alert in the meetings and getting the mental reps. I think I’m good to go.”

He also expressed his appreciation for redshirt junior back-up QB Tyler Murphy, who filed in admirably for Driskel during his absence.

“I think it was huge, not just for him but for the team in general,” Driskel said. “The first team has never really been with Tyler. If I do happen to go down during the season, they know that they can count on Tyler. So I think it was for a good team in all.”

The Gators having Brent Pease and his offense return for a second-straight season – the first time Florida has been able to rely on consistency at offensive coordinator since 2009-10 – is a positive that has been mentioned from everyone involved with the unit from head coach Will Muschamp on down.

Driskel said Friday that he is excited to see how the Gators can improve now that they are comfortable with the offensive system.

“That’s huge. If you’re getting a new system in the offseason, you don’t really know what to study because you can’t be with your coaches in the summer and not too much in the spring,” he explained. “I kind of knew how to study by myself now and that’s something that you can’t really do if you don’t know what’s in front of you.

“Going back and looking at last year’s film, we had a lot of the same plays. Obviously we’re going to have some new wrinkles, but like I said, we’ve done it before, and as you do something more you’re going to be more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

He also said that while he certainly took way too many hits last season, Florida is not planning to cut back on calling quarterback runs and working out of the read option because the plays were successful in 2012 and part of the offense going forward. He just has to be more careful with how he handles those plays.

“It’s definitely a part of our offense. We hit a lot of big plays with read option-type stuff last year, and I think we’re going to have to continue to do that. It’s not the number of carries, it’s just the number of big hits you’re going to take,” Driskel said.

“They told me to be smart. If I can get out of bounds, go ahead and get out of bounds. If you already have the first down and you’re about to take a shot, go ahead and get down. But like I said, if it’s 3rd-and-3 and I’m carrying the ball, I’m going to take a hit to get a first down.”

Driskel has also been working on lessening the hits he takes by being smarter with the ball on blown plays, knowing how to move within the backfield and when to throw the ball away or run out of bounds.

“We did a lot of work trying to really, really know the protections rather than just have a feel for them,” he explained. “I think we know exactly what we’re doing and we can get the line into better situations but us making calls and stuff like that. I think we’re a lot more firm up front because they know what they’re doing and the quarterbacks as well as the [running] backs know exactly what they’re doing.”

Keeping Driskel healthy is of paramount importance for the Gators this season and could very well be the difference between the team’s first trip to Atlanta, GA, since 2009 or yet another season where Florida falls short of expectations.


» On the Gators’ wide receivers: “I think they have improved tremendously. Coach Joker [Phillips has really helped them out a lot. Some of the freshmen have started to step up a little bit. They kind of know what they’re doing a little bit more now. I think we’re going to be able to hit some big plays and really stretch the field because we have some speed outside.”

» On if Florida can advance to the SEC Championship Game: “I think so. I think we have a really good team. We’re a close-knit bunch of guys. We were so close last year, and we could taste it. We really want to get there this year. I think we have a good chance to get there.”

» On the tight ends: “There’s four guys battling out there. They’re making plays yesterday. We did some two-minute offense type deal. I think I hit Clay Burton three times in a row. So we really have gotten a lot more production from the tight ends. They’ve gotten a lot better. I’m excited to see how it plays out through the rest of camp.”

» On signing autographs: “It’s a thing for the fans. I’m not going to be one to sign a bunch or do anything like that. You just got to follow the rules. You can’t get paid for your autograph or anything like that.”

» On if fans bother him for autographs often: “Not really. There have been a lot of stars here, so people tend to kind of be able to leave mea lone and stuff like that. But after the game, if there are a couple of kids that come up and ask for my autograph, I’ll be glad to give it to them.”

» On if family and friends bother him for autographs: “I’m definitely not on the same level as him. My family and friends tend to leave me alone, so I’m grateful for that.”

» On junior cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy: “They’re tough. Marcus is really fast, has great technique. Loucheiz is a little more physical, has more length to him.”

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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