Posted: 8:02 pm Friday, February 4th, 2011
By Matt Porter
PALM BEACH GARDENS — Dwyer’s Jacoby Brissett, the nation’s top unsigned quarterback, announced Friday evening that he will sign with the Florida Gators — joining three of his ex-teammates in Gainesville — while leaving the Miami Hurricanes in a precarious spot regarding their quarterback position for the near future.
In front of about 1,000 people, including a dozen South Florida and national media members, Brissett made his announcement before Dwyer’s basketball game against Jupiter.
The senior took a microphone, quieted the crowd and joked that he was forfeiting his grades to play another year at Dwyer. Then, he said: “Next year I will play at the University of Florida,” before sharing an emotional embrace with his mother, Lisa Brown.
“It came down to UM and Florida. I just had to follow my heart, and my heart lies in Florida,” Brissett said.
While most high school senior recruits made their college choices Wednesday on national signing day, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound All-America was torn between Florida and Miami, and strongly considered Wisconsin and Washington as well.
Brown strongly pushed her son toward the Hurricanes, and said after his announcement she would not stop trying to convince him to sign with UM.
Brissett’s commitment to UF won’t be official until he signs and faxes an NCAA “letter of intent” to the school.
Because Brissett is not 21, a parent or guardian must also sign Brissett’s letter of intent. His signature was on that document Friday, according to sources, but Brown said she would convince him until he faxed the letter Monday.
“Not my choice. I’m very disappointed,” Brown told the Associated Press.
But Brissett, who said he wavered between UM and UF “probably 25 times” before deciding Thursday, said he knows the Gators are right for him.
“I can’t please everybody,” he said. “I’m hurt that I hurt my mom, as you can see I was crying with her before the game. She means the world to me.”
Brissett, who as a junior led Dwyer its first state championship, threw for 2,743 yards and an area-best 32 touchdowns and one interception as a senior. He also rushed 63 times for 368 yards and seven touchdowns, earning The Palm Beach Post’s large schools Offensive Player of the Year award and the Lou Groza Palm Beach County High School Player of the Year award.
If Brissett signs with UF, it will boost the Gators’ 2011 recruiting class, which was rated in the top 25 nationally before he made his decision.
After signing 18 players Wednesday, including Jeff Driskel, the nation’s top-rated passer, Florida coach Will Muschamp said his team was “still short at quarterback.” The addition of Brissett, a four-star recruit, will bolster depth and heighten competition.
John Brantley, a senior-to-be, is the likely starter, but the backup job is far from decided. Two of last year’s quarterbacks, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, are being considered for position changes. Red-shirt freshman Tyler Murphy is another player likely to move.
That would leave Driskel and Brissett to battle for the backup spot. Driskel has a clear advantage because he already is enrolled and will participate in spring practice.
Brissett said he can’t wait to compete with Driskel. “He’s just got to show he’s better than me. That’s all it is,” he said.
Brissett’s arrival in Gainesville will reunite him with three former teammates – safety Matt Elam, tight end Gerald Christian and receiver Robert Clark. The trio played with Brissett on the Panthers’ 2009 state championship team.
Elam, along with Gators teammate Chris Dunkley of Pahokee, attended Friday’s game.
Brissett, who plays on Dwyer’s basketball team, also has expressed interest in playing college basketball, which might be difficult given the demands of the UF football program.
While former UF coach Urban Meyer had only extended Brissett a grey-shirt offer, Muschamp and new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis made it clear they wanted Brissett.
After Weis visited Brissett on Jan. 14 (Weis’ first UF recruiting trip), he asked Muschamp for a full scholarship for Brissett. Brissett attended a basketball game in Gainesville that weekend and sat next to Weis for much of the game.
On Tuesday, Brissett even had lunch with Bill Parcells, a friend of Weis and of Dwyer football coach Jack Daniels’ father-in-law. Brissett and teammate Curt Maggitt met Parcells, a former Dolphins executive, at a Duffy’s restaurant in Jupiter, where Parcells lives part time. Daniels said Parcells didn’t try to sell the players on Weis and UF.
If Brissett finalizes his decision with Florida, it would leave UM without a quarterback signee in this year’s class.
New Hurricanes coach Al Golden promised to sign two quarterbacks in this recruiting class, but has yet to sign any. Golden and his staff intensely recruited Brissett.
If Brissett signs with the Gators, there is a chance he could face close friends and former Dwyer teammates Nick O’Leary and Maggitt, both who were in attendance Friday, this fall. On Wednesday, O’Leary signed with Florida State and Maggitt signed with Tennessee. The Gators host both schools this season.
Post staff writers Jason Lieser and Jorge Milian contributed to this report.