Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Colleges

Florida Gators seek resolution to two-quarterback situation in first half of opener

GAINESVILLE

When spring football drills began in March, new Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease assumed he would have a starting quarterback by now. Instead, he has two.

When Florida hosts Bowling Green on Saturday, sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will each play one quarter in the first half to potentially determine a permanent starter.

Pease is well aware of the risks involved with the dual-quarterback, one-quarter strategy, but he said it was the most equitable way to address the difficult situation.

"They have both done a really good job, with how they've handled the situation and how they've progressed," he said. "I think it would be difficult to name a starter right now. What would you be telling the other kid? If they had separated (from) 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."

Translation: The Gators are opening with Bowling Green, a team that is 7-17 over the past two years, which gives Florida's coaching staff a prime opportunity to see both players in game action without jeopardizing a likely victory.

The decision to split play by quarters has drawn criticism, but Pease said it's designed to allow the players to perform without added pressure.

"The thing we don't want to create is they're looking over their shoulder like in a series," he said. "I don't think that's fair. I think you can get too uneasy and it puts too much pressure on you, so a quarter's just a situation of — in a game, you're really trying to get 14, 15 drives and then you can balance it out from there. You give each kid three or four series that they can do something."

Pease and coach Will Muschamp have not revealed which quarterback will start. Brissett said he has no preference "as long as I play." Driskel does.

"Obviously I'd like to play the first, but that doesn't matter," he said. "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."

Playing two quarterbacks isn't unique at Florida. Tim Tebow was used in certain situations in relief of Chris Leak in 2006, and former coach Steve Spurrier was famous for his use of two quarterbacks, notably rotating Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise on every play against FSU in 1997. But the current South Carolina coach said this week that it's not something he'd recommend for the long term.

Pease doesn't necessarily disagree.

"I don't know, tough to answer," Pease said when asked if this could continue beyond Saturday. "I don't think so. That's my gut feeling. I don't know if it's sustainable from there. It depends how they play, I guess, and what they create."

Muschamp wouldn't reveal what parameters would be used in the halftime evaluation, but he knows what he wants from both.

"Win," he said. "Play well, take care of the ball, score points, move our football team, get us in and out of the huddle, manage our team — and not in a conservative manner. Let's get the ball going."

Many players said this week that they could see this coming.

"It wasn't really surprising," sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer said. "It's a close call, so I don't blame the coaches for what they're doing. I'm just excited to see what's going to happen with them."

What happens after Saturday remains to be seen, but for now it's one quarter each, presumably to determine a winner. Fair and square.

"Ever since the spring, that's what we've both wanted and that's what we've both got," Driskel said. "We both took advantage of our opportunity. And Saturday is just one more chance."

Added Brissett: "At the end of the day, it's Coach's decision, so whatever is going to put us in the best position for the rest of the season, it's fine with me."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her coverage at gators.tampabay.com.

 
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