Weis gives Brantley confidence

Quarterback John Brantley is UF's clear-cut starter.

Doug Finger/staff photographer
Published: Friday, August 5, 2011 at 6:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 at 6:59 p.m.

The John Brantley doubters are still out there, scattered across the wide expanse of Gator Nation.

Some of them disappeared when offensive coordinator Charlie Weis arrived last winter. They returned (and maybe even multiplied in number) after Brantley looked like the 2010 version of himself in a struggling spring game performance.

Yes, the Brantley doubters are everywhere as the Gators begin preparing for the 2011 season.

But there is one place where you won't find any — on the Florida football team. This is where the Brantley believers reside, and they appear strong in number.

“He just had to build some confidence in himself,” senior tailback Chris Rainey said at the team's annual media day Friday. “He's done that. Now, you can see the old Brantley you saw in high school (at Ocala Trinity Catholic, where he was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2006).

“We have a lot of confidence in him. We were always waiting for him to get confidence in himself. He's got that, and he's ready and we're ready, so we'll all get together and see a big year.”

Brantley had confidence at this time a year ago, but it quickly eroded over the course of his first season as the Gators' starting quarterback. A drop-back passer, he never appeared comfortable in Urban Meyer's spread offense, and he ended up sharing playing time with two running quarterbacks (Trey Burton and Jordan Reed).

Brantley's confidence seemed shot by the end of the season.

It quickly started returning after new UF coach Will Muschamp hired the highly respected and highly successful Weis to coordinate his offense and coach his quarterbacks.

After establishing himself as the starter in the spring, Brantley struggled in the spring game. But Muschamp has told everyone to dismiss that performance because Brantley did not have much of a chance playing behind a patchwork offensive line.

Brantley's confidence is back and he enters fall camp as the clear-cut, runaway starter at quarterback.

“No question,” Muschamp said Friday.

The only question at the position is how the pecking order will fall behind Brantley.

“Tyler Murphy is the backup and Jacoby (Brissett) and Jeff (Driskel) are two outstanding freshmen we signed,” Muschamp said. “John is the starter. We need to create some separation behind him and find out how we're going to tailor the offense for the backup quarterback.”

While some in Gator Nation may still have some doubts about Brantley, he seems to be getting an overwhelming endorsement from his coaches and teammates.

“I'm very confident in him,” senior wide receiver Deonte Thompson said. “He's a strong quarterback. I expect him to do great things to help us win games this year.

“He has more confidence. He just believes more in himself now — and he's ready.”

This is what Weis does with his quarterbacks — he builds their confidence and gives them a chance to succeed in his pro-style offense.

“Charlie's track record speaks for itself as far as the development of quarterbacks,” Muschamp said. “The laundry list of names goes on and on, the success he's had with those people (including New England Patriots All-Pro Tom Brady) and what he's been able to do.

“He's got great confidence in John. That should give John great confidence. Here's Charlie Weis, he's coached some of the best quarterbacks who have ever played the game. That should give him great confidence as a quarterback, and I think it does.”

It definitely does.

“Coach Weis is a great coach. His track record speaks for itself,” Brantley said. “I'm excited and honored to play for him. I think he's a great coach. He can take a great team and make it better. We're all excited to be playing for him.”

Football wasn't much fun for Brantley last season, but he said he learned from the experience and the adversity he went through.

“I learned that when things go wrong, forget about it and move on, keep my head up,” he said. “If you keep your head down, other people's heads are going to go down.

“You just have to keep moving. Bad things are going to happen even if you're the No. 1 team. You just have to put it behind you and move on.”

It was obvious Friday that Brantley's head is up again and he's moved on from last season's disappointments.

“We're excited. I think we're ready to go,” he said. “My goal this camp is to learn everything and put myself in the best position for Florida to be successful. That's my goal, just get better every day.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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