Florida Gators QBs better in Year 2

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jeff Driskel is entering his second season as Florida’s starting quarterback, and that comes with expectations.

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesIt seems likely that Jeff Driskel will run more in Florida's new offense in 2014.
The bar was set somewhat low in 2012, because Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were sophomores who had seen minimal playing time in 2011 -- and neither was very good when they did get on the field. Driskel did have some very good moments in his first season as a starter, but he also had some terrible ones, too.

Now that he has a year in coordinator Brent Pease’s system, the left side of the offensive line has been upgraded, and he has improved his ability to read coverages and change the pass protections when needed, Driskel should be better. That’s what UF coach Will Muschamp is hoping, anyway.

If the past is an accurate indicator, then Driskel will be. Most of UF’s recent quarterbacks were better in their second season as a starter than they were in their first season. Here’s a look:

Shane Matthews

1990: Completed 239 of 328 passes (60.6 percent) for 2,962 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was a consensus All-SEC first-team pick and was the league’s player of the year after posting four of the top 10 single-game passing totals in SEC history.

1991: Completed 218 of 361 passes (60.4 percent) for 3,130 yards with 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He was a consensus All-SEC first-team pick and was the league’s Player of the Year again -- becoming just the fifth player in SEC history to earn that honor twice. He set 14 school and five SEC records.

Matthews was certainly better in his second season, which was also coach Steve Spurrier’s second season in Gainesville. Spurrier and Matthews shredded the SEC and established the Gators as a program that would annually compete for the national championship.

Danny Wuerffel

1993: Completed 159 of 273 passes (58.2 percent) for 2,230 yards and 22 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The 22 touchdowns were an NCAA freshman record. He threw for at least three touchdowns in four of his seven starts and set a school record by throwing for at least three touchdowns in four consecutive starts.

1994: Completed 132 of 212 (62.3 percent) passes for 1,734 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He had a streak of 67 consecutive passes without an interception and led UF to the second of their four consecutive SEC titles. He set three Sugar Bowl records, tied another and set two UF bowl game records in the Gators’ loss to FSU.

Wuerffel split time each season with Terry Dean but was the Gators’ leading passer both years. The experience he gained turned out to be invaluable and set the state for his monster seasons in 1995 and 1996, which ended with him winning the Heisman Trophy and the Gators winning the school’s first national championship.

Rex Grossman

2000: Completed 131 of 212 passes (61.8 percent) for 1,866 yards and 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Grossman rotated with Jesse Palmer and Brock Berlin early in the season but eventually won the starting job and started eight games as a redshirt freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. Grossman was the first freshman to win SEC Championship Game MVP honors.

2001: Completed 259 of 395 passes (65.6 percent) for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The 3,896 yards is still a school single-season record and is second on the SEC’s single-season list. Grossman finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting and was a first-team All-American and The Associated Press’ Offensive Player of the Year.

Grossman’s second season as the starter was one of the best in SEC history. He should have won the Heisman Trophy in 2001 and certainly would have been the favorite to win it in 2002 had Spurrier not left for the NFL's Washington Redskins.

Chris Leak

2003: Completed 190 of 320 passes (59.4 percent) for 2,435 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. After rotating with Gavin Dickey and Ingle Martin in the season’s first four games, Leak was given the starting job and led the Gators to a 21-20 come-from-behind victory over Kentucky.

2004: Completed 238 of 399 passes (59.4 percent) for 3,197 yards and 29 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Leak averaged 277 yards per game in the last seven games of the season. He threw six touchdown passes against South Carolina, which tied Wuerffel’s school record for most TD passes in an SEC game.

Leak had more success in his second season as a starter, which came in Larry Fedora’s first and only season as the Gators’ offensive coordinator. Ed Zaunbrecher was the coordinator in 2002-03. Leak and UF’s offense struggled in 2005 in the transition to Urban Meyer’s spread-option offense, but he led the Gators to the 2006 national title.

Tim Tebow

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesTim Tebow's second year as a starter at Florida resulted in a national championship for the Gators.
2007: Completed 234 of 317 passes (68.5 percent) for 3,132 yards and 32 touchdowns with six interceptions and ran for 895 yards and 23 touchdowns. Tebow was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. He also claimed the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards, was The Associated Press’ Offensive Player of the Year, and was a consensus first-team All-American. He became the first player in NCAA history to rush and pass for at least 20 touchdowns.

2008: Completed 192 of 298 passes (64.4 percent) for 2,746 yards and 30 touchdowns with four interceptions and ran for 673 yards and 12 touchdowns. Tebow was a Heisman finalist and won the Maxwell and Manning awards. He also repeated as The Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. He had a school-record streak of 230 consecutive passes without an interception.

Tebow’s first year as a starter is hard to top, but he came pretty darn close in his second season to equaling what he did in 2007. More importantly, Tebow led the Gators to the program’s third national title in 2008. Tebow will go down as one of the greatest players in college football history. When his career finished, he either tied or owned five NCAA, 13 SEC and 27 school records.

John Brantley

2010: Completed 200 of 329 passes (60.8 percent) for 2,062 yards and nine touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Brantley started every game, but rotated at times with Trey Burton and Jordan Reed.

2011: Completed 144 of 240 passes (60.0 percent) for 2,044 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Brantley suffered an ankle injury against Alabama and missed the next two games. He also left the FSU game with a concussion.

Brantley’s numbers were roughly the same in 2011 as they were in 2010, but in fewer games. Brantley had different head coaches and offensive coordinators in successive seasons, plus he didn’t have anything close to the same weapons around him that the previous quarterbacks did.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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