There's no real secret about how Florida won football games last year. At fifth in the nation, Florida ranked second in the SEC in total defense -- behind Alabama, a team best known for having won the national title. The pass efficiency defense was the best in the conference, and trailed only in-state rival FSU for the best in the country.
Repeating that feat would be a high hurdle for any football team, but it's even less likely to happen for Florida. The Gators rank 107th in tackles returning, according to Phil Steele, though that still puts them in a better position than their two primary rivals in the SEC East. (South Carolina ranks 116th and Georgia is dead last.)
That means the path to more wins this year will run through the offense. And improvement on offense is going to rely at least in part on Jeff Driskel, who ranked 11th in pass efficiency and topped 200 yards passing in a game just twice in 2012. At one point in the season, Driskel went three games without passing for 100 yards against LSU, at Vanderbilt and and against South Carolina, though there was not much reason to pass in that first game after about the first quarter.
So when he took to the podium at SEC Media Days, Will Muschamp said the obvious about his team and it's young quarterback: "We certainly need to be more consistent and efficient in throwing the ball." The question is whether Driskel can do that.
For the record, Muschamp thinks he can. Muschamp said he's more comfortable knowing who his quarterback is, but also made it clear he expects more. The quarterback controversy, though, is over.
"Again, year two in the system -- Jeff Driskel, it's his football team," Muschamp said.
Driskel conceded that the offense has to improve, especially with the defense losing as much talent as it is. And he appears to have grown comfortable in his new role, and the responsibility that comes with it.
"We definitely get way too much credit when we win," Driskel said. "But you get way too much blame when things don’t go right. It comes with it. You've got to know it’s coming, and accept it."
It won't just be Driskel. Jon Halapio, an offensive lineman, said his part of the team also needs to do better this year.
"With the stats at the end of last year, we gave up 30 something sacks, that’s one of the big things were working on this summer is the pass protection, for the running backs and tight ends, too," he said.
But Halapio said Driskel has "grown up tremendously" and was more focused now that he doesn't have to fight for the job.
"He knows that he’ll be the starting quarterback," Halapio said. "He’s definitely taken that leadership this year, especially in the offseason."
For Florida to continue its revival under Muschamp, Driskel will have to carry that role onto the field when the regular season comes around.