When Jeff Driskel slid for a first down on 3rd-and-4 with 58 seconds left to seal the deal for a 28-20 win over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, it was thought to be the junior quarterback’s final play with the Florida Gators as he had previously requested—and was granted one day prior—release from his scholarship after showing interest in transferring to Duke.
It didn’t take long for speculation to become factual, as sources told 247Sports’ J.C. Shurburtt that Driskel had already found a new home, but it wasn’t with the Blue Devils.
It’s Skip Holtz and Louisiana State. Phew.
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 5, 2015
Though I do not question David Cutcliffe’s ability to coach quarterbacks—the man certainly has a decent track record—it probably was in Driskel’s best interests to avoid Durham for several obvious reasons.
For one, Duke will be looking to build off back-to-back nine-win seasons and the chance to win a bowl game for the first time since 1961. Now that the Blue Devils are consistently winning, an culture of expectancy has been created; they won the ACC Coastal Division in 2013 and came in second this past season, and undoubtedly are looking to contend for a conference title in 2015.
Driskel is used to playing under heat, but those are some lofty expectations for a senior transfer that holds a 5-4 record over the last two years and a career 117.8 passer efficiency rating in a division (SEC East) that has similar qualities to the Coastal.
Secondly, I would imagine this decision has something to do with F.O.B.M. (Fear of Braxton Miller). X-Brax 360 says he’s sticking with Ohio State, but there are several rumors that say he’s interested in transferring to Duke—and let’s be honest, he has no real good reason to stay in Columbus with the rise of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
Ohio State’s quarterback is a beautiful disaster that Miller will want nothing to do with, and though there are other reports—and “accidental” social media hints—that he wants to play for Oregon, Florida State, and Ole Miss—the idea of playing for a Pro Style offense under a QB guru might be too hard to pass up for someone who is trying to become a better downfield passer before he opens his services to the NFL.
Without question, Miller would start over Driskel, and I’m sure the former would have no issues with an open competition. The latter, on the other hand, might.
And then there’s the enigma that is the Louisiana Tech quarterback; for some reason, they’ve just been really good lately. Since 2009, starting Bulldog gunslingers are 1,247-of-2,030 (61.4 percent) for 14,820 yards, 109 touchdowns and 45 interceptions—and that includes the one exception in 2013 when Ryan Higgins threw just six TDs and 13 picks.
Most recently, senior Cody Sokol—a former Iowa transfer—passed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in Holtz’s system, leading Louisiana Tech to a second-place finish in the C-USA, a 17-point win over Big Ten foe Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and a 9-5 overall record despite going 1-3 in non-conference play.
Those are some goals that Driskel is capable of accomplishing.
And it’s not like he’ll be downgrading much in competition. In 2014, three of Florida’s four scheduled non-conference games were against Group of Five opponents (Eastern Michigan, Eastern Kentucky, and Idaho). Two of its fellow East members didn’t qualify for a bowl game (Kentucky and Vanderbilt), and two more finished the regular season at 6-6 (Tennessee and South Carolina).
Next season, the Bulldogs are set to face both Kansas State and Mississippi State on the road, with a home game against a tough Louisiana-at-Lafayette program that has four bowl victories in as many years. He’ll also see a far less daunting C-USA slate, albeit still tricky (you never know what you’ll get in this conference).
Driskel, a former 5-star recruit and the No. 1 overall quarterback in the class of 2011, never came close to living up to his potential with the Gators. Whether that can be attributed to Will Muschamp, the massive injuries that surrounded him, his inability to play at a high level, or all three, it was time for him to leave Gainesville for one more shot at this football thing. LTU was his best option and he wasted no time.
But if it wasn’t and he continues to struggle, that’s OK—I hear he might have a solid backup plan chasing down fly balls.