Ex-Gators eager to start anew in ACC


Their friendship, in many ways, was born of frustration.

For two seasons, Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy worked alongside each other on Florida's practice fields and film room, in the weight room and the meeting rooms, but throughout the entirety of 2011 and 2012 they combined to make just one start. They'd push each other to get better, but more often, they bonded during long conversations about stifled dreams and brighter futures.

"Sitting on the bench isn't fun," Murphy said. "We tried to build a friendship where we keep each other up, keep each other motivated and each and every day find a way to go into the office and get better. Until we both decided we needed to move on."

For years, there was a nebulous finish line, a point when Murphy and Brissett hoped at least one of them might be a starter. Now, there's a date circled on the calendar for both quarterbacks: Oct. 11, 2014. It's the day Brissett, now the starting QB at NC State, and Murphy, now the starter at Boston College, will go head to head on the field.

After it became clear Brissett's career at Florida had plateaued in 2012, he decided it was time to transfer. He sat down with Murphy and mapped out his options. West Virginia seemed a possibility, but the coaching staff there was eager to compare Brissett with former Moutaineers QB Geno Smith, and Brissett had already spent too much time living in the shadows of other players.

"I was like, 'I'm not the next Geno,'" Brissett said. "I wanted to be Jacoby, and I felt like [NC State] was a place I could do that."

Brissett already knew NC State coach Dave Doeren from his recruitment, which made the transition a bit easier. Still, Brissett would have to sit out a year because of NCAA transfer rules, which meant one more year watching from the sidelines.

At Florida, a season-ending injury to incumbent Jeff Driskel finally gave Murphy his first opportunity to start. He threw the first pass of his four-year career on Sept. 21, 2013 against Tennessee, and he started the next six games for the Gators -- four of them losses. Although Murphy had some solid outings, the losses dogged him. A shoulder injury ended his season in November, and by then it was clear Driskel would be back atop the depth chart when he was healthy.

With one year of eligibility left, Murphy began to think about following Brissett out the door, and, as a New England native, Boston College seemed like an ideal fit.

"He was telling me Boston College was one of the schools he was looking at, and I was like, 'Oh, Boston College is one of the teams we play,'" Brissett said. "So as much as I wanted to tell him to be positive as the season went, I was hoping he'd go to Boston College just so I could play him. But I remember him countless times saying he wanted to stay, he didn't want to transfer."

But what Murphy wanted more than anything was a chance to play, so Brissett offered some advice: Make a decision and don't look back.

"You can't say I'm going to transfer and then say never mind because everybody knows you want to leave," Brissett said. "So just do it and get it over with, know where you want to go. And no matter where you go, if they're taking you right now, you're pretty much going to be the starter. So make sure when you go there, play how you play and you'll be fine. Everything else will take care of itself."

So far, it has.

Brissett was the best quarterback on NC State's roster last season, and although he was relegated to a redshirt, Doeren had already begun grooming him for a starting role in 2014.

Murphy didn't have the luxury of preparation at Boston College, but the Eagles' depth chart offered few other options, and he was installed as the team's starter almost from Day 1.

The two QBs still talk nearly every day -- no longer trading stories about what it might be like to start, but instead debating the ways they still needed to get better now that they're No. 1 on their respective depth charts.

And yes, there's still some sour feelings about Florida, about the opportunities that never developed there. It's not anger or frustration, but rather a drive to prove something to the coaches who doubted them.

"You want to show them why you transferred and show them you could play at the highest level," Brissett said. "Whatever they said you couldn't do, you go out there and do it. All it takes is the right person, the right situation and the right coach to say, 'You're my guy.' And I'm pretty sure Murph's thinking the same thing. It's not worrying about Florida, it's worrying about ourselves."

And of course there's still that date looming on the calendar, when Brissett and Murphy are finally reunited. They've talked about that a lot, too.

But just like those long days of practice at Florida, the chatter isn't about competition so much as it is about the future, about what they've worked so hard to achieve.

"It will definitely be kind of weird to go up against somebody you've grinded with and stayed after practice and done drills with and watched film with, and give each other tips to get better," Murphy said. "But I think it'll be exciting and I think it'll be a fun game to play and I think it'll be a great atmosphere."

After all, it's the perfect scenario for both QBs. On every snap from scrimmage, either Murphy or Brissett will be on the field, and that's really all they ever wanted.

"As corny as it sounds, it puts a smile on your face to see one of your good friends doing what you know he wants to do," Brissett said. "We had those countless talks when we were playing with each other -- 'Man I wish I was out there playing.' And now I'm going to get to see first hand, see him play."