GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jeff Driskel woke up Monday with a stomach ache that just wouldn’t quit.
It wasn’t until the Florida quarterback’s roommate talked about his appendicitis a few years back that Driskel thought the pain might be related to something other than what he ate.
“He got me worried,” Driskel said.
Good thing, too.
Sure enough, Driskel went to the UF Sports Health staff and underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday, sending waves of preseason panic through the Florida fan base.
Not to worry, folks. Driskel was back home Tuesday night, resting Wednesday and Thursday was on hand for UF’s media day along with the rest of the Gators on the eve of the start of preseason practice, which kicks off Friday night.
UF coach Will Muschamp expects Driskel to be sidelined inside of two weeks, but the junior incumbent quarterback who started 12 games last season will attend all practices and meetings along the way.
“I’m going to listen to our medical staff and let them guide me on how much he can do and how much work they think he can handle,” Muschamp said. “Obviously, when he’s in there, he’ll be with our first group. [Doctors] may walk in in three or four days and say he’s fine based on how he’s progressing; they may say six or seven more days. I don’t know. I’m just waiting.”
His quarterback is, also.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but injuries happen. It’s part of life,” said Driskel, who completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions in helping the Gators go 11-2 last season. “I’m starting to feel better already. We’ll see. Recovery time, they said it varies for everybody. We’re not going to rush anything. But I don’t think I’m going to miss too much. I’ll be there getting the mental reps. I’ll be right there behind the huddle.”
Once the huddle breaks, though, it will be redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, who has appeared in just three games and never thrown a pass, under center with the first-team offense. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, true freshman Max Staver and 23-year-old freshman Chris Wilkes, a former professional baseball player in the San Diego Padres organization, will vie for backup reps.
Murphy was UF’s No. 3 quarterback last season, behind Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, who transferred in the spring to North Carolina State. Because Driskel and Brissett were in a heated battle for the starting job in the summer of 2012, Murphy got very few reps in the preseason; even fewer once the regular season began.
Fast forward 12 months.
Now Murphy is charged with making sure an offense that ranked 116th in the nation in passing and sorely needs freshmen receivers to emerge as playmakers starts heading in a positive direction while Driskel convalesces on the sidelines.
“For me, things really haven’t changed,” Murphy said. “Even though last year I wasn’t in the quarterback talk, I still tried to go out there and approach every day like the starter. That’s something I will continue to do. In the back of my mind, I know I’ll be the guy who’s just one play away.”
Or in this case, one appendectomy away.
For those bemoaning the timing of Driskel’s pains, imagine if they arrived, say, two months from now -- on the way to Baton Rouge.
Fortunately for the Gators, they did not. Fortunately for the Gators, they have a guy behind Driskel who understands what is now expected of him.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job of assuming his role within the team, but now that role is going to expand,” Muschamp said. “Right now, that role is assuming the quarterback job until Jeff gets back.”
Should be a couple weeks, tops.
In the interim, the early part of camp will be about building on the familiarity and timing that Driskel and his receivers -- both young and old -- were starting to feel during offseason workouts as they enter Year 2 of offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s system.
“It was huge, but the other [quarterbacks] got to be able to do that too,” he said. “Obviously, I’d like to be out there, but the reps with those other guys will help them and if anything does happen to me down the road during the season those other guys will be ready and the [team] will be confident in them if they show them they can do it in fall camp.”