The careers of Florida quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will be forever linked, and have been since the two stepped on campus as wide-eyed freshman two seasons ago. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Brissett is now officially set to transfer out of Florida.
But his future will be defined, in part, by his past.
Driskel was the nation’s No. 1-rated quarterback recruit in the nation when he accepted a scholarship to play for the Gators. Brissett? No. 3, not too shabby himself.
As highly touted as both were, each found themselves below incumbent starter John Brantley on the depth chart and were expected to sit, watch, and learn before competing for the starting role in the offseason.
However, things did not quite go as planned, as Brantley struggled with injuries and ineffective play. First year coach Will Muschmap was forced to go to his two freshman at various points throughout the season.
Brissett started or appeared in eight games, completing 18 of his 39 passing attempts for 206 yards. He also threw two touchdown passes and four interceptions. Driskel, on the other hand, received far less playing time, despite the fact that he enrolled early at Florida and had a few months’ more time with the Gators offense than did Brissett. He played in five games, completing 16-of-34 passes for 148 yards and two interceptions. He did not throw a touchdown pass.
The fact that Brissett earned so much more playing time in his freshman year led many to believe that Muschamp would favor him heading into his sophomore season.
However, the team’s coach never stopped reiterating the fact that it was an open competition, and neither Brissett nor Driskel would be named Florida’s starting signal-caller until after the Gators took on Bowling Green in Week 1.
After the game, Muschamp officially announced the fact that Driskel would be his team’s starter moving forward, relegating a passer with so much promise in Brissett to the backup’s role.
Driskel took the reins of the squad and ran with it, literally, showing off the type of playmaking ability Gators fans had grown accustomed to watching Tim Tebow for four years.
Driskel finished second on the team with 408 rushing yards. His performance, at times, was a breath of fresh air in a season that saw the program skyrocket from a putrid 7-6 2011 finish to 11-2 overall and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Brissett’s high school coach, Jack Daniels, said he understands Driskel’s role as the leader of a winning program, but he also believes Brissett is an elite player in his own right.
“The team went 11-2; you can’t argue with that,” Daniels said. “But in my opinion, Jacoby could run that team. … Jacoby will be successful wherever he ends up.”
Where, in fact, Brissett ends up is the million-dollar question. Prior to his commitment to the Gators two years ago, his mother had pushed for the West Palm Beach native to accept a scholarship at Miami.
According to Daniels, however, West Virginia, Louisville, Arkansas, N.C. State and Duke are the schools Brissett would consider.
Brissett’s decision puts the onus on redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy and freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, the only two remaining scholarship quarterbacks on the Gators roster. One of them will most likely be tabbed as Driskel’s primary backup as the team gears up for spring practices and a run at another BCS bowl berth.
As for Driskel, he said he is sad to see his friend and competitive rival go, stating that Brissett always put the team ahead of himself — not an easy thing to do in such a situation as Brissett found himself in.
“He’s helping me out,” Driskel said. “He’s on the sideline looking for stuff. He’s encouraging.
“And he’s battling. He doesn’t go out there and hang his head, which would be easy to do in his situation. He’s worked hard all season long and I really respect him for that.”
Perhaps one day the two will meet again, in different jerseys.
Brissett, in such a situation, would undoubtedly want to show the Gators that he must be respected on the field, not simply in the weight room or film room or on the sidelines.
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