Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced last week that the team would use sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel in a two-quarterback system during Saturday's season opener against Bowling Green.
And after such a tight battle between the two signal-callers this past spring and in preseason camp, setting up an audition against the Falcons in the first game of the year makes a lot of sense.
US PRESSWIREJacoby Brissett will try to win the No. 1 QB job in Gainesville with a strong performance in the season opener.
We don't know which quarterback will be the first to take the field at The Swamp, but each player will get one full quarter to lead the offense in the first half before Muschamp chooses at halftime what the rotation will look like in the second frame. And while this may not be an ideal situation for a team looking to once again reach the upper-echelon of the rugged SEC, it's a smart move by Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Brent Pease because both of these QBs have such limited experience, particularly throwing the football. Of course, in 2011 they essentially were relegated to being running backs in an offense that was going nowhere when John Brantley went down to injury. And now one of them is expected to become the face of the Gators offense.
While Muschamp has maintained that he likes both signal-callers and is confident that the team can be successful with either one, both he and Pease are unquestionably waiting for one QB to emerge, especially with two tough games looming following the opener.
After the Gators host Bowling Green, they travel to College Station for a raucous environment against SEC newcomer Texas A&M and then head to Knoxville for a date with rival Tennessee. Despite the fact that the Aggies have question marks at defensive tackle and in the secondary, College Station will pose as a tough atmosphere for whoever is under center for the Gators. While the Aggies may give up some points as they adjust to their new league and a new DC, their offense should be efficient under the direction of Kevin Sumlin and his staff. So the Gators will have to find a way to score some points to keep up.
The Volunteers, meanwhile, will be led by new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri, who absorbed Nick Saban's defense while serving on the Crimson Tide's defensive staff. And he'll have plenty of good material to mold into an attacking hybrid defense.
There's no question that Florida will have its hands full in both contests, especially on the road.
We'll have to see how Brissett and Driskel handle the pressure in the opener knowing that each snap will be highly scrutinized by the coaching staff. While some would consider this a de facto scrimmage against the Falcons, it's an opportunity for both signal-callers to get their feet wet in 2012. And for one to assert himself as the leader of the offense.
It is important to point out that Driskel is battling a bruised shoulder, a malady that is not expected to hamper his ability to play in the opener. But what if he takes a hard hit against the Falcons yet wins the starting job? Will he be 100 percent for the road tilt against A&M? And keep in mind that Driskel was recruited to Gainesville to operate the spread system, while Brissett is the more natural dropback passer. Will Brissett get the chance to show off his arm and impress in Week 1?
The 6-4, 229-pounder was thrown into the fire last season, having to line up for his first career start against No. 1 LSU in Baton Rouge. He finished 2011 by completing just 46 percent of his passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Driskel, meanwhile, looked just as overwhelmed in his first college action. He played in five games in 2011 without a start, completing just 47 percent of his throws for 148 yards and two interceptions. Not even the offensive mind of Charlie Weis could rescue this unit last fall.
Finding enough consistent playmakers on offense is another chore for Pease and this offensive staff, which would help both quarterbacks. Can receivers Andre Debose, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar emerge as consistent options? The good news is that the team's suspect offensive line impressed Muschamp with its toughness this offseason, and that unit will go a long way in determining just how good the Gators can be this fall.
But all eyes will be on Brissett and Driskel this weekend. Whoever can limit his turnovers and show more improvement in the opener of his second year will get the call to lead an offense that needs to complement a defense that ranked eighth nationally in 2011 if this team has any designs on moving up the SEC ranks.
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