Sports

July 17, 2013

Gators know offense needs to catch up with 'D'

HOOVER, Ala. — Will Muschamp’s defensive acumen has already helped Florida return to the upper echelon of the Southeastern Conference.

The third-year coach spent most of his appearance at SEC Media Days on Tuesday explaining how the offense plans to catch up.

Florida’s defense was among the league’s best last season, giving up just 14.5 points per game. It needed to be that good, because the Gators’ offense ranked just 10th in the SEC with 26.5 points per game.

“Offensively we’ve got to be more consistent and efficient,” Muschamp said. “I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.”

Florida was 11-2 and lost to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl last season.

Jeff Driskel, the 6-foot-4, 236-pound junior quarterback, returns after a promising but inconsistent season. He threw for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 413 yards and four touchdowns, including a school record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a game with 177 against Vanderbilt.

The Oviedo, Fla., native emerged from a quarterback battle last season, but there shouldn’t be any controversy this August. Driskel said that certainty — along with having offensive coordinator Brent Pease back for a second straight season — should be a big boost.

Florida also has three starting offensive linemen returning, including two fifth-year seniors, to give Driskel a little more time in the pocket.

“It’s easier to be more vocal when you’re the set quarterback,” Driskel said. “When there’s a competition you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I’m a lot more confident because I’ve played more and gotten a lot more snaps. I’ve opened my mouth a lot more and just being around the guys, it just comes with it. You don’t flip a switch, (leadership) grows.”

Now it’s just a matter of Driskel making better decisions. Muschamp said film study and experience should help him improve.

Even though the no-huddle, high-tempo offense is en vogue in college football, Muschamp has consistently kept a more deliberate, physical approach. Because of that, he doesn’t necessarily need Driskel to put up gaudy numbers. Consistency will do.

“Jeff is extremely bright,” Muschamp said. “He’ll learn from those situations. That’s part of the growing process of a young quarterback.”

The Gators are replacing 13 starters, including nine on the defensive side.

Several of the Gators’ consistent playmakers from the past several years — including linebacker Jon Bostic and defensive back Matt Elam — have moved on to the NFL.

But Muschamp feels he has built enough roster depth to make up for most of those losses. He says it’s the offense that must take the next step.

“I know we can play good defense. We can play special teams,” Muschamp said. “Let’s make sure we protect the ball (on offense) and play good team football.”

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