Three Florida Gators players – sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, redshirt senior defensive lineman Omar Hunter and senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic – met with the media on Monday to discuss No. 2 Florida’s victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores and the upcoming game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.
A PATCHWORK OFFENSIVE LINE?
Florida was without the entire left side of its offensive line on Saturday as redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (eye) did not make the trip to Nashville, TN, senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) got knocked out of the game and even redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with an injury. Filling in for the trio, respectively, were redshirt sophomore Ian Silberman, freshman D.J. Humphries and redshirt senior Sam Robey. Those three still managed to open up holes and hold blocks to the tune of 326 rushing yards for the Gators.
“We had three guys go down. Whenever you have three starters go down, that’s huge, especially if they’re O-linemen. We had three guys that stepped up and that’s what we’ve been doing all year long. When a guy goes down, the next guy is going to have to go up. We have great depth and that really helped it out on Saturday,” Driskel said.
Though head coach Will Muschamp said Monday that all three should be healthy enough to play Saturday against South Carolina, there is a prevailing doubt that one or more will be unable to suit up by game time with Wilson being the most likely to fall into that category. Hunter, who has practiced against the reserves for months, believes Florida will not lose a step with reserves in the game.
“I don’t think there’s a drop-off. Those guys come out each and every day in practice and they go just as hard as our starters,” he said. “Robey is a very experienced guy, being a senior. Ian, he’s been around a long time too, and he works hard during practice. [Humphries is] young and aggressive. He doesn’t let too many things get to him. He never gets too high or too low or anything. It’s going to be a great match-up.”
Read the rest of this post…after the break!
OVERDUE PRAISE FOR THE FULLBACK
As Muschamp succinctly said on Monday, fullback is a “lost art in college football” and “not a very glamorous position.” In fact, considering how rarely a fullback touches the ball and how often one has to take on high-impact linebackers, defensive ends and defensive backs, it is one of the toughest positions to play at a high level. Yet sophomore Hunter Joyer has been doing just that for two years now and – even after having a great freshman season – has taken his game to another level in 2012.
“He definitely doesn’t get near enough credit as he deserves. And he doesn’t want the credit,” Driskel said. “Fullbacks get two or three touches a year and that’s it. He springs big plays all the time, and he’s always sticking his nose in the middle of it. He’s definitely the one that springs big plays, and he’s definitely a big part of our offense.”
Joyer’s blocks have paved the way for a number of touchdowns already this season, and he succeeded numerous times on Saturday in making defensive backs look foolish while Driskel scampered down the sidelines for three touchdowns. That is partially why Muschamp took some time to hand out a bit of extra praise on Monday.
“He’s a guy that catches the ball well out of the backfield. We really challenged him in the offseason to become a more physical blocker at the point of attack, and he’s done that. He adjusts well to different looks and different fronts,” he said. “He’s extremely bright, extremely intelligent on and off the field. He throws the shot for our track team. He does a lot of things for Florida. He’s a very unselfish player and sort of epitomizes what we want here at Florida.”
A WAYS TO GO IN THE PASSING GAME
Driskel may have set a school single-game record for quarterback rushing yards with 177 on Saturday, but he also – for the second straight week – failed to eclipse 100 passing yards in a game (61 and 77, respectively). He also completed just 55 percent of his passes and earned a QB rating of 87.3, his worst marks of the season.
Despite some believing that Driskel is not progressing like he had been through the first four games, Muschamp said he was pleased with his performance once again.
“He played outstanding. You could see in some of the zone read situations on film, they obviously were going to try to take Mike Gillislee out of the game. It really opened some things up for Jeff. He really played well, made some very good decisions in the game. We’re very proud of him,” he said.
Driskel was much more critical of himself, detailing some of the things he did wrong in the game and explaining how he can improve going forward.
“Sometimes I feel like I get out of the pocket too early,” he said. “I either get caught locking onto a receiver or watching the rush. As a quarterback, you can’t do that. You got to trust that the offensive line is going to get a block and you got to trust that your receivers are going to get to the right spot. That’s just something we’re going to have to work on and get better.”
Driskel also admitted that running the ball is a “big part” of his game and one that he hopes to be able to use more often because he can make plays with his legs. “Obviously we didn’t expect to put up numbers like that with me,” he said, “but when you have Mike Gillislee running the way he has been all year, [the defense] keys in on him. And when they do that, it opens up the outside. And when you get great perimeter blocking, that’s when big plays like that happen.”
Asked if he, as a quarterback, was at all worried about Florida being last in the Southeastern Conference in passing, Driskel dismissed the notion because the team is winning.
“I didn’t realize we were last in passing, but we’re first in the [SEC] East, so that’s all that matters,” he quipped. “We’re undefeated. We haven’t dropped a game yet. If you’re winning, everything is all right. Obviously we have to get better in the passing game, but we’re winning games and that’s what matters.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Driskel on comparisons to Tim Tebow: “There’s been a lot, but they’ve been saying that all along. It’s just something that you have to live with. It’s an honor to be compared to a player like that.”
» Driskel on USC head coach Steve Spurrier: “He’s definitely a Gator Great. I drive by his statue every day. It’s not really anything that’s going to bother us. All of our players here didn’t play for him or weren’t here when he was around. It’s definitely a media and fan build-up. It’s definitely bigger for the media and fans than it is for the players. […] It’s hard to miss a statue. It’s hard to miss a guy that named our stadium what it’s called.”
» Hunter on Spurrier: “Coach Spurrier, he’s a legend in Gainesville.”
» Hunter and Bostic both said that they feel like brand new players under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman in the weight room. “I feel like I’m more explosive now than I’ve ever been,” Hunter said. “I feel more explosive, stronger than I’ve ever been,” Bostic agreed.
» Driskel on Gillislee’s blocking on the zone read plays: “Gilly definitely got lit up on some of them even though he didn’t have the ball. He did a great job of carrying out his fake and that definitely does not get enough acknowledgement or credit. That’s a huge part of what sprung those big gains.”