Florida’s Top Gun

August 17, 2010

"He's got more pressure on him than any player in college football history"- Former Florida QB Shane Matthews

When the Florida Gators take the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 4th against Miami Ohio, a new quarterback will lead the offense for the first time in three years. Gator legacy John Brantley will finally get his chance to etch his mark in the annals of Gator history. Brantley has one of college football’s toughest job in years, replacing all-everything Gator and college football legend, Tim Tebow. If the past is any indicator of the future, Gator fans can rest assured. Brantley broke Tebow’s high school state record for career passing touchdowns by throwing 99 to Tebow’s 98. As a backup last season, the 6’3, 217 lb redshirt junior was considered the third best QB in the SEC, behind starters Tebow and  Ryan Mallett (Arkansas). Many college football pundits are calling him a dark horse Heisman candidate this year.

Brantley comes from a rich football pedigree. His father, John Brantley III, and his uncle, Scot Brantley, both played football at the University of Florida in the late 1970s. Brantley’s Trinity Catholic High School football coach, Kerwin Bell, started at QB for the Gators in the 1980s, before enjoying a short stint in the NFL and Canadian Football League. However, even with his life-long grooming and years as a student of the game, nothing will prepare Brantley for the high expectations and pressure that he will face in less than three weeks. That being said, he is well-suited to handle it.

Brantley attended Trinity Catholic H.S., in Ocala, FL, 40 miles outside of Gainesville. He led Trinity to a state title in 2005, passing for 2,835 yards, 41 touchdowns, and just 5 interceptions. While Trinity did not win the state title in Brantley’s senior year, he still put up illustrious numbers earning him multiple state and national recognitions. He was named the 2006 Gatorade National Player of the Year and was invited to participate in the prestigious Nike Elite 11 Quarterback camp. Brantley impressed, and garnered camp MVP honors. The highlight of his senior year, however, was being invited to play in the highly selective U.S. Army All-American Bowl. As expected, Brantley was heavily recruited by Texas, OklahomaAlabama and Florida. He originally committed to Texas, but backed out of his commitment after talking it over with his family. Brantley decided to follow in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps, and play college ball at Florida. He enrolled at UF in 2007.

Brantley redshirted for the 2007 season, but has seen a decent amount of playing time the past two seasons. While there isn’t much film on him, what people do have is nothing short of impressive. In two years of serving as Tebow’s back-up, Brantley has put up excellent numbers. He’s passed for 645 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He carries a 71 pass completion percentage and has a passer efficiency rating of 183.

Although the loss of Tebow will be indelibly felt, Gator fans could not be in better hands with John Brantley at the helm of the offense. He has studied under Urban Meyer for three years now and has a firm grasp of the Gators’ version of the spread offense. With the offensive firepower that Meyer and the Gators have amassed over the past few years, Brantley will have no shortage of weapons at his disposal. While it seems almost blasphemous to say, the Florida offense just might be even deadlier with Brantley behind center. Given Brantley’s familial ties and upbringing, it would be surprising to see him cave under the pressures and expectations of the fanatical faction of Gator Nation. They say you never want to follow a legend, but for every Joe Montana, there’s a Steve Young.

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