Texas A&M Aggies: Jacoby Brissett

Five storylines: Florida Gators 

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
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GatorNation takes a look at five issues facing Florida as it travels to College Station, Texas, for the SEC debut of Texas A&M:

1. Jeff Driskel’s the guy: Driskel beat out Jacoby Brissett to be the Gators’ starting quarterback and he’ll make his first career start against the Aggies. He played solidly last week against Bowling Green, completing 10 of 16 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown, but he did badly miss a couple throws. He also finished as UF’s second-leading rusher in the game, and his mobility and running ability is an added element to the offense. He’s going into a hostile environment -- it’s the first SEC game for Texas A&M -- so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles himself.

2. No more handcuffs: The offense is supposedly going to open up this week. UF coach Will Muschamp said he told offensive coordinator Brent Pease he wanted to run the ball a lot against Bowling Green so the Gators could establish their identity as a tough, physical team. He pledged to let Pease open the offense up more this week, and having one QB taking all the first-team snaps in practice should help with that. The Gators aren’t going to throw it around like Steve Spurrier used to, but the run-pass balance will be more equal than the 75 percent run, 25 percent pass the Gators were against the Falcons.

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Inside look: Q&A with GatorNation

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
10:30
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Each week this season, GigEmNation will visit with a reporter that covers Texas A&M's upcoming opponent. This week, we visit Michael DiRocco of ESPN's GatorNation.

Sam Khan Jr.: After playing two quarterbacks -- Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett -- against Bowling Green, coach Will Muschamp named Driskel the starter for Saturday. What's your assessment of the quarterback situation heading into the Texas A&M game?

Michael DiRocco: This will be Driskel’s game from start to finish. Muschamp has elected to go with the more mobile Driskel because that adds an additional element to the Gators’ offense. Driskel was solid against Bowling Green (10-for-16, 114 yards, 1 TD) but he missed several throws and hesitated on several others. That’s normal for all young quarterbacks, though, but getting past that is something that could have been accelerated a bit had he not had to split practice reps with Brissett throughout the spring and in August.

SK: With Texas A&M starting a redshirt freshman quarterback (Johnny Manziel) who will be making his first start, what kind of approach do you think we should expect to see from Florida's defense?

[+] EnlargeJeff Driskel
Kim Klement/US PresswireFlorida sophomore QB Jeff Driskel will be the starter against Texas A&M.
MD: The Gators will play almost exclusively nickel against the Aggies, which allows them to take advantage of their deep and talented secondary. The best way to rattle a young QB is to put pass rushers in his face and make him make quick decisions. UF would love to do that with just the front four, but the Gators were inconsistent with that last week against Bowling Green. If they can’t, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has got several blitz packages designed to get pressure up the middle. Safety Matt Elam is a pretty good blitzer who may figure prominently in those plans.

SK: After piling up 220 rushing yards on the ground against Bowling Green, do you see the Gators continuing to emphasize the run, and particularly Mike Gillislee, when they come to College Station?

MD: Absolutely. Muschamp wants to be a pro-style, power-run team – Alabama is the blueprint – and that means a heavy dose of Gillislee. He’s the Gators’ best back and he’s coming off a 24-carry, 148-yard performance. The question will be whether the Gators will continue to be stubborn and try to run the ball against stacked fronts or if they’ll open the offense up a bit. Muschamp says he’ll take the handcuffs off offensive coordinator Brent Pease this week, but with a young QB making his first career start, the safest play would be to go conservative.

SK: It appeared that the Gators struggled in short-yardage running situations on Saturday. Is that an aberration or do you suspect that could be a lingering issue for Florida?

MD: That’s could be a lingering issue because it’s on the offensive line. The unit didn’t get much movement at all in those short-yardage plays. It’s a group that was supposed to be tougher and stronger this season after working with new strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman. It didn’t look that way against Bowling Green in those short-yardage situations. Maybe that was an aberration, but if the line had trouble with the Falcons, what will it do against SEC defensive lines?

SK: The Gators' defense is clearly fast and athletic. How do you see the unit responding to an accelerated offensive tempo, which Texas A&M is expected to employ?

MD: It’s a concern, but it’s a veteran defense in its second season in Quinn’s system. That should mean better communication from the sideline and on the field between players. The Gators have studied tape of Kevin Sumlin’s Houston teams and should be prepared for the up-tempo style. Plus, it’s Texas A&M’s first game and there’s bound to be glitches, especially with a freshman QB. That might keep the Aggies from being as crisp with the up-tempo pace as they will be later in the season.

SK: Though his tenure hasn't been long, give me your assessment of the job Will Muschamp has done so far.

MD: He’s done a very good job recruiting, although his first class – which he assembled in about two months – hasn’t produced much in the way of significant contributors. This year’s group of freshmen shows promise, specifically defensive ends Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, offensive linemen Jessamen Dunker and D.J. Humphries, tight end Kent Taylor and receiver Latroy Pittman. His game-day coaching ability remains a question mark.
Jeff DriskelKim Klement/US PresswireWith a solid Week 1 performance, Jeff Driskel appears to have won the Gators' starting QB job.
Texas A&M's season-opening opponent, Florida, began its 2012 campaign with a 27-13 home win over Bowling Green on Saturday. Here's a glance at some of what the Gators showed in their win and what could be worth watching when they play the Aggies on Sept. 8:

QB questions: A lot of attention was paid to the quarterback situation coming into the Gators' opener and coach Will Muschamp didn't name a starter before the game, instead saying that the two competitors for the spot -- Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett -- would each play a quarter before reassessing the situation at halftime.

Muschamp carried the guessing game into the first snap, by putting both quarterbacks on the field for the first play of the game against Bowling Green. Driskel ended up playing the first quarter and more, as the Gators were on a drive when the quarter changed. Brissett played just 11 snaps in the second quarter and had five attempts, while Driskel had 16 attempts while playing the remainder of the offensive plays, including the entire second half.

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Heading into the spring, the SEC had a few fun quarterback races to watch in both divisions. Some of those battles have come to an end, while a few still remain.

Let's take a look at each one from the spring and see where they currently stand:

AUBURN

The matchup: Sophomore Kiehl Frazier left the spring with the edge because he took most of the reps, as a sore shoulder sidelined junior Clint Moseley. This fall, freshman Jonathan Wallace entered the race and has continued to impress Auburn's staff.

The winner is: Frazier has the most athleticism and has felt much more comfortable throwing the ball with help from first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. While coach Gene Chizik continues to say the race is even between Frazier and Moseley, who is still dealing with shoulder soreness, we'll go with Frazier because of overall talent. He can make more plays with his feet and if his arm really does improve, he could be a solid dual-threat QB in this league.

FLORIDA

The matchup: This two-horse race between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel has been intense since the spring. Brissett has had a little bit of the edge because of his game experience last year, but Driskel has made tremendous strides under the direction of new offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

The winner is: Will Muschamp continues to say the race is dead even. Driskel's bruised shoulder didn't even complicate the race. It doesn't sound like anyone really knows who has outperformed the other, but the concensus is the team and the coaches can win with either. With that said, Brissett has more experience and we assume is completely healthy, so we'll go with him, but both should play in the opener.

KENTUCKY

The matchup: Sophomore Maxwell Smith took all of the first-team reps this spring, while senior Morgan Newton recovered from shoulder surgery. However, Newton returned to get back into the race this fall. Joining them this fall were freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The winner is: Smith. Joker Phillips named Smith the starter on Monday, so this race has come to an end. The offense can now focus on running around Smith, who has been the most consistent of Kentucky's quarterbacks since the spring. This isn't a surprise.

OLE MISS

The matchup: Neither of Hugh Freeze's quarterbacks have proven much at all and have struggled with consistency since spring. Barry Brunetti was given the starting job at the beginning of last season, but lost it almost immediately, and Bo Wallace is fresh off a season in the junior college ranks. Wallace, however, did spend a year with Freeze at Arkansas State.

The winner is: Wallace seemed to have the edge for part of the spring, and then lost it as Brunetti got more comfortable with Freeze's offense. Both quarterbacks and Freeze felt things were very even heading into champ, but Wallace has had a much stronger champ. Both could end up playing in the opener, but we'll go with Wallace.

TEXAS A&M

The matchup: Sophomore Jameill Showers, who has the only game experience at quarter, and redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel were nearly neck-and-neck for most of the spring, but Showers seemed to pull away little toward the end. Sophomore Matt Joeckel and true freshman Matt Davis also competed this spring.

The winner is: Manziel. It seemed as though Showers had the edge in this one, but Manziel outplayed him during fall camp. After a solid outing during one of the Aggies' scrimmages, coach Kevin Sumlin decided to end the battle and give the starting job to Manziel.

VANDERBILT

The matchup: Jordan Rodgers replaced Larry Smith last season, but still showed inconsistency on the field at times. So, this spring, he had a battle on his hands with Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, who was the Mountain West's Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The winner: Rodgers. This was probably always his job to lose, and he didn't. He had a very good spring and fall camp. Rodgers said this summer that he felt way more comfortable with the people around him this spring and is poised to have a much better year this fall.

Looking ahead to Week 1 in the SEC

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
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We're inside a month now until the first game of the 2012 season involving an SEC team.

Here's a quick glance at Week 1:

THURSDAY, AUG. 30

South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • The Gamecocks lost the last time they played on a Thursday night in Nashville. Vanderbilt won 24-17 in Week 2 of the 2008 season.
Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech, in Shreveport, La., 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • The Kevin Sumlin era at Texas A&M kicks off with one of those games the Aggies won't get much credit for winning, but will get slammed if they lose.
FRIDAY, AUG. 31

Tennessee vs. NC State, Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • As openers go, this is about as critical as it gets for Tennessee's Derek Dooley, whose Vols are coming off back-to-back losing seasons.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 1

Buffalo at Georgia, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network
  • After opening against Boise State last season, the Bulldogs get a tune-up to open the 2012 season before traveling to Missouri in Week 2.
Bowling Green at Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Who will be the Gators' starter at quarterback? Is it Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel? The reality is that they'll both probably end up playing.
Clemson vs. Auburn, Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • This is the rubber game. Auburn rallied to win in overtime in 2010, while Clemson rolled up more than 600 yards of total offense to win easily last season.
North Texas at LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
  • Former Florida assistant Dan McCarney has upgraded North Texas' program significantly, but the Mean Green won't be much of a test for the Tigers.
Jacksonville State at Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view
  • As Ole Miss learned the hard way two years ago, the Gamecocks are not one of those teams you want to take lightly.
Central Arkansas at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view
  • The Rebels, with first-year coach Hugh Freeze at the helm, will be looking to break a seven-game losing streak.
Jackson State at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net
  • It sounds like the Bulldogs want to throw it more this season with Tyler Russell. The opener should give us an idea of how much more.
Southeastern Louisiana at Missouri, 7 p.m. ET, Pay-per-view
  • All eyes will be on Missouri quarterback James Franklin and his surgically repaired right throwing shoulder.
Michigan vs. Alabama, in Arlington, Texas, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
  • It's easily the most attractive opener of the 2012 season involving an SEC team. Alabama takes its first step toward defending its 2011 national title.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 2

Kentucky at Louisville, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • The Wildcats had won four in a row over their archrivals until the Cardinals prevailed 24-17 in Lexington last season. This is a big one for Joker Phillips & Co.

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