GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators are preparing for another difficult SEC road trip with Jacoby Brissett as the starting quarterback.
Brissett made his first career start on Saturday at No. 1-ranked LSU and finished 8-for-14 for 94 yards in Florida’s 41-11 loss. Brissett, the first true freshman quarterback in school history to take his first college snap as the starter, threw a touchdown pass and two interceptions.
Gators head coach Will Muschamp said fifth-year senior John Brantley, who started the first five games before suffering a lower leg injury in a home loss to Alabama, remains unavailable to play at No. 24-ranked Auburn on Saturday.
“He’s working hard,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s been in the training room a lot. We feel like he’s making good progress.’’
Meanwhile, Brantley’s back-up to start the season, true freshman Jeff Driskel, is ready to get back in the mix after an ankle injury suffered against Alabama kept him sidelined at LSU. Driskel played in four of the first give games, completing 7 of 16 passes for 73 yards and two interceptions.
Muschamp said the Gators would open practice Monday afternoon with Brissett as the starter and Driskel at No. 2 on the depth chart.
“They both are going to practice through the week,’’ Muschamp said. “Right now, based on the injury report I got this morning, Jeff should practice today. How limited he’ll be? I do not know that.
“We’ll work with Jacoby as being the starter at this point. I really think [any change] will depend on Jeff’s health. We would generally go into the situation [where] they would split reps, so they would be pretty equal reps because they are both very similar players. It’s not like one guy is a different quarterback than the other guy. They are both very similar skill-set.’’
If Brissett does end up starting at Auburn, Muschamp said to expect to see more from him running the offense. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis limited the playbook on Saturday to ease Brissett into the lineup.
The Gators’ game plan featured a package for Trey Burton at quarterback and also included several direct snaps to running back Chris Rainey in the wildcat formation.
“We did some things we felt we had to do to win the game,’’ Muschamp said of protecting Brissett. “Certainly we’ve got to do something else offensively. You continue to do the same things you’ll get the same results, so we need to change.’’
Brissett’s highlight on Saturday came near the end of the third quarter when he hit Andre Debose for a 65-yard touchdown pass, the longest scoring strike for a true freshman quarterback in his first career start for UF. Brissett joined Wayne Peace (1980), Donald Douglas (1989), Jesse Palmer (1997) and Chris Leak (2003) as the only true freshmen quarterbacks to start for the Gators.
While the Gators expect to be able to do more with Brissett, Muschamp also said junior running back Mike Gillislee could factor more into the game plan after his solid performance at LSU. Gillislee rushed nine times for a team-high 56 yards, showing an ability to run between the tackles against LSU’s physical defense.
“Mike played well. He is one of the guys we recognized that played the way we need to play – with some toughness,’’ Muschamp said. “He does a great job on special teams. We need to get him some more touches.’’
Another player expected back on offense is receiver Quinton Dunbar, who did not travel to LSU for personal reasons.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Murphy is not expected to factor into the quarterback rotation during Brantley’s absence unless it’s an emergency.
“He’s done some good things,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s managed our offense well, but those other guys have just performed better.’’
The Gators held a team meeting Monday morning to review film from the LSU game and discuss correcting some of the mistakes in back-to-back losses in which they have been outscored 79-21 by the teams currently ranked 1 and 2 in the AP Poll.
“We just need to continue to press forward,’’ Muschamp said. “We had a good meeting. We sat as a team and watched about 20, 25 snaps of the game – there were positive snaps and some negative snaps – to understand why we are where we are and what we need to do to get better.’’
As they move forward, much of the focus will remain on Brissett as he prepares to make his second start.
Senior running back Chris Rainey was comfortable with the way Brissett ran the offense.
“I felt he was ready,’’ Rainey said. “He was real calm.’’
Muschamp agreed that Brissett handled the unusual situation as well as could have been expected.
“I thought Jacoby did a good job,’’ Muschamp said. “I thought he managed our offense very well. What we asked him to do he did very well. He is a very composed young man. He works extremely hard since he’s been here as far as learning the offense and learning what to do and how we want to do it.
“I’ve said this before and you all get tired of me, but we need to play well around the quarterback position. We’ve got to play well up front; we’ve got to play well at wideout, at running back. Those are things we have to continue to do.’’