Jeff Driskel spent last offseason battling it out with Jacoby Brissett for the right to be the Florida Gators starting quarterback. Now as he prepares to enter his junior season, Driskel is without question the team’s starter. And while it is nice to have an unquestioned starter at the most important position on the field, it is also nice to feel comfortable with his potential replacements. Brissett was a very solid backup for the Gators last season, but in search for more playing time he transferred to NC State following the bowl game. So, what if Driskel gets injured and is out for an extended period of time? Do the Gators have a viable backup that can fill-in if need be? There appear to be four potential candidates on the roster if Driskel were to get injured, none of which has thrown a pass on the collegiate level. Let’s take a look at each of them…
Redshirt junior Tyler Murphy will get the first crack at the backup job, having edged out redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg in spring practice. The 6-2, 206 pound Murphy served as the team’s third quarterback last season. He has always been considered a dynamic athlete, and even rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards in his high school career. However, Murphy has only appeared in three games in his collegiate career and has never attempted a pass. But, he has been a valuable asset on the scout team throughout his time at UF, helping the Gators defense prepare for the mobile quarterbacks in the SEC. Murphy’s “experience” and familiarity with offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s system should give him a slight upper hand in the competition heading into the fall.
Skyler Mornhinweg has a pedigree unlike any of the other backup quarterback options on the Gators. His father, Marty, has worked in the NFL for years and is currently the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. Rated as a four-star recruit coming out of high school, the 6-3, 204 pound Mornhinweg currently holds the No. 3 spot on the Gators depth chart, but is closely pushing Murphy for the backup spot.
True freshman Max Staver was the only quarterback the Gators signed in their 2013 recruiting class. He had offers from Louisville and Mississippi State but ultimately chose the Gators. The 6-5, 235 pound three-star recruit is known for his big arm. However, one disadvantage facing Staver in the race for the No. 2 job is that he did not enroll in classes until this summer so he will have some work to do if he hopes to catch either Murphy or Mornhinweg.
A wild card in the competition could be a guy that followed the same path as Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden. Freshman Chris Wilkes was a two-star recruit coming out of high school and even signed with Ole Miss, but ended up pursuing a career in baseball after being drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. After playing in the minors for the past five seasons, the 23-year-old Wilkes has decided to give football another shot. He joined the team this summer as a walk-on. A former pitcher, the 6-4, 235 pound Wilkes has a big, strong arm but it may take him some time to get a feel for the game again.
The backup quarterback is an important part of any football team. They are always just one snap away from being the starter. So which one of these guys will end up backing up Driskel in 2013? If the season started today, the edge would probably have to go to Murphy, maybe not based on his talent or potential, but based on his experience in the system. However, if everything goes as planned for the Gators this season, none of these guys will have to see the field for anything other than mop-up duty.