Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fletcher Articles

For The Shreveport Times
Holtz and Louisiana Tech hope lightning strikes twice with another transfer at quarterback
By: Tim Fletcher

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was named Gatorade High School Player of the Year for the state of Florida in 2010.  “He was a man among boys. He ran all over them and threw it where he wanted,” former Bright House Sports Network (Tampa/Orlando) anchor Joe Girvan recalled.

Somewhere between that award winning senior season at Oviedo Hearty High School (Fla.) and his transfer from the University of Florida to Louisiana Tech this past week, the Jeff Driskel career arc went from “can’t miss” to “what happened”?

Driskel committed to Florida when Urban Meyer was still the head coach and Steve Adagio the offensive coordinator. The pigskin hierarchy changed when Meyer resigned for health reasons and the Gators brought in Will Duchamp as head coach and Charlie Weis as the offensive coordinator, the first of three play-callers during Driskel’s time in Gainesville.  

None were able to squeeze 5-star play from the former 5-star prospect.

In 2012, as a “good game manager,” Girvan said, “who handed off to a stable of running backs,” the Gators won 11 games before losing to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.

Driskel’s 2013 season was cut short after three games when he suffered a broken leg against Tennessee. This past season, Driskel posted numbers that kept LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings out of the cellar among SEC quarterback ratings.   

When asked if he thought Driskel could turn things around at Louisiana Tech during his one shot with the Bulldogs in 2015, Girvan replied, “Based on what I saw, I don’t believe there is much upside there.” 

Skip Holtz and Louisiana Tech disagree.

In 2014, University of Iowa transfer Cody Sokol led Tech to a Conference USA West division title, 9-wins and a thumping of Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in his one shot to be a Bulldog.  Holtz believes lightning can strike twice with the 6’4”, 240 pound Driskel.

“Jeff is such a classy individual and you read his statement on his departure from Florida and you see that he can’t say a negative word about anyone or anything,” Holtz said.  “He’s a very humble, classy young man. He runs extremely well, throws it well, been there and done that in a big arena.”

A quarterback with wins in Neyland Stadium, Kyle Field and Doak Walker Stadium probably won’t be blown away by the Rice Stadium environment.

Driskel also proved, after asking for his release from Florida, that the re-recruitment process wasn’t going to overwhelm him. Despite overtures from several schools, including Power 5 programs, Driskel chose Louisiana Tech.

“I know how things are,” Driskel said Friday. “I’ve been in a big-time college football program and understand where people are coming from, rather than being blown away by a weight room or locker room.  Coach Holtz has a good heart, is a good person and values people. I’m excited and I know coach and the staff are excited about me, so I think it’s going to be a really good fit.”

Holtz struck out trying to land Driskel back in 2010 when he was South Florida’s head coach. He wasn’t going to waste a second chance.  The night of the Conference USA Championship Game, “I had him on the phone,” Holtz said.  “He said to me, ‘Coach, I don’t know a lot about Louisiana Tech right now, but the next time we talk on the phone, you won’t have that advantage on me.”

Driskel did his homework on the Bulldogs, watched the bowl game and came away impressed. “They tried to get Kenneth Dixon touches, whether it was him carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield.  They’re trying to build their team around players, mold the offense around the players. I talked to Cody and he spoke highly of the program and said he really enjoyed it. That was a big factor for me.”

The starting job won’t be handed to the Florida transfer this spring. Ryan Higgins, Price Wilson and Alex Woodall will do all they can to land the top spot on the depth chart. Sokol, in the same boat last year that Driskel is climbing into, advised the newcomer to, “Work hard and the players will welcome you.”

Drafted and signed by the Boston Red Sox in 2013, baseball is a solid plan “B” for Driskel.  “In the contract I signed, there is a five-year period I can come back and play. If I ever want to go back, they have a spot for me but my goal is to be an NFL player and I think that path goes through Louisiana Tech.”

So, he fulfilled his promise to learn more about Tech.  When it comes to his soon-to-be-adopted hometown of Ruston, Driskel is still in the dark.

“I googled it; went on google images to see if there was a downtown and see what it’s like. It looks like a small town but from what I’ve heard, it’s a hunting community. I’m going hunting today, so it’s something I can look forward to and maybe meet some people who will let me on their lease.”
Skip Holtz has already issued one lease to Driskel… a lease on a fresh start after a bumpy finish in Gainesville.