Quarterback Battle Shows No Leader

It's hard to know when practices are closed. Coaches and players spoke all spring about the quarterback battle and how close it has been since practices began. Without being able to see practices, there were questions about whether or not that was accurate. At the Orange & Blue Debut, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett continued to do what their teammates saw all spring—produce without separation.

"It was very evident today," Florida head coach Will Muschamp said after the game. "You saw both guys take command of our football team and both guys made vertical plays down the field with good decisions on where they took the ball.

"There's no question, you saw what I've seen for 14 practices previous to today. We can win with both guys."

Jeff Driskel ended the game going 12-14 for 147 yards. Jacoby Brissett went 9-16 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Both quarterbacks split time between the two teams.

Brissett threw for more yards, but it was Driskel that had the higher completion percentage. They've learned a new offense together this spring, spent time in the film room together and become more familiar with the Brent Pease offense at a similar pace.

"Confidence is just something that's going to keep growing for me with my knowledge of the game and my knowledge of the plays in the playbook," Brissett said.

After losing a two-year starter at quarterback in John Brantley, there isn't as much uncertainty at the quarterback position as there has been when other schools make that move. Brantley's ankle and shoulder injuries plus a concussion throughout the 2011 season handed playing time for the two quarterbacks as freshmen.

It wasn't pretty at the time, but without that time on the field, the Gators would be in a bigger hole this spring.

"Last year, unfortunately, we played with both of them," Muschamp said. "Right now, I'm really happy both of them played. It was tough to go through for them because at any level, the quarterback position is so critical. To put that much on those young guys as a football team coming in here as true freshman was tough, but we're certainly benefiting from it now."

The two quarterbacks offer different strengths. For Driskel, it's his mobility. The 6-4, 232-pound quarterback still has the athleticism to run with the ball when the pocket breaks down. On Saturday, Pease's offense featured a few running plays to get him on the move.

Even when Driskel was supposed to stand in the pocket and throw, he was able to get outside the pocket when the pass rush forced him that way and hit tight end Jordan Reed across the middle of the field early in the game.

"I feel like I'm getting through the progressions and not locking on to the first read," Driskel said. "I felt comfortable getting from one to two to three."

That doesn't force him to tuck the ball and run with it as early.

Brissett, who lost 15 pounds since last season, showed off his arm strength and touch on the deep ball during Saturday's scrimmage. He hit freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman for a 43-yard completion during the first half, dropping the pass over the shoulder of the wide receiver while still in stride.

"If I see somebody open down the field, I'm going to just throw it," Brissett said. "Going through practice and the plays, it becomes second hand to you if you see somebody and you know you've been practicing that play over and over again. Take a chance.

"I love throwing the ball deep. I love getting the drive over in one play or two plays, so we don't have to be on the field that long."

The two quarterbacks spent all 15 practices in the spring proving that they had the physical capabilities to handle the quarterback position at Florida. With spring practice over, their focus now turns to what happens when the coaches aren't around the team.

NCAA rules limit the time college coaches can have around their team from the end of spring practice to the start of fall camp. Without the leadership of position coaches and coordinators around the team, this would be an ideal time for the leadership to come from the quarterbacks.

"Right now is a huge, huge indicator to see who takes a leg up," Muschamp said. "Who's going to get our team out there to do drills and eleven-on-eleven? That's what it has to be now. They've got to take control of our football team."

It's a familiar message to the quarterbacks. They've heard it since offseason workouts began prior to spring practice. In the weight room, film room and meeting rooms, the consistent message of leadership has been preached.

"Coach Muschamp has told us all along that this team has to be ours," Driskel said. "If it's the coaching staff's team, we're not going to go anywhere. Being a quarterback, you have to take a lead and be a leader."

The two have worked hard to maintain their friendship off the field. Driskel admitted that he wasn't "too excited" when he originally found out the Gators were signing another quarterback in his class, but the two have grown close. Truth is, they don't have much of a choice. With all the time spent learning, especially during the first year of a new offense, they're around each other a lot.

"We don't play basketball because he's a little better than me, so I let him have that," Driskel said. "We're friends. We don't let the rivalry ruin that."

"I look better, but that's just something he's got to deal with," Brissett said with his patented smile.

Both quarterbacks have been given a fair shot to win the starting job, and a decision isn't likely to be made until the fall.

"It's going to come down to whoever makes the most plays, which it should be," Driskel said.

Fightin Gators Top Stories