GAINESVILLE (AP) — After seven months of practice and workouts, four weeks of camp and one game, No. 23 Florida has decided on a starting quarterback.
It could be settled for the entire season, too.
Coach Will Muschamp said Monday that Jeff Driskel will start Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener at Texas A&M, adding that “it’s good to move forward with naming one guy and go with it.”
Muschamp picked Driskel over fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett partly because of Driskel’s mobility.
“Just feel like Jeff with his legs gives us some different variables in our offense that can helps us as we move forward,” Muschamp said. “So it’ll be Jeff’s game to play. I told Jeff, ‘I don’t want you looking over your shoulder, but you need to play well.'”
Driskel completed 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards in Saturday’s season opener against Bowling Green, including a 50-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond that helped seal the 27-14 victory.
Brissett started the opener, but played just 11 snaps. He completed 3 of 5 passes for 31 yards. Driskel took 52 snaps and played the entire second half. Nonetheless, Muschamp said after the game that he hadn’t chosen a starter.
Two days late, Muschamp gave both quarterbacks the news.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to be a quarterback at a university like this,” Driskel said. “He just wants me to go out there and play and not worry about looking over my shoulder. He wants me to play loose and calm, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Muschamp said Brissett handled the decision professionally.
“Jacoby wasn’t very happy, and I respect that,” Muschamp said. “I wouldn’t want them to be pleased with it.”
Driskel entered 2011 as the backup to John Brantley, but lost his spot after sustaining an ankle injury in relief against Alabama. Brissett started the next two games, and most outsiders believed he would be the guy in 2012.
But the competition started anew when Florida hired former BoiseState offensive coordinator Brent Pease in January.
Brissett and Driskel shared reps during spring practice and entered fall camp in a dead heat. Even when Driskel missed a few days of practice with a sore, non-throwing shoulder, Brissett failed to pull ahead.
Ultimately, though, it came down to Driskel’s feet and not his arm — quite possibly an indictment against Florida’s shaky offensive line.
“Running the ball is a big part of my game,” Driskel said. “I can make a play at any time. Any time the pocket breaks down or something happens, I feel like I can get outside.”
Florida has been searching for a big-time quarterback since former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left Gainesville following the 2009 season.
Brantley struggled in two seasons as the starter, and it remains to be seen whether Driskel will do better.
Muschamp believes his experience from last year should help.
“That position’s difficult to play at any stage of your development,” Muschamp said. “But it’s really difficult to play as a freshman quarterback in the SEC. I think both of those guys were put in very difficult situations last year. I think it was great experience for them now. It was very trying on me, but for them it was a very beneficial experience. Again, I think that both guys, and that’s why I felt like we needed to make a decision on one, they need snaps. They need game-time snaps.
“There’s going to be still a growing curve here. It’s not all going to be perfect. I understand that. It’s part of the growing process at that position.”
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