No. 3 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and a handful of players met with the media after practice on Sunday to preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl against the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals and provide thoughts on the team heading into the game.
SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR JEFF DRISKEL IN 2013
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, fresh off a regular season in which he led the Gators to 10 wins in his 11 starts while posting an 11-3 touchdown-interception ratio (with four more scores on the ground), is only scratching the surface. That according to Pease and his teammates, who all believe that by the time he is done at Florida, Driskel could be one of the all-time greats.
“Tim Tebow is a great quarterback, I don’t want to take nothing from him,” senior running back Mike Gillislee told the Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson on Sunday. “But I think Driskel is going to be a lot better. I think after this year he’s going to be a lot better.”
Both Gillislee and redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. described Driskel as a humble leader who is focused not on his numbers but rather ensuring that the offense runs smoothly and everyone on the field gets involved.
“The sky’s the limit,” said Hammond, who noted that Driskel’s ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage is a big-time characteristic he already possesses. “It’s a great advantage. Having trust in the quarterback like that and knowing that he will get us guys in the right situation. When we are all on the same page and we all see it through his eyes, how he sees it, then everything starts clicking.”
Pease on Sunday called Driskel “a good kid” and “a good player” who showed that he took steps every week, increased his knowledge and became a better leader. For those reasons, he is in the position to take a huge leap in his second year as a starter as he, the players around him and the offense as a whole continues developing.
Read the rest of what the Gators had to say…after the break!
“You always see drastic improvement, when you take a kid that … will know everything we’re doing,” Pease said. “You can start to go back and spend some time in the film room where you’re not having to do it out there [on the field], talk a little verbally about him, get the mindset that way and more what they’re thinking, and start that development with that process. And that’s going to be key for him.
“He starts to study himself, starts to study a lot of things that we’re going to do and go back and try to improve and improvise new things in the offense and make ourselves better. And it’s not all Jeff. It’s all about everybody in the offense, about the [offensive] line. It’s also about the receivers and getting some people around them that he’s consistent with and can continue to stretch the field for the throwing game.”
Pease also said that using Driskel’s legs in the running game will continue to be part of the offense even after he becomes more fully developed in the pocket. He pointed to San Francisco 49ers signal caller Colin Kaepernick and what he did at Nevada as an example of that.
“As far as him being a better pocket passer, you know we’ve got to get some people get better people around him, play the spots, give him more depth [at] receiver,” he said. “You don’t want him to take unnecessary hits, but he’s big, strong, fast. I think he knows how to protect himself. He’s athletic enough when he gets out there you can see what he’s done this season.”
Driskel feels plenty confident in his own abilities and is ready to put it all together both in the Sugar Bowl and when he returns in 2013. “I feel like I have been confident the whole season. There has never been a lack of confidence. I feel like I am a little bit more confident because we beat teams week in and week out and I’ve played well down the stretch,” he said. “We’ve been going strong for a whole season with Coach Pease. There’s still things that we put in week in and week out. Like I said, we’re getting used to it, but we’re pretty much dialed in [to the offense].”
FEED HIM MORE
There is no questioning how big of a role senior running back Mike Gillislee played in Florida’s success both on and off the field in 2012. Promising become the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason (2004) before the season began, Gillislee has already eclipsed that mark by running for 1,104 yards in his first 12 games.
With one more contest left to play, Gillislee is 164 yards away from gaining more ground in a single season than any player since Fred Taylor in 1997. Should he have an incredibly dominant game and rush for 189 yards, he would have the fourth-highest rushing total in team history behind Emmitt Smith (1989, 1987) and Jimmy DuBose (1975).
On Sunday, Gillislee noted that he is pumped for the Sugar Bowl and not worried about outside distractions. “I feel fresh and explosive. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’ve been here before so this trip is more about being with the team and having the family getting together at the hotel. We’ve spent most of our time in the hotel room, so we haven’t really gone downtown other than to eat. We’ve spent a lot of time playing cards and video games together as a team.”
Gillislee played in the 2010 version of the game and actually wound up leading Florida in rushing with 78 yards on five carries (including a long of 52 yards). The Gators did not run the ball much in that game, but Gillislee nevertheless made an impact. “I remember getting in with about a minute to go, and I told myself if I get in, it’s to score,” he said.
There is no question that he will be starting at tailback this time around. Now all that is left to see is how many times he totes the rock and how far he moves up Florida’s single-season rushing list.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Pease on the team’s bowl preparation: “We’ve had four good days of preparation, three in the dome and one out at the [New Orleans] Saints’ facility today. Thankfully it was indoors because it’s probably a little cool outside. Our kids are ready for it. It’s getting to the point where I think they’re ready to play, and we’re healthy and they’re excited. And we’re ready to go.”
» Pease on how the offense has improved throughout the season: “I really think we’ve come a long ways. I think just looking from the beginning, the guys know the management of the system as far as personnel and in and out and everybody getting involved and understanding kind of all the gymnastics that we do with things. I think they’ve done a tremendous job of that. I think they’ve all bought in. Up front. And the guys that maybe we weren’t as consistent all year because we’ve had injuries. So other guys have had to step up. But you got a lot of guys that are playing at that time.”
» Pease on sophomore QB Jacoby Brissett: “He’s taken a lot of reps even when we were back in Gainesville working out. And he’s been good. He’s prepared like he’s going to have an opportunity to play. And there’s no indication that he wouldn’t have that in case something, if something happened, he prepares himself as he’s the guy, he’s good, he’s professional about it.”
» Pease on how the offensive line is shaping up for 2013: “I think it’s going to look really good. We’ve got some good kids coming in. We’ve got some good kids that were young this year. We even got one or two good kids redshirted that I think will be coming up. I think we’ll have really good depth. And that’s a very [good thing]. … There’s things we gotta improve on. By no means, we have to improve on our sack ratio … we didn’t reach all our goals this year. We’ve done a pretty good job. But that’s what we’ve gotta do as coaches go back and assess each possession and what our goals were in a lot of areas and say how do we get better.”
» Redshirt senior left guard James Wilson on intense bowl practices: “They always are with Coach [Will] Muschamp. We just always go hard. We make sure we give each other our best effort so that we’re prepared for the game.”
» Wilson on managing his weight and staying healthy for the whole year: “It was just finding a way to play through things. I got my weight down, got stronger, changed my lifting style – more heavy weights, less reps – and that really helped this season. I made it through my first spring and my first camp.”
» Wilson on what he would tell fans about the program’s future: “I’d say just what Coach Muschamp has started is really hard to do. To get this program back on top, it feels great to be a part of it, especially having been through the highs and the lows. Last year was definitely a low not just for the team but for me. It’s really great to be back on top.”
» Redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio on visiting the French Quarter: “It’s crazy down there. Last time I was here it was back in ’09 and I didn’t really go out to see Bourbon Street and the casino and stuff like that, so it was pretty good to see all that stuff.”
» Hammond on former teammate and roommate Adrian Bushell, who now plays for Louisville: “He was laid back, talented. With him coming to Florida, he was just a guy trying to find out why he was there in the first place. We can relate, since we are both from South Florida so we bonded pretty quickly.”
» Hammond on new WR coach Joker Phillips: “I think he is a great coach, a great addition to the staff. Knows a lot about the position, he has been around it for years. It’s about picking at his brain since we only have a few days left.”
* All quotes (unless sourced otherwise) courtesy of the Sugar Bowl.