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Backup QB still a major concern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel doesn't have to look over his shoulder any more. With backup Jacoby Brissett gone, the starting job is completely his.

Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy still has to make major strides to be ready to replace Jeff Driskel if necessary.

But that might not be such good news for the Gators.

Right now, they're more concerned about what happens if Driskel goes down hurt at some point during the 2013 season. After all, he has yet to make it through a season without missing at least one game due to injury.

"Coaches are always saying with his style of play and being a physical runner, he can go down at any moment and you’re always one play away,' backup Tyler Murphy said. "So I always take that into consideration, the way I prepare, the way I’m out there practicing and just really helping other guys and trying to be a leader."

Both Murphy and third-string quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg have had a rough go of it this spring. Both have had individual issues they need to iron out, quickly.

Murphy is holding the ball too long, while Mornhinweg has a long way to go in the accuracy department.

"I’ve talked to them and those guys have to step in. They're going to get good reps and we'll see who can compete," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "If they can't we have a young guy coming in, Max Staver, and we'll have to assess the situation after the spring."

Murphy is entering his fourth year as a redshirt junior, but he hasn't taken a whole lot of reps in his time at Florida. First stuck behind John Brantley and then Driskel and Brissett, he hasn't taken many live snaps.

That's been the biggest adjustment for him this spring.

"You try to take a lot of mental reps so you know where to go with the ball and what’s going on, but when you get out there you kind of have to put the physical standpoint with the mental standpoint," Murphy said. "Sometimes your body doesn’t work as fast as your mind does. So you get that kind of practice, it really helps you get better and progress."

His biggest problem so far has been waiting too long to pull the trigger. As he continues to read the game better, that speed should improve.

At least, Will Muschamp hopes it does.

"We need somebody to step up at the backup quarterback position," he said. "Tyler and Skyler will have multiple opportunities throughout spring to be in those situations and step forward for us and be a dependable backup for us."

It isn't a lack of confidence in their abilities that has the coaches negative about the backup spot right now, either.

Simply put, they've got guys in there who haven't had a chance to do much in live work. Murphy, despite going into his fourth year, has not thrown a single pass in a college game.

"He needs to be able step forward and be a dependable guy that we want to put in a ball game," Muschamp said. "And I have confidence in Tyler. I got a lot of confidence, he just hasn’t done it."

The same is true for Mornhinweg, who spent his first year on campus redshirting. He still looks incredibly raw. He sprayed balls all over the field in Florida's two open practices, looking far from ready to take the reins in the event Driskel goes down with an injury.

"It's a lot faster than high school but I've caught up to speed and just getting better everyday," Mornhinweg said. "Really focused on protections and keeping ourselves safe in the pocket and learning how to switch up footwork to combat pressures, getting the ball off."

While Muschamp expects them to eventually make strides, in the interim, Florida fans will wait nervously for answers to the question that could very well determine what happens to the Gators next fall.

Driskel could get lucky and stay healthy the whole year, but based on his history, Florida can't go into the year expecting that.

And until the backups are ready to take the next step, that's a scary proposition.

"There's no question we've got to be able to have some answers," Muschamp said. "Very difficult on both of those young men. I think again, the game will slow down a little bit, [they'll] have a better feel for what we’re trying to do."

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