With the Florida Gators 2011 spring practice now in full swing, the school made a number of the team’s players available to the media to conclude the third week of action on Thursday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new offense under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.
BRANTLEY FINDING HIS GROOVE
Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, as expected, is much more comfortable under Weis’s pro-style offense. His confidence was noticeable during his press availability on Thursday, when he was eager to answer questions and discuss his comfort level with the brand new coordinator. “He’s a great guy. I respect Coach Weis a bunch,” Brantley said. “I really appreciate him and what he’s doing for us right now. He’s a great guy, great coach. I’ll listen to everything he says […] He knows how to develop quarterbacks.”
Brantley also spoke about the competition for the starting quarterback job and if it is weird for him to be starting from scratch with both redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy and true freshman Jeff Driskel. “[By] helping each other out, you learn even more,” he said. “If someone needs help, teaching them also helps you out, helps them out. We’re working as team; we’re a team. We’re fighting for a position, but we’re all buddies.”
Now that he is getting the playbook down, Brantley is anxious to compete in more scrimmages like the one held last Saturday and the upcoming 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on April 9. “The scrimmage aspect, that’s more game-like reps. Everything moves a little bit faster and that definitely helps you out,” he said. “With learning this new offense, the only way you get better is with more reps.”
RAINEY SEEKING REDEMPTION
Going into the 2010 season looking to make an impact, now-redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey took a while to reach his goal. Switched to wide receiver due to the need for someone to fill the “Percy Position” in the spread offense, Rainey never seemed completely comfortable early on. Then all hell broke loose and he was indefinitely suspended from the team until the Georgia game, when he came back primarily as a rusher and hit the ground hard for 89 yards and a touchdown.
With former head coach Urban Meyer out the door, Rainey has been moved back to a rushing role and is beaming about the opportunity he has in front of him for 2011. “I love it. I’m comfortable in the system. All the other years, it’s just been quarterback runs and stuff like that,” he said Thursday. “[I like lining up in the backfield] way better. When you see high school [games of] me, it’s just like that. […] I’m glad I’m just a running back.” He also explained why the new role makes him more dangerous. “When I get the ball [now], I can just read the whole field,” he said. “That gives me a chance to read the field, do whatever I want. [It’s] more freedom.”
Rainey added that Brantley is “made for this offense” and is noticeably “more comfortable,” feeling good and “doing everything right” behind center. Overall, he thinks fans will be very pleased with what the offense has in store for next season. “[It will have] a lot of excitement, a lot of big plays [and] a lot more people involved. Just a lot of fun. Fans are going to be happy again,” he said.
He also spoke briefly about turning his life around after last season’s off -the-field incident. “I grew up a lot, did a lot of thinking. I just look past it to look at the future,” he said. “I’m more focused, doing everything right, looking forward to being a leader.”
Brantley on how the wide receivers have played: “They’ve all done a great job. The young guys are stepping up. Quinton Dunbar and Omarius [Hines] and Deonte [Thompson] – they’ve always been the great players they are. Quinton Dunbar and [Stephen] Alli – they’ve been doing a great job this spring.”
Brantley on how Dunbar is doing: “He’s just making plays. Whenever his number’s called, he’s able to step in there and do his job.”
Brantley on the first scrimmage: “It felt pretty good. It wasn’t perfect. It’s tough to be perfect, especially learning a new offense, but it was really good. Everyone went out there and was very competitive. Everyone’s ready to get going.”
Brantley on if the offense is overly complicated: “No. Not once you get it down. Not once you get into it and get into the playbook and study it. It gets easier and easier every day.”
Rainey on Weis being at Florida: “He loves it. The first thing he said when he got here was that this was the most athletes he’s ever been around. So we felt good about that one.”
Rainey on working with track star and senior RB Jeff Demps: “We meet up sometimes, talk about motions. It’s basically easy – most of the plays are the same thing but different formations.”
Rainey on carrying the load during spring practice: “It’s hard, but I’m an athlete. I’m in shape. So I’m good.”
Rainey on what has changed: “New team. New me. New system.”
Rainey on losing Meyer, with whom he was close: “Anything can happen any given day, so you just got to be prepared and just ready for it.”
Rainey on Weis’s humor: “He’s a big joker, but he can be very serious, too. What he says goes.”