Why Florida Should Open Up Its Quarterback Battle

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 31, 2013

Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Florida QB Jeff DriskelMatthew Stockman/Getty Images

While Florida's 2012 season was impressive and head coach Will Muschamp's rebuilding effort certainly was ahead of schedule, the passing game behind quarterback Jeff Driskel left a lot to be desired.

The Gator passing offense finished last in the SEC with 146.3 yards per game—10.3 yards per game behind 13th-place Auburn.

Driskel entered the season in a battle with fellow sophomore Jacoby Brissett, but won the job seemingly from the time toe met leather in the Gator opener versus Bowling Green. 

He finished the season completing 63.7 percent of his passes (156-of-245) for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Gators depended on their running game and defense all season long, but when the defense let them down in the Sugar Bowl against a very one-dimensional Louisville team, Driskel and offensive coordinator Brent Pease had no answer.

Luckily for Gator fans, they'll likely still see the team dancing around the Top 10 in most preseason polls, and they have a full offseason to get the passing game turned around.

The first step should be to open up the quarterback competition, although it doesn't appear Muschamp is willing to do that.

"First-year starter, you win 11 games, you've accomplished an awful lot," Muschamp told ESPN.com following the end of the regular season. "Certainly, his growth through the offseason will be critical for our success next season."

Now that Brissett has transferred, Florida doesn't have a quarterback on the roster other than Driskel who has attempted a pass (not counting all-purpose star Trey Burton). It may be lip service to open up the competition, but it needs to be done.

If Driskel is the guy, he needs to be pushed a bit by backups Skyler Mornhinweg and Tyler Murphy, along with class of 2013 commit Max Staver. Even if it's a "battle" only in theory, putting a little pressure on Driskel may provide the sense of urgency Florida needs to resurrect the passing game.

One thing is certain, though, it's absolutely not the time to give up on Driskel. Because his battle with Brissett spilled into the 2012 season, the only time he has spent in a camp setting as the No. 1 quarterback was during bowl practice.

Give him the majority of the No. 1 snaps, but make it known that the job isn't necessarily his. If Muschamp does that, the passing game will turn around.