Gators have won with two QBs

Florida has a history with dual quarterbacks, winning in 1997 and 2006

Updated: August 30, 2012, 9:25 AM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Nearly everyone agrees that rotating quarterbacks is not the ideal situation.

Even Florida coach Will Muschamp, who on Monday announced his own rotation between Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett in the season opener, has said he'd rather one of those players win the job.

But rotating quarterbacks isn't always a bad idea.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow & Chris Leak
AP Photo/Phil SandlinQuarterbacks Tim Tebow and Chris Leak helped Florida win the 2006 BCS Championship Trophy.
It has worked at Florida before, most notably in 1997 and 2006. They were both unique situations -- in '97 Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise alternated nearly every play against Florida State, and in '06 Tim Tebow situationally replaced Chris Leak -- but they at least provide a precedent that possibly playing Driskel and Brissett throughout the rest of the season could work.

"Obviously, that's not the ideal situation, but if that's what it comes down to, we're going to have to make it work," Driskel said.

Steve Spurrier made it work in 1997 against the Seminoles. The Gators struggled on offense all season -- compared to the numbers they were putting up under Danny Wuerffel the previous season -- and Johnson found himself in Spurrier's doghouse because of behavior issues and the fact that he threw too many interceptions.

Brindise started the Vanderbilt and South Carolina games heading into the regular-season finale against Florida State. Spurrier had decided the best strategy to beat the No. 2-ranked Seminoles was to rotate Johnson and Brindise on every play.

But he didn't know which player would start until he drove his son Scottie to school one morning late in the week.

"I said, 'Who should I start?' " Spurrier said. "He said, 'When Noah has started, you've never lost a game, have you?' I said, 'Hey, that's right. I'll put him out there the first play.' "

Brindise started the game, but it was Johnson who had a hand in one of the game's biggest plays. He hit Jacquez Green for a 63-yard gain late in the fourth quarter and the Gators scored the game-winning touchdown two plays later.

Both quarterbacks played well that day, combining to throw for 318 yards and one touchdown. Brindise completed 5-of-9 passes for 100 yards while Johnson completed 13-of-25 passes for 218 yards. Neither threw an interception.

Urban Meyer was able to make a two-quarterback system work throughout the 2006 season. The scenario was different, though, because Leak was the unquestioned starter. Tebow came in for short-yardage plays and got a drive here and there, although he did play extensively against Western Carolina. He made two of the biggest plays of the regular season, though, when he ran for 2 yards on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter against Tennessee and when he hit Tate Casey with a jump pass for a touchdown late in the first half against LSU.

The Johnson/Brindise and Leak/Tebow rotations were successful because each player had different strengths. Johnson had a big arm but struggled with his decision-making. Brindise was a smart player who didn't have a strong arm. Leak was a pro-style quarterback who didn't like to run. Tebow was the perfect fit for Meyer's spread-option offense.

Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett
Courtesy of UF CommunicationsFlorida coaches believe they can win with Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both at the helm in 2012.
Driskel and Brissett, however, pretty much are the same player. Driskel is a slightly better runner and Brissett is slightly better in the pocket, but they can make the same throws and the offense doesn't change when the other is in the game. So they'll each get a quarter in the first half Saturday and then the coaching staff will evaluate the situation for the second half.

UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said earlier this week that he wasn't sure if rotating the quarterbacks beyond this week was sustainable, which would mean the Gators might have to choose one for the Texas A&M game. Spurrier agrees.

"When you rotate quarterbacks, it can work one or two games or so, but then after that it sort of quits working," Spurrier said. "But as a change of pace, there's nothing wrong with playing two quarterbacks."

A perfect example is 2010, when Meyer rotated John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed throughout the season. Burton and Reed would run the spread-option package and Brantley would be called upon to throw the football -- usually on third down.

It wasn't successful. The Gators posted their fewest total yards per game since 1988 and scored the fewest points since 1992. UF threw only 12 touchdown passes and Brantley finished with nine and 10 interceptions.

Muschamp, though, is convinced that won't happen this season.

"Our football team's got great confidence in both of them," he said. "I told them the last position I'm worried about is quarterback. I feel very comfortable about both guys.

"… We can win with both guys. We function as an offense regardless of who that guy is (at quarterback) very well."

Mike DiRocco | email

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