Brantley, Burton lead effective Florida offense
Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 3:26 p.m.
It is a gorgeous, chamber of commerce spring day in Gainesville, Fla. The weather is a perfect 74 degrees, sunny, clear and with a cool breeze floating around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The announced crowd is 51,500.
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The Gators are doing warmups and will take a few minutes to do their "Circle of Life" drill about 5 minutes before the scrimmage starts at 1 p.m. The circle drill is a favorite of the players. They gather and cheer for their teammates, as a few are selected one-by-one to square off against each other. The first two to tango were offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert and defensive lineman Justin Trattou, who battled to a draw. Others included Deonte Thompson vs. Ahmad Black and Chris Rainey vs. Janoris Jenkins.
The first teams take the field and two interesting players starting are wide receiver Andre Debose and true freshman safety Matt Elam, who is the extra defensive back in the nickel formation.
Quarterback John Brantley get the day started with a perfectly thrown 47-yard strike to Deonte Thompson. The deep pass is an indication of how the Gator offense will play to Brantley's strength — his big arm.
Brantley hooks up with Debose for about a dozen yards down to the 4-yard line on a crossing pattern that is awfully reminiscent of Percy Harvin's old drag routes. The first-team offense punches the ball into the end zone with tailback Mike Gillislee running up the middle.
The second-team offense mimics the first-teamers with quarterback Trey Burton passing deep. But his attempt is intercepted by true freshman cornerback Joshua Shaw, who returns it 31 yards to midfield.
After his pickoff, Shaw stays on the field with the first-team defense. Shaw makes a tackle and then allows receiver Carl Moore to catch a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brantley.
Burton completes his first pass, a 32-yarder to a wide-open Robert Clark, a true freshman wide receiver. It's a mixed bag for Burton so far. He's a solid threat to run but has not gotten untracked today. In the air, he's showing improved accuracy and zip on his passes but occasionally throw wild or wobbly. He does seem to keep the chains moving, though, and the Gator second-team offense is threatening to score its first points.
First quarter: Blue (first team) 14, Orange (second team) 0
On second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Burton executes a perfect fake-handoff bootleg right and jogs into the end zone.
Defensive end Duke Lemmens, who has had a strong spring, sacks Brantley, who couldn't find an open receiver. Brantley connects with Moore on a quick post route for 12 yards. Facing third-and-3 at the 42-yard line, the Gators opt for the Wildcat formation with tight end Josh Reed powering forward for 4 yards and a first down near midfield.
Reed, to the surprise of most in the stadium, unleashes a 39-yard pass to Moore. It was underthrown, but Reed threw a nice spiral. Brantley comes back in but the first-teamers turn the ball over on downs. Shaw breaks up a throw to the corner of the end zone that Moore caught with one foot inbounds. Then, defensive tackle Jaye Howard stops Reed in another short-yardage Wildcat rush attempt.
Back on offense, Burton rips off a 76-yard run on a quarterback keeper. He flashes good speed, some nice cuts and finishes the run with a 360-spin move. Burton caps the Tim Tebow-esque drive with a touchdown pass to Omarius Hines. Burton's run is the longest since UF has been keeping records since 1996.
Finally, it's the defense's turn to make a splash. The first-team D forces the first-team offense into a fourth-and-20 after a sack by Howard (with pressure from Omar Hunter contributing), a stuffed Gillislee run and an incomplete pass.
Burton completes five straight passes — all to Hines and Moore — for three first downs and about 45 yards. Burton finally misses and the Gator second-teamers settle for a field goal.
Brantley comes back with two straight passes complete to Frankie Hammond. On first-and-10 from the 46, Brantley finds Gillislee over the middle, but the tailback is stopped short after catching the 5-yard pass on a good hit by linebacker Dee Finley. The half ends on another sack by Howard.
Second quarter: Orange (second team) 17, Blue (first team) 14
Brantley gets the chains moving in his first possession of the second half with a nice bullet pass over the middle to Moore, UF's top receiver of the day. Brantley hooks up with Hammond on a short gain and then finds another receiver, this time Hines, in space with another bullet pass. The first-team offense has first-and-goal at the 5 and goes nowhere on a run by Gillislee. Brantley caps the drive with a dump-off TD pass to Hammond in the end zone. Brantley's zip and accuracy should be the centerpiece of a potent passing attack.
Burton starts his drive with two keeper runs, followed by a fumble that he dives on and a wobbly incompletion. He's an instinctive runner but an inconsistent passer.
Third quarter: Blue 21, Orange 17
Reed gets some reps at quarterback with some uneven results. A deep pass is broken up by Shaw. Another pass is deflected at the line and intercepted by linebacker Scott Peek.
Burton returns at quarterback and runs for 12 yards to the 9-yard line. He fakes a handoff and then scoots into the end zone to give the second-teamers the lead.
Back at quarterback for the Blue squad, Reed rips off his longest run of the spring. Instead of just plowing into the line and following his blockers, Reed showed some nifty moves and vision. Reed then fires a beautiful, accurate 31-yard strike to a diving T.J. Lawrence in the end zone for a touchdown.
The clock winds down with reserves running most of the plays.
Fourth quarter: Blue 27, Orange 24