UF quarterbacks are friends, competitors

Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett made a light-hearted joke about his friendship with fellow QB Jeff Driskel after practice Thursday, but he was adamant that nothing this season would undermine the solid relationship. Tyler Kaufman/Icon SMI

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The relationship between Florida quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett really wasn’t tested last season when they were competing to be the backup to starter John Brantley.

It will be this spring, though, when the two are battling to succeed Brantley in the Gators’ first quarterback competition since the 2003 season.

"Right now we’re good friends and I think it’s going to stay like that," Driskel said Thursday afternoon when speaking with the media for the first time since he arrived on campus in January 2011. "Coach [Will] Muschamp isn’t going to let it get out of control. He’s not going to tolerate that."

The two say they have a good relationship, which began earlier than many people realize. Driskel enrolled early and went through spring practice in 2011, but he got to know Brissett on weekends in the spring because Brissett would drive up from West Palm Beach to visit. The friendship continued throughout the summer and during preseason practices, when they were both trying to absorb Charlie Weis’ offense.

But it’ll be different now. They’re not competing to be the guy who comes off the bench when the starter gets hurt or in mop-up action. In that case, the winner doesn’t necessarily get significant playing time -- although it worked out that way last year because Brantley ended up missing the equivalent of three full games.

In this competition, however, the loser isn’t playing. They know that, of course, but still say their relationship won’t change.

"We go on walks on the weekend," Brissett joked. "We all know it’s a competition. That’s what we came to Florida for, for a competition. Football has its place for football, and then outside has its place for outside."

Sometimes, though, the relationship does sour. It has happened at Florida before, with Doug Johnson and Jesse Palmer in 1997 and 1998 and Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin in 2000 and 2001. Palmer stuck around even though he couldn’t surpass Johnson. Berlin ended up transferring to Miami after the 2001 season.

That won’t happen this time, Driskel said.

"That is just something that comes from the media," he said of the implication that the losing quarterback would want to transfer. "It's easy to say that. We're both competitors. We're both going to compete. It's going to stay like that until we're both gone."

Of course, there’s always the option everyone dreads: playing two quarterbacks.

"We would like to declare a starter and move forward with it, but we'll name that when it's ready," Muschamp said. "We want to name a starter, but we're going to do what we need to win games. If we've got to play both guys, we'll play both guys, and we will make that determination as we work through this. But both guys have had good off‑seasons and very pleased with their progress to this point and where we are."