Furman vs. Florida: Will This Game Serve as a QB Audition for the Gators?

John PattonContributor INovember 17, 2011

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 12:  Jacoby Brissett #17 of the Florida Gators is hit as he throws by D.J. Swearinger #36 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I am a semi-regular guest of "The Fan" Sports Radio WSFN in Brunswick, Ga., to talk Gator sports during "The Afternoon Blitz."

A few days prior to the Auburn game, I was asked by host Kevin Thomas if I believed that with John Brantley out of the contest, would it serve as a sort of audition for freshmen quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett for the 2012 season?

It really was a good question and got me to thinking it very well could.

That Saturday night on The Plains, Driskel completed 9-of-18 passes for 75 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Brissett finished 5-of-10 for 45 yards with an interception and no touchdowns.

Each player was also sacked twice.

The numbers may not show it, but Brissett may have at least started his move ahead of Driskel on the depth chart against the Tigers. Since then, Driskel hasn't played, while Brissett saw action against both Vanderbilt and South Carolina, and is now Florida's No. 2 quarterback.

With all of that said, neither quarterback was all that successful against Auburn, and the bigger test may come this Saturday afternoon against Furman.

Yes, Furman.

When lining up against the defending BCS national champions, no matter who has graduated or moved on early to the NFL, there had to be an expectation of growing pains for Driskel and Brissett.

Both kids have talent, but both are also teenagers.

The Paladins aren't going to send out a defense full of 4- and 5-star recruits, many of whom will play on Sundays and Mondays within the next few years. Nah, they'll offer up future doctors, lawyers, sportswriters and maybe, just maybe, an Arena League player or two.

So this should be the perfect opportunity for Brissett and Driskel to have a little bit of success and gain some confidence.

Don't get me wrong; barring a late change in plans, Brantley will start on Saturday. But he hasn't recovered fully from an ankle injury suffered Oct. 1 against Alabama.

The best thing for UF would be to have Brantley play a few harmless series and give the Gators a 24-0 lead before giving way to the two freshmen. No use having your senior leader out there for very long with arch-rival Florida State visiting The Swamp a week later.

Then, Driskel and Brissett can battle it out to get a jump on who will be the starter next season.

This year Driskel has completed 16-of-34 passes for 148 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer efficiency rating of 71.86. The faster of the two players, he has also carried 16 times for 18 yards (counting 40 yards worth of losses on sacks). He has a long run of 31 yards.

The more accurate passer, Brissett enters the game against the Paladins 14-of-26 for 179 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions for a passer efficiency rating of 101.29.

He has eight carries for 13 yards, including nine yards lost on sacks. Brissett has also been used in goal-line situations as of late and has a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Look for an inflation of those numbers for each player by the time Saturday's game is finished.

With a bowl likely on the horizon, there remains plenty of practice time left in the season, and spring ball will give Driskel and Brissett plenty of opportunities to take reps with the first-team offense.

But until then, consider this their biggest audition so far.