Florida Football: QB Battle Focused on 5 Keys

By Cole Dolan

The Florida Gators’ quarterback battle is still raging and the 2012 college football season is quickly approaching.

While the Gators return 10 defensive starters from an already talented squad in 2011, the defense isn’t the problem.

The Gators’ woes have centered around the offense, specifically, the quarterback.  John Brantley was good, at times, but he was far from the “elite passer” that he was supposed to be.  Brantley barely crested the 2,000 yard mark in each of his two years as a starter and even had a season (2010) in which he threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9).

While Brantley may have just been enrolled at a bad time, on a spread team playing a pro-style offense, mercy is the last thing a quarterback receives from fans that have grown accustom to championships.

Now with Will Muschamp entering his second season and a talented recruiting class arriving in the fall, expectations for the quarterback and the team are even higher than they were for Brantley.

Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel  are battling for the starting position and, so far, it appears to be a tight race.  These are the 5 keys for winning the tight quarterback batttle, and having success in the fall.


Minimizing Turnovers

This one should really go without saying, but it simply can’t.  You can bet both quarterbacks are hearing this concept every single day of practice.  Heck, probably a million times over.  The turnovers in the games against LSU and Alabama can be understood, but in the Gators’ other four losses, Florida committed 11 turnovers while only forcing three.  Muschamp will be watching each quarterback closely for the rest of the offseason.  The quarterback that is making the best decisions will be your starter on Septermber 1st when the Gators host the Bowling Green Falcons.


Throwing the Deep Ball

Much of the warranted criticism directed at Brantley involved his inaccuracy when throwing the ball down the field.  A Florida team that was already limited on the offensive side of the ball became so one-dimensional that it often failed to move the ball at all.  Big plays were a staple in the 2006 and 2008 National Champion squads; and while shooting for another trophy may be a little overzealous, the Gators’ quarterbacks must be able to deliver the ball to the playmakers if they want to be relevant in the SEC once again.


Managing 1st and 2nd Down

In the Brantley era, the lack of any form of running game and big plays often led to the offense being bogged down, facing the dreaded 3rd and long.  With the running game looking primed for a turnaround, even without playmakers Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, the Gators can be more balanced early in the drive.  Say goodbye to the overused dump pass and the ineffective speed sweep.  Keeping the defense honest will lead to a more effective offense while opening up big play possibilities down the field.


Escaping Pressure

Both quarterbacks have made a name for themselves because of their dual threat ability.  That’s something that can be lethal when a defense forgets to show respect.  The ability of Driskel and Brissett to escape pressure and carve the defense with their feet adds a whole new dimension to the offense.  But there is a key difference between the timely quarterback run and looking to run before completing their pass progression.  Athletic ability alone won’t earn the starting job, it will be the quarterback that shows the ability to control the desire to tuck it and run in favor of maintaining an effective passing game.


Relationships with the Wide Receivers

While this key may not be one of the more obvious tasks for the quarterback to focus on, it is nevertheless an important one.  As young and inexperienced as the quarterbacks are, the wide receivers have plenty of learning and maturing to do themselves.  The quarterback that develops strong relationships with his targets will likely have an inside track to winning the battle.

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