Brantley breaks out
Published: Monday, April 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 11:55 p.m.
During the 2010 season, when John Brantley is throwing touchdown passes and producing 300-yard passing games, maybe everyone will look back on Saturday morning and say that’s when it all started.
The sophomore from Ocala had a breakout performance in Saturday’s scrimmage, completing passes all over the practice field to ignite a Florida offense that has been dormant for most of the spring.
“John Brantley had his best day as a Gator,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “His management (was excellent). We all know he’s talented. He missed one early wide open and then he was on fire.
“Today, he looked like a Florida quarterback. I’m really impressed.”
Brantley and wide receivers Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore put on an aerial show. The way Brantley was firing away, making big completions and leading the offense, it looked like one of his highlight tapes from his All-American career at Trinity Catholic.
“It was a lot of fun,” Brantley said.
Brantley started out a little cold Saturday, missing a wide-open Thompson down the sideline for what would have been a touchdown early in the scrimmage. From that point on, he didn’t seem to miss, passing the offense (the No. 1 and No. 2 groups) up and down the field — and into the end zone.
In his second series, Brantley completed passes of 18, 13 and 13 yards, then culminated the drive with a 23-yard TD strike to Moore in the back of the end zone.
The next time he was on the field, Brantley hit Thompson deep for a 68-yard gain. Later in the scrimmage, on back-to-back plays, he threw a 45-yard pass to Moore and a 20-yarder to Thompson.
Brantley culminated his big day with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Thompson late in the scrimmage.
“Brantley, that’s a great quarterback, man,” Moore said. “He’s going to do a lot of great things for the Florida Gators. He’s a gunslinger. The new quarterback coach (Scot Loeffler) has both quarterbacks doing real good things right now.”
Loeffler was obviously pleased with Brantley’s performance.
“Every quarterback wants to throw it down the field a little bit,” Loeffler said. “It was fun to watch him improve.”
Brantley struggled in last week’s scrimmage and has been inconsistent at times. But he looked very polished, very poised and very potent Saturday.
“I’ve got to give credit to the offensive line. they stepped up big today,” he said. “We had some players step up. ... Carl Moore and Deonte Thompson. The entire offense did a great job. It felt real good.
“Carl Moore looks great. He showed me a lot, that he can go up and make plays using his height and his body. Deonte and I missed (a deep pass) yesterday and one early in practice today. Then we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to get this one.’ We hooked up (for the 68-yard gain), and it started from there. I was just getting the ball to my playmakers.”
Before Saturday’s scrimmage, the offense (including Tim Tebow) had been stymied by the defense all spring. With Brantley’s hot hand, and the play of the wide receivers, it suddenly came to life.
Brantley had considerable time with the No. 1 offense and got more overall reps than Tebow.
“The offense was basically non-functional (before Saturday), dead in the water like it was in the first year (2005) in the first four games, when you didn’t have a playmaker receiver,” Meyer said. “I’m very pleased.”
It’s almost as if the light went on at the same time for Brantley, Moore and Thompson. For the first time this spring, the receivers consistently made plays.
“Deonte made some big plays today. That’s what he needs to do,” wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales said. “He’s got great speed. He’s got to play fast and be a reliable guy. When your number is called, you’ve got to go make the play.
“(Thompson and Moore) both have the ability. But it has to happen every play. Sometimes, it’s been up, and sometimes down. It’s got to be consistent. They’ve got to make the play every play.”
Thompson said his emergence is due.
“Patience is the key to success. If you have it, it will take you a long ways,” Thompson said. “I’ve been waiting my turn and learning from the older guys. I’ve learned a lot. Louis Murphy went through a similar situation (before breaking out in the 2007 season). He’s told me, ‘Stay strong and your time will soon be coming.’ It’s coming now.”
Thompson, Moore and Brantley weren’t the only offensive playmakers Saturday. Tailback Chris Rainey also came up big and had his best day of the spring.
On consecutive runs, Rainey had a 25-yard TD dash and an 11-yard run for a score.
“Rainey is in a fight with (walk-on tailback) Christopher Scott,” Meyer said. “(Rainey) came on and had a great day.”
It was an all-around great day for the offense for the first time this spring.
“Everyone’s confidence should be up right now,” Brantley said. “Definitely, it was a lot of fun. We haven’t been beating the defense much. To come out and beat them, it felt real good.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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