Florida football’s 2011 media day – Players

By Adam Silverstein
August 6, 2011

With the Florida Gators finally beginning 2011 fall practice on Saturday, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley and a handful other players met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. The Gators took the field for the first time on Saturday but all practices will be closed to both fans and the media.

BRANTLEY READY TO STEP UP ON AND OFF THE FIELD

There is no question that the 2010 season was tumultuous for Brantley, but with a new coaching staff and a renewed sense of trust in his abilities, he is more focused than ever heading into 2011. “My confidence is a lot higher now since when the new coaches arrived,” he said Friday. “When the new coaching staff got here, it was all new to me. Now that I have spring football under my belt and have had all summer to study the playbook, I think as a team we’re ready to go. We’re excited about this camp and this season.”

Part of Brantley’s learning curve was learning how to overcome adversity – something he faced plenty of one year ago. “I definitely learned last year, that when things aren’t going right or when things did go wrong to just forget about it and move on,” he said. “Keep my head up and keep looking forward. If your head is down, other people’s heads are going to go down. You just have to keep moving.“

The other portion of his newfound confidence has to do with the brand new offense being installed by offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. “During spring ball he tried to get our offense down and pound that in our heads,” Brantley said. “I think during this camp and during this upcoming season he’s going to teach me a lot more about watching film and preparing for games.”

He also realizes that it is up to the entire team to embrace the pro-style offense and move forward with the new system. “In the spring, that new offense was a challenge for us. It was a new challenge that we had to face, and we all took it on,” Brantley noted. “We’re excited about it now that we’ve gotten a little deeper into it. We know it better and are just more excited to get going again. Summer is over now, and we’re excited finally to get back on the field and actually play football.”

DEMPS ALMOST LEFT. REALLY.

Senior running back Jeff Demps, in Italy running with the U.S. National Team, admitted Friday that he did give serious consideration to not returning to the football team this season. “It was close, but maybe not as close as some people thought,” Demps said. “There were people saying I wasn’t going to play football this year. Once I got back, I talked to my parents and talked to my coaches and decided to come back and play football for my senior year.”

Though he does have designs on running track professionally, Demps still believes he can succeed at his first dream, playing in the NFL. “Hopefully, I can play at the next level,” he said. “Hopefully, I have options.”

Another notable occurrence Friday was the new Gators roster, in which it is noted that Demps changed his jersey number from two to 28. “I just felt like No. 2 was more of an all-purpose back’s number,” he told The Gainesville Sun. “I wanted to wear a tailback’s number this year.”

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the remainder of this post.]NEW STAFF MAKING AN IMPACT

Ranked No. 23 in the USA Today coaches preseason poll, Florida is certainly facing lowered expectations in 2011 compared to 2010, something Brantley certainly does not mind. “We’re going to go out there like we have every season and just try to be our best. That is all we can do,” he said. “We can go out there every day, try to win that day, try to get better each practice and if that happens, we’ll be able to get back to where we were.”

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jelani Jenkins, from a defensive perspective, is also looking forward to learning under a staff with plenty of NFL experience under their belt. “I’m trying to take as much knowledge as I can from them and prepare for this season and eventually for the NFL. That’s really a goal I set for myself and where I want to be,” he said. “Everything they’re giving us is new; it’s like a clean slate. I’m really looking forward to the season and what’s next. I’m ready to be out there, going hard and giving it everything I’ve got.”

Like Jenkins, junior LB Jon Bostic is pleased with the new staff and believes one mantra in particular has really stuck with the team. “One philosophy is to play together as a team. That’s what I saw. They were trying to get everyone back together,” he said. “A lot of the stuff that we did in the offseason, weightlifting and everything, brought the team a lot closer together.”

DEBOSE EXCITED FOR A NEW OPPORTUNITY

One of the criticisms of redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose a year ago was that he had difficulties learning the playbook and committing fully to improving for the team. On Friday, Debose said all of that has changed and he is finally comfortable with himself as a football player and his role with the squad.

“It’s something that happened over the summer. I really just took football to another level. I have really made football a priority of mine,” he said. “I’ve studied a lot more. I’ve really dove into the playbook, so I feel like I have a nice grasp of it. We’ll know the truth once we get on the field and practice what you’ve been studying the whole time.”

Now what he describes as “under the radar” Debose no longer has to worry about “being ‘the man’ and always having everybody with their eye on [me],” instead he can concentrate on simpy being the best he can be. “Mentally, I’m 100 percent more prepared than I was last year. Last year I still had a lot of doubts in my mind about my injury and everything,” he explained. “Every year [since] I came to Florida I’ve always had something on my mind coming into the season.”

ELAM IS CONFIDENT, FOCUSED AND READY

Stepping into a leadership role himself, sophomore safety Matt Elam knows his team no longer has the hype surrounding it that it did one year ago. Nevertheless, he is quite sure that the underdog role will suit him and his teammates quite well.

“I love being an underdog. It pushes me harder. The whole team knows we’re underdogs, and it makes us practice harder and stick together. Being an underdog is very important to us,” he said. “People don’t know what goes on around here. The coaches are great. We’re more as a team. We’re closer. And we’re the underdogs, so we’re working harder.”

Being an underdog will not be enough for the Gators to succeed right away. However, the team’s youth and athleticism could go a long way to helping them reach their goals. “We’re young, but we’re fast. I think we’re the fastest team in the country,” he said. “We’re learning a lot from each other. We’re learning what everybody does best, so if we put all that together we can become great. It’s all about confidence. If you have confidence, you’ll do great things.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Brantley on redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed: “Jordan Reed is probably one of our best athletes on the team. Having him at tight end creates mismatches on linebackers, and we’re excited about that. He has bought into that position, and I’m excited for him to be playing at tight end.”

» Brantley on redshirt freshman wide receiver Quinton Dunbar: “Quinton made a lot of plays during the spring, and that definitely boosted my confidence with him. He can run any route, catch any ball. We’re hoping for big things out of him, and I think that he will be able to prevail.”

» Brantley on redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey: “Chris was definitely a little different this summer. He was kind of quiet; he was a leader, but quiet. He just worked hard every day, went out there with a great attitude and that definitely showed with him. It spreads throughout the team, that kind of confidence.”

» Brantley on his offensive line: “I have a lot of confidence with my O- line. I’ve been with them for a couple of years now – they’re a real close bunch, and I’m close with all of them. They are all fairly new to playing, but I think they’re going to be very hungry and ready to learn.”

» Brantley on the team being underrated entering the season: “We’re never relaxed. We are trying to compete every day to win. The next two weeks during camp, we’re going to try and get better every day. It doesn’t matter if we’re 80th or first in the polls – we’re going to keep doing the same thing and keep getting better each day.”

» Brantley on Muschamp’s all-around energy and intensity: “He’s just not intense on the field; he’s very intense in the meeting room. I’ve heard him through the doors sometimes coaching. It’s awesome. That keeps everyone awake and in tune. Everyone is listening to him.”

» Brantley on sophomore TE Gerald Christian: “He brings a lot. When people see Gerald in there they might think run, but he’s a great athlete. He has great hands and he’s very able to go out for passes. That helps you out because you never know what could happen when he’s in.”

» Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. on emerging as a big play guy: “It’s on all of our minds because everybody wants to be that go-to guy and right now all of us are out there working and grinding. We’re going into camp and nothing is set in stone.”

» Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio on the hardest part of camp: “Just staying healthy. We need everybody to stay healthy on the offensive and defensive lines. We just want to be healthy on both sides. […] We definitely have something to prove. We have a lot of young guys on the offensive line that need to step up this season. We need to stay healthy. We’re excited that we have Matt Patchan back, he’s a real good football player right now. We just need to stay healthy and have everybody step up.”

» Sophomore running back Trey Burton on if he is used to succeeding in short-yardage situations: “I had 30 rushing touchdowns my junior year and more than half of them were from the goal-line. So, I was used in short-yardage.”

» Burton on what the coaches are telling him about play time: “They’re telling me they will line me up at a bunch of different positions and they are going to try to get me the ball as much as possible.”

» Redshirt junior defensive end Lerentee McCray on his goals: “Taking advantage of every opportunity I get to step on the field and helping this team win. Helping the team win is the main goal.”

» McCray on giving advice to underclassmen: “The most advice I give my teammates is to come in and work hard. Don’t let me down. I won’t let you down. It’s a brotherhood-type thing, I’ve got your back, and you’ve got my back. That’s the main thing we’ve been working on this offseason.”

» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis on how he improved recently: “One thing we did this offseason was work with the snappers and holders. I worked a lot with John Crofoot, he’s my holder, and just try to go out there every day that way you get muscle memory and comfortable and next thing you know you’re in games and it doesn’t feel any different. That’s been good. I felt like I had to start over this year because I missed so much time but I think that was a good thing because you can develop some bad habits over time and I think that allowed me to fix some of those.”

» Bostic on becoming a leader: “I’ll probably be taking on more of a leadership role. Me and Jelani coming in we were both quiet players. We let our talk be our play but this year we’ve been trying to be leaders on the defense.”

» Bostic on helping the younger players: “Just bring them along. They’re part of this too. We’re one team. We can’t leave anyone behind. We have a goal to get to Atlanta and we have to make sure that everybody is there. We can’t leave one person behind. We have to bring them along because if someone goes down they have to get in the game.”

» Bostic on Elam becoming a leader, too: “This offseason, how much he’s stepped up. Once he realized Ahmad Balck, Will Hill, they’re gone. It’s his turn. He’s just taking that big step, taking that leadership role. He wasn’t one of those big vocal guys in the back of the defense, but now he’s taking that on.”

» Senior defensive end William Green on his leadership role: “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been telling the underclassmen to take advantage of every opportunity. When you meet with your coaches actually do that and embrace it.”[/EXPAND]

One Comment

  1. John S says:

    They seem to be buying in. Stay healthy fellas.

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