Quarterback Battle Continues Under Pease

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease hasn't been around a quarterback battle in a while. Kellen Moore served as a four-year start for the Boise State offense that Pease ran before taking the job in Gainesville. The decision won't be that easy this fall. Florida isn't even a week into fall camp, but Pease is already impressed with the way his quarterbacks look.

"I really believe we've got two or three kids here that we can win football games with," Brent Pease said on Wednesday afternoon.

Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are assumed to be the leaders for the job after each got playing experience as a freshman in 2011. The third quarterback Pease is likely referring to is redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy. The Gators also have freshman Skyler Mornhinweg on campus.

Brissett and Driskel had a typical freshman season for a quarterback in the SEC. There were times when they looked capable of being successful. There were also times, and lots of them, when the two were overwhelmed by the defensive speed and didn't make decisions quick enough.

Driskel is mastering the offense this fall

Head coach Will Muschamp and Pease haven't said anything about any early leaders in the quarterback battle, and they've both been open to playing both quarterbacks if that's the situation that presents itself.

"If they're good enough to fit into what we do and use them in multiple situations," Pease said. "Kellen didn't take every snap (last year at Boise State). It's whatever they can do to help the team and make more weapons on the field and situations that defenses have to defend."

The preference for both would still be that one quarterback distances himself from the other. Whether that's Brissett or Driskel, Muschamp and Pease have been open about wanting one quarterback to start the season. The only way two would play is if they're close in production on the practice field, and if one quarterback brings something different to the field. That could mean a wildcat type of formation for Driskel, who is the better runner of the two.

Brissett has dropped some weight for the fall

Either way, only one quarterback can take the opening snap in The Swamp against Bowling Green on September 1. Pease knows that only one can win and said there has been no hints of the loser deciding to transfer. The conversation with the loser of the quarterback battle will be a tough one, but Pease wants to make sure the number two quarterback is still ready.

"I've been in that role and been told that, and I probably took it not understanding that my day will come," Pease said. "The other guy has to be ready. He's going to be the most popular guy in town anyway. You never know when your opportunity is."

While Brissett, Driskel and Murphy are battling it out for the starting job, freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is just trying to take things slow and get on track. There hasn't been a decision made yet about whether or not he will play this year or redshirt.

Pease recalled one time on the practice field when Mornhinweg looked at the offensive coordinator and said, "Coach, I'm swimming," in reference to how overloaded he was with what he was learning on the practice field.

"It's understandable," Pease said of the freshman. "He's a sharp kid who is competitive. He's got that knack where when it's a live situation, he probably preforms better than in drills. He's a coach's son who has been around the game. He can do some good things, but it's a matter of getting him more reps and comfortable in the game. It's tough to do."

The quarterback battle for the starting position doesn't allow Mornhinweg to get many early snaps.

"If you had a senior quarterback that had been in 20-some SEC games, you could develop (Mornhinweg) earlier," Pease said. "It's tough to do with the situation where the other guys are competing."

RELATIONSHIP AT THE POSITION: Pease has spent time as a wide receivers coach, but his experience on the playing field as a quarterback helps him to relate with the signal callers. He was close with Moore last year at Boise State, and he has developed a close relationship with the quarterbacks on the roster this year.

"I played the position, and I understand where they're coming from at times," Pease said. "I was new in this offense when I first got there, and Kellen came in and was new at it. I know the growing pains of it in learning the gymnastics going on around you before the play is being run. I know what the kids here are dealing with. There's a definite learning curve."

Pease became the offensive coordinator in 2011 for Moore's final year running the offense for the Broncos. That doesn't stop Pease from talking about him and showing film of him as much as possible to the inexperienced Florida quarterbacks.

Moore's knowledge of the offense helped him run the pre-snap shifts and motions without hesitation, and his understanding after the snap helped him pick apart defenses.

"They probably get tired of me showing Kellen Moore clips and talking about Kellen Moore," Pease said with a laugh. "They can grow from it and learn from it. I've got to be patient with the fact that Kellen made mistakes early, too. We all remember Kellen for what he was as a senior and junior, but as a freshman and sophomore, we limited him to what he was successful with.

"As a football coach at whatever position, you're now throwing kids out there to be unsuccessful. You've got to know what they can do and use their strengths."

OFFSEASON A PLUS: Muschamp has spent the early part of fall camp complimenting first-year strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman for his work with the team in the offseason. On Wednesday, Pease joined in, too.

"What they did in the weight room, and I give a lot of credit to the strength and conditioning staff, but the guys look different," the offensive coordinator said. "They're playing faster and look confident. I'm ecstatic with where they're at."

It isn't just the way the players look. The coaches have been able to see that the players put in work in the offseason to memorize the scheme on both sides of the ball. It made the start of fall camp much smoother. Instead of having to go back to the start and reteach the scheme, the coaches were able to move ahead and use the time more efficiently for advanced concepts.

"There's recognition of things carrying over since spring and the things they've practiced," Pease said. "You can see a big difference in their confidence and how fast they're really playing the game now."

The leadership is another area the Florida coaches feel better about. Muschamp said at media day last Thursday that offensive guard Jon Halapio has emerged as the leader on that side of the ball. It's an unusual position for leadership to come from, but the players and coaches respect Halapio on and off the field.

Halapio is being more vocal this fall

"Jon is a great leader for us," Pease said. "He works hard every day, grinds and never complains. He's consistent in his play, consistent in his effort and he's tough. I've got a lot of respect for him.

"Be a good leader or be a good follower. You've got to be one or the other. If you're not the guy that's going to speak out and step up, that's fine. Be a good follower. All the kids have kind of fallen into that situation."


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