Driskel’s back but Gators’ QB job remains open

Florida Gators freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel’s ankle injury is a thing of the past, according to offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who said Tuesday that the player has returned to the field and basically split practice repetitions down the middle with his classmate and last week’s starter against LSU, Jacoby Brissett.

“I wouldn’t be giving him that many reps if [he was still injured],” Weis said.

However, Driskel returning to practice does not mean he automatically becomes the top choice to start on Saturday. That is still to be decided this week.

“My job is to make sure I have both of them ready to play. I’m not going to have one of them ready to play; they’re both going to be ready to play. They both took pretty close to even reps [Tuesday], so I’ll have both of them ready to play,” Weis said. “I got the whole week to see how the whole thing matriculates.”

No matter who winds up being tabbed as the starter on Saturday, Weis explained that the game plan he is formulating can be put into action with either player behind center. In fact, both of them seeing action against the Auburn Tigers is not out of the question.

“Yeah, there’d be a chance of both playing in the game. Right now it’s too soon to say, ‘Hey, let’s do this or let’s do that.’ Let’s just get through the week and see how the week goes first,” Weis cautioned.

His re-opening of the quarterback job is not a statement about Brissett’s performance last week. Though Weis “chose the conservative route” and decided not to open up the offense due to his lack of experience and the hostile environment in which the game was played, he thought Brissett “handled himself very well” on Saturday.

“He showed very, very good poise. That’s what I expected from being around him a bunch. Until you go out there and actually watch it, you don’t know what’s going to happen for sure,” Weis said of Brissett. “There’s a lot of good practice players that when it comes time to playing a game, they disappear. But he certainly isn’t one of them.

“It’s one thing when you expect it, but you don’t know until there’s 93,000 people, you’re on the road, it’s loud. He wasn’t the reason that we lost the game. I can say that with fairly good confidence.”

Weis has a lot of confidence in both Driskel and Brissett, citing the fact that they have now both played in games as a “big difference maker” for each player going forward. Though he said even Brissett would admit that Driskel is the faster of the two, he has been impressed with what each player brings to the table.

“They’re both big, strong, physical guys, very sharp mentally with a very, very high ceiling,” he said. “Both these guys have grown to improve and be very, very good players.”

10/11: Weis on Gillislee, flexibility, Gators’ offense

As the Florida Gators prepare for their second-straight road test on Oct. 4 against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s loss and the upcoming contest in Auburn, AL.

WHY GILLISLEE DESERVES MORE TIME

Junior running back Mike Gillislee has continued to prove to his coaches, teammates and fans that he deserves to carry the ball more often. After his performance on Saturday against LSU, Gillislee showed that hard work, determination and positive attitude can really pay off in the long run.

“He’s probably the perfect example of a team guy. Most of these guys they all have illusions of grandeur like they’re the best guy on the team,” Weis said on Tuesday. “You come in and now all of a sudden you have [Chris] Rainey and [Jeff] Demps ahead of you that are playing very well. You’re kind of waiting in the wings and just playing hard in practice every day, never opening your mouth and just going hard every single snap that you get and on special teams.

“All of a sudden, you get in there and you start getting more reps and more reps and you produce. He’s a lesson to a lot of these guys that are backups to see what can happen if you’re prepared to be ready, and they call your number and you produce. That’s going to get him on the field more.”

Another reason that Gillislee will get an increased workload? Unlike Rainey and Demps, he has seen success running between the tackles in Southeastern Conference play. Though he only weighs in at 205 lbs., Gillislee has proven he is better suited and better equipped physically to run the ball inside than the starters.

“He likes to run in there. Most running backs can’t get to the outside fast enough,” Weis said. “He likes it in there. He likes contact. Most running backs don’t like contact. They prefer not to get hit rather than get hit. Getting hit is part of his game. There’s times where, if he has a choice to make somebody miss and try to dance or try to run through somebody, he’s one of those guys were a lot of times he’ll try to run them over. He plays way bigger than his size.”

BECOMING A MORE FLEXIBLE COORDINATOR

With his starting quarterback out at least one more week and an offense that has only scored 21 combined points against top of the top teams in the country, Weis realizes that the Gators have to make some changes. It did not help that he had to start his third signal-caller on Saturday with a limited package of plays that did not allow Florida to pass the ball as much as he wanted.

“If you score 10 or 11 points on a weekly basis, you’re going to lose most of them – if not all of them. What we have to do is be more aggressive. You’re in that catch-22 when you’re dealing with inexperience at the quarterback position. We will be more aggressive [this week],” he said.

Weis also explained why he was unable to keep the offensive momentum going two weeks ago when redshirt senior John Brantley went down and freshman Jeff Driskel was forced to enter the game. He placed the blame on his lack of preparation.

“Let’s go back two weeks. John gets hurt. What you could do is you could have a better auxiliary plan in place so that if John goes down, we’re going to go just to this auxiliary plan,” he said. “But to be honest with you, I thought we were going to have to throw the ball to win – as you saw what our game plan was. You don’t go into that auxiliary plan with guys that have been here for three days saying, ‘OK we’re going to let you throw it on this defense on every snap.’ It’s quite a drastic change from what the plan really was to win the game.”

Part of Weis’s auxiliary plan against LSU was using RB Trey Burton behind center for many of the running plays. He said that Burton was a viable option for the team and will be one going forward if UF must continue using young quarterbacks.

“You better have, especially going into that game, you better have some options, some versatility within your package,” he explained. “I wasn’t going to wait around and let us be stagnant. […] We had the package. I used it the second series. Didn’t intend to use it quite so early, but what you didn’t want to do was – it was already 7-0 – you don’t want to let the game get away from you too quickly.“

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On freshman QBs Driskel and Jacoby Brissett: “I like both these guys. I like them a lot. I don’t like one of them a lot. I like both of them a lot. They both have attributes to be a very good quarterback. […] I’d love Brantley to be here this week, but you can only play one quarterback at a time. Right now my job is to make sure I just get those guys ready to go.”

» On learning about Brissett’s presence during recruiting: “I was scrambling a bit to help get him here, but one of the things that I liked the most besides watching him on tape was actually watching him play basketball. I watched his basketball team, which was really good. But I watched him play on his basketball team and watched his presence and his command playing basketball. It’s so much easier when you can watch a guy physically doing it. That’s something that’s different. Presence is not something that you can watch on tape. You can watch production, but you can’t watch presence.”

» On rumors about redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy transferring: “He’s been with me for the last five hours, so that would be news to me.”

» On if he’s concerned about the blocking of tight ends and running backs: “If you can’t block then you can never be a regular player. You can never be an every-down player. Because a running back who can’t pick up the blitz, you have to take him out when there’s a blitz. A tight end who can’t block the run, you’re going to be looking for somebody better. And the same is true for wide receivers. If they can run and catch but they can’t block anyone, you can’t play them on a regular basis because you’re going to run the ball at least half the time.”

» On if his offense is physically capable of matching up with teams like Alabama and LSU: “That’s a moot point because I’m just worried about Auburn. That’s what I’m worried about. Hopefully we’ll get to revisit that question down the road. Hopefully that question has some merit this year. Right now, we can’t be worrying about that. We have to be worrying about Auburn.”

» On the improvement of redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan: “He’s played with a lot of physicality. That’s what’s got him more time. Matt is a physical player, but when he knows what he’s doing and can really turn it loose, he can be a dominant physical presence. That’s what he’s shown to earn himself more playing time. In that last game, he was one of the players for us that stood out and played with physicality the whole game.”

» On if his offensive line is undersized: “It depends on who you’re playing against. If you really look out our offensive line versus LSU last week, no, they weren’t undersized. It depends on the opponent and how big they are versus how big you are. I’ve been with offensive lines where everyone averaged 280 and I’ve been with offensive lines where everyone averaged 315. And I’ve won with both of them. Size isn’t always the factor.”

» On if using so many special packages early has hurt his playbook: “Now [other teams] practice that and you do other stuff. That’s part of coaching. There’s other things you can do off of the same thing. We only ran a handful of things.”

10/11: Gillislee’s increased role, leadership void, quarterback battle, discipline issues

With the Florida Gators preparing for their second-straight road test in the middle of the 2011 season, four prominent players were made available to the media early in the week to discuss how the team is progressing heading into their showdown with the No. 24 Auburn Tigers on Oct. 15 at 7:00 p.m. in Auburn, AL.

GILLISLEE HAS EARNED HIS SHOT

For a team that had so much success running the football over its first four games of the season, it is a bit of a surprise that Florida will have to rely on a third running back to give the offense a bit of a spark going forward. Nevertheless, Gators junior RB Mike Gillislee – who has been stuck in a reserve role for the last three years – is expected to see an increased role on Saturday. “I feel like I earned it. I’ve been waiting of this time in my life to stand up and to be productive and for this offense to do what I can,” Gillislee said on Tuesday. “Every time I run the ball, I never know when I’m going to get it again, so I try to run it as hard as I can while I got it.”

He said he understands why he has not had the chance to get a large number of carries before (“I got two great running backs in front of me.”) and that has never been a concern for him. “I’m pretty much a team player. I put the team first,” Gillislee said. He also believes that, at 205 lbs. (up 30 lbs. from his freshman year), he gives the team a little extra power when running up the middle.

Even though he’s a bit stronger than senior Jeff Demps and redshirt senior Chris Rainey, Gillislee says he also has some speed and can hit the holes well. “I got pretty good vision,” he said. “When I see something, I try to hit it as quick as I can.” Rainey agrees. “He brings a lot to the table. I love when he runs the ball. I guess he’s probably going to be playing a lot more now, so I can’t wait to see that,” he said Monday.

Redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison said he has always known Gillislee could contribute. “He’s a hard runner, hard worker. He’s bringing this extra little “umph” we need in the backfield,” Harrison explained. “He’s getting more reps at practice and everything, and he’s going to see a little more playing time, coach was saying.”

FINDING SOME LEADERS

One thing head coach Will Muschamp has been adamant about is that he needs players of any age to step up and prove they can lead game-in and game-out. With consecutive losses serving as extra weight on their shoulders and another road game ahead, Rainey said it is time to put up or shut up. “This is a time when leaders step up, talk to the team, tell people it’s all right that we still control our destiny and stuff,” he said. “I just try to do everything right, stay positive.”

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said that three sophomores – DT Dominique Easley, defensive end Sharrif Floyd and Buck linebacker Ronald Powell – have stepped up on his side of the ball. With redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley injured, it will be curious to find out who joins Rainey as an offensive leader.

SATURDAY’S STARTING QB STILL TO BE DETERMINED

As of practice on Tuesday, freshmen quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were both playing and splitting reps 50/50. Harrison confirmed this fact Tuesday but said he did not know who would wind up winning the job and the start on Saturday.

However, both Rainey and Harrison spoke about Brissett’s performance as of late, offering a bit of praise for how he handled himself. “During the week he was taking more snaps than everyone else, so that’s when I figured out he was playing,” Rainey said about last week’s practice. “I trust him at practice. It all starts at practice. It looked like he was more ready. He was ready to step up.” Harrison said Brissett had a good demeanor and was poised with an up-tempo attitude on Saturday. “He actually, his first game and everything, he performed well. He was confident in the huddle and he can only build off that last game and get better throughout the season.”

That is, if Brissett wins the starting job over a healthy Driskel.

FIXING DISCIPLINE ISSUES

Unlike in years past, the discipline issues facing Florida in 2011 are not off-the-field but rather on-the-field. The Gators have been committing nearly double-digit penalties in every game on average, and it is costing them in numerous ways. Rainey said Monday that the miscues are simply unacceptable. “We did get a lot of penalties – people doing dumb mistakes or people ain’t focused or stuff like that,” he said. “It’s called ‘selfish’ when people do dumb mistakes like that.”

Harrison said the offensive line in particular is doing what it can to correct them. “[They are] unnecessary penalties and mental [mistakes on] assignments,” he explained. “[It’s] maybe a little bit more discipline, practice a little harder, practice with some more game-like situations.” Redshirt sophomore tackle Kyle Koehne said the unit needs to “stay more focused and keep our minds right” in order to avoid making those mistakes. “The undisciplined penalties are just false starts are lining up wrong,” he said. “They’re unacceptable right now how many we’re getting per game. They’re not being tolerated.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Rainey on the team losing back-to-back games: “We just don’t need to lose at all. We lost two so we don’t need to lose no more because we control our destiny.”

» Rainey on Alabama and LSU: “They’re two pretty good teams, but I felt that we was better than them. They just out-physicaled us, they was out-tough than us at the time. We just got to get together and regroup this week.”

» Rainey on redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose becoming a playmaker: “I’ve been waiting for him to step up for a while. He’s doing what I’ve been seeing since high school, so it’s nice to have him up there.”

» Harrison on if changes are needed: “Maybe just work harder throughout the week, which we’re doing. We’re just going to change up our schedule, work a little bit harder to make sure we are successful.”

» Harrison on why Alabama and LSU’s defenses had so much success: “Alabama planned to stop the outside run, which was our strength. That was their advantage. LSU just certain plays we weren’t completely meshed as an offense.”

» Koehne on if he had jitters during the Alabama game: “It was our first big game and we all – on the offensive line – were pretty young. Personally, I had some jitters. I can’t speak for everybody. Personally it was my first big game and I was a little nervous. Everybody gets nervous. You kind of get hype dup with the whole mood of the night and you’re playing Alabama in a Florida-Alabama game. I grew up watching this game. You just want to come out and perform your best. You feel a lot of pressure and you want to perform at your best.”

» Koehne on if junior left tackle Xavier Nixon didn’t play due to a performance issue: “Yes, I believe so.”

» Koehne on if this is a defining week in the season: “This is a huge week. Every week is a huge week. One game at a time. We really have to come together as a team. Defense and offense have to come together and play as a group. We’re really being put to the test this week.”

» Koehne on why Alabama and LSU outperformed them: “Alabama and LSU recruits the top athletes in the nation, too. They’re coached well and they play well and they stepped up for the occasion.”

» Hunter on the team moving on from consecutive losses: “Right now the team has moved on pretty quickly from the last two weeks. All of our focus is on Auburn right now. Everybody has a clear head right now and everybody is just focusing on Auburn.”

» Hunter on getting up for Auburn: “We treat every game the same. This is as big as it was last week and the week before. Auburn is a great team. We’re really looking forward to going and playing them at their stadium. It’s a wild stadium and we’re going to enjoy the moment.“

» Hunter on what the defensive line can do to improve: “We can hold double teams a little bit better. I know I can hold a double team a little bit better. We’re doing a pretty good job at contact, but just letting the guard or center or whoever it is run off to the second level, we have to do a better job at that.”

» Hunter on an statement he heard a teammate make:Lerentee MccCray said something good the other day. We’re five or six games into the season. No one is a freshman anymore. We’ve all played six games; everyone should be ready to play right now.”

FOUR BITS: Johnson, Donovan, Rosario, Auburn

1 » Four-star power forward Brice Johnson (Cordova, SC), told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that the Florida Gators have earned a spot in his top two. The No. 49 player in the country according to Rivals, Johnson is also considering N.C. State and plans to make a decision before the end of October. Florida already has three commitments in their 2012 recruiting class – four-star guards Michael Frazier (Montverde, FL) and Braxton Ogbueze (Charlotte, NC) and three-star G Dillon Graham (Orlando, FL).

2 » Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed while speaking at the Ocala Tipoff Club banquet on Monday that he is discussing a contract extension with Florida. He is about to begin his fifth year of a six-year, $21 million contract that expires after the 2012-13 season. “We’re in the process and trying to get some things finalized,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “When that gets done I don’t know. But we’ve had several conversations about it.”

3 » In one other basketball note, the Sun reports that Donovan said redshirt junior transfer guard Mike Rosario has injured a disc in his back, which he does not believe will stop him from playing this year. “He did a really, really good job lifting and getting stronger and putting on good weight. I thought with the injury, he put on some bad weight that he probably needs to get rid of right now,” Donovan said. “I think this preseason has been up-and-down for him in terms of injuries and different things he’s had to deal with.”

4 » Auburn Tigers head coach Gene Chizik said Monday that Barrett Trotter will remain the team’s starting quarterback heading into Saturday night’s game against the Gators. Auburn has the 106th passing offense in the nation because Trotter has completed just 56 percent of his passes this season for nine touchdowns and six interceptions. The Tigers, however, have four receivers with double-digit receptions and Tortter is nearing 1,000 yards on the season.

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 5

With the 2011 NFL season officially underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 5 action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the fifth week of the 2011 campaign.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos: 4/10 for 79 yards, touchdown (QB rating: 101.7), six rushes for 38 yards, touchdown (long: 12)

THE REST

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Solo tackle
LB ANDRA DAVIS, Buffalo Bills: Tackle
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Reception for six yards, touchdown (targets: 2)
FS MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears: Played as a reserve
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Two receptions for 13 yards (targets: 4, long: 8), solo tackle
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: QB hit
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Three tackles
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Bye week
DE DERRICK HARVEY, Denver Broncos: Tackle
DT MARCUS THOMAS, Denver Broncos: Eight tackles (six solo)
DE JEREMY MINCEY, Jacksonville Jaguars: Five tackles, sack, four QB hits
C MIKE POUNCEY*, Miami Dolphins: Bye week
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings Reception for 11 yards, rush for 12 yards
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Tackle
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Five receptions for 56 yards (targets: 9, long: 21)
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Six tackles (five solo)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
G COOPER CARLISLE, Oakland Raiders: Played as a starter
DE JARVIS MOSS, Oakland Raiders: Four tackles (three solo)
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Tackle
P CHAS HENRY*, Philadelphia Eagles: Two punts for 72 yards (long: 37)
C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MARCUS GILBERT*, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
OT MAX STARKS, Pittsburgh Steelers: Played as a starter
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Tackle
FB EARNEST GRAHAM, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Five rushes for 30 yards (long: 8 )
WR JABAR GAFFNEY, Washington Redskins: Bye week
QB REX GROSSMAN, Washington Redskins: Bye week

INJURED / INACTIVE
LB BRANDON SILER, Kansas City Chiefs: Torn achilles (season)
WR LOUIS MURPHY, Oakland Raiders: Sports hernia

NOTES
– Starks was signed by Pittsburgh this week after being cut in the offseason.
– Thomas and Hernandez returned to action from injury this week.
– Harvin (ribs) and Gilbert (shoulder) were injured during their games and did not return.
– Three Gators started on the Steelers’ offensive line.

PRACTICE SQUAD PLAYERS
DE Justin Trattou* (New York Giants), SS Ahmad Black* (Tampa Bay), OG Maurice Hurt* (Washington)

NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
DE Alex Brown, DE Bobby McCray, CB Lito Sheppard

* Rookie

2011 WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Tim Tebow named Denver Broncos starting QB

The Denver Broncos confirmed Tuesday that Tim Tebow will take over as starting quarterback on Oct. 23 against the Miami Dolphins following the team’s bye week.

At 1-4 on the season and with Tebow nearly leading a comeback after entering the game as a reserve last Sunday, Denver had little choice in the matter.

Though head coach John Fox believed Kyle Orton – not Tebow – gave the Broncos the best chance to win at the beginning of the season, he decided to turn to his backup at this time because Denver will have two practices during the bye in which to install new plays before preparing for their game at Miami next week.

Tebow started the final three games of the 2010 season, leading the Broncos to a 1-2 record that included a come-from-behind victory against Houston and a near duplication of that performance vs. San Diego. He completed 49.3 percent of his passes for 217 yards passing in those games and rushed for 66.3 yards per contest.

Accounting for seven touchdowns and three interceptions in his 2010 starts, Tebow had four more in a reserve role. He has scored at least one rushing and passing touchdown in all five NFL games in which he has touched the ball at least three times.

With Denver down 13 points to San Diego at the half on Sunday, Tebow took over in the third quarter and attempted to rally his team from behind. He scored two touchdowns (one rushing) in three minutes, brought the Broncos within two points (a conversion attempt to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd was dropped) and drove the ball 51 yards down the field with 24 seconds remaining before a hail mary attempt fell incomplete.

The fact that Tebow will start his first game of the 2011 season against the Dolphins is an interesting one. Miami attempted to trade for Orton in the offseason but was unsuccessful, a move that likely would have led to Tebow starting from week one.

The Dolphins will also be hosting a celebration for the Florida Gators 2009 BCS National Championship team on Oct. 23 as a promotion to reach out to the largest alumni base of South Florida. There will be a special on-field ceremony at halftime with former head coach Urban Meyer and past Gators players in attendance.

Broncos fans can now set their clocks because it’s Tebow time in Denver.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger

FOUR BITS: Larson, Foley, jump pass, Burton

1 » Once Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan reinstated junior forward Erik Murphy one month ago, it appeared quite obvious that he would make the same decision once redshirt freshman F Cody Larson‘s legal situation was settled. Now that Larson has received a longer probation period and a re-invoked 120-day suspended sentence after violating his probation, Donovan official decided he could rejoin the team after being indefinitely suspended since April. “I think both guys have been through a lot,” Donovan said on Monday, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I think both those guys are really, really remorseful. I don’t think the incident is a reflection of who they are as people. They come from great families. […] I’ve seen a lot of growth from these kids since the incident. That’s encouraging.”

2 » According to a report from USA Today, Florida’s Jeremy Foley is the second-highest paid athletic director in the country, earning $1.55 million in pay. He only ranks behind Vanderbilt’s David Williams ($2.56 million), who holds multiple positions at the school including serving as a general counsel and a fully tenured law professor. The Gators paid Foley a retention bonus of $200,000 in 2011, but he will hit an even bigger one on Jan. 31, 2012 when he is owed $550,000. Additional retention bonuses include $150,000 in 2013, $250,000 in 2014 and $100,000 per year from 2015-18 (though he would likely receive a new contract well before then).

3 » If you were irritated that the LSU Tigers ran the jump pass play on Saturday, the team’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales may be to blame. Gonzales, who used to coach receiver at Florida before being overlooked for the offensive coordinator job in favor of Steve Addazio, left UF in a huff to take the same job at LSU. Gators redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said after the game that he was a bit suspicious of the play call. “That was cold,” he said. “They did it against us. I looked at Billy on the sidelines, and he was laughing. I figured he had something to do with that.” According to some of the Tigers’ players, that play has been available all season. “”It was something that we always had,” tight end Mitch Joseph, who caught the pass, told the Times-Picayune, “but I couldn’t believe we called it this game. It just happened to be Florida.”

4 » One other tidbit stemming from the Florida-LSU game is a small war of words that has erupted between Gators sophomore running back Trey Burton and Tigers star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Asked to compare Alabama and LSU after the game, Burton said he would choose to face the Tigers’ defense again because the secondary was “not as good as advertised” while Alabama was stronger and more physical. Mathieu, learning of this, took offense and tweeted the following on Sunday: “I love the fact that Trey Burton from Florida opens his mouth and says OUR SECONDARY is not good, lol Boy you are Soft as cotton!” Burton wound up sharing Mathieu’s comments and subsequently changed his Twitter avatar – to this.

Extra BIT » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow talks about playing but losing Sunday’s game, in which he replaced Kyle Orton behind center after the half.

Driskel can win job back but Brissett leads

Contrary to popular belief, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp said Monday that he was not playing coy last week when not announcing who would start at quarterback for his team on Saturday against the LSU Tigers.

According to Muschamp, freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were both up for the job. However, he insinuated that Driskel’s inability to practice at full strength was to be the main reason why Brissett was able to earn the gig. He also claims he was not trying to gain any advantage but not announcing a starter at any point during the week.

“I wasn’t sure until Wednesday night that Jeff was not going to play in the game,” he said. “There was no deception on my point from the standpoint that I didn’t know until Wednesday night after practice that Jeff was probably not going to be able to play in the game. We were holding hope through Wednesday, went out Wednesday and he didn’t feel good with his ankle.”

If Florida was “holding out hope” for Driskel to be ready, one can assume the plan was for the Gators to roll with their year-long backup quarterback on Saturday. His sprained ankle made that impossible against LSU, but Muschamp thinks he will be fine to compete head-to-head with Brissett this week.

“They both are going to practice through the week,” he said. “Based on the injury report that I got this morning, Jeff should practice [Monday]. How limited he’ll be, I do not know that. Those guys will work with Jacoby being the starter at this point, and we’ll work through the week and progress to see who practices the best.”

Muschamp said that how the snaps are split – and how much Driskel practices – will be solely dependent on his health at this point in time.

“It’s not like one guy is a different quarterback than the other guy. They’re both very similar skill set as far as that’s concerned. A lot of that is going to depend on Jeff’s ankle,” he said. “How many reps will he be able to rep in practice? I don’t know at this point. We’re going to have about an hour and 15-minute practice [Monday night]. We’ll move from there and, as we move further in the week, I’ll know more obviously about how much he’ll be able to go and compete for the job this week. That will determine the reps and then obviously determine the starter.”

If Driskel is unable to practice at full speed or Brissett goes out again and earns the start, Muschamp is confident in the latter can continue progressing and play better.

“I thought Jacoby did a good job [against LSU]. As far as comparing how each quarterback performed in totally different environments, I’d have a hard time doing that. I thought he managed our offense very well,” the coach said. “I thought what we asked him to do he did very well. He’s a very composed young man. He’s very intelligent. He’s athletic. He’s smart. He works extremely hard since he’s been here as far as learning the offense and learning what to do and how we want to do it and manage our football team. I’m very pleased with his progress.”

Muschamp is so pleased, in fact, that he said offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will open the playbook even more for him if Brissett returns behind center. “Certainly we’ve got to do some more – something else offensively,” he said. “If you continue to do the same thing, you’ll continue to get the same results.” Driskel has been working with a larger playbook considering he’s been involved in the offense since the spring.

One thing that will not change as long as a backup quarterback is in, however, are running backs sophomore Trey Burton and redshirt senior Chris Rainey taking direct snaps in certain packages. Muschamp feels that helps take some of the pressure off of the young signal callers and gives the team a different element in a running game that was completely stopped against Alabama.

Florida will know who is starting at quarterback by mid-week, but who the Gators will trot out under center may once again remain a question until just before kickoff.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp said redshirt senior QB John Brantley is progressing well in rehab and slipped up a bit, mentioning that the injury is indeed to his ankle. “He’s working hard. He’s been in the training room a lot and went on the road with us to get all the reps he could get as far as rehabbing his ankle. We feel like he’s making good progress. We’ll continue to go forward with that.”

» He also said that there is a benefit to not disclosing the specifics about Brantley’s injury. “There are some teams out there that might want to get him in a pile. Not that anybody in our league would do that.”

» Florida will again likely choose their starting quarterback on Wednesday after two full days of practice because that is when the offense primarily focuses on red zone and third down plays. “As you start to work through Tuesday’s practice, you need to move forward,” Muschamp said.

» He also addressed why redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy has not had a chance to start for the Gators. “He’s done some good things. He’s managed our offense well, but those other guys have just performed better,” Muschamp said.

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