University of Florida

Gators’ Jeff Driskel says benching has been ‘tough’ but he remains ready

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel walks on the sideline during a game against Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel walks on the sideline during a game against Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. AP

Jeff Driskel is hurting inside.

His face also wears the pain of 15 months full of adversity.

Following a four-turnover performance in an embarrassing loss to Missouri, Florida’s beleaguered starting quarterback was benched.

Three weeks later, Driskel has faded into the shadows, as freshman sensation Treon Harris has spearheaded the Gators to back-to-back wins.

Still, Florida’s redshirt junior hasn’t sulked, coping with a difficult situation the only way he knows how: To keep grinding.

“It’s been tough. I’m not going to say it hasn’t been difficult,” he said, speaking to reporters for the first time since his benching.

“But at the end of the day I’m still doing what I’ve always done. I’m still preparing to be ready to go in and make plays if my number gets called. That’s what I owe this team.”

Driskel – who has started 20 games at quarterback for Florida – has responded to the QB change with dignity and class, accepting his newfound short-yardage role with an optimistic, team-first attitude.

“Being a competitor, you always want to be the guy to have the ball,” he said. “I think it goes back to I was raised right. I think my parents did a really good job of instilling a sense of the team is greater than the individual.”

Driskel contributed in Saturday’s 34-10 win at Vanderbilt, registering four carries in the Wildcat formation, including scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard plunge on fourth down.

“Anytime you can contribute to the team and to a good team win it’s a good feeling,” he said.

Added coach Will Muschamp: “Jeff’s a good football player. And he’s going to contribute to our offense. We’ll find different ways, depending on how a defense is defending us. He’ll continue to play.”

Driskel had 12 turnovers in his final four starts, losing confidence with each additional snap. After breaking his leg last September, Driskel was supposed to flourish in an offense tailored to his skill-set this fall.

Instead, his play was disastrous, and Muschamp was forced to make a change to save his job.

Harris has exceled as the starter, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors after a breakout performance (215 passing yards, two rushing touchdowns) against Vandy.

Now, Driskel is tasked with mentoring the kid who took his job, and preparing for whatever role the team needs.

“I think everybody on the team should have the same sense of responsibility to the team,” he said. “If it’s being in a Wildcat-type role, I want to be ready and able to run the ball and understand the blocking schemes and the defense we’re going to get. That’s not just me that feels that type of responsibility. I think that’s something you have to have in a team sport.”

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