GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease can relate to the tension, anxiety and anticipation that is involved when two players are competing for a team’s most high-profile job.
Pease knows exactly what Florida sophomores Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are going through as the Gators work early in fall camp on determining who will start the season opener on Sept. 1 against Bowling Green.
Junior college transfer Brent Pease may have nailed down the starting quarterback job with an impressive performance in the final preseason scrimmage … Pease, who has been waging a battle with fellow junior college transfer Scott Werbelow for the starting job, ran for 90 yards on 12 carries against the second-team defense. He also did a good job of directing Montana’s newly installed wishbone offense.
--The Spokesman (Wash.) Review, Sept. 1, 1985
Pease arrived at the University of Montana in the summer of 1985 after two seasons at Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College, where he won another quarterback battle to draw interest from Montana.
Pease played only two games for the Grizzlies during the ’85 season, mired by injuries and the installation of a wishbone offense. When Montana hired Don Read as head coach after the season and Read installed a prolific passing attack, Pease flourished as a senior in 1986 to break nearly every Montana passing record.
After college, Pease constantly battled for playing time as a pro, going against Cody Carlson in Houston to serve as Warren Moon’s backup and against Rich Gannon in Minnesota. He played for a stint in the World League before becoming a coach.
The life of a quarterback is never easy, a message Pease delivers regularly to Brissett, Driskel and the team’s other quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy and true freshman Skylar Mornhinweg.
“It’s hard because kids take things so negatively that it’s like you’re saying they’re not good enough,’’ Pease said. “That’s not the case. I really believe we’ve got two or three kids here that we can win football games with.
“It’s hard. I’ve been in that role. The depth chart is changing on a play-to-play basis. I’ve been told that situation and that’s probably how I took it, not understanding that my day will come. For whatever reason, whoever it is, the other guy has got to always be ready. He’s going to be the most popular guy in town anyway. You never know when your opportunity is.”
Gators coach Will Muschamp and Pease have maintained since spring that Driskel and Brissett are neck-and-neck in the competition to start. Both played last season when John Brantley suffered an ankle injury. Brissett started twice but neither gained enough separation for the Gators to name a clear-cut starter prior to camp.
While Pease has personal experience to draw upon as a player to help the quarterbacks remain focused on performing their best, he also has a fellow coach to help him. Receivers coach Bush Hamdan was a quarterback at Boise State when Pease was a Broncos assistant.
As a senior in 2008, Hamdan served as the backup to redshirt freshman Kellen Moore, who went on to have a record-setting career and is now a NFL rookie with the Lions.
“I think they probably get tired of me showing Kellen Moore clips, talking about Kellen Moore,’’ Pease said. “But they can grow from it, learn from it. And I’ve got to be patient with the fact that Kellen, he made mistakes early, too. We all remember Kellen what he was from his senior and junior year, but as a freshman and sophomore we limited him to what he was successful with.”
Driskel and Brissett have done their part, respecting each other publicly while letting it rip on the field.
“If he beats me out then he did a hell of a job to do it because he’s going to get the best I have every day,” Brissett said at media day.
“He is going to look for the guy who is going to produce,” added Driskel. “If you don’t produce, you’re not going to play. That’s basically how it’s been the whole time.”
Early in camp both Driskel and Brissett continue to work on mastering the finer parts of Pease’s pro-style offense heavy on shifts and motion. They both understand they have plenty to improve on. The difficult part for Pease is to keep them focused on execution and learning the offense rather than the head-to-head battle and the added drama that can come from that.
“As a football coach, whatever position it is, you’re not throwing kids out there to be unsuccessful,’’ Pease said. “You’ve got to know what they can do and use their strengths.”
Sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer likes the way both have performed in camp thus far.
“I really can’t even tell most of the time who is in there,’’ Joyer said Thursday. “They both do just about the same amount of work. It’s going to be a tough competition.”
The next couple of weeks could provide the separation Muschamp and Pease are looking for. If not, both have said they feel comfortable with playing both Driskel and Brissett if needed.
Pease looks forward to the outcome.
“I’ll tell you this: These kids are competitive. They’ve worked hard,’’ he said. “They want to go out and play. They’re about this team; they’re about this university.
“I know the growing pains with it of learning kind of all the gymnastics that are going on around you before actually the play’s being run. I know what the kids here now are dealing with, too, and there’s definitely a learning curve.”