Quarterback quandary?

Florida punter Chas Henry throws the ball during spring football practice Friday, March 26, 2010.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, March 26, 2010 at 8:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 at 8:56 p.m.

Here's the good news: Florida might have the best passing punter in the nation.

Here's the bad news: He's the Gators' No. 2 quarterback if something happens to starter John Brantley or backup Trey Burton, a true freshman.

This was revealed Wednesday, when Brantley fell ill and could not practice. With Brantley out, Burton was the No. 1 guy, and senior punter Chas Henry moved up to the No. 2 guy at quarterback.

Because it's just the spring, no one was making a big deal out of the precarious situation at the most vital position on the team. But if this had been the Wednesday before, oh say, the Tennessee game in September, there probably would have been a sense of panic.

Henry is a very good athlete (he played QB in high school) and he threw some very nice balls Wednesday (including a few for touchdowns), but, well, he is the punter.

"Chas isn't bad," Brantley said. "I know he played QB in high school. He hasn't lost too much of his throwing agility. He can spin it."

The situation will be slightly different in the fall, when another true freshman quarterback (Tyler Murphy) joins the mix. But even with the addition of Murphy, the Gators will have two true freshman behind Brantley. The next in line after that is Henry, who has kept his passing arm in shape over the past few years throwing passes to the defensive backs in practice drills.

"It does (illustrate) that I need to stay healthy," Brantley said Friday. "But the young guy behind me, Trey, is doing very well for a freshman. He's attaining a lot of knowledge.

"He's making progress every day and that's what you want to see out of your young guys."

The surprisingly quick progress of Burton has brought a little bit of a comfort level to the position this spring. The coaches are already developing a "Wildcat" package for him to run in the fall, and he's thrown to ball extremely well at times despite a somewhat unconventional throwing motion.

Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has been impressed by the rookie.

"Trey is a really good runner and I think that Wildcat package is realistic for him kind of like we did for Tim (Tebow) when Tim broke in here," Addazio said. "He's working real hard at that. That gives us that package we like to run - the read option, the quarterback runs.

"I think he's really done a nice job throwing it, too. He's really progressing. I think Trey has done a good job of picking things up. I'm really encouraged, honestly. He's ahead of where we thought he'd be right now. He's obviously a sharp guy and football is really important to him. He's a real conscientious guy. Watching him out there, I think he's going to be a heck of a football player, I really do."

As the No. 2 quarterback, he's gotten equal reps with Brantley. On Wednesday, with Brantley out, Burton ran the No. 1 offense for the entire practice. It was more good experience for a quarterback who has a long way to go and is already making strides to get there.

"He's handled this unbelievably," Addazio said. "It's hard (to play as a true freshman), especially at quarterback. He's got the verbiage (he's got to get down), he's got the reads, he's got to throw the ball.

"He's done a remarkable job. I'm really happy with what he's done."

Brantley returned to practice Friday, and the Gators went back to their regular pecking order at quarterback - Brantley No. 1, Burton No. 2, Henry back to being almost exclusively a punter.

But given the lack of experience and depth at quarterback, Henry will continue to get some work at the position.

"Yeah, he's the emergency quarterback," Addazio said. "He's not bad, actually."

Addazio then joked about Henry and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, which is perfectly acceptable because it's just the spring.

"Loeffler thinks he throws it better than (Henry)," Addazio said. "That Loeffler is an awful athlete."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at andreur@gvillesun.com.

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