Freshmen stepping up at scrimmage
Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 3:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.
In the competition for the backup role behind starting quarterback John Brantley, true freshman Jeff Driskel has moved ahead of redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and true freshman Jacoby Brissett.
That was the word from Florida coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday, the day after the Gators held their first preseason scrimmage.
“Jeff has kind of distanced himself right now to become the backup quarterback,” Muschamp said. “He played well in the scrimmage. He's got good command in the offense.
“(Offensive coordinator) Charlie (Weis) sat Jeff down today and said, ‘At this point, you've earned this opportunity, but you're a day or two away from those other two guys gaining on you.'
“Tyler and Jacoby have done nothing to disappoint us. They're both outstanding and coming along well. Jacoby probably had his best day in the scrimmage. He was starting to get a better feel for the offense. He's extremely intelligent and he's done a nice job.”
Driskel's advantage over Brissett is that he was an early enrollee and went through the spring, while Brissett did not arrive on campus until this summer.
Muschamp said Driskel has made great strides since the spring.
“His growth process from spring. … obviously, he worked extremely hard through the summer dedicating himself to the playbook and learning what to do and how to do it and why we're doing it that way,” Muschamp said. “He's had a very good camp.”
Muschamp said Driskel, who completed close to 70 percent of his passes in the scrimmage, has been very efficient running the offense.
“We look at command, we look in the huddle, all the intangibles that in Charlie's experience he's seen the good and the bad of that,” Muschamp said. “(Jeff) obviously displays the things that you need from an intangible standpoint.
“The numbers, accurate with the football, taking the ball to the right spots, getting us in the right runs. There's not a bunch of negative plays when he's in the game. He's managing our offense very well. Obviously, he's very athletic and can pull it down and run.”
Despite his high level of play, Driskel is no threat to Brantley's starting job, Muschamp said. Brantley completed almost 60 percent of his passes in the scrimmage and has had a strong camp.
“John is far and ahead of where (Driskel) is at this point. We're very pleased with John.”
Driskel isn't the only true freshman who has made a serious run at possible playing time this season. Marcus Roberson has played so well at cornerback that he's competing for a starting role, Muschamp said.
“He could possibly start,” Muschamp said. “He's played well. We're going to play our best players. I don't care what grade they are or where they're from. It doesn't matter to me.
“It's our job to put good football players who are going to do it the right way and do it the way we want it to be and play at a championship level. If they're freshmen, it doesn't matter to me.
“(Roberson) makes a lot of plays and tackles in space. He's got good instincts.”
Muschamp also praised two other true freshmen Tuesday — cornerback De'Ante “Pop” Saunders, who is moving to free safety, and Chris Johnson, who was moved from safety to outside linebacker a few days ago.
“Pop is playing well. He deserves the opportunity to be a starter at this point,” Muschamp said. “I think we need to shore up some things at safety as far as tackling and our space play.
“Pop has good instincts on the back end — when to play the ball, when not to. We've got to tackle better at that position. We cannot continue to miss tackles in the secondary.”
Muschamp said Johnson has been a natural fit at linebacker so far.
“He's under-sized, but he is a guy who can run and strike,” Muschamp said. “He's instinctive in the box. Watching him at safety, when we played in some eight-man stuff, he naturally gets it. That's part of being a linebacker.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.