Lane Kiffin brought best out of once-third-string QB Jason Driskel

  • Jake Elman
  • Special to The Post
5:20 p.m Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 Sports
FAU quarterback Jason Driskel (16) drops back to pass during the Florida Atlantic University Owls spring scrimmage football game in Boca Raton, Florida on April 22, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin is many things, especially on social media, but no one has ever doubted his work with quarterbacks.

*Lane Kiffin’s latest take on Nick Saban

*More FAU coverage

In Kiffin’s first head coaching job since being fired from USC midway through the 2013 season, he helped turn Owls redshirt junior Jason Driskel into one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks. After losing the preseason quarterback battle to Daniel Parr (Dwyer) and beginning the season as the Owls’ third quarterback, Driskel went 10-1 as a starter as the Owls won their first C-USA championship and won the Boca Raton Bowl. The Owls won a program-record 11 games.

To start our positional reviews from the 2017 FAU season, it only makes sense to start with a position that wasn’t solidified until the Owls were already making history …

MVP: Driskel didn’t play until garbage time of a 45-0 win over Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 16 and didn’t start until the next week against Buffalo, but the redshirt junior more than made up for lost time. Driskel finished with career-highs in completion percentage (66.5) and touchdowns (15) while cutting down on his interceptions (4 after throwing 11 in 2016).

Though Kiffin has promised another quarterback competition, Driskel should enter spring camp as the full-fledged starter for the first time in his career.

Biggest surprise: Despite a slow start from Driskel, Kiffin never elected to use a two-quarterback system and kept Parr on the bench. When games were out of reach, Kiffin put wide receiver and former Auburn quarterback John Franklin III in at quarterback to lead a Wildcat formation. After throwing 74 times in the first three games, Parr did not attempt a single pass after being removed from the starting lineup.

Who’s returning? Jason Driskel; Chris Robison; Connor Miller; and Tyrone Smith Jr. (Although Smith is expected to see action at cornerback this spring and could permanently move there). De’Andre Johnson is expected to return for the 2018 season if he is healthy in his return from blood clots.

Who’s leaving? Parr announced last month he will be transferring to Duquesne University . FAU is not losing any of their true quarterbacks, though Franklin III has exhausted all years of eligibility.

Biggest offseason storyline: Is this spring’s competition strictly between Driskel and Robison? With Parr’s departure and Johnson’s football future uncertain, Kiffin could opt to add an impact quarterback to this year’s recruiting class during the February signing period.

Given Johnson is still working his way back from a serious surgery, rising fifth-year senior Conor Miller is likely to enter camp alongside Robison as one of the first two quarterbacks behind Driskel.

Noteworthy: FAU running back Devin Singletary (American Heritage) and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair have officially been announced to the 63rd Touchdown Cub of Columbus Awards next month as Players to Watch in 2018. Singletary ran for 1,920 yards and 32 touchdowns this year as a true sophomore and will be joined by five other running backs. Al-Shaair is the all-time career tackles leader in FAU history (354) and will be joined by Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Buffalo’s Khalil Hodge as defensive players to watch. Marshall quarterback Chase Litton and North Texas quarterback Mason Fine will also represent Conference USA.