Spring Football Preview: Quarterback

A defensive lineman flew into the backfield unblocked and bulldozed John Brantley.

Gators fans are all too familiar with the scene that Florida’s offense tried its hardest to perfect in 2010, rehearsing it over and over and over again.

Florida’s offensive line let massive defensive linemen through it like a sieve last year, and the Gators got minimal production from the junior quarterback as a result.

Heading into spring football practice John Brantley is ready to start over with a new coaching staff, a new offensive coordinator and a new scheme.

But unlike last spring, Brantley is not guaranteed the starting spot.

Head coach Will Muschamp has promised there will be an open competition for the job, which means several players will get their opportunity to impress the coaching staff.

With spring football less than two weeks away, Gator Country stops to take a look at the quarterback position for the Florida Gators football team.


John Brantley, Senior

Overview: Florida fans are familiar with what Brantley brings to the table after watching him run the offense during the 2010 season. He’s a prototypical pocket passer who struggles to make plays when the pocket collapses. Regaining his confidence will be Brantley’s biggest struggle after he endured massive public scrutiny and criticism following his performance last season.

What to look for this spring: Brantley has always played well during the spring when contact is limited, so what he does this spring won’t provide a great gauge of how he will play in 2011. Will he get more reps than the other quarterbacks, or will he really have to earn every snap this spring? How will his teammates respond to the senior quarterback after his performance last fall?

Outlook: With so many players at the quarterback spot heading into the spring, some are sure to end the spring at another position. Brantley can’t offer anything at another position, so he’ll definitely be one of them. He should compete for the starting job and could emerge as the leader by the end of spring football.

Trey Burton, Sophomore

Overview: Burton was a disaster at quarterback in the first week of spring practice last year, but was phenomenal as Florida’s running quarterback last season. The jury is still out on his long-term future as a quarterback mostly based on questions about his arm. He didn’t throw the ball much last season and might be moved to another position this spring.

What to look for this spring: By the end of last spring, Burton had improved significantly throwing the ball. But his arm wasn’t on display in the 2010 season. How much has he progressed as a passer since last spring? Will he get more than a few snaps in the first few practices? Or will he be moved to another position early in spring football?

Outlook: With his athleticism, Burton is sure to find a spot on the offense to contribute next season. It’s hard to see that spot being quarterback given the other options Florida has and the concerns about his skill as a passer. Burton will likely end up playing a similar role to last season, with more of his snaps coming as an H-back, a fullback or a tight end.

Jordan Reed, Redshirt Sophomore

Overview: Reed started the season at tight end and wasn’t used much at that position. When Brantley struggled Reed came in and played well at quarterback. He’s got a great arm but still needs some work on the touch passes if he stays at quarterback. Reed is another player who could change positions, but he’ll probably get a chance to take some snaps in the spring before moving.

What to look for this spring: It’s hard to get a good feel for how good Reed can be at quarterback since he’s spent so little time preparing to play the position. Will he be given a fair shot at the quarterback job in spring football practice? Can he make good decisions throwing the football? Or will he get moved to another position where the Gators can benefit from his extraordinary athleticism?

Outlook: Because Reed is a great athlete like Burton, Florida will have a spot for him on offense even if he doesn’t end up at quarterback. He will likely get a good shot to prove himself at quarterback this spring. But if he doesn’t impress right away, he may be a guy that Florida moves to another position toward the end of spring practice.


Tyler Murphy, Redshirt Freshman

Overview: Murphy was a late addition to the 2010 recruiting class and wasn’t as highly sought after as some of Florida’s other recruits. He spent last season redshirting while learning the playbook and watching Brantley, Burton and Reed share snaps.

What to look for this spring: Nobody has really seen Murphy throw since high school, so it’ll be interesting to see how much he has progressed as a passer since then. How will he fit into the new pro-style offense? Does he have a legitimate chance at winning the starting job? If not, will he stay at quarterback or is he another guy that could switch positions?

Outlook: Without seeing Murphy throw in college, it’s hard to know where he’ll wind up after spring football. He’s probably athletic enough to play wide receiver if he can’t cut it at quarterback, but he’s not nearly as certain to change positions as Burton or Reed in the event he doesn’t win the starting job. Look for Murphy to stay at quarterback following spring practice.

Jeff Driskel, Freshman

Overview: Driskel was the nation’s top high school quarterback last season, immediately putting him in the discussion about Florida’s 2011 quarterback situation. He has a great arm and is a very athletic player with good running ability. After leading his team to its first-ever playoff appearance as a senior, it appears he has a lot of the intangibles necessary to be a successful quarterback in the SEC.

What to look for this spring: Driskel is expected by many to be Brantley’s top competition for the starting job. Will the freshman be overwhelmed by the offense early in the spring? Will he struggle early on like Burton did last spring? Or will he come out and immediately put his name at the front of the quarterback battle?

Outlook: Despite the obvious ability, Florida should be patient with Jeff Driskel. If he doesn’t develop right away, that’s okay. Expect to see him struggle at times during spring football practice but also make some jaw-dropping plays. By the end of spring practice, Driskel should be in the quarterback battle giving Brantley a solid push for the job heading into the fall.


Jacoby Brissett, Freshman

Overview: Brissett was the last addition to Florida’s 2011 recruiting class, and he was a big one. The Dwyer standout is athletic enough to be considered a dual-threat quarterback, but he’s also a very skilled passer. He shows good touch on short and intermediate passes, which should make him an ideal fit for Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense.

Outlook: Since he won’t get on campus until this summer, it’s unlikely Brissett will factor into the quarterback equation in 2011. Unless Florida’s current signal callers struggle in the spring and Brissett arrives and shines from the start, he’ll probably take a redshirt season to create some class separation from Driskel.