Two former Gators are flourishing elsewhere, and it should have fans wondering “What if?”
The Senior Bowl announced 22 new invitations had been accepted on Tuesday to play in the 64th annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Included was Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison, along with three players from LSU.
Adding these four players to the Senior Bowl invite list brings the SEC’s total to 13 thus far, with more likely to come prior to the game’s Jan. 30 kickoff.
Included in Tuesday’s additions were two names very familiar to SEC faithful. Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel and NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett were both added to the Senior Bowl roster. Gators fans will surely recognize the duo, as they were two of the bright spots from then-coach Will Muschamp’s 2011 recruiting class.
According to 247Sports, Driskel was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in that year’s class; he carried a 5-star rating. Brissett was a 4-star, and was ranked as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback from 2011.
Neither career worked out as planned in Gainesville, Fla.
Brissett took over for an injured John Brantley during his freshman season of 2011. But he only threw 39 passes and completed only 46.2 percent. He logged just 74 attempts between his first two seasons and sat in a backup role to Driskel.
Driskel spent four seasons with Florida but battled injury and ineffective play throughout. Between 2011-14 he completed 59.4 percent of his 552 passes and enjoyed just one season – Driskel threw 12 touchdowns and only five picks in 2012 – where he completed more scoring throws than interceptions.
Both quarterbacks found new beginnings elsewhere, however.
Driskel graduated from Florida and transferred in March of 2015 to play out his final year of eligibility at Louisiana Tech. Brissett left quicker, and landed at NC State, where he played his final two seasons for the Wolfpack.
Change was definitely the best remedy.
Driskel finished fourth with 297.9 yards per game in Conference USA play. He threw 24 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions and completed 61.7 percent of his passes.
Brissett finished sixth in the conference in passing — just greater than 200 yards per game in both 2014 and 2015 – and threw a combined 42 touchdown passes to just nine picks. No full-time ACC quarterback (FSU’s Sean Maguire and Everett Golson split time) threw fewer picks in 2015 than Brissett.
Because of the way Driskel and Brissett finished their careers away from the SEC, they were invited to participate in the Senior Bowl. But Florida fans will watch and wonder.
What could have been if the Gators would have had either quarterback this season instead of watching Treon Harris stumble through the back half of the season? Could either Driskel or Brissett have led the Gators to a more prominent bowl game, or even a winning result in the SEC Championship game?
Better question: Who’s to blame for the failings under center at Florida when two of the top three quarterbacks in the country in 2011 landed in Gainesville? New coach Jim McElwain seems to have the Gators headed in the right direction, which only leads to more finger pointing at former front man Will Muschamp, who will now be the Gamecocks’ problem … or potential savior.