The name Jack Daniel’s rings a familiar tone with Tennessee whiskey drinkers. Deep in the heart of Lynchburg, Tennessee lies one of my favorite distilleries. A glass of Tennessee whiskey on the rocks is a great way to end the night.
However, he isn’t the Jack Daniel’s that recently made the news. Instead, it was Dwyer High School (West Palm Beach, FL) head football coach Jack Daniels that made the news in an attack on Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators program.
In an article from local ESPN 106.3 article from local ESPN 106.3, Daniels’ told staff writer Ken LaVicka, “I didn’t think they were treated fairly,” regarding a trio of former Dwyer High School players which formerly attended the University of Florida. The trio Daniels’ is referring to are transfers; quarterback Jacoby Brissett (North Carolina State), tight end Gerald Christian (Louisville) and wide receiver Robert Clark (Louisville).
Daniels continued regarding Brissett, “I’ve said all along, I don’t think he’s been given the fair shot which was said was going to happen.” Furthermore, Daniels noted, “I think it was a complete lie about how he was going to be given a fair chance and I don’t think there’s anything to dispute that there wasn’t a lie.”
Daniels also noted that fellow Dwyer High School alumnus Matt Elam felt that Brissett was slighted and the situation may have given the 1st round safety some motivation. Daniels’ said, “I know Matt played this season with tons of anger because of the way Jacoby was treated and I’m pretty sure there were some run-ins with the coaching staff with Matt.”
Daniels also stood up for Gerald Christian saying, “It got to be a point where it happened so many times to him that he was frustrated and felt like the coaches were lying to him.”
Daniels’ did say that he “can’t hold a grudge forever” and that he still talks to Coach Will Muschamp, but that he doesn’t know “how hard it’s going to be to get a kid out of Dwyer” now to attend the University of Florida.
Jack Daniels deserves a lot of credit as a head football coach. He helped prepare safety Matt Elam and offensive tackle Rashad Butler for the NFL. Further, he helped a variety of players land at top-tier FBS schools, including Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Florida State. I understand his position and I understand his desire to stick up for his former players. That being said, I believe that he is wrong in his shots at Will Muschamp and the Gators coaching staff.
The three players that Daniels referenced are all unique and must each be viewed differently.
Jacoby Brissett is, obviously, the most controversial situation and will rile up the fan base the quickest. For the past two years, the Jeff Driskel vs. Jacoby Brissett debate has been ugly. Both sides have ground to stand on and the other side simply cannot convince the other side of the crowd to understand one another’s position.
Jacoby Brissett came to Florida under an intense recruitment by then offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Brissett was more of a “pure passer” out of high school when he first came to Florida. Regarded as a pocket quarterback with a big arm and strong accuracy, he was just the quarterback Weis was looking for in his pro-style system. The problem was that Jeff Driskel, a more mobile quarterback, was already on campus learning the system, as he enrolled in January out of high school. Brissett, however overcame the odds and was ultimately the first one off the bench when the starting quarterback at the time, John Brantley, went down with an was injury. Things did not go swimmingly for Brissett, suffering losses against LSU and Auburn when he was first thrust into action. Of course, it is hard to expect a freshman quarterback to excel off the bench against either team. After the graduation of John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel entered a head-to-head battle under new offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Ultimately, Driskel won out and Brissett only saw mop-up duty last season. However, fans clamored to see Brissett when the going got rough at times, and that is where Daniels’ opinion stems from.
However, I don’t see the frustration. If Brissett was highly effective under center then I could understand that point. Comparatively, Jeff Driskel had a higher completion percentage, more touchdowns per interception and was more mobile if the play broke down, exactly what Will Muschamp said separated Driskel from Brissett. Daniels’ case that Florida did not give Brissett a chance, is baseless. At no point over the past two seasons, did Jacoby Brissett make a case that he deserved to start over Jeff Driskel.
Continuing on, Daniels’ commented that Gerald Christian felt lied to and was moved around on the field without being given an opportunity to excel.
When Gerald Christian committed to Florida, he was the heir apparent to the starting tight end role, along with fellow eventual transfer A.C. Leonard. He was a possession tight end with good size and good speed. However, with Jordan Reed on the roster and A.C. Leonard and Trey Burton also playing the tight end role, Christian was somewhat limited. Christian had four receptions on the year for 72 yards and one touchdown, including a 45-yard touchdown against Kentucky. Daniels’, however, comments that Christian was never given an opportunity at tight end again against Alabama, LSU or Auburn, before Christian abruptly quit.
When you look at the game log against Alabama, LSU and Auburn, you see that Florida only threw for 207, 100 and 108 yards, respectively. During those games the tight ends only accounted for 31, 8, and 5 yards. As stated above, after Brantley was injured in Alabama (Brantley threw for 190 of the 207 yards), the Gators struggled mightily passing the football. To say that Christian was the panacea is shortsighted. I believe that Christian will be an excellent FBS player and will likely make it to the NFL, but he also gave up on Florida.
Regarding the lies that Daniels feels were told to Christian, I am not sure what was told and what was promised. Perhaps there was some confusion between how Urban Meyer recruited him and how he was played under Will Muschamp? I do know that Will Muschamp does not give out blanket promises and that hard work on the field and in the classroom earns you a bigger role in the offense.
I respect Jack Daniels and I respect his opinion. I respect his coaching abilities and I respect the work he has done at Dwyer High School. However, I cannot support him in his comments and I cannot believe they accomplished anything.
It is my opinion that while it is mutually beneficial for Florida and Dwyer to have a good relationship, Dwyer needs Florida more than Florida needs Dwyer.
Sometimes things don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean that the fault lies fully on the University.