Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel says confidence, knee fine

Monday, September 16, 2013 | 9:14 p.m. CDT

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said Monday his confidence and left knee are just fine.

It won't be known for sure until the 19th-ranked Gators take the field for their Southeastern Conference opener against Tennessee (2-1) on Saturday.

Driskel has 10 turnovers in the team's last three losses, including three costly ones in a 21-16 setback at Miami a little more than a week ago. He threw two interceptions in the red zone — receiver Trey Burton ran the wrong route on one of them — and fumbled while getting sacked.

Driskel ended consecutive drives in the fourth quarter with turnovers, key plays in a tight game against the Hurricanes.

His mistakes are still a hot topic in Gainesville, especially since they are a recurring theme in Florida's recent losses.

Asked whether his confidence has been shaken, Driskel's reply was a little short on self-assurance.

"No, not really at all," Driskel said. "My coaches and my teammates have full confidence in me, and that's all that really matters."

Coach Will Muschamp and several players expressed trust in Driskel, but it's clear the Gators (1-1) have plenty of offensive issues — with ball security atop the list.

"No one's been able to stop us when we haven't had a turnover or a penalty, so just worry about us first and then taking care of the other team second," Driskel said. "If we can handle us, we'll be fine. That's what we worked on this week."

Driskel was limited during the team's bye week because of a sprained left knee. He injured it in the second quarter against Miami when he got sandwiched high and low between defenders.

"It could have been a lot worse, so that's the good news," Driskel said. "It's feeling a lot better, and I'll be ready to go."

Driskel completed 22 of 33 passes for a career-high 291 yards, with a touchdown. But his mistakes — those three turnovers and a high throw to Quinton Dunbar in the end zone early — have outweighed any positives.

"There were four or five plays in the game he would have liked to have back, but he also made some really nice throws," Muschamp said. "He was very accurate with the football. Without two drops, you're 24 of 33 and feel a little different about it. If you take care of the ball in some other situations. He knows that.

"We'll move forward and learn from that. I think we've done that."

Maybe so, but this isn't the first time Driskel has had ball-security issues.

He threw two interceptions and fumbled twice in a 17-9 loss to Georgia last October. He had two more interceptions and a fumble in a 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. He also was sacked eight times in those two games.

Driskel insisted he has learned his lesson.

"First of all, don't try to do too much as a quarterback," he said. "Just go with what you're coached and don't try to do too much and hold onto the ball when you're running. ... We've really got to work on ball security and really lock in, especially in the red zone."

Florida's next opponent, Tennessee, was gashed for 687 yards in a 59-14 loss at second-ranked Oregon on Saturday. Still, the Volunteers lead the conference in turnover margin (plus 6) and red-zone defense.

Driskel played one of his better games against the Volunteers last year. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and ran eight times for 81 yards. He didn't have a turnover.

"He's been elusive for us," Vols defensive tackle Daniel Hood said. "Last year, I think we made every quarterback play good against us. We've just got to do a good job containing him, forcing him to make throws and then getting after him when we know it's a pass down."

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