There are many differing opinions out there about John Brantley, but I think there is one thing we can all agree on. He is one of the most star-crossed players in the history of Florida football.
This life-long Gator redshirted his freshman year and then sat patiently behind Tim Tebow for two years waiting for his chance to fulfill his dream of being the Florida quarterback. When he finally got his chance last season, he found himself stuck in an offensive quagmire. He was asked to do things in the spread-option offense that he couldn’t do, like run the option. And he never had the chance to do the things that he can do well, like throw the football down the field.
As a result, he was ripped and ridiculed throughout the 2010 season. His smile and his confidence disappeared. He thought about leaving.
Then, a Godsend. Charlie Weis.
When Will Muschamp hired the highly regarded offensive coordinator and quarterback fixer, it gave Brantley new life — and one last chance to become the quarterback we all thought he could be when he signed with Florida five years ago.
On Saturday night in The Swamp, we saw that quarterback. He was poised, in command, confidently making his check downs, throwing the ball down the field and leading the Gators up and down the field against the nation’s strongest defense.
Then, of course, another cruel blow for Brantley. He sustained a high ankle sprain when he was sacked in the final minute of the first half. Now, best case scenario, Brantley will have only precious few chances (three, maybe four games) to repeat what he did in that first half Saturday night.
Listen to Weis talking about Brantley’s performance and how far he’s come as a quarterback:
“With the exception of the interception, where he didn’t even see the guy, he played great. He was trying to throw the check down to Trey Burton and should not have thrown it, because he could not really see Trey, either. Think about it. He throws 16 passes, he completes 11 and he has three dropped balls. That’s 14 of 16 against that defense.
“He’s stepping up in the pocket. That’s what real quarterbacks look like, stepping up in the pocket, shuffling a little to the left, shuffling a little to the right, making the big throw down the field that everyone said he couldn’t make. Stepping up and hitting a crossing route to Deonte Thompson, which was his fourth read. Boom, boom, boom and he hits him out of the back end. He was playing.
“He’d like that interception back. One thing I like the most about him is when that happened, I said three words to him: short-term memory. And he came back and we went on that two-minute drive down to the 14 before the back-to-back sacks. I mean, never fazed him, never lost his cool. I look into peoples’ eyes. It was pretty easy to see he expected to play a good game. It’s unfortunate that he got injured.”
It is. But hopefully, Brantley will show the toughness and resiliency he has throughout his career and bounce back one more time — show us again the stuff he showed us last Saturday night.
He deserves that. I think we can all agree on that.