Florida receivers trending upward, running game questions, Jeff Driskel’s redshirt eligibility

By Adam Silverstein
September 22, 2013

OnlyGators.com tackles three hot topics coming out of Saturday’s 31-17 victory by the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators have seen wide receivers step up, must deal with a change in running philosophy and have questions to answer about the team’s future at quarterback.

WIDEOUTS BEGINNING TO EMERGE

Heading into the 2013 season, it appeared that Florida’s best chance to significantly improve its passing game would come on the back of two players – just not the two players that have stood out through the first three games. With redshirt senior Andre Debose (torn ACL) out for the season and supposed freshman sensation Demarcus Robinson held catchless in his first two games (he was suspended against Tennessee for a violation of team rules), two veterans have stepped up in a major way.

Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar has amassed 162 yards on 11 catches over the last two contests. He had a career-high 98 yards against Miami on Sept. 7 and added 63 yards – his third-highest collegiate total – on Saturday.

Perhaps even more impressive, senior Solomon Patton has totaled 192 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. In his previous 32 appearances, Patton only combined for 100 receiving yards and never found the end zone once.

“We challenged him. ‘Do you want to just continue to be a jet sweep guy or do you want to be a major contributor to our football team?’” explained head coach Will Muschamp after Saturday’s game.

“So he worked on route running. He worked on letting us have the confidence to tailor some things after him. … He mastered those throughout spring and then he had a great summer. He came in and had a really good camp. That, to me, as much as anything, he saw an opportunity his senior year in his last go-around at the University of Florida and ‘I’m going to take advantage of my opportunities.’ And he certainly did.”


Patton concurred with Muschamp’s assessment. “I just worked my butt off and gained some weight. Then when I met with Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy in the offseason, running routes. I just worked on it a lot and tried to get better. And it’s showing.”

The emergence of Dunbar and Phillips are a big reason why Muschamp is so pleased with new wide receivers coach Joker Phillips.

“Joker’s done a really nice job with those guys, coaching those guys up, being demanding on those guys,” he said. “They understand what they got to do to be successful. That’s part of it. I’ve been very pleased with their play.”

RUNNING BACK BY COMMITTEE

The Gators thrived with a primary rusher in 2012 as Mike Gillislee became the first Florida running back to amass more than 1,000 yards in a single season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. UF was hoping to continue that trend in 2013 with sophomore Matt Jones, though that concept was dealt a major blow during fall camp when Jones was diagnosed with a serious viral infection.

Held out for the first game of the season, Jones watched redshirt junior Mack Brown tally 112 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Jones returned to his starting role against Miami and got a team-high 18 touches but picked up just 2.6 yards per carry and fumbled the ball on the first series of the game. On Saturday, Jones fumbled for the second time in as many games.

Though Florida did not take Jones out of the game against Tennessee – he scored a touchdown in the second half and averaged 4.1 yards on 12 carries – Muschamp did turn back to Brown to take the majority of the touches. Brown picked up 86 yards on 24 carries and found the end zone. Through three games, he has team-highs of 227 yards and three touchdowns.

“I never felt like [it was Jones’s job]. It might’ve seemed like that, but since I’ve been here I’m going to compete. I’m going to compete until I leave. That’s how I am,” Brown said after the game. “During the week of practice, we compete every day. Coach always tell us to be ready. When you’re on the sideline, you just got to keep stretching and warming up because you never know when your turn is going to be called.”

Muschamp admitted that the Gators will likely begin running the ball by committee with the majority of carries going to whoever is rushing the best in any particular game. “Whoever’s got the hot hand and whoever’s running well,” he said. “Whoever has the hot hand we’re going to go with.”

That means more touches could come for freshman Kelvin Taylor, who saw action Saturday but needs to play a bigger role, Muschamp said. It is also an indication that Jones needs to take care of the ball better and not make mistakes like changing hands in traffic, which caused his fumble on Saturday.

IS A MEDICAL REDSHIRT POSSIBLE?

The simple answer: yes.

Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who broke his right fibula early in the first quarter against the Vols and will have season-ending surgery on Sunday, will likely be eligible for a medical redshirt as long as he takes the right steps.

According to John Infante, author of the NCAA’s Bylaw Blog, a student-athlete will be eligible for a medical hardship waiver if he/she meets the following criteria:

– The student-athlete must suffer the injury during one of their four seasons of college competition or during the senior year of high school.
– The injury must be incapacitating. That means it must be a season-ending injury.
– The injury must occur prior to the start of the second half of the season.
– The student-athlete must not have competed in more than 30% of the season or three contests, whichever is greater.

Driskel meets each of the aforementioned criterion. He is a junior in college, has been knocked out for the season and was injured before the conclusion of Florida’s sixth game. Though he did play in the Gators’ third game of the season, he did not play a full game’s worth of minutes.

Should Driskel apply for and be granted a medical hardship waiver, assuming he and the school fill out the necessary forms and compile the appropriate medical documentation, he would be a redshirt junior at the start of the 2014 season with two years of eligibility remaining.

Redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, Florida’s new starting quarterback, will be in his final year of eligibility, and four-star signal caller Will Grier (Davidson, NC) is set to join the team in the spring as an early enrollee.

Initial expectations were that Grier would take over once Driskel graduated in 2014. An additional year of eligibility for Driskel, coupled with the unknown of how Murphy will play for the remainder of the 2013 season, puts a lot of questions up in the air.

15 Comments

  1. SJ210 says:

    Good stuff Adam – I was wondering about the medical RS option. Funny how once again we hear about needing to get Kelvin Taylor more involved after he had one carry. I have a feeling that song and dance will continue all season.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Here’s another song and dance for you: why when something works for the offense does Muschamp never go back to it again? We saw that all season last year with Omarius Hines–who would hit for a big play and then go to the sidelines and sit on the bench for the rest of the game–and we’re seeing it again this season. Where was Valdez Showers yesterday? If running Purifoy at tailback was such a great idea, why do it just once? And if Taylor looks good running it “once,” then why not give it to him twice?

      We look herky jerky. . panicky. . . . no flow. . no continuity . . . nothing sets anything else up. . . . . more like a team that can’t decide whether it wants to be a Woody Hayes “3 yards and a cloud of dust” team or a gimmicky flag football team.

      He hired Pease to score. Muschamp needs to turn his headset off when we have the ball and let Pease do his thing or hire an unimaginative, untalented meathead like Adazzio to run those slow-developing “counters” up the middle that get stuffed all afternoon.

  2. Tractorr says:

    I imagine that some of the running problems stem from the OL being different each game. We need to get some consistency with the line and that should help things out. Also, now that the passing game is starting to look functional it will keep Ds a little more honest. They won’t we be able to stack the box without the possibility of Patton taking one to the house.

  3. Gator man says:

    Is it me or does it seem like we have had issues on the OL for about 6 years? Why don’t we recruit better?

    • Tractorr says:

      It seems like a lot of guys either haven’t panned out, have had the careers ended early by injury, or have had nagging injuries that limit their productivity. I think when it comes down to it there just aren’t that many elite offensive linemen to go around to deal with elite defensive lines. Though Tenn’s dline probably isn’t exactly elite. Hopefully, once some of these guys shake off some injuries and play a few games together the line will look better.

  4. KB Gators says:

    Great article. Answered a lot of my questions.

  5. kinggator says:

    The qb position belongs to Will Grier, driskel doesnt have the intangibles to lead us with all the talent we have

    • Alex says:

      Just as a reminder to all, Jeff Driskel was a highly rated high school QB who put up monster numbers against weak competition. Will Grier just so happens to be in a similar situation. I wouldn’t proclaim Grier the savior of Florida football just yet. Both Driskel and Grier have the physical tools to be awesome QBs – it’s just a question of making the successful transition.

  6. Ken (CA) says:

    we definitely don’t have the “power running” game that muschamp talks about so much, and the one thing Cowherd got right is this offense IS putrid. It looked a little smoother with Murphy out there, making good decisions, throwing the ball away instead of forcing it (except one time I thought he did, but at least it was so low to the ground the defender didn’t really have a shot at it). Using our speed along the edge seems to be much better than trying to keep banging it up the middle over and over, we have had almost no success doing that on a regular basis. Our O-line just can’t control the line and push them off the line and open holes. I know Jones is coming off his viral infection, but I don’t see the hype for him at all. no breakout runs and major butterfingers.

  7. GatorMatt says:

    I haven’t seen any use of the jumbo package that worked so well last season. What are the thoughts on that one or am I just blinking too offten while I cry during the games?

    • Tractorr says:

      We ran it a bunch near the end of the game on Saturday. Unfortunately, it didn’t work so well for the most part. Between the drop off from Gilly and Jones still recovering might be the reason why it doesn’t work so well. Brown is a decent running back but he will not be able to put the team on his shoulders.

  8. Michael Jones says:

    I wonder how the O-line, QB, running backs, receivers, and tight end felt when Muschamp thought it was a better idea to kneel 3 times and give the ball back to Tennessee rather than to try to get a first down and run out the clock. Had to feel great to know their head coach believed in them that much. In all of my years of watching football, I’ve never seen anything like that.

    Muschamp calls a scared game. That’s not conservative. It’s scared. Saban and Miles are conservative. Muschamp is just scared. We’ll never win a championship like that.

    And there’s no doubt but that Muschamp has Pease on a short leash. Why he went out and got an offensive coordinator from an innovative high-scoring program like Boise State is hard to figure out. Like I’ve said before, it’s like asking Mario Andretti to drive your road grader.

  9. Joe says:

    I think Pease finally earned his paycheck Sat. He called his best game after Jeff went out. Seems the only leash Muschamp put on Pease was that Jeff had to play QB.

  10. Sammage says:

    First game in awhile I came out of the stadium feeling like we won. Even wins last season felt like a struggle and wins just didn’t feel like wins. There was a lot more happiness in the stands around me too. I hate that Driskel is hurt and wish him a speedy recovery, but Murphy looked more in command of the offense and smoother than I have ever seen Driskel play. I haven’t broken down any film, that’s just how it looked from the stands.

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