If you want to read a broad profile on Jeff Driskel and his up-and-down-and-up-again college career, click here. If you want to read a wonkier item on the new 49ers quarterback, read on.
I spoke to Tim Rattay, the former 49ers quarterback and current Louisiana Tech quarterbacks coach, about Driskel, who arrived in Ruston, La. last spring. Like Driskel, Rattay was a late pick, going in the seventh round to the 49ers in the same 2000 draft in which they used a third-round pick on Giovanni Carmazzi.
There wasn't a lot written about Rattay after that draft. At 6-feet tall with an ok arm, he had none of Driskel's physical gifts. (Driskel's agent says one team clocked him at 4.38 seconds in the 40, which is Michael Vick-ian in terms of speed). He didn't have Driskel's pedigree, either. Rattay, too, transferred to Louisiana Tech but from Scottsdale Community College.
Once he was in the NFL, however, Rattay quickly outperformed Carmazzi and eventually took over as starter when the team parted ways with Jeff Garcia after the 2003 season. Rattay is smart, serious, has a very dry sense of humor and is not prone to hyperbole. But he says he was highly impressed with Driskel's focus and work ethic when he arrived at Louisiana Tech.
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Driskel said he patterns his game on Alex Smith's, and I asked Rattay about Smith, who eventually replaced Rattay as the 49ers starter in 2005.
"They are both very athletic players, but they don't rely on that athleticism," he said. "They are pocket guys. They are: read coverages, make throws, throw on time. If they need to run, they can do it."
One of the points Rattay stressed -- and one that likely will catch the eye of 49ers fans who have watched the quarterback position closely in recent years -- is that despite Driskel's running ability, he never was in a system that asked him to run all the time.
That was one of the things that vexed University of Florida followers. He was recruited by Urban Meyer to operate the same kind of offense Smith and Tim Tebow ran in college. Smith ran for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns under Meyer at Utah in 2004; Tebow tallied 895 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns at Florida in 2007.
Meyer, however, left Florida because of health issues after the 2010 season and Driskel never played for him. He had three different offensive coordinators at Florida and a fourth at Louisiana Tech. Last year, he ran for 323 yards and five touchdowns.
"We're a drop-back passing team, first and foremost," Rattay said. "And he got a lot of work on dropping back and reading coverages, reading keys, knowing what's the hot (receiver) and that kind of stuff. Our offense wasn't: Stay here and read one guy and throw it. He was reading the full field, he was reading all five eligible (receivers). I mean, he got a lot of work that way."
Rattay said he was most impressed by how Driskel protected the ball. He threw 10 interceptions in 212 pass attempts in his final year at Florida. Last year, he threw eight interceptions in 448 attempts.
"Very few interceptions and very few 'balls in danger' as we call them," Rattay said. "There's a lot of near interceptions in college and the college guys, they just drop them. In the NFL, they don't drop them. Very few balls in double coverage, bad throws like that. He did a very good job taking care of the football."