Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp has already received some criticism for his decision to play one of his two sophomore quarterbacks in the first quarter and rotate in the other in the second quarter before reevaluating the situation at halftime of the season opener on Saturday against Bowling Green.
But the way his offensive coordinator Brent Pease and signal callers all tell it, the decision is at least fair to all parties involved even if it is a not typical.
“I think it is a little bit [unusual]. I think in this circumstance, because of how they both progressed and how they’ve shown their leadership skills, I’m not really worried about it right now,” Pease said on Monday. “In some situations I’ve been in before, I’d say, ‘Yeah.’ I don’t think it is [a problem for] this team because of their maturity and how they’ve kind of come along.
“I think when the lights come on it’s going to be different for each kid. Hopefully they’re both prepared and they accept the challenge.”
Pease said Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel both deserve the opportunity to play in the first game because of how hard they have practiced throughout the offseason and the level of improvement that each has shown over the last few months.
“They have both really done a good job in how they’ve handled the situation and how they progressed,” he said. “I think it would be hard to name a starter right now because what would you be telling the other kid? If they had separated from each other, yeah, but they both have really made major progress and they both have really done good things. We got a situation in a game where we can play them. There’s been situations in college football and even in the NFL where both guys have played.”
Driskel, who of course wants the starting job all to himself just like Brissett does, explained that there is not much more he or his teammate can ask for then a fair shot to compete for the full-time job.
“I thought they were going to name a starter,” he said, “but I knew it was going to be difficult for them, and I wouldn’t want to be the guy to have to pick between us two because, like I said, we’ve both been performing so well.
“Obviously I’d like to play the first but that doesn’t matter. We’re both going to play and we’re both going to try to do the same thing. We’re on the same team, so I’ll be cheering for him and he’ll be cheering for me.”
Driskel added, “Ever since the spring, [a fair shot is] what we’ve both wanted and that’s what we’ve both got. We both took advantage of our opportunity and this Saturday is just one more chance.”
Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Brissett knew when he joined the Gators that he and Driskel would go head-to-head throughout their careers. Neither has shied away from that competition despite the fact that both would like to have it settled at some point soon.
“When I committed here I knew it was going to be a race between me and him,” Brissett said. “You can’t fight it, that’s just what you got [to do], strive to be the best at it. Competition brings out the best in everyone and that’s what’s happening now.”
He added, “The battle will never end. Every day is a struggle. You got to go out and compete as hard as you can and to the best of your ability.”
How long the battle for the starting job this season will last remains to be seen. Pease said he does not know for sure if the two-quarterback system can be sustainable beyond the first week of the season though he has an idea.
“I don’t think so, that’s just my gut feeling,” he said. “I don’t know if this is sustainable from there. It depends on how they play, I guess, and what they create.”
Putting the quarterbacks in for a quarter each allows both to get into a rhythm and see three or four consecutive series instead of being jerked in-and-out of the game.
“The thing we don’t want to create is that they’re looking over their shoulder like [in] a series,” Pease said. “I don’t think that’s fair. I think you can get too uneasy and it puts too much pressure on you.”
Muschamp and Pease have yet to determine who will begin the game under center though the coordinator said the duo have not made that decision and neither is too concerned with that choice in the long run.
“I don’t know, maybe at the flip of the coin,” he dead-panned on when a decision will be made. “I think that’s kind of something that will be determined more towards Thursday because we have a couple days still to rep situations. And it kind of depends maybe on what [plays] we open up with.”
Pease did note, however, that both quarterbacks are capable of handling the entire playbook and each will have plenty thrown at them no matter when they are on the field.
“I don’t think one can do a lot better than the other with what we have in our game plan. I’m not saving this play for this guy or this play for that guy,” he said. “You got to go perform it. If you’re in there and we’re in the right situation to call it – get it done.”
The key for Driskel and Brissett on Saturday will be continuing to try and show the separation that the coaching staff has been looking for all offseason.
Pease on Monday outlined the areas in which both players were asked to improve over the last few months (in addition to their specific goals).
“For both of them, [I want them to] let the play progress,” he said. “Sometimes the big play that you’re trying to make the thrown on is not necessarily going to be there. You got to throw your check downs. You got to help the O-line. You’re getting rid of the ball; you’re building confidence within the pocket as the game goes on.
“We can’t just be looking for deep ball after deep ball after deep ball because if we get caught holding onto the ball, eventually the rush and defensive linemen are going to get more confident and our offensive line won’t.”
Should one or the other show on Saturday that he is capable of playing within himself, limiting mistakes and not only able to make the big play but also know when to settle for small victories, the starting quarterback job could be settled sooner rather than later.
PEASES OF CAKE
» On redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown: “Mack has gotten better. He’s become a lot more confident, and he’s definitely got the ability. He’s improved his ball security, and I think he’s learned more things within the offense. He understood that’s one of the things he had to pick up – be more consistent…in pass protection, catching the ball and the variable plays that you’re going to carry in a game plan.”
» On the other two quarterbacks on the roster: “They both have gotten reps. I think Skyler [Mornhinweg] is going to be a good quarterback here; I think he’s still got some time to develop. I think we’re in that situation to continue letting him grow and prepare more. Tyler [Murphy] has taken reps. He has some experience in the offense from spring on, and he’s a very bright kid. And if he gets in that situation, he knows how to manage things.”
» On freshman guard Jessamen Dunker being able to play early: “His biggest asset has been that he came in – both him and D.J. [Humphries] – that they came in [during] the spring and came in to school early. If they hadn’t, it would be tough to be prepared in an O-line sense because you got to listen to a lot of calls, a lot of communication, especially what defenses face.”
Photo Credit: David Carr/The Independent Florida Alligator