Despite beating the rival Tennessee Volunteers for the ninth consecutive time on Saturday, the Florida Gators lost starting quarterback Jeff Driskel for the remainder of the 2013 season with a broken leg. But while a team losing its starting quarterback is usually significant, for the Gators it’s no big deal.
Despite having a year of experience starting in the SEC under his belt, Driskel hasn’t been all that impressive this season and hasn’t developed the way the Gators were expecting him to. Driskel was largely to blame for Florida’s disappointing loss to the Miami Hurricanes, and he was mostly a non-factor in Florida’s season opening win over Toledo.
Having Tyler Murphy take over at quarterback may actually be beneficial for the Gators. The strength of Florida’s offense is its running backs, fullbacks, and offensive line, and having a player with Murphy’s athleticism at the quarterback position complements those strengths more so than Driskel. Murphy gives opposing defenses one more running threat to account for, and his presence will help the Gators methodically move the ball down the field with time-consuming drives, which is what their offense will do best when it’s clicking this season.
Florida doesn’t have a good collection of playmakers in the passing game anyway, so losing Driskel’s arm may not be such a big loss. Having a potent rushing attack and a strong defense may be enough to get the Gators through a tough SEC schedule. That combination worked against Tennessee after Driskel left the game, even with Florida trailing at the time, and while it’s not at all complex or flashy, it has a chance to work. It may be the Gators’ best bet to winning the SEC East.
If Murphy needs it, he should be able to lean on Trey Burton for help, either as a safe and reliable receiver on short passes or as a part-time substitute at quarterback. Between those two players, a dynamic group of running backs, and a defense that could be the best in the SEC, Florida should have enough to get by, making the loss of Driskel not nearly as bad as it may appear to be on the surface.
Despite the loss to Miami, the Gators are very much alive for the SEC Championship. They now have a couple more games against relatively easy opponents, the Kentucky Wildcats and Arkansas Razorbacks, to get accustomed to playing without Driskel before a road date with the LSU Tigers, a game that will go a long way towards determining just how much Florida misses Driskel at quarterback.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.