Brissett, Driskel speak about position battle


Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 5:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 5:58 p.m.

Football coaches love players who are not afraid of competition. Maybe that's why Jacoby Brissett is so well-liked among the Florida coaches.

Everyone knew exactly where Brissett stood on that issue when he signed with the Gators a year ago. He wanted to come to UF even though one of the nation's elite quarterback prospects was already on campus studying tape and working out.

Brissett came to Florida to compete with Jeff Driskel.

On the day he signed with the Gators, Brissett said Driskel was going to have to prove every day that he was better than him.

That attitude is more prevalent than ever now that the two true sophomores are locked in a battle this spring for the starting quarterback role.

“He still has to prove that he's better than me, because it won't stop,” Brissett said.

No, it won't. It's only just begun.

The Gators are only one day into spring practice, and the two quarterbacks are expected to get equal reps between now and the spring game. Will Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease said they are hoping a starter will emerge over the next few weeks. If one doesn't, Muschamp said there's a chance the Gators will play two quarterbacks in the fall.

At the moment, however, Brissett and Driskel are not looking beyond the next practice — and the next chance to compete.

“(The competition) is going to make us a ton better,” Driskel said. “We're both going to be doing what we can every day in the film room and on the field. It's going to be good for the team as well. We're very close with each other. We sit right next to each other in the meeting rooms, so it's good competition.

“Right now, we're good friends and I think it's going to stay like that. Coach Muschamp isn't going to let it get out of control.

“We both play the same position, obviously. I'm rooting for him and he's rooting for me. We both want to see each other succeed.”

How close are Driskel and Brissett?

“I mean, we go on walks on the weekend. … No, I'm joking,” Brissett said. “We all know it's a competition. That's what we came to Florida for, for a competition. Football has its place for football and then outside has its place for outside.”

Driskel, a five-star prospect, was an early enrollee last year and got an early jump on Brissett, a four-star prospect who remained at Palm Beach Dwyer through his senior year.

But by early in the 2011 season, Muschamp said the two true freshmen were basically even.

“I used to drive up here on the weekends (when I was still in high school) and come to practice and sit and talk with players,” said Brissett, explaining how he made up ground on Driskel. “At the time, (Dwyer) had two players that played on offense, Robert (Clark) and Gerald (Christian), so they kind of taught me a couple of things.

“And when I came here … I pretty much don't really do anything outside of school and football, and I just concentrated on that.”

Going into the 2011 season, the ideal plan would have been for one of the two freshmen to separate himself from the other and then redshirt one. But the plan had to be ditched when starter John Brantley was hurt late in the first half against Alabama.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Driskel found himself playing against the No. 1 defense in the nation before he was ready.

“I want to say that I was calm, but I would be lying,” Driskel said. “I was a little nervous. It was a big stage. I should have been more prepared. I won't be unprepared this year.”

In the second half of the loss to the Tide, Driskel sprained his ankle, and the coaches decided early the next week that Brissett would start against No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge.

Unlike Driskel, who was unexpectedly thrown in the fire in the 38-10 loss to Alabama, Brissett had a week to prepare for his starting debut against the Tigers.

“With me getting a whole week of getting those reps, it helped me out a lot,” Brissett said.

Brissett showed composure in the game, but due to his inexperience, the playbook was dramatically condensed by then-offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Brissett threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose, but for the game, he threw only eight passes for 94 yards and was intercepted twice in the 41-11 loss.

“It was a great experience to get that experience under my belt. I felt it went good,” Brissett said. “To be honest, I wasn't (nervous). Throughout practice, I kind of put myself in situations in my head like it was a real game. When I came out there, I don't think I felt anything.”

Brissett also started the next week against Auburn, but threw an interception in a difficult first half and was replaced in the second half by Driskel, who completed nine of 18 passes for 75 yards in a 17-6 loss.

The following week, Brantley returned from his high ankle sprain and started the final six games of the season.

Driskel replaced Brantley again when Brantley sustained a concussion late in the first half against Florida State.

Now, Driskel and Brissett are locked in an early dead-heat for the starting role.

Both quarterbacks say they're more comfortable in the offense than they were last season.

“Any time you get any experience you're going to be a lot more comfortable,” Driskel said. “I had no idea what I was doing (last spring). I was just throwing the ball around. (Wednesday's practice), I felt a lot more comfortable. I missed some throws, but I felt more comfortable.”

Both quarterbacks are enjoying a level of comfort at the moment. But will that last if one separates himself from the other and a starter emerges?

There is already speculation that the quarterback who doesn't win the job likely would opt to transfer.

“That's just something that comes from the media,” Driskel said. “It's easy to say that. We're both competitors. We're both going to compete. It's going to stay like that until we're both gone.”

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

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