SEC: Jacoby Brissett

SEC's lunch links

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
12:00
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After two days of soccer showing up on the lunch links, I think it’s time to get back to some American football. But before I get to Thursday’s links, I wanted to post this photo from Philip Lutzenkirchen’s memorial service Wednesday night. Both Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and football coach Gus Malzahn were on hand and spoke at the gathering.



Now to the links. Enjoy your 4th of July weekend.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sometimes, Jeff Driskel had no idea what had happened.

He was trying to be studious last season and watch extra film on his own to become better at pre-snap reads and pass-protection adjustments, but he found confusion instead of clarity. That’s when he’d call offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

"At times I didn’t really know what I was looking at or what I should be looking at," Driskel said. "There were times where I was confused as to why this guy came free on a pressure or why I should have gone to another guy rather than this guy."

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJeff Driskel knows he and the Gators must improve greatly from their rank in 2012 as the nation's No. 114 passing attack.
That shouldn't have been a surprise, considering Driskel was in his first season as Florida’s starting quarterback. Plus, he got only half of the reps in the spring and August practices because of the competition with Jacoby Brissett that stretched into the first week of the season. Confusion was expected.

Not this season. Not knowing the protection adjustments, where to go with the ball, or recognizing a blitz will be unacceptable mistakes for Driskel. The 6-foot-4, 237-pound junior knows he can’t make them this season, or Florida’s offense won’t be any better than the unit that ranked No. 103 nationally in 2012.

"I just think I’m a lot more comfortable," Driskel said. "I know where to throw the ball and I know where to throw the ball in certain situations and we’re a lot better at timing. I’m getting the ball out before they’re breaking rather than waiting for them to break to throw the ball. That’s a big difference in catching the ball and getting tackled or catching the ball and turning it up field.

"I feel like I have [gotten much better]. I’m excited for the first game to really show it off."

Florida’s season depends on Driskel’s transition from a player whose main role was to take care of the ball and not put the Gators in bad situations into a quarterback who can win games. Driskel threw for 1,646 yards -- the fewest by a Florida starter since Kyle Morris threw for 1,098 yards in 1989 -- and 12 touchdowns last season, and the passing offense was No. 114 nationally. Four of the six teams that ranked below the Gators run the option.

With running back Matt Jones’ return from a viral infection still uncertain, Driskel has to be able to put the offense on his shoulders, and Pease said he has seen encouraging signs. Part of that is because Driskel’s the clear-cut starter and has been in the offensive system for a year.

"He’s comfortable with that and he knows the expectations," Pease said. "Some bullets have flown at him before. I think he’s probably a little more comfortable not having the situation of the controversy, so to speak."

Pease said Driskel is more at ease in the pocket and has done a good job of recognizing blitzes and changing protections, which were two of his biggest issues last season. But perhaps the biggest leap Driskel has made is in his leadership. If a player is more comfortable with his role and confident that he knows everything he needs to know, he’s naturally going to play better.

"Just hearing [Driskel] in the weight room stepping up and saying things to teammates and making teammates accountable, making himself more accountable to the situation of what the goals for this team are," Pease said. "It’s to win the SEC. He’s not afraid to step up and say something. He’s demonstrated that. I think when you get a kid who becomes vocalized in a good way and demonstrates that and talks to his teammates and challenges and encourages them, you know he’s taken the next step because he’s earned some respect."

Driskel knows he’ll earn even more if the passing offense produces significantly more than the 146.3 yards per game it did last season. It should improve, now that he knows what he’s watching on film, he said.

"We’re going to have to throw the ball more and we’ll have to be more efficient throwing the ball," Driskel said. "We’re going to have to hit more big plays. We can’t run the ball 50 times a game like we did last year at points.

"We’re still going to run the ball effectively and we have an offensive line that loves running the ball and we have explosive backs. That’s still going to be a big part of our game, but we do have to make more plays throwing the ball, which I think we’ll do."
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s easily evident to those not inside the Florida locker room every day that Jeff Driskel has changed.

He’s still focused and driven, but he comes across as much more confident and definitely more relaxed, which was obvious when he hammed it up with a significantly shorter member of the media just before doing a video shoot.

That’s an indication that Driskel is much more at ease with who he is and more comfortable and confident in his knowledge and abilities as the Gators’ starting quarterback.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsNow the undisputed starter, Jeff Driskel has been a more relaxed presence at QB for the Gators this offseason.
Driskel knows the offense completely now that he’s in his second season under offensive coordinator Brent Pease. He knows where his receivers are supposed to be (even if they don’t), knows his pre-snap reads and adjustments, and feels much more comfortable in the pocket. His fundamentals are better, too.

He should be a better player in 2013, someone capable of putting the team on his shoulders and winning a game instead of being a caretaker whose main directive was to not turn the ball over.

“It’s his football team,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “[Driskel] attacked the offseason the way you’re supposed to as far as his mental preparation, watching film. He understands what we’re doing offensively much better than a year ago, which is expected.”

The main reason for Driskel’s improvement is that he’s no longer fighting for the job. He’s not competing with Jacoby Brissett, who left for NC State after the season ended, or worried that a couple of poor drives or games would get him benched.

The biggest benefit of that situation is that he’s essentially getting twice as many practice reps, twice as much time in the film room, and twice as much individual work with Pease. He’s taking all of the first-team snaps instead of sharing them. He’s breaking down every play in the film room. He’s explaining every protection and adjustment and getting nearly all of the feedback.

That showed during the spring, Muschamp said.

“When the game slows down a little bit, you get a little more mental quickness of where to take the ball down the field, first progression read to the second, and understanding where the pressure may come from,” Muschamp said. “That’s part of the growing process of a young quarterback.”

Driskel said he’s gaining a much better rapport with the receivers, which was something that he wasn’t able to do last season because there was always some awkwardness between the quarterbacks and receivers because of the competition between Driskel and Brissett.

“When there’s a competition, you know, some guys are going to -- not be on one side or the other -- but there’s not as close of a bond because no one wants to step on anyone’s toes and no one wants to get on someone’s bad side,” Driskel said. “When there’s one set quarterback I think everyone responds well to it and everyone kind of is looking at the same person and getting on the same page with one person instead of doing it with two.”

Driskel still has a lot on which to improve, specifically mastering the pass protections and knowing which adjustments to make and when and getting rid of the ball quicker to avoid sacks.

But he appears to be on his way to becoming the kind of quarterback he was projected to be when he came out of Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty High School in 2011 -- which should keep the Gators in contention for an Eastern Division title.
On paper, Jeff Driskel lives the charmed college jock life.

He was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, he’s the starting quarterback at a major SEC university and he has the cheerleader girlfriend.

Life seems pretty sweet, but that hasn’t exactly been the case.

Despite Florida going an unexpected 11-2 with its first BCS bowl experience since 2009, Driskel received more backlash than high fives during his first season as the Gators’ starter, with schizophrenic play that made him arguably the league’s most perplexing player.

“When you’re a quarterback at a big university, you’re going to get too much credit when you play well and you’re going to get a lot of scrutiny when you don’t play well,” Driskel told ESPN.com in a phone interview earlier this week. “It comes with it, and you can’t let that bother you.”

Driskel says he didn’t let the negativity rattle him, but the internal pressure he put on himself -- thanks to the constant battle with classmate Jacoby Brissett -- did. Driskel said he spent the better part of 2012 looking over his shoulder, waiting for Brissett to take that critical step past him.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida QB Jeff Driskel is putting in more time in the film room during the offseason in hopes of having a more consistent 2013.
Driskel insists his confidence never wavered, but he worried about losing his spot when he made mistakes. Even after Driskel was officially named the starter after splitting reps with Brissett during the season opener, he still worried about his job security, shaking his focus.

“You make a bad play, like throwing an interception in practice, you’re definitely thinking about that,” Driskel said.

Now, Brissett has taken his game to NC State, and as the Gators dive into spring practice, Driskel is no longer feeling the heat of competition. He finally feels like he’s the guy and can take the next steps in his development as a starter.

“It’s definitely my team, and I have to take over and be that leader,” he said.

“Now, I can play free and faster and not have to worry about making mistakes and worry more about making good plays.”

In order to make those plays, Driskel has realized that he has to take off-field work more seriously.

Driskel said he never thought playing quarterback required the heavy amount of studying needed to understand the game. In high school, he was a one-man show because of his athleticism, but that didn’t work in 2012. He admitted to being underprepared because he thought games would come naturally. Things were much faster than expected, and his play suffered because he didn’t take the time needed during the week to meticulously dissect film of opponents, his teammates or himself.

Driskel’s lack of preparation led to a mediocre statistical season (137.2 passing yards per game and 12 touchdowns with five interceptions) and forced players to lose trust in him.

After Florida’s embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville, Driskel decided to change his preparation habits. He’s now burying himself in his playbook and locking himself away in the film room when he’s not out throwing with receivers and breaking down every little detail of every play with them, including how they should be running their routes.

“Jeff's really attacked the offseason from a mental standpoint as far as film is concerned and studying what he can do to be a better quarterback,” coach Will Muschamp said. “That's part of the maturation process in becoming a better player; understanding what you've got to do to be successful.”

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease is helping him find ways to get rid of the ball faster and go through his progressions. Check-downs and sacks were major issues for Driskel last year because he didn’t read defenses well and didn’t know where and how they were going to attack him, he said. His indecision helped Florida give up 39 sacks and caused many ill-advised passes.

But people around the program expect 2013 to be better for Driskel. He’s finally working with the same offensive coordinator in back-to-back years, his offensive line should be tougher and stronger and things should slow down considerably.

The next step is developing a young, inexperienced receiving corps. Only five healthy receivers are on campus now, and five true freshmen will be taking reps this fall. Youth can be scary, but an advantage Driskel will have is that they’ll have no choice but to trust and follow him. They’ll be too green not to listen to him or the coaches, a luxury he didn’t have last year.

Driskel has now become the most important offensive entity at Florida, and he says he’s comfortable with that. His confidence is growing, and he’ll finally be responsible for all the first-team reps.

He’s still a work in progress, but it sounds like the wide-eyed, mistake-prone starter from a year ago is seeing things more clearly.

“Now that I’ve been through a season and I know what it takes to prepare to be able to perform, it’s going to be a big difference,” he said. “I’ll be ready this year.”

“I gotta be a vocal leader, and I have to show up and make plays.

Offseason spotlight: Florida

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
3:54
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We continue our offseason spotlight with the Florida Gators:

Spotlight: Quarterback Jeff Driskel, 6-foot-4, 237 pounds, rising junior.

2012 summary: Driskel beat out Jacoby Brissett for the starting quarterback job after the two battled all spring and preseason. Driskel finished the season completing 63.7 percent of his passes and threw for 1,646 yards. He passed for 12 touchdowns and had five interceptions. Driskel was also second on the team in rushing with 413 yards and added four rushing touchdowns.

The skinny: It goes without saying that Florida has to add some pop to its passing game, and much of that centers around Driskel growing as a passer. He certainly has the arm strength and is plenty athletic. The big thing this spring and offseason will be improving his timing and chemistry with his receivers and learning to trust the people around him. That includes his offensive line, which wasn't the best when it came to pass protection a year ago. Spreading the ball around will also be important. There were times last season when Driskel would lock onto his first target and didn't see the entire field well enough. He's sure to grow in those areas after playing and starting an entire season in the SEC, and it will also help being with offensive coordinator Brent Pease for a second straight year. More than anything else, Driskel needs to take command of the Florida offense and prove that he can be the kind of quarterback who can beat teams throwing the ball if that's what the situation calls for. With Brissett transferring out, the Gators don't have a lot of options behind him at quarterback, so it's paramount that he take a big step this spring and offseason. Driskel is as tough as they come and delivered in several key situations last season. He's going to need more help from his receivers, but the Gators will need a more consistent passing game, period, in 2013 if they're going to contend for the SEC championship.

Past spotlights:

SEC lunch links

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
12:05
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Our Thursday stroll around the league:

SEC weekend movement

January, 7, 2013
1/07/13
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All the attention is on tonight's Discover BCS National Championship, but eyes were all over the SEC over the weekend, with a handful of players making decisions about their futures.

Here's a look at some of the movers and shakers from the weekend to check up on:

FLORIDA

Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was beaten by Jeff Driskel for the starting spot at the beginning of the season, and reserve running back Chris Johnson, who was primarily used on special teams, have decided to transfer. Brissett's decision didn't shock anyone. He was behind Driskel all year and played in just five games and his only start came late in the year when Driskel was out with an ankle injury. Johnson arrived at Florida as a safety, but moved to running back, where he was buried on the depth chart. His lasting image with the team was being ejected in the Gators' loss to Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl for punching a Louisville player.

The loss of Brissett is significant when it comes to depth. After Driskel, the Gators will have three scholarship quarterbacks entering the 2013 season, but basically no experience. Tyler Murphy will be a redshirt junior, but has never thrown a pass at the college level, while Skyler Mornhinweg will be a redshirt freshman and Max Staver will be a true freshman. That means Driskel's health becomes the top priority in 2013 for the Gators.

GEORGIA

While Florida lost a quarterback, Georgia kept one, with Aaron Murray deciding to stay for one last year with the Bulldogs. Murray seriously considered leaving school early for the NFL, but will return for one final attempt at making a run to a championship. With the defense Georgia had in 2012, this past season felt like the best chance Murray had at winning multiple championships with the Bulldogs. Next year's defense will be gutted, so it will be back to the drawing board for that side of the ball.

One thing that has been counted against Murray when it comes to the pro level is his height. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't have ideal height for a quarterback, but what might have helped him in this year's draft was the play of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who stands just 5-11, but has had a tremendous rookie year. Murray isn't going to get any taller, but he does have a chance to break even more records in a Bulldogs uniform and could improve his stock for the 2014 NFL draft.

On Friday, linebacker Jarvis Jones decided to enter April's NFL draft. No shocker at all, as he's No. 1 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board. Jones is a two-time All-American and has been right at the top of the list for the nation's best defensive player for the past two years. He would have been silly to come back for a final year at Georgia, and he's going to make himself -- and his family -- a ton of money. He was one of the league's most exciting players to watch, but it was his time to move on.

LSU

There was a mass exodus from LSU over the weekend, as eight underclassmen decided to leave the Bayou. It started with linebacker Kevin Minter last week. Then, safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tharold Simon, running back Spencer Ware and punter Brad Wing decided to leave LSU early Friday. On Sunday, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad that defensive linemen Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Bennie Logan would also enter the NFL draft.

Losing those linemen wasn't much of a surprise, as Mingo and Montgomery are projected to be first-round draft picks, and Logan is rated as Kiper's fifth-best defensive tackle among juniors. Wing's time in Baton Rouge seemed to be coming to an end, and his bowl suspension didn't help, but Simon and Ware could have benefited from another year of football. With the emergence of freshman Jeremy Hill, Ware saw his carries decline in 2012, while Simon still has some room to improve. He's rated the No. 15 cornerback by ESPN Scouts Inc., but didn't blow a ton of people away in 2012. He has great size and instincts, but it was surprising to see him leave early.
Will MuschampDerick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsWill Muschamp must evaluate the Gators' offense this offseason following a rough Sugar Bowl loss.
NEW ORLEANS -- It's funny how the perception of a team can change so quickly.

Most of the time leading up to Florida's bout with Louisville in the Allstate Sugar Bowl involved conversations about how good the Gators could be in 2013. The overwhelming thought from pretty much every side of the college football spectrum was that the Gators would handle a talented, yet, overmatched Louisville team and then wait to see how high they would rise in next year's preseason polls.

With a chunk of talent returning on defense and an offense that just had to get better, Florida was looking at being a legitimate national title contender in 2013.

However, all that talk ceased when Louisville's Terell Floyd intercepted Jeff Driskel's opening pass and took it 38 yards for a touchdown to give the Cardinals an immediate 7-0 lead. At the time, the play looked harmless in the grand scheme of things, but it proved to totally break the Gators' offensive concentration.

From there, Florida panicked offensively (star running back Mike Gillislee ran the ball just nine times), and Driskel's composure and pass attempts became harder and harder to watch.

The offense rarely wowed in 2012, but during its first appearence in 2013, with a month of work, it totally collapsed, leaving the Gators with a load of question marks entering spring practice.

That Gators always found a way to bounce back with its mediocre offensive attack, but had no answers against the Cardinals. Now, it really is back to the drawing board for Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

But what does Florida do? Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is still unsure if he'll return, but if he leaves, players have to have more confidence in Driskel than they had this fall. The rhythm and timing has to improve or this offense isn't going anywhere.

Driskel became a major scapegoat for the offense in the Twitterverse Wednesday night, but as former Florida quarterback Chris Leak told me after the game: It's hard to do much of anything when there isn't much of anything around you. Driskel might have composure issues in the pocket, but he has just one consistent receiving weapon in tight end Jordan Reed, who got injured Wednesday night. He also played behind an offensive line that was wildly inconsistent in pass protection.

Pease has said that the offensive line will be better in 2013, but that might not matter much if the Gators don't find a couple of consistent receiving threats. Reed is still on the fence about coming back, and if he doesn't, Florida will enter spring with only one player who caught 30-or-more passes in 2012 -- wide receiver Quinton Dunbar (36).

Pease and new receivers coach Joker Phillips have to find someone who can catch the ball on a regular basis, with or without Reed in the lineup. The Gators just can't run their offense effectively next year without it because teams won't respect the pass next year. They were too respectful at times this fall.

With freshmen Adam Lane and Kelvin Taylor coming to help Matt Jones and Mack Brown, the Gators will look to be run-oriented again, but as LSU has taught us, you have to have a threat to pass or you'll get eaten up against tougher defenses. And the use of the "Wildcat" will have to be greatly scaled back because it really has lost its effectiveness.

Teams respected the running game in 2012. They will look to clobber it in 2013 if a receiver doesn't step up. Will it be a freshman? Dunbar? Tight end Kent Taylor? Who knows, but everything this offense got away with in 2012 won't fly next season.

Florida has the defensive talent to make another strong run through the SEC, but if the offense doesn't really evolve in the next nine months and if Driskel still isn't comfortable for a majority of the time, scenes like Wednesday night's might be a recurring theme.

Lunchtime links

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
1:10
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During the last two seasons, when I'm at a bowl game featuring an SEC team, the league is 1-3. You're welcome everyone not in the SEC.

Florida-Louisville game preview

January, 2, 2013
1/02/13
11:00
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No. 3 Florida (11-1) vs. No. 21 Louisville (10-2)
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Sugar Bowl, New Orleans
ESPN

Gators to watch

QB Jeff Driskel: The 6-foot-4, 237-pound sophomore played his best game of the season in the regular-season finale against Florida State. Even though he was still bothered by an ankle injury, Driskel remained composed -- despite being sacked four times and harassed by a pair of NFL defensive ends -- and hurt the Seminoles on rollout passes. It’ll be interesting to see how much he has benefitted from the 15 bowl practices in which he didn’t have to evenly split reps with Jacoby Brissett. A lot of players make significant jumps during the bowl practices, as CB Loucheiz Purifoy did last season. Is Driskel next?

DT Sharrif Floyd: This might be Floyd’s final game with the Gators because the 6-3, 303-pound junior is considering leaving early for the NFL. Floyd has been a disruptive force all season, with 11 tackles for loss, a sack, and six quarterback hurries (one shy of the team lead). He’ll be matched up against a pair of sophomore guards, John Miller and Jake Smith. The Cardinals average just 127.1 yards per game rushing and are without RB Senorise Perry, who tore his right ACL. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and still leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. Floyd will be a big part of the Gators’ plan to make the Cardinals one-dimensional.

S Matt Elam: Elam is another player who could be appearing in his last game for Florida. The 5-10, 202-pound junior also is considering leaving early for the NFL after putting together an All-American season (65 tackles, four interceptions). He’s a rarity in that he can play safety but also has the one-on-one coverage skills to line up at nickel back. He made perhaps the biggest play of the season when he stripped LSU WR Odell Beckham after a 56-yard gain. The Gators went on to score a game-clinching touchdown and beat the Tigers.

Cardinals to watch

QB Teddy Bridgewater: The 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore ended the regular season ranked eighth nationally in pass efficiency. He was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was fantastic in the regular-season finale against Rutgers, when he came off the bench and rallied the Cardinals to a 20-17 victory to win the Big East title in one of the gutsiest performances of the season. Bridgewater had a broken left wrist and a severely sprained left ankle but he still managed to complete 20 of 28 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

CB Adrian Bushell: Bushell transferred from Florida after the 2009 season, spent a year at a junior college, and enrolled at Louisville just before the Cardinals started practices in 2011. It turned out to be a good move for the 5-11, 184-pounder from DeSoto, Texas, and the Cardinals. Bushell is a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and had a team-high 11 pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, and an interception to go along with 59 tackles.

WR DeVante Parker: Parker has 38 catches for 712 yards and nine touchdowns this season. That’s a team-high 18.7 yards per catch. The 6-3, 204-pound sophomore is a touchdown machine. He has 15 touchdown catches on only 56 career receptions, which means he’s averaging a touchdown every 3.7 receptions. He’s also a big-play machine, because his 15 touchdown catches are averaging 29.5 yards.

Key matchup

Florida RB Mike Gillislee vs. Louisville LB Preston Brown

Expect a heavy dose of Gillislee today, especially with the state of the Cardinals’ rush defense. Louisville is giving up an average of 151.1 yards per game rushing and opponents have rushed for at least 196 yards in five of the past eight games. The 6-0, 257-pound Brown, who anchors the middle and leads the team with 96 tackles, is averaging 11.3 tackles in his last six games. Gillislee, a first-team All-SEC selection, has rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the first UF back to surpass 1,000 yards since 2004. Gillislee is coming off his best performance: 140 yards and two TDs against Florida State, which had the nation’s No. 1 rush defense.

By the numbers

2 -- Number of victories Louisville has posted over top-five teams. The Cardinals beat No. 3 West Virginia in 2006 and No. 4 Florida State in 2002.

3 -- Number of victories for Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Gators are 3-5, with victories over West Virginia (1994), Florida State (1997) and Cincinnati (2010).

12.9 -- Number of points per game Florida is allowing. It’s the fewest allowed in a season since 1964 (9.8).

Florida lands top 2014 QB target

December, 19, 2012
12/19/12
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Christmas has come early for Will Muschamp and his Florida Gators.

On Wednesday, Florida's 2014 class got a little better when junior quarterback Will Grier from Davidson (N.C.) Day committed to the Gators via Twitter.



The commitment of Grier, who is an ESPN Watch List prospect, gives Florida three verbals in its 2014 class. As a junior, Grier, who is a dual-threat QB, threw for 5,785 yards and 69 touchdowns with just six interceptions, completing 78 percent of his passes along the way. He also rushed for 813 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns.

This is a pretty big get for Muschamp. Once Grier gets to Gainesville, starting quarterback Jeff Driskel will be a senior. Backups Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy will also be seniors. Skyler Mornhinweg is currently a freshman, while Max Starver is currently a part of the Gators' 2013 class.

With such a gap between Driskel and Grier, there's a chance that Grier could compete right away for the starting job. Immediately, he'll give the Gators good depth at the quarterback spot when he arrives.

What to watch in the SEC: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
10:20
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It's a big final week in the SEC, so here's what to watch out for:

1. SEC championship matchup: We already know that Georgia is locked into its spot in the SEC championship game, but its opponent hasn't been determined yet. Obviously, the overwhelming favorite is Alabama, which takes on hapless Auburn, but LSU and Texas A&M are still in the mix. Alabama goes to Atlanta with a win or if LSU, which plays Arkansas, and A&M, which plays Missouri, lose. LSU has to win and hope that at least Alabama loses because it owns the tiebreaker with the Aggies. The Aggies needed Alabama and LSU to lose.

2. BCS bound? The BCS is SEC heavy at the top and six teams could all still make a BCS bowl game. Wins by Alabama and Georgia pretty much guarantee that the winner in Atlanta is headed to Miami for the Discover BCS National Championship Game. But the most interesting BCS scenario revolves around Florida. The Gators are fourth in the BCS standings, and with a win over Florida State on Saturday, they probably are headed to a BCS bowl game at 11-1. If Notre Dame loses and Florida wins, the Gators could back right into the national championship. LSU and A&M are still alive as well for a BCS bowl, but both need to win and need Florida to lose. South Carolina is 12th in the BCS, so the Gamecocks have to beat Clemson and need Florida, LSU and A&M to lose in order to get that second BCS slot for the SEC.

3. Making the bowl cut: Two SEC teams are still looking for bowl berths. The SEC won't fill all of its bowl slots, but it's also in real danger of sending only eight teams unless Ole Miss and Missouri win this weekend. The Rebels host archrival Mississippi State at home in an Egg Bowl that has real significance this year. The Tigers have an even tougher task, as they head to College Station to take on red-hot Texas A&M. Ole Miss wasn't even supposed to be in this situation, but now that it is, a loss would be a big disappointment for players. Missouri was expected to compete in the SEC, so not making a bowl would be a major disappointment for a program that had so much confidence coming into its new league.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Dave EinselTexas A&M QB Johnny Manziel has one more chance to impress Heisman voters Saturday against Mizzou.
4. One last Heisman push: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is at the top of the Heisman list, and he'll have one last chance to impress voters around the country against Missouri's defense. The Tigers have been decent on defense and get their best player, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, back from suspension. But only two defenses have been able to stop Johnny Football this season, and they currently rank fourth and fifth nationally in total defense. Missouri comes in at 40th nationally in total defense, giving up 367.4 yards per game. Manziel is averaging 378.3 yards of total offense in games this season.

5. A very strong SEC finish: People keep crowing that the SEC is overrated, but the BCS standings beg to differ. Six teams are ranked in the top 12 of the standings and there's a chance that the conference could end the weekend with three one-loss teams and three two-loss teams. A win by Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs wouldn't just have nine wins but could be back in the Top 25 of the BCS standings as well, giving the conference seven in the Top 25. A Vanderbilt win also could propel the Commodores into the Top 25 with their eight wins. Wins by Florida and South Carolina over top-11 BCS teams will be icing on the cake for the conference.

6. Playing for four quarters: Ole Miss has had to swallow three tough losses in a row because of second-half letdowns. The Rebels were down four to Georgia at halftime a few weeks ago, but were outscored 23-0 in the second half. They were then outscored 45-24 in their losses to Vanderbilt and LSU. If Ole Miss is going to stop its three-game losing streak to Mississippi State, it has to play an entire game Saturday. There can't be a second-half lull like the past three weeks. The Bulldogs don't have the depth issues that Ole Miss has, so they can go deeper into games with more options on the field. The Rebels will have a ton of emotion going into this game, but Hugh Freeze needs his team to finally get back to playing four-quarter football or its shot at a bowl will be lost.

7. Crazy 8s: If Vanderbilt can get past Wake Forest on the road, they'll reach eight wins for the first time since 1982. Talk about a total turnaround by Vanderbilt under the watch of James Franklin. He has made this program really relevant in the SEC and the Commodores are no longer a pushover. They are riding a five-game winning streak and are already bowl eligible. The Commodores are headed to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. Vandy's offense is hot right now, and Wake Forest is giving up 433 yards a game and 30 points a contest.

8. Coaching finales: The SEC will officially say goodbye to two head coaches Saturday. Kentucky's Joker Phillips will coach his final game for the Wildcats when they take on Tennessee in Knoxville. Arkansas' John L. Smith also will coach his final game with the Hogs against LSU on Friday. Smith held interim status all year after the dismissal of Bobby Petrino and while he has publicly said he's confident about his coaching future, it won't be as Arkansas head coach after Saturday. Kentucky made the announcement about Phillips weeks ago, but he decided to coach through the last two weeks of the season. Tennessee also cut ties with Derek Dooley; offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will coach the Vols Saturday. Things are at a boiling point in Auburn, so this could be Gene Chizik's final game as the Tigers' coach when they take on No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

9. Jeff Driskel's health & Florida's offense: Florida's 10 wins haven't all been pretty, and Saturday doesn't figure to be very pretty for the Gators' offense with the nation's No. 1 defense lining up opposite them. With Driskel hobbled by a bad ankle, no one knows how durable or how effective he'll be this Saturday. He will play, but for how long has yet to be determined. Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease are surely working this week to put him and the offense in the best positions to make plays, considering Driskel won't be 100 percent. Expect a lot more Mike Gillislee and some more Wildcat with Trey Burton. Maybe Jacoby Brissett will take some snaps. The bottom line is that the Gators can't trot out the same offense that has taken the field in recent weeks, or they won't stand a chance Saturday.

10. Stopping Clemson's offense: The Gamecocks are quietly ranked 13th nationally in total defense (310 yards per game) and scoring defense (17.5). What might be the most impressive stat is how this once-young and relatively inexperienced secondary is allowing under 200 yards passing a game. But South Carolina's defense will face its toughest test of the season Saturday when it travels to Clemson. The Tigers are averaging 535 yards a game and scoring 44 points a contest. Clemson can do it through the air with Tajh Boyd and his talented duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins (121 combined catches for 1,842 and 18 TDs), and on the ground with Andre Ellington (959 rushing yards). In order for the Gamecocks to get their fourth straight win over Clemson, the defense has to play its best game of the season.
When No. 4 Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC) takes on No. 10 Florida State (10-1) in Tallahassee, Fla., this Saturday, the Gators will have their starting quarterback available.

Coach Will Muschamp said sophomore Jeff Driskel will play on Saturday, after he sprained his ankle against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 10. How long Driskel will be on the field is still something Muschamp doesn't know.

"Jeff Driskel will play in the game," Muschamp said on Monday. "What will be his percentage I don't know right now. We will not practice him today, but he will practice tomorrow. He probably could practice today, but in talking with (trainer) Anthony Pass, we felt like it would be best for him to have treatment today."

So the good news for the Gators is that Driskel will be back, but how effective he'll be against the top-rated defense in the country is still a mystery. It has to be be a little nerve-racking for the rest of the offense to not know what to expect from Driskel this weekend, but I'm sure players will know a lot more as the week progresses.

Figuring out a way to make Driskel effective without him being 100 percent is up to offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Maybe, the shorter the passes the better.

Backup Jacoby Brissett wasn't put into position to really do much in the Gators' 23-0 win over Jacksonville State over the weekend, completing 14 of his 22 passes for 122 yards, but he didn't make any mistakes and didn't put Florida into a position to lose.

The offense relied heavily on its running game and chances are that's exactly what the Gators are going to do against the Seminoles -- with or without Driskel at 100 percent. But it will certainly help Florida if Driskel can run the ball and against a Seminoles defense that is first nationally in rush defense (70.6 yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry).

He adds another quality weapon to the ground game and with Florida's offensive line in the shape it's in, the Gators will need Driskel to be able to extend plays with his legs or it's going to be another very long day for Florida's offense.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 12

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
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After another week of SEC football, here's what we learned on Saturday:

1. SEC is right back in the BCS title talk: Weird things always happen this time of year, and a week after the SEC was on the outside of the national championship picture, it's right back in after No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both lost on Saturday. Both Alabama and Georgia beat their overmatched cupcakes, which means that if both win next weekend, the SEC title game essentially turns into a semifinal for the national championship. Just when the SEC seemed out of it, it's going to be near the top of the BCS again. In fact, three SEC teams should be in the top four. Imagine if the playoff were here and the season ended today. Notre Dame remains the only undefeated team, and to have the Irish play an SEC team in the national championship would be a major draw for college football fans.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireJohnny Manziel had another productive Saturday -- padding his resume for his Heisman campaign.
2. Bowl hope blues: For three teams, Saturday wasn't good for their bowl hopes. Arkansas' 45-14 loss to Mississippi State gave the Razorbacks their seventh loss of the year and ended their chances at making a bowl game. That means the season will officially end for the Hogs next week after the LSU game. It's not the way people there wanted the season to end, but I'm sure those same people are also ready for change in Fayetteville. Tennessee's ugly 23-point loss to Vanderbilt means the Vols will be sitting at home during the bowl season for the second straight year. Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart says no decision has been made about Derek Dooley's future, but that had to have changed Saturday night. Missouri's home loss to Syracuse means the Tigers will have to win at Texas A&M next week in order to make a bowl. Missouri gave up a last-minute touchdown after leading the Orange by three. Mizzou has made seven straight bowl games, but it looks like that bowl streak will stop because the Aggies are arguably the nation's hottest team.

3. Florida's BCS hopes rest on the offense: If the Gators are going to make a BCS bowl game, their offense has to be much better than it has been lately. Florida totaled just 356 yards in its lackluster 23-0 win over Jacksonville State. It was the most yardage the Gators have registered since they put up 403 against Vanderbilt on Oct. 13. In the last six games, Florida has averaged 232 yards of offense. It hasn't mattered who is in at quarterback, this offense just hasn't been able to get off the ground for the last month. The passing game has been dreadful and teams are loading the box to take away the run. That has to change next week against Florida State, which owns one of the nation's best statistical defenses. It almost seems like the Gators have exhausted their playbook, but some tweaks have to be made, regardless of whether it's Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett taking the snaps. Florida won't be able to lean on just its defense next Saturday.

4. Johnny Manziel takes over the Heisman race: He might have been playing in a glorified scrimmage with Sam Houston State in town, but Manziel had another terrific day on the football field. He threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 100 yards and adding two more scores. Manziel has an SEC-leading 1,114 rushing yards, which is a new NCAA record for a freshman quarterback. He also broke former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen's freshman record for total offense of 3,827 set in 2000 on the Aggies' first drive. Manziel is now the fifth player and first freshman in FBS history to pass for at least 3,000 yards with at least 1,000 yards rushing in a season. What helps him even more is Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein tossed three interceptions in Kansas State's 28-point loss to Baylor and Oregon running back Kenjon Barner ran for just 66 yards in the Ducks' loss. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is still there, but it looks like Manziel is the new leader in the Heisman race.

5. James Franklin is the real deal at Vanderbilt: We thought Franklin was the real deal last year when he guided the Commodores to a bowl game in his first year in Nashville. But if you really want to arrive at a school you have to beat your rival and Franklin's Commodores did just that ... handily. It could have been much worse too, but Franklin chose not to run up the score. It might say more that his team is winning. Franklin has totally transformed things at Vandy and with a win over Wake Forest next week, the Commodores will get to eight wins for the first time since 1982. Real progress has been made at Vanderbilt under Franklin's two-year watch.

GatorNation links: Young Gators' shot

November, 15, 2012
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Michael DiRocco writes: Insider Younger Gators whose playing time hasn’t matched their ability could get a chance to break out Saturday against Jacksonville State.

Derek Tyson writes: Insider Juco DT Darious Cummings could flip his commitment away from Ole Miss, and would fit in with UF’s plans if so.

DiRocco: Insider Backup QB Jacoby Brissett’s play and seniors’ last game in The Swamp are among five storylines to watch Saturday.

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