They added much-needed-help at receiver, linebacker and defensive tackle, plus improved their depth at offensive line and in the secondary.
But as good as the class is, UF missed out on one important piece — getting an experienced quarterback on board to back up starter Jeff Driskel.
When Jacoby Brissett transferred, it left UF without any backup quarterbacks who have thrown a pass in a game. That’s why the Gators made a late push for Tanner McEvoy, a former South Carolina signee who has been playing at Arizona Western College. But McEvoy chose Wisconsin, and now the Gators are in a tenuous spot.
Driskel has missed games in each of his first two seasons because of injuries. If he were to go down in 2013, UF would have to turn to redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg or true freshman Max Staver, who signed on Wednesday. Of those, Murphy is the only one with game experience.
“I don’t have a very high comfort level, obviously,” UF coach Will Muschamp said about the situation behind Driskel. “Those guys haven’t played a lot, but they’re going to get opportunities this spring to continue to develop within what we do.”
For offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brent Pease, that means developing the three backups is just as important — and arguably more so — as helping Driskel improve his pocket awareness, accuracy and ability to read defenses.
“Losing Jacoby has put a hole in [the depth chart], especially with kids with experience and kids that we’ve kind of built some reps up in,” Pease told ESPNU’s Cara Capuano on signing day. “But with Tyler Murphy, he’s a kid that’s very smart. He’s just got to get some repetitions. And then you’ve got Skyler Mornhinweg, who we redshirted but we thought a lot of last year when we recruited him.”
Murphy is No. 2 on the depth chart heading into spring practice, and he’s the only other quarterback on the roster besides Driskel with game experience. He has played in three games but has never thrown a pass. Mornhinweg came to UF as a four-star recruit and ESPN’s No. 6 player in Pennsylvania after finishing his career with the fifth-most passing yards (4,912) in Philadelphia prep history.
ESPN ranked Staver as the nation’s No. 19 pocket passer. He’s a big kid (6-foot-6, 238 pounds) with a big arm who threw for 3,587 yards and 23 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy.
One of those three has to earn enough trust from the coaching staff so the offense doesn’t go single-wing if Driskel gets injured. Driskel has missed time each of the past two seasons with ankle injuries. He replaced starter John Brantley against Alabama in 2011 but hurt his ankle against the Crimson Tide and was unable to start the following week against LSU.
Brissett started that 2011 game against the Tigers and again the following week against Auburn, although Driskel played the second half of the Auburn game.
Driskel suffered another ankle injury last season late in the third quarter of UF’s victory over Louisiana-Lafayette and missed the following week’s game against Jacksonville State.
Florida defeated Jacksonville State with Brissett at QB. If Driskel were to miss time in 2013, the Gators, wiithout an experienced backup, might not be so fortunate.