RUSTON — The nation’s most highly recruited prep quarterback in 2010, Jeff Driskel played in nine games and started six last year during his junior season at Florida.
In March, with a diploma in hand and one year of eligibility remaining, he came to Louisiana Tech for graduate classes in the spring quarter — and for spring football practice. And maybe for finish his college playing career with a new start.
In only four games as quarterback of the 2-2 Bulldogs this fall, the fifth-year graduate transfer is well on his way to the finest statistical season of his college career going into Saturday’s game with Louisiana-Lafayette at Joe Aillet Stadium.
“My favorite offense is the offense that gives us the best chance to win games,” said Driskel, the 2010 Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year who managed a 17-8 record as a starter during unsettled times in Gainesville.
He played as a true freshman and started 12 games as a sophomore before suffering a season-ending leg fracture in his hardship third season of 2013. He lost his starting job last season in Week 8 after a loss to Missouri.
But as a Bulldog, Driskel has already thrown for 31 more yards (1,171) than he did last year, and that’s with 62 fewer attempts. He’s rushed for 21 more yards (201) on 32 fewer attempts, tied his career high for rushing TDs in a season with four, and completed just one less touchdown pass (eight) than in all of last season.
“I’m more comfortable this year, and when you’re more comfortable, you’re going to enjoy the game more,” Driskel said. “I’m enjoying where I am; I’m in a good place mentally.”
Driskel clicked with the team immediately in the spring — his teammates elected him a captain — and he clicked in the season opener, a 62-15 win over Southern. The third pass he threw went for 55 yards and a touchdown to Kenneth Dixon, the most prolific rusher in Tech history.
“I need to make some checks better to get us out of bad plays,” he said. “I need to complete some more balls downfield; I’ve missed on a couple of posts. And as a team we need to do a better job of protecting the ball and on third down. There’s a lot we can improve on — but so far, we’re pretty pleased with our offensive production,” he said.
Tech has averaged 40 points and 522 yards per game.
Probably the biggest advantage for Tech that the Oviedo, Florida, native has brought to the field — besides his maturity at the position — is his ability to run. He’s second on the team in rushing behind Dixon, who draws a lot of traffic.
“When people start to take Kenneth away, he pulls it,” Tech head coach Skip Holtz said of his 6-4, 234-pound quarterback. “He made a couple of big plays that were momentum plays (in last week’s 27-7 win over Florida International). I think he’s doing a really nice job of executing the offense. If it’s not there, he’s throwing it away. He’s not into stats.”
Ragin’ Cajuns fans will remember 2012 when, as a sophomore at Florida, Driskel was 13 of 16 passing for 98 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game with a sprained ankle in the Gators’ narrow 27-20 victory over UL-Lafayette.
“They’re talented, not scared to pressure the quarterback,” Driskel said of this year’s Cajuns. “It’s going to be a challenge. We have a lot of work to do this week.”