Will Muschamp announced Friday that both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will play in Florida’s season opener, prolonging an already lengthy quarterback competition.
The sophomores have been described as “very similar” or “dead even” since spring and Muschamp said he needs to see some game action before making a final decision. He met with both quarterbacks on Friday morning, informing them that they each will take meaningful snaps against Bowling Green on Sept. 1.
“Their numbers are very similar, whether it's in one-minute, third down -- we've taken the details down all the way, (offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) and I have,” Muschamp said. “Both guys are very even and our football team's got great confidence in both of them. I told both of them today, the last position I'm worried about is quarterback. I feel very comfortable about both guys.”
Previously, Muschamp had hinted at announcing a starter this Monday. But with Tuesday’s third scrimmage rained out, that option was no longer viable and Muschamp said he actually made the call to play both in the opener after the team’s second scrimmage.
"Again, we can win with both guys,” he said. “I've said that all along. Nothing has changed my opinion through this camp, and how these guys have competed and managed our team. We've tried to put them in tough situations and they've both handled it well. I think as we work into competition on game day, we'll see if there is some separation. I think that's the next step. Both guys deserve the opportunity to play and I know that."
Instead of naming a starter Monday, Muschamp said the decision on who would take the game’s first snap would come later in the week. The distribution of the snaps and how they will be divided – by quarter, half or series – are also yet to be determined.
Reminded by a reporter that he said during spring that it wouldn’t be ideal to have both playing in Week 1, Muschamp said: “I don't remember saying that. I'm sure you got a quote somewhere, but it is what it is right now. We can win with both guys. We function as an offense regardless of who that guy is very well. It's a compliment to both guys, because they both have a similar skill set and they both are accomplished in what they're doing.”
Although Florida is transitioning to a new motion-heavy offense with many pre-snap adjustments under Pease, Muschamp said he was not worried about the offense’s rhythm suffering because of quarterback substitutions. Florida struggled with penalties last season, accruing 36 pre-snap procedural flags on offense for a false start, delay of game or illegal substitution. The team finished 114th nationally with 100 total penalties.
“I feel very comfortable,” Muschamp said. “We've been on the 40-second clock since practice one. Calling the offense, getting in the huddle whether it's in a no-huddle situation, a tempo situation or it's been a huddle up and call it from the sideline. Brent's purposely held calls late to get the verbiage in late for the quarterback staff to manage those situations, to get to the line of scrimmage, to understand the clock's coming down, to recognize that. So I think we've exhausted a lot of measures to make sure that these guys are prepared for this, and I feel very comfortable at this point.”
The quarterbacks will get some more work in that area today when the team practices inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, hoping to emulate game atmosphere and make up some reps missed because of Tuesday’s rain.
However, Muschamp would not speculate as to whether the competition could continue beyond the first game.
“I don't want to predict anything,” he said.
He said both Brissett and Driskel took the news well and that they understand that fans will take sides after seeing them play, creating a potentially contentious situation.
“They were great, but that's how they've handled the whole process. They're both very mature guys about it and handled it the right way. … It is what it is. Those guys understand what it is to be the quarterback at Florida. They really do. They get it, and they're mature, and they'll handle it. At the end of the day, you're going to be judged on your performance and how you play. So be it. It is what it is.”
Still, there is a slight chance this whole ordeal could be for naught, as Driskel has yet to be cleared for contact after injuring his shoulder last week in practice. He will be re-evaluated Monday.
And Muschamp would like you to believe it’s all a big fuss for nothing, anyway.
“I look at two talented guys we can win with,” he said. “It (playing two quarterbacks) didn't seem to affect LSU last year.”