Florida Gators fans breathed a sigh of relief on Monday when head coach Will Muschamp officially announced that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was probable for Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL.
Though Muschamp said the plan was for Brantley, who suffered a lower leg injury against Alabama, to slowly progress through practice this week in hopes of playing, early returns have him doing well both on the field in practice and off the field with his rehab.
“[He’s doing] a lot more than I thought he was going to be able to do, which was encouraging,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said on Tuesday. “We’re cautiously optimistic it’s going to be him [starting], but he could come in tomorrow and it could be all swollen up and he’s not walking.
“You’re cautiously optimistic but you can’t just go in planning on it’s just him. You can’t think that way. We’re geared towards multiple options here. Fortunately in the bye week, you have enough time to make those plans. It would be pretty rough to try to plan something like this in a one-week time frame.
“[He has] to be able to run the offense. Obviously a big part of running the offense is being able to throw the ball on time, efficiently and effectively. That’s one of the reasons why the arrow is pointing up, because he’s had a pretty productive week so far.”
It is not just Weis who is “cautiously optimistic” about Brantley’s return this week.
“He looks pretty smooth. He came back to practice and is limited and everybody is getting reps,” Hammond said.
“He looked good to me and that’s all I know,” Rainey added.
Hammond also explained that having Brantley back in the fold will help Florida’s offense progress after being stalled for the last 10 quarters of football.
“Seeing him out there definitely plays a major role because he’s the guy that has the experience and can spread the ball around” he said. “Seeing him out there definitely gives some comfort to the receivers.”
Being back on the field also means a lot to Brantley, who has just a handful of games remaining in his college career to prove his critics wrong and show that he can compete both in the Southeastern Conference and possibly on Sundays in the near future.
Weis said Tuesday that Brantley’s NFL potential is something that can be discussed at length months from now. At this point in the season, there is just one thing he and the team have to concentrate on going forward.
“We have to not worry about his football future but how his return would affect our football team. Realistically, the most important thing really with him coming back isn’t what’s going to happen with him down the road,” he said.
“It’s the psychological lift that he’ll bring to our entire team. This was no big secret that the kid was playing good. Everyone feels a lot more confident going into a game now knowing that there’s a good chance that he’s going to be out there slinging it.”
That confidence is something that was lacking one season ago, when Brantley was blamed for many of the Gators’ offensive woes. Weis finds that to be quite ironic.
“Here’s what I do know,” he quipped. “All those people who wanted him out of here now can’t wait to get him back. Isn’t that funny how that story changes?”
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