GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — One will start, both will play. And when the season opener is over, No. 23 Florida probably will decide between the two.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Tuesday he’s not sure the team’s two-quarterback system is viable beyond Saturday’s game against Bowling Green, meaning the Gators likely will choose between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel before traveling to Texas A&M for the Southeastern Conference opener.
“That’s my gut feeling,” Pease said. “I don’t know if it’s sustainable from there. It depends how they play, I guess, and what they create.”
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The sophomores have battled for the starting job since spring practice. Coach Will Muschamp said each will play a quarter in the first half Saturday, and then the coaches will decide how to progress after halftime.
Pease credited Brissett and Driskel with making strides in the offseason, and said that playing both is the fair thing to do.
“I think it would be difficult to name a starter right now,” Pease said. “What would you be telling the other kid? If they had separated each other, yeah. But they’ve both made major progress and done good things. We have a situation in a game where we can play them.”
The Gators expect to pick a starter later in the week.
Pease suggested they might flip a coin. Brissett joked that he figured they would decide it by playing cards.
In reality, starting the game means little. Each quarterback will get 15 minutes, maybe just a series or two, to show what he can do in front of 90,000 at The Swamp.
“This is our biggest opportunity and our biggest chance,” Driskel said. “They’re going to go with the guy who is going to give them the best chance for the rest of the season.”
Both guys had a chance to shine last season. Driskel struggled in place of injured starter John Brantley against Alabama, and Brissett was mediocre while starting the next two weeks.
They were freshmen then. They have one less excuse now.
“At the end of the day, it’s just going out and play football,” Brissett said. “It’s time to play. No more time for interviews and talk, just go out and have fun.”
Although the quarterback race has gotten most of the attention the last six months, the reality is that if things go the way Muschamp hopes, neither will be asked to do too much. Muschamp is simply looking for a game manager, not a gun slinger.
The Gators want to be a run-first offense, with Mike Gillislee, Mack Brown and Matt Jones handling much of the workload. And when Brissett and Driskel do throw, they just need to distribute the ball quickly and accurately.
Pease said Brissett needs to work on his pocket presence.
“He’s comfortable in the pocket,” Pease said. “He likes to sit in there and hold it and try and throw the ball downfield because he can throw off balance. He’s got a strong arm. He can flick it. And, hey, if it’s not there, you better pull it down and go. You know, make a quick decision and go vertical.”
What about Driskel?
“Really with him, because he’s not afraid to run, really protecting himself on the move,” Pease said. “Sometimes he thinks he’s a fullback in there or sliding into second.”
By all accounts, Brissett and Driskel have handled what could be an awkward situation pretty well. After all, Driskel was widely considered the nation’s top quarterback. He was recruited by Urban Meyer to run the spread offense in Gainesville, a la 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Shortly after Muschamp replace Meyer, he landed Brissett — another of the country’s top prep QBs.
The competition basically has been on ever since. They insist there’s no animosity, but they also acknowledge not being best friends.
“We’re not going to go take long walks at night,” Driskel said.
Especially not after the opener and the impending decision on a starter.
“One of my things I’ve explained to them: You can embrace it. You can hate it and not embrace the situation,” Pease said. “I have been in their shoes. At times, I personally probably approached it wrong. Just living off my experience, I’ve tried to say whichever way we go with it, you get a fair shot. Make your production and make your statement when you get in there.”