Spring Preview: Quarterbacks

When spring practice begins on March 14, all eyes will be fixated on the quarterbacks. There are position battles at other spots on the field, but there's no battle that has more uncertainty. New offensive coordinator Brent Pease will open the competition to all quarterbacks on campus while trying to find the replacement for John Brantley.

On paper, it looks like a two-man battle to be the starting quarterback at Florida. Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both saw time under center for the Gators in 2011 as freshmen. As expected, there were times where they looked like they belong and times where players looked in over their heads.

Driskel started the fall as the backup quarterback. He enrolled early in the spring of 2011, giving him a leg up on Brissett and earning playing time early in the season. Driskel saw the field in early season blowouts of FAU and UAB, combining to go 5-7 for 59 yards and one interception.

When John Brantley went down shortly before halftime against Alabama, Driskel got the call and went 2-6 for 14 yards the rest of the game.

Driskel has plenty of arm strength but would sometimes struggle to put touch on his throws during his freshman year. Overthrows hurt him during his short time on the field for the Gators in the fall. He showed off the arm on downfield routes to the sideline, but the touch wasn't always there on throws in the middle of the field.

In the bye week that happened before the Gators traveled to Baton Rouge to take on LSU, a two-week version of a quarterback battle took place. Brissett and Driskel battled, with Driskel dealing with an ankle injury, and former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis gave Brissett the nod.

Weis made Brissett a priority from the moment he took the job as the offensive coordinator at Florida. He took the job in early January and spent the next month focusing on getting Brissett to come to Gainesville.

Brissett led the Florida offense to a combined 17 points at LSU and Auburn. The play calling was conservative and tried to feature the running backs because the Florida coaches didn't want to overwhelm Brissett early in his career.

Brissett has plenty of arm strength. In his first start at LSU, there were multiple times where he felt pressure from the defense and launched the ball downfield to a receiver in single coverage. It worked once on a touchdown to Andre Debose but failed another when Tyrann Mathieu intercepted it.

If Weis was still in Gainesville, this battle might only be in title because of how badly he wanted Brissett out of high school and how quickly he gave him the nod as the starter.

As Weis walked off the field after the Gators lost to Florida State at home, the former offensive coordinator grabbed Brissett and had a conversation with him pointing at the Florida State celebration and telling him to remember that feeling. Driskel was nowhere to be found in that conversation.

Enter new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

There are clean slates all around. What Brissett and Driskel exceled and struggled at last season doesn't matter this spring. Even Tyler Murphy, who has seen action in two games during his Florida career, could figure into the mix if he has a solid spring.

Florida will welcome its fourth scholarship quarterback to campus in the fall when Skyler Mornhinweg, the son of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, comes to Gainesville. He will be the only quarterback on campus that was recruited by Pease, so he could factor into the decision in the fall or in 2013.

The reality about the quarterback battle is that it isn't likely to be decided this spring. Even if Pease and the offensive coaches are leaning a certain way at the end of the spring, it's unlikely they would say that publicly. That could increase the likelihood of losing one of the three quarterbacks on campus to a transfer.

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