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Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel will be an instructor at Manning Passing Academy this week. (Photo: Tim Casey)

Wednesday July 9, 2014Roper Likely to Come Up as Gators QB Driskel Heads Back to Manning Passing Academy

Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel will be an instructor at Manning Passing Academy this week. (Photo: Tim Casey)

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel doesn’t expect any special treatment or for either of the famous hosts to turn over their playbooks to him. Instead, Driskel anticipates the experience will be much like last year’s trip to the Manning Passing Academy.

Still, Driskel now has a common bond with the Mannings that will likely come up: offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

Roper was a defensive graduate assistant at Tennessee during Peyton Manning’s career with the Vols and served as quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss as Eli Manning blossomed into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

Driskel is one of approximately 40 college quarterbacks invited to serve as camp counselors for the 19th edition of Peyton and Eli Manning’s summer camp, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 prep quarterbacks from around the country. The camp runs Thursday-Sunday at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

Jeff Driskel

Roper and his mentor, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe – Peyton’s offensive coordinator at Tennessee -- have remained close to the Mannings through the years as the sons of former Saints quarterback Archie Manning won Super Bowls and set passing records in the NFL.

Roper recently was asked about the Mannings during an interview on ESPN Radio with host Paul Finebaum.

“Their work ethic and their ability to focus on the task at hand [are] amazing,’’ Roper said. “I was around both of them. Peyton is different. He absolutely wants to be the best no matter what he’s doing. Watching him work and prepare was amazing. Eli’s intelligence is through the roof, and he loves the grind also. He is a little more laid-back than Peyton but both of them are great workers.

“You are going to have to have answers for them. They are going to see everything. They’re going to come in and say, ‘hey, what do you want me to do when this happens?’ And if you’re not prepared to answer it, then they are not going to trust you and believe you and have a lot of faith in you. You better be prepared.”

Driskel participated in the Manning Passing Academy after his sophomore season at Hagerty High. He was invited as a counselor last year and couldn’t refuse an opportunity to go back as he prepares to resume his UF career with the start of fall camp next month.

“It’s a fun weekend and a good time to help out a bunch of young kids that are looking to spend some time around some pro and college quarterbacks,’’ Driskel said Wednesday. “The Mannings know exactly what they are doing. They run a really good camp with a lot of moving parts.”

Since Roper arrived in January to replace Brent Pease, Driskel said most of his time in the film room has focused on watching Duke’s offense from last season. The Blue Devils won a school-record 10 games and played Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.

Roper installed his no-huddle, up-tempo offense in the spring. While it’s different than what Ole Miss ran during Eli Manning’s college career, many of the quarterback concepts are similar.

Driskel said the Mannings have come up in conversations with Roper.

“I’ve watched them [on film] by myself,’’ Driskel said.

When Gators coach Will Muschamp called to inquire about Roper’s interest in Florida, the most important factor for Roper was Florida’s quarterback situation. While Driskel only played in three games last season before suffering a season-ending leg injury against Tennessee, Roper saw an opportunity to win in the SEC with Driskel.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about him coming in,’’ Roper told Finebaum. “But it doesn’t take long to see a guy who’s physically talented, and he really is. He can move his feet really fast, he’s got a really strong arm, an accurate arm, a fast arm.

“He can make the throws that you want him to make. As far as coming into a situation, I think I’m fortunate as offensive coordinator. We’ve got a guy that physically can go win football games. Now you’ve got to teach him to understand the system, how to make decisions and play the game based on score and field position, and down and distance and all those things.”

Driskel was medically cleared for spring practice and firmly secured his place atop the depth chart with a solid showing. He has spent much of the summer working out and learning the intricacies of the new offense.

The next step is for the offense to produce results on the field.

“We’re healthy. We’re in shape, we’re strong,’’ Driskel said. “We’re just ready to roll. We’ve been tuning up and it’s time to throw it all together when camp rolls around.”

First, he’ll join the Mannings at their passing academy. There’s always something to learn when they are around.

If he’s lucky, Driskel’s Roper connection might buy him some extra time in their presence.

“The few chances I did get to speak with them [at previous camps], it was really good experiences,’’ Driskel said. “They are down-to-earth people and I’m just fortunate enough they invited me back for another year. I’m really looking forward to going.”


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