Friday Final: Robinson breaking out, Driskel stepping up, Gators preparing for TIde

By Adam Silverstein
September 19, 2014

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles last week’s breakout performance by sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, continued confidence in redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and a wide variety of other topics not previously covered in stories posted on the site this week.

The Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) hit the road for the first time this season when they face the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0) on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will air live on CBS.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp reviews Kentucky, previews Alabama
Story: Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late
Story: Healthy, motivated Matt Jones made a statement
Notebook: Kurt Roper, D.J. Durkin evaluate units ahead of showdown with Tide
Story: Gators not intimidated by recent success of Crimson Tide

HONEY THUNDER RUMBLES

Anyone who watched the Kentucky game, viewed a highlight package or read a Florida-centric story this week knows full well what Robinson did last Saturday – matching a school record with 15 receptions in a single game while finding a landing spot at No. 4 on the Gators’ all-time list of players with the most receiving yards in one contest (216).

Taking a step back and looking at the performance in greater context, it is even more impressive. Two suspensions and a lack of dedication made Robinson completely ineffective during his freshman campaign despite the fact that the four-star prospect was hailed as Florida’s best offensive recruit in years. A third suspension, which would have cost him the ability to perform in the Idaho game if it had been played, made it appear as if Robinson had not truly turned the corner off the field despite all of the praise he received from his coaches and teammates for his performances on it in the offseason.

But Robinson followed up a six-catch, 123-yard, one-touchdown season-opening showing against Eastern Michigan with one twice as impressive. More importantly, he seems to understand full well he truly has the opportunity to make a major impact for the Gators as long as he can stay out of his own way.

“[His success] doesn’t surprise me at all, I mean, I had to cover him, I had to deal with him all camp, all last year,” explained sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was also Robinson’s roommate over the summer. “It was just a matter of time, that’s why I was so confident about him, talking about him at media day. He’s a great player. It doesn’t really surprise me.”

He continued: “I think he gets it now. I think he understands. This is what he wants to do with the rest of his life. He’s taking the game more serious[ly]. He’s in the film room. He’s asking me questions. We go at it every day; we make each other better, and I’m excited for him, excited to see what he can accomplish this year.”

Redshirt senior center Max Garcia referred to Robison’s talent as “unbelievable,” while Driskel explained that he has “always been comfortable with Demarcus.”

Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is also impressed with what Robinson has put on film, but he sees one particular area where the breakout talent can continue to improve as the season progresses.

“He played a really good game [but] there’s obviously always things he can get better at. There were mistakes to correct that he sees on the football field and the same thing with ball security,” explained Roper.

“You know, I was coming home and my wife, she’s an old sports reporter so she knows something about football. … We’re talking about D-Rob and how good a game he played and all that and she goes, ‘Oh but his ball security and some [of those things].’ I said, ‘Well let’s just put him on the bench. You don’t want to play him. You want, we’ll put him on the bench. We won’t play him.’ [Laughing] She goes, ‘Wait a second. Hold on.’

“I think those are things that we obviously can keep working on to get better. And he sees that. He knows that. He’s trying. It’s what you call muscle memory and that’s why you go to the practice field. Those things are muscle memory. And until he changes his muscle memory and we keep working on it, it’s still going to be a problem and that’s why it’s the focus all the time.”

MORE POSITIVES THAN NEGATIVES

The vocal majority of Gators fans want to focus on the negatives these days, especially when it comes to Driskel. And it is quite easy to point out mistakes that Florida’s starting quarterback made during last Saturday’s game.

Early in the contest, Driskel somehow overthrew two wide open receivers who would have either hauled in his passes for big gains or touchdowns had he hit them on the mark. A short while later, he managed to launch the ball with the perfect distance…except it was two feet out of bounds. So the only thing Driskel could do when asked about it on Monday was copy to those miscues.

“I had some open guys. I just got to give those guys a chance [to make a play]. That’s something we’ll get corrected. I’m not too worried about it. I know I did miss a few,” he said, “but I’d rather me miss the open receivers than not have the open receivers. We’re going to get that corrected, and I’m going to have to do that in order for us to be successful down the road.”

Driskel also panicked while attempting to avoid taking a sack and threw the ball away. Unfortunately, he failed to throw it completely out of bounds and put way too much air under the ball; soon he would see it get picked off and nearly taken to the house. Roper was well-aware that Driskel made that mistake but was also proud to see the way he handled pressure throughout the contest.

“I thought Jeff stood in there and made a lot of throws versus guys in his face. I thought he played really, really fast and got the ball out of his hand. I was really pleased with that aspect of it,” he said. “I think we could’ve helped him with some different things, moved the pocket a little bit more and different things like that, but I thought he did a good job of handling the pressure.”

Despite Driskel’s early struggles (7-of-20, interception), Roper and head coach Will Muschamp never considered replacing him with freshman Treon Harris. That paid off for the Gators, which saw him finish the game 18-of-23 for 179 yards and three touchdowns…including a conversion on 4th and 7 that is – to this point – the highlight of his career.

“To have a play like that in a critical situation, no question for him. Really, I think Jeff is playing really well,” Muschamp said on Monday. “Certainly, the throwaway in the first half, he was trying to throw it away and thought he had a little more on the ball than he did. … You take a couple drops here and there in the game, a little off-kilter on the deep balls. He came back in the second half and really performed well. There is no question that was a huge play for him.”

Roper believes Driskel has a “pretty good” comfort level with Florida’s offense at this time, and his confidence only grew in his signal caller when Roper saw Driskel take “complete control” of the aforementioned 4th and 7 play. Driskel got the players aligned, ensured the proper players were on the line of scrimmage, rushed to get the snap off, made a quick decision and executed a great throw.

In fact, outside of the one time Driskel stared down Robinson in the end zone in overtime – throwing the ball late and ultimately incomplete when Robinson bobbled a potential touchdown – Roper thought he was quite poised.

For Driskel, Saturday marks the second time he will face Alabama in his career. The first time, as a true freshman injury replacement for John Brantley in 2011, Driskel fumbled a snap and was sacked twice – one led to a sprained ankle that eliminated him from starting the following game.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Driskel on what Florida showed by sticking together and winning on Saturday: “We’re not going to hang our heads when things go wrong. We had a lot of things go wrong, especially early on the offensive side. Things weren’t clicking for us. We weren’t making the plays down the field, but we continued to move forward. No one was complaining or doing anything like that. So I just think we have a really close-knit unit that knows how to stick together, and I think that we’re going to have to do that in a few more games this year.”

» Driskel on Alabama’s offense: “Obviously, they have a lot of good players and they’re going to play some one-on-one matchups, and we’re going to have to win some of those. I think their coaches [coach them] extremely well; they have a really good coaching staff. We have our hands full.”

» Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. on the Tide’s defense: “They’re explosive. They run the ball very well. They have good receivers and a good quarterback and stuff like that. We just have to play our ball game and just defend. It’s going to be a line of scrimmage game, so we just have to control our side of the ball.”

» Hargreaves on the Gators’ confidence this season, especially during Saturday’s game: “I don’t think anybody on our team had a doubt that we were going to win that game, no matter how many overtimes we went to. Just walking down the sidelines, looking guys in their eyes, it’s completely different than last year. Yeah, there’s room for improvement but our confidence is high. I think it’s going to stay that way – win, loss, that’s just kind of the team we are, and I’m excited to see how the season ends up for us.”

» Garcia on how Florida’s offensive line can combat a deep Alabama defensive line: “With heart. With our will to play. We played 96 snaps last week; I played every single one of them. I think we have guys that are willing to go the distance. They’re not going to tap out. That’s the way it’s been since the spring, going on with the same guys. … We’re ready to go the distance.”
Roper on senior tight end Tevin Westbrook: ” I think between him and Clay [Burton] right now, those guys are doing a good job being interchangeable in a lot of ways. Clay played a few more snaps than Tevin. Tevin obviously is a physical guy, tries to make plays that way in the run game, and then was big for us in some play-action pass right there.”

34 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    I have been a HUGE Driskel supporter all along and have argued on his behalf extensively and exhaustively on this website. I, for one, don’t WANT to focus on Driskel’s negatives nor do I WANT to focus on anyone else’s negatives. Nobody is perfect. But Jeff did some things against UK that are below both his skill and experience level. They were pretty glaring, as you have restated in this account, and he should be past a lot of that.

    Enough is enough and it’s time for him to be better than that. . not perfect, no, but better than he was Saturday night by a lot. He gets better in those areas–as he has the skill and experience to be–and we’re suddenly a MUCH more dangerous team. So kill me for being such a horribly negative person and talking about it.

    I hope that everyone coaches and plays really well tomorrow but if they don’t I promise to not say a word about it. God forbid. Wouldn’t want to tip anybody’s polyanna apple cart by stating the facts. We can all just hold hands and skip along singing a happy tune. I want to be a good Gator.

    • Dave Massey says:

      I agree with you Michael. I’m glad to see the team is so united and confident. It’s unfortunate that the “vocal majority” is so negative on the team and the players, especially Driskel. I’m sure they are all so perfect in their lives and professions and that is why they expect it from the Gators. The game of football is full of mistakes and breaks, wish everyone would just learn to live with that fact.

      I think this game is going to go a long way towards determining what this team is really like. I hope win or lose that they just fight their hearts out, that is all I ask for.

      And win or lose I’ll be supporting them and cheering for them next week and the rest of the season.

      GO GATORS!!!!!

      • Michael Jones says:

        You hit the nail right on the head, Dave. I want our team to play with heart and pride. I want them to play hard throughout the entire game. I want them to fight until the end. I want them to look well-coached and disciplined. That’s all I ask.

        Not every team can go undefeated. Only 1 team ends up as the National Champion and I refuse to accept that only that team had a good season. I just want our boys to play with class, dignity, discipline and spirit. They don’t have to be perfect.

        And I will always be a Gator. . win, lose or draw.

        • Steven says:

          I am so confused by this exchange.
          Wasn’t Michael’s first post sarcasm?

          • Michael Jones says:

            The last 3 sentences were tongue-in-cheek. The rest of my post was not.

            I’m a big Driskel fan. Always have been. But he needs to start moving forward, developing and stop making the same mistakes over and over. His potential and skill set are off the charts. It is time that he begins to start living up to that potential. He’s a pretty good QB but he can be great. I’m pulling for him to become great.

            I agree whole heartedly with what Dave posted in response. I am a Gator through and through. . in all kinds of weather.

          • Dave Massey says:

            No, it wasn’t sarcasm. If you don’t know that you need to follow this site more and read the comments. You can look at past articles by going to recent posts on the right.

  2. Mike The Red says:

    Go Gators! This Gator team can pull off an upset!

    … and please, please…will the defense please embarrass Lane Kiffin?

  3. kaveman says:

    Oh crap! I glanced at the title and thought it said “Robinson out”. Dont scare me like that. I think subconsciously I keep waiting for the injury report.

  4. PapaMurphy says:

    Robinson’s game last week was fluke. Don’t see him having anymore big games against good teams. Driskel is still making bad reads. Hopefully UF can confuse Alabama’s qb with some different defensive packages. Blitzes, Zone, and formation shifts.

    • Michael Jones says:

      So for just one week Robinson had the freakish athletic skills that he has put on display for TWO weeks? And from here on out he’s no longer going to have those skills?

      Hmmm. . interesting theory. Duly noted, my good man.

      • Dave Massey says:

        Michael,
        You gotta remember that bama fans are known for trolling the other teams websites the week of their game with them. I think we may have a tide troll here, but what I can’t figure out if he is how he was able to answer the math question in order to submit the comment, so maybe he is just another one of the negative vocal majority.

      • Steven says:

        Robinson is a freak an that won’t stop, but teams are going to be aware of him now.
        Let’s see if Driskel can get him the ball

        • Dave Massey says:

          Great receivers are always going to produce no matter what. Defenses cannot gear themselves too much to stopping this guy or they will get burned elsewhere. After the wideout play the last several years this is a refreshing change. Now some of the other receivers need to step up to make the passing game extremely potent. We already know we have the running backs to run the ball, now we need multiple receivers to be a threat.

  5. sjkoepp says:

    Love these Friday Final articles. These are new, right? Pumped to see what we have against Bama. Hoping for a good game – win or lose I just want to see us compete.

  6. Steven says:

    It’s time for Driskel to show up in a big game. Let’s hope it’s Saturday.
    This Tide team is strong, but not as strong as they have been.
    They are beatable. I’m just not sure the Gators are the team that can pull it off.

  7. gradygator says:

    I think Driskel deserves a lot more credit and appreciation from the Gator Nation than some of the shit people say on these boards about him. (MJ-this is not directed at you, I think your comments are fair and reasonable). First, you should consider that the kid was Gatorade National Player of the Year and the top QB prospect in the nation when he committed to be a Gator. Now, do you remember when that was? That was right after Meyer and Addazzio ran our team and any last vestiges of our offense into the crapper. Obviously, Meyer had health issues which began after his spanking at Bama and we were in the market for a new coach. BUT and here’ is the big BUT, that Gatorade Player of the Year stuck with the school through the transition and brought credibility to the recruiting class with his 5 star rating. He came to our school b/c he was a GATOR!! Never waivered, never de-committed despite not know who his new OC would be, he was a GATOR!! Got into a battle with a guy who ended up transferring and he not only won the position battle, he never waivererd, never complained!! Has had 3 offensive coordinators in three years and he never complained and never waivered. Remember, this was the most sought after guy in the land–many like him have left the program before and many will do so in the future. He LED the team to a Sugar Bowl and yes he had some great game-altering passes and some long deer-like runs along the way. He’s something like 13-3 as a starter, Gatorade National Player of the Year, gone through injuries an adversity, led the team back in the Kentuck game and some on these boards don’t think he’s good enough for the mighty gators. This is the same guy who had his leg broken on the field, and called the trainers off so that he could walk himself back like a real man. I never saw him point fingers or complain at an offensive lineman that he got sacked. For those of you that want to badmouth the guy, you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are half the man that Driskel is. My gut tells me that that unless you are a combat vet or a past collegiate athlete, then your are not even close. Let’s root for a guy that we are lucky to have leading our team. He’s a great kid. Hasn’t been arrested for stealing lobsters, doesn’t beat or yell expletives at Women. As far as we can tell, and by the interviews and time we have seen of him on camera, he is a class act and one I am proud to watch lead and represent our university and football program. To close, I don’t wear rose-colored glassed and would agree that last weeks INT was not so smart. I’ll be the first to agree he’s not perfect, but he’s a true GATOR and that’s good enough for me. IAKOW we all stick together!

    • Dave Massey says:

      Hey gradygator, you definitely nailed it with that comment. Driskel is 14-3 as a starter after the Kentucky game.

      I have a question for everyone. Who would you rather have as your quarterback representing our university, Driskel or Winston? Standing on a table in the student union like a show dog screaming obscenities before their biggest game so far this year? Really? What a team first guy. Really represents that Heisman trophy well, hope all the voters are happy now that they gave it to him. At this rate he will eventually pass OJ for disgraced Heisman winners. And this is the guy who said he was more mature after last years garbage. What a joke to suspend him for a half. Of course half ass u is known for their lack of discipline, that is probably why these things happen, they know there are no real consequences to their actions. Wonder what Muschamp would have done? Meyer would have patted him on the back and said don’t worry I have all my stars backs. As much as everyone criticizes WM’s coaching at least he runs a clean program and that makes me very happy.

      Hey Adam, I think the vocal minority is fighting back!

      • Unfortunately, these comment sections only represent a small sample of the stuff I see on a daily basis…and you guys have all been writing treatises recently, so I haven’t been able to read through all the comments.

        • Dave Massey says:

          Be interesting to see the comments after the bama game if we manage to win.

          I’m one of the guilty ones, will try to be a little more nutshell in the future.

          Thanks for all you do for us Gator fans.

          • Dave Massey says:

            Looks like they will sit Winston for the whole game. I must have had some influence at the FSU athletic dept, lol.

            • Michael Jones says:

              A lot of people were giving Jimbo Fisher credit for taking action against Winston, but to me it looked like a slick attempt at a preemptive strike by giving him SOME punishment but not as much as he deserved. I think Jimbo wanted to keep the FSU president and athletic director out of it.

              Looks like the FSU president and AD saw through it and over-rode Jimbo to give Winston a more appropriate punishment.

        • Michael Jones says:

          Ha ha. . yeah, I know. Guilty as charged. I told you awhile back that I was a frustrated sports writer. About half the time I’m marveling/sympathizing at all the hours you work to provide us with these articles, but the other half of the time I’m jealous of you for getting to cover sports for a living! lol 🙂

  8. gradygator says:

    Adam, sorry about the long rants. I’m just tired of the same old garbage coming from a handful of these folks. As I mentioned, I don’t write on message boards very often so I guess what happens is when I do, I’ve got a lot to say/rant about.

    Thank you for all the hard work you put into the site. I visit Gatorsports, Gatorzone, ESPN’s Florida page, Alligator Army, 247 sports, BR and several others and your site is by far my favorite. I was happy to support the site at the$30 level and glad to do that annually. Keep up the great work.

    • It’s not that I dislike the long rants, it’s just that I can’t read them. Too busy during the day. Normally a comment of 6-8 sentences can get the job done in the same way – at least in my opinion.

      Glad you enjoy the site and see it as your preferred destination!

  9. Dave Massey says:

    I think Winston being less than forthcoming and truthful bothered the ad and president a lot more than it did jumbo.
    Fisher has shown time and time again that all he cares about is winning football games. He has no interest in molding young men’s lives. He wouldn’t have defended him so vigorously if had looked at the whole picture involving this guy. He made a token move.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      So, we can now add liar to the ever growing list of poor character qualities shameless Jameis has (along with thief, rapist, & vandal). So much for the Heisman standing for “excellence with integrity”. If he somehow wins it again I’ll lose all respect for the award. I’ll bet Tebow, Wuerffel, & Spurrier are embarrassed to be associated with him. I’d take Driskell over that lowlife scumbag any day. Go Gators! (& Clemson Tigers).

      • Dave Massey says:

        Don’t know if you caught Finebaum on SEC Now last night saying he would vote for Winston if he is the most outstanding player, that he doesn’t pay any attention to the integrity clause. Obviously, a lot of the voters felt the same way last year. If they vote him in again this year I will never care about that award again. Part of that award IS supposed to be how you act off the field.

  10. USA says:

    -gradygator

    Driskel is a good kid. No doubt about that. But he will never be a better quarterback than Winston. You are contradicting yourself by telling everyone to stop saying bad things about Driskel and then “you” are bad talking Winston. At the end of the day they are both kids. Should act like a fair grown man and not a hypocrite.

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