Gators have talent in reserve with QBs
Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 8:29 p.m.
In sharp contrast to a year ago, when he was locked in an intense, every-snap competition with Jacoby Brissett, junior Jeff Driskel now stands alone at quarterback.
He's not sharing reps with the No.1 offense. He's not competing against anybody but himself. The starting quarterback role is his.
But right behind Driskel, the competition at quarterback is a little bit like it was a year ago. Not only is it a close battle between junior Tyler Murphy and redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, it is an important one.
Because the backup quarterback is one snap away from being the starting quarterback. And at Florida, where Driskel makes a lot of plays with his legs and has had some injury issues in the past, that one play could happen at any time.
That's why there's a sense of urgency this spring to get Murphy and Mornhinweg comfortable in the offense and ready to play if they're needed this fall.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Murphy said. "Coaches are always saying with (Driskel's) style of play and being a physical runner, he can go down at any moment and you're always one play away. So I always take that into consideration, the way I prepare, the way I'm out there practicing and just really helping other guys and trying to be a leader.
"I've got to continue to progress and always take every rep and every snap as if it was a game, a game rep. Because if Jeff goes down or something like that, whoever the backup is has to be ready. So I'm just trying to prepare myself as if I'm the starter."
Perhaps the biggest thing Murphy and Mornhinweg have in common is this: neither has attempted a pass in a game at Florida.
Murphy spent the last three seasons as the scout team quarterback, running the opposing team's offense and helping the UF defense prepare on game week.
Mornhinweg, the son of New York Jets' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, redshirted last season.
He put up some nice numbers at Saint Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, but has none here.
The harsh reality is the Gators have zero experience behind Driskel at quarterback.
"Obviously, Jeff is the guy that's taken charge," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "Behind him it's Tyler and Skyler. I've talked to them and those guys have to step in and compete. We'll see who can compete. If they can't, we have a young guy coming in, (true freshman) Max Staver, and we'll have to assess the situation after the spring."
Murphy and Mornhinweg say they are doing everything they can this spring to fit in the offense and show they can run it. It's an every-day process, an every-day competition to get better and gain more comfort in what they're doing.
"Spring is going really well," Mornhinweg said. "Getting better every day. My mindset has been the same, to just get out there and get better every day.
"Really focused on protections and keeping ourselves safe in the pocket and learning how to switch up footwork to combat pressures, getting the ball off.
"It's great to get the reps, but I just really focused a lot in the classroom, learning from coach Pease when he's on the board, and watching film, too."
Murphy is getting plenty of reps in practice, too, certainly more than a year ago when the main focus at quarterback was the competition between Driskel and Brissett.
Although Pease and coach Will Muschamp insisted that Murphy also was involved in that competition last spring, it was obvious he was pretty much the No. 3 guy throughout.
"I'm definitely getting more reps (this spring)," Murphy said. "I can't put a number in my head right now, but I'm definitely getting more.
"It helps. You try to take a lot of mental reps so you know where to go with the ball and what's going on. When you get out there, you have to put the physical standpoint with the mental standpoint.
"Sometimes your body doesn't work as fast as your mind does. To get those reps, it really helps you get better and progress."
Although Murphy has not had a chance to run the offense in a game yet (which brings in the element of the unknown), he said he feels he's a good fit in it.
"It's an offense that I feel very comfortable in," Murphy said. "I feel comfortable throwing the ball downfield with the routes and the plays that he calls. But then there's also some standpoint where the quarterback is responsible for running the ball, and I felt comfortable with that. So I feel very comfortable in this offense."
Mornhinweg said he's feeling pretty comfortable, too.
The big question now is: How comfortable will Pease and Muschamp feel with Murphy and Mornhinweg should something happen to Driskel?
Robbie Andreu is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.
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