Florida quarterbacks set for competition


Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel fields questions from various media during UF Football Media Day at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Touchdown Terrace on the UF campus Thursday. Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett is seen on the right.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 8:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 10:09 p.m.

Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel say the intense competition between them has not harmed their growing friendship, has not pulled them apart. It has actually drawn them closer, they say.

But at the Florida football team's media day Thursday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the two Gator quarterback buddies found themselves sitting at opposite ends of the room in the Touchdown Terrace.

This was not done to separate the two combatants, like you might see at a news conference the day before a championship fight.

It was done to create space.

Even before the two true sophomores took their seats, members of the media rushed to get a camera or a tape recorder in place.

It's obvious the much-anticipated competition for the starting quarterback role at Florida is THE story heading into training camp, which begins Friday.

“I told our team, we have got a lot of position battles,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “And I said, if everyone wants to ask me about the quarterback position, I'll be honest with you.

“I feel really good about that position because we have two players that are competing that are going to make each other better, our offense better and our team better.”

Three-plus months after the spring game, not much has changed. Brissett and Driskel are right where they were then — dead-even heading into camp.

Muschamp said throughout the summer that he likes both quarterbacks and thinks the Gators can win with either or both, opening the possibility that the two could end up sharing playing time. But Muschamp has also made it clear he would prefer to have one emerge as the obvious starter before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

“Again, I think it's over a period of time, the consistency, the performance that they will have over a week, 10 days, and then we'll know when the decision is right (to name a starter),” Muschamp said. “I really feel that way. I've always felt that way about every position. You know when it's right.”

What's right now is that the position is wide open, and the two highly decorated high school stars are going to try and settle things on the practice field over the next three weeks.

“You've just got to go out and play,” Driskel said. “The camera (taping every practice) is not going to change the way I play or perform. Just go out and have fun and make the team better.

“There's always competition, from the time we got here. Two talented guys that are always going to compete against each other and always try to get better. It's been good for the whole team.”

Driskel and Brissett were two of the highest-rated quarterback prospects in the nation coming out of high school. Driskel was a five-star recruit and the No. 1 quarterback in the nation who committed to UF early in the process and enrolled in January of 2011. Brissett, a four-star prospect, signed with the Gators late, unfazed by the fact Driskel was already on campus.

Brissett said he signed with the Gators to prove he could beat out the nation's No. 1 quarterback.

His goal has not changed.

“The opportunity to compete with the No. 1 quarterback in the country, that's what drove me every day, and still does to this day,” Brissett said. “That's why I'm standing here now.

“If he beats me out, then he did a hell of a job to do it because he's going to get the best I have every day.

“If he wins the job, then I guess I won't be the quarterback. The next time I get my opportunity, make sure I make the most of it.”

Neither is close to winning the job yet. There are many practices and scrimmages to go before a decision is made.

Both say they know what it takes to win the job.

Be a leader. Be efficient running the offense. Produce.

“You're always going to have to be a leader. That's what coach is looking for,” Driskel said. “He's also going to be looking for the guy that's going to produce. If you don't produce, you're not going to play. That's basically the way it's been the whole time.”

Brissett said he's looking forward to the battle that lies ahead.

“As an athlete, all you look forward to is competition,” he said. “That's what drives every athlete, to be in the situation I'm in now.”

Fullback Trey Burton said the UF players have great confidence in both quarterbacks.

“They have leadership, athleticism, and they've both got big-time arms and they're both smart,” Burton said. “It's going to be tough (to name a starter). I'm glad I'm not making that decision.”

No matter what that decision turns out to be, Brissett and Driskel said they will remain friends.

“We're close,” Driskel said. “We're not going to let that (the competition) get in the way of that (our friendship). It's the way you have to handle it. You have to be professional about it.”

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

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