GAINESVILLE -- Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel came to Florida for a reason.
They want to be the Gators’ starting quarterback. They want to feel like Tim Tebow, torching Southeastern Conference defenses and lifting crystal. They want to be the guy, and that’s the problem. There’s only one guy.
Since Tebow and his two rings left Gainesville, Florida is 15-11, a far cry from the national dominance that made the small town in the northern part of the state seem so appealing. They get it.
“That’s not Florida Gator tradition,” Driskel said of UF’s record in 2010-11. “That’s not why we came here. … Nobody out of high school comes in to be that. We’re all trying to go get our championship.”
Said Brissett: “We went 7-6 last year, miraculously, and that’s not what we came here for.”
Florida was lucky to escape Will Muschamp’s first season as head coach with a winning record. The offense was dismal, finishing 105th nationally, and the team had issues with penalties (114th nationally) and ball control (113th in turnover margin) throughout the season. They were outscored 58-0 in the fourth quarter of a four-game losing streak in October, during which Brissett and Driskel were thrust into action as freshmen because of an injury to starter John Brantley.
Both, by observation and their own admission, struggled.
Muschamp said Driskel looked lost when told to strap on his helmet against Alabama after Brantley went down. He completed 2 of 6 passes and the Gators offense accumulated just 46 yards of offense in the second half. Brissett started the following week against LSU and didn’t fare much better, throwing two interceptions in 14 attempts as UF was blown out by 30 points.
Locked in what has been described by coaches as a competition as even as could possibly be, Driskel and Brissett both have spoken of doing what it takes to become the starter.
“That’s the reason I came here, to be the starter. I didn’t come here to sit the bench,” Brissett said. “So whatever I’ve got to do to get that done, that’s what I’ve got to do.”
With Driskel, the No. 1 recruit in the 2011 class, already committed to Florida, Brissett, who played at West Palm Beach Dwyer, knew the challenge he faced when spurning nearby Miami to become a Gator.
A two-sport star in high school, Brissett is more of a pocket passer than Driskel and has a definitive advantage throwing the deep ball. Driskel, who some scouts say could have played professional baseball, said he takes the challenge in stride.
“I’m always going to be in the building, always going to be on the field, always going to be on time and I’m just going to outwork everybody,” Driskel said. “That’s what I came here to do, to play quarterback.”
The Gators desperately need Driskel or Brissett to back up those words and develop into a leader in the huddle and with his play, something that has been lacking since Tebow was drafted. And while Muschamp said it’s impossible to replace someone of Tebow’s caliber and production, Brissett isn’t going to let that stop him from trying.
“I want a statue,” he said, referring to the likenesses of former UF quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy winners Tebow, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “That’s what’s pushing me.”