Gators feel much better about QBs now


Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 5:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 10, 2010 at 5:24 p.m.

I'm not saying you should stop knocking on wood or put your rabbit's foot away or quit wearing your lucky shirt to games.

I'm not saying they are ready to play on the road in the best conference in America.

I'm certainly not ready to say Tim Who?

But on a beautiful Saturday in The Swamp, Florida's quarterback situation looked a lot better than it did on March 17.

Back then at the start of spring practice, Florida had a starter who hadn't started, a backup who should be in calculus class at Venice High and a punter. That was the quarterback roster.

Certainly, big things are expected of John Brantley and he showed that in the spring game, firing lasers to a variety of receivers. But behind him ... well, behind him made the Gator Nation a lot nervous.

Now that the spring has sprung, it looks a lot better.

Trey Burton, who was best known for being a catalyst that helped keep Florida's 2010 recruiting class together, had an impressive day running the Orange team.

"He threw much better than he has all spring," said UF coach Urban Meyer. "The first day of the spring he was a typical freshman. The first day of spring, he wasn't very good."

On Saturday, Burton completed 12-of-18 passes for 120 yards and a score. OK, it was against backups, but you could see something in the kid that tells you he's got something.

And Jordan Reed, slated to be a tight end this season, threw for 80 yards and a touchdown. Chas Henry, you can stick to punting.

"That was fun to watch," offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said.

It was Burton who provided the highlight run of the day as well, a 76-yard scamper that included an ankle-breaking cut. He finished the day with 123 rushing yards and two scores. Reed ran for 19 yards on three carries.

I know, it was just the spring game. But what I saw Saturday is that the offensive plays you thought might be flushed with the departure of Tim Tebow are going to be in the Florida playbook this fall.

"No question you'll see that now," Addazio said, "They bring an aspect to the offense we didn't want to lose. Defenses can't say, 'Here comes the run,' when they go into the game."

A spring game is always taken with a heavy dose of cynicism. Spring's heroes are often forgotten in the fall. But the beauty of a spring game at an elite program like Florida's is the coaches get to see their players in front of a big crowd in the big stadium. They get to see if the progress of practices translates across the street.

On Saturday, it did.

Burton's only flaw was an interception on his first pass, a deep throw down the sideline that nestled into Joshua Shaw's arms. That play was called by a student who won a contest.

"I saw his best friend (Friday night) and told him to call a quarterback run," Burton said. "But he called that play instead."

After that, he was impressive.

"I felt comfortable out there today," he said.

The transition is never easy for a true freshman, let alone an early enrollee thrust into the backup role at a major university. It was difficult for Burton early, but Meyer said he liked what he saw in Burton's eyes every time he stepped into the huddle.

"I didn't care what play was called. I just wanted to see his eyes," Meyer said. "Throwing the ball is one-fifth of being a quarterback and the other four are more important."

For Burton, it was a dream day. Just running out of that tunnel ...

"It's about time," he said. "I've been committed for two years."

You can feel a leadership quality in the young quarterback. Especially when he says this:

"I'll do whatever I have to do to play. I'll long snap if I have to."

Florida obviously has something special in Brantley and the 2010 Gators will only go as far as he takes them. But the situation behind the Gator quarterback looks a lot brighter than it did three weeks ago.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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