Driskel, Brissett settling in for key spring


Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 5:55 p.m.

You don't have to be Charlie Weis (or any quarterbacks coach, for that matter) to understand that Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel were in over their heads last season, overwhelmed by their inexperience, playing the toughest position in the toughest conference in college football.

Their shaky, mistake-filled performances against the likes of Alabama, LSU and Auburn speak for themselves.

A few months removed from their true freshman experience, Brissett and Driskel are in a different place now. It is spring, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the two sophomore quarterbacks have a better idea of what's going on now.

They know the offense better. They know the players around them better. They know what's expected.

Instead of being thrown into the proverbial fire for the injured John Brantley in Baton Rouge or Auburn, the two have begun what is expected to be a tight competition on the UF practice field for the starting quarterback role at Florida.

So, did last year's humbling experience help or harm the young QBs as they now move forward?

The Gators will have a better idea over the next few weeks.

“Unfortunately, they played for us (last) year. Fortunately, they played for us (last) year,” UF coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday after the Gators' first spring practice. “It's two-fold. Unfortunately ... it's not an indictment on either young man. I think they're going to be really good players.

“But playing as a (true) freshman at that position is different, it's different than every other position. Putting them in those circumstances in a new offense, having guys around them who weren't even sure what was going on at times (is tough).”

Brissett and Driskel gained what could prove to be priceless experience last season. But the experience that might help them the most, Muschamp said, is the experience of the players that will surround the young quarterbacks in 2012.

“We had a real young offensive football team a year ago,” Muschamp said. “A year ago at Pro Day we had four offensive linemen working out, two that are starting in the NFL now. Jon Halapio is the only one who played significant snaps, and Xavier Nixon two years before.

“There were a lot of young parts and newness last year. (This year), we've kept all the terminology we can the same, our entire line is back, all our receivers are back, other than (Deonte Thompson), our backs have played.

“That position (quarterback) is kind of the new position. Everyone else has been in the arena in the SEC. That certainly will help us.”

New offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Brissett and Driskel have put in the work in the offseason in the film room and in the weight room. But Wednesday was the first time Pease had a chance to see the quarterbacks throw in person.

The competition has just begun to see who will be UF's starting quarterback in the fall.

“There were some nice balls thrown today,” Muschamp said. “I think both of those guys have the intangibles you want at the position. I really do.

“I see the things in the early stages that you want to have at that position.”

One of the major offensive goals this spring is for the quarterbacks to do an efficient job managing and moving the offense. The others are to take care of the football, establish a physical, downhill running game and create some explosive plays in the passing game.

Of course, the defense's goals are the opposite. The Gators want to create turnovers, stop the run and eliminate big, explosive plays.

“It's an interesting balancing act, I can assure you of that,” Muschamp said. “Offensively, we're preaching ball security, explosive plays and being able to run the football with physicality.

“Defensively, we're about the absolute opposite. You have to create that medium (between the two) somewhere as a head coach and be realistic about where you are in the spring.

“Regardless of what you say, when you walk off the field, there's a winner and a loser. You have to put your guys in competitive situations and in situations where they can be successful.”

Because Brissett and Driskel were so inexperienced last fall, it was difficult, almost impossible, to create situations where they could be successful.

With experience, there should be more options in 2012. At least that's the plan.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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