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.”
“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.