Brantley, Thompson have one more shot


Staff photos by Doug Finger/Illistration by Jon McDonald

Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 25, 2011 at 10:44 p.m.

They came in together as part of one of the nation's top recruiting classes and they will go out together as fifth-year seniors. The two players have formed a special bond that is rooted in familiarity and adversity.

John Brantley and Deonte Thompson have not lived up to the hype that they carried like heavyweights when they arrived in Gainesville.

This is the last chance.

“I'm ready for it,” said Brantley. “I know this is it. I'm looking forward to it. ”

Brantley, as everyone knows, struggled in Urban Meyer's offense last year in his first chance to be a starting quarterback at his dream school. Thompson struggled to hold on to passes and wasn't the deep threat he was supposed to be.

The featured quarterback and the go-to receiver spent a lot of time consoling each other.

“I'm just trying to forget those days,” Brantley said at SEC Media Days last week. “It's kind of like starting all over again. It's a clean slate. Every single one of us has forgotten about last year.

“Deonte, he's never been down. He's always high in spirits. He's my boy.”

Brantley threw 10 interceptions and only nine touchdowns a year ago. Thompson led Florida in receiving with 38 catches, but had only one touchdown grab and numerous drops.

“I heard all of the criticism about how I can't catch the ball,” Thompson said. “I want to show everyone I can be a big-time wide receiver.”

Thompson said Brantley had spring practices where he was “tearing up the defenses” and that the “old John Brantley” is back. Brantley said Thompson has been catching everything in summer workouts.

It won't be long before we find out if that translates to The Swamp and stadiums around the SEC.

Because they are both just about out of time.

“This is the last go-round. Gotta make it happen,” Thompson said. “I feel like I can be successful this year. Last year, if you asked me I'd say the same thing. I don't go into the season thinking this isn't going to be my year.

“I'm just looking to help my team win any way possible. That's what it's all about, getting the ‘W.' You get the win, everything else falls in place.”

Thompson worked out with some of the great Gators from the past this offseason. Because of the NFL lockout, players such as Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy and Riley Cooper spent the summer catching passes in Gainesville.

“It's giving me another aspect of my game, stepping up a whole new level,” Thompson said.

“This offseason, we pretty much did everything with those guys, from a throwing standpoint.”

Brantley studied the playbook trying to learn the terminology so there isn't a blip when camp starts. While he is the guy heading into this season, it won't take too many interceptions to get the Gator Nation chirping about his freshmen backup quarterbacks.

It comes with the position, even if it did get a little out of hand last year.

For both of them.

“My supporting cast, they pick me up when I'm down,” Thompson said. “I go through phases, but I think I'm man enough. I can handle it. So can John.

"Last year, I wouldn't say it was all on Brantley. There were times we should have gotten open quicker. It's more than just him. I know he's the quarterback and all the pressure's on him, but it's more than just him. It's on all of us, and we're in this together."

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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