This past October when Alabama and Florida met on the field there were a lot of things on the line for both teams. Heading into the game, both teams were 4 – 0, and they were both just getting into the meat of Southeastern Conference football play. Alabama was ranked number four in the land and upstart Florida was riding a wave of confidence from knocking off Tennessee and Kentucky respectively. This test would determine the direction for at least one team, and as it turns out, the fate of two separate individual young guns in Florida’s stable of quarterbacks.
The stars aligned, or perhaps maligned depending on how you look at, when Gator starting signal caller John Brantley was sacked deep in Alabama territory by Courtney Upshaw. Here is where fate raised its fickle head and decided to make an appearance that Saturday night in Gainesville. If you recall, the play prior to the one in which Brantley was injured, it appeared that the Gators turned the ball over, only to have that call overturned on the field. Had Alabama recovered the apparent fumble Johnny Brantley would not have even been on the field. One could hear a collective gasp, as Brantley lay injured on the field. On the sideline, two young men were about to have the opportunity that they came to Florida for. The only question to be answered was, is this the night that the next great Florida quarterback rallies his team from behind to victory against the vaunted Alabama “D”? We all know the answer to that question now; but at the time, you could almost sense and feel that 93,000 fans in attendance were about to witness something magical.
Jeff Driskel, enter stage left. The moment that he trotted onto the field for the next series, I was struck by the fact that this young man, all of 18, was on the largest stage of his young career at Florida. His eyes looked large, and spooky. Almost like two full moons, shoved into that orange helmet. I had often heard of the deer in the headlight look, but never seen it; until that moment. Anyone who watched the game could tell he was overwhelmed. And in fairness to Jeff, which one of us wouldn’t have been? He played as well as could’ve been expected. To be honest, I think had he been able to take the field immediately, instead of waiting for half time to be over, things may have been different. This young man had to wait and ponder, wonder, and contemplate all of what he was about to have to go out and face, and it showed. He went on to complete 2 of 6 passes for a total of 14 yards. In the process, it appeared that he tweaked his ankle, although he continued to play for the remainder of the night.
His next start was slated for the following Saturday against L.S.U., once again putting him in a precarious situation. Following warm-ups at Death Valley, it was announced that Jacoby Brissett would be the starter for the game, and since that point Jeff Driskel has been as non-existent at quarterback as Joe Shmucatelly. Jacoby Brissett came in and although he was not a factor in the game. One could look into his face and see that this kid had “it”. The occasion wasn’t bigger than him. He looked confident, and you could see leadership. A silent confidence exudes Brissett, which is something I didn’t see when watching Driskel.
Here we are, the season is over and we are waiting for March to arrive so we can see what Brent Pease has in store for this Florida program. I for one am waiting to see what Driskel will do. How will he respond? Watching him from the sidelines following the apparent demotion to #3 on the depth chart, I also observed something disconcerting as a Gator fan. He appeared to shrink, and shy away from his teammates. There were few times that he appeared to be listening in during timeouts and quarterback meetings with Charlie Weis. It will be interesting to see how this “wunderkid” responds during spring football, which is just around the corner. Only time will tell, what will become of this young man. I however, wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bad spring, to see this young man transfer. For now, we just wait and will see what level of maturity he develops as a young man, and a player.