With the Florida Gators starting spring practice for the 2011 season on Wednesday, the school made many of the team’s offensive players available to the media after the second day of action on Thursday. There was a noticeable excitement in the air about the possibilities in Florida’s new offense under coordinator Charlie Weis, as evidenced by some of the notable news and quotes provided during the press sessions.
BRANTLEY COMFORTABLE, READY TO MOVE ON
The subject of plenty of ire from Gator Nation in 2010, redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley is ready to put his and the team’s struggles behind him and move on with an enthusiastic outlook on the possibilities this season. Brantley explained that, while transferring was a consideration, he never stopped being a Gator during that period. “There wasn’t really a day where [I decided to] come back. I never left,” he said. “I never decided to leave because I wanted to be a Gator. So I never really left. I just decided this was still the place I want to be and this is where I am.”
Part of the reason Brantley chose to stick around was Weis and his penchant for developing quarterbacks. “That definitely helped,” he said. “Coach Weis is a genius for the offense. He’s going to do great things here. This whole new coaching staff is going to do great things here. […] He’s got a great track record. You can put a lot of trust in his hands because he knows what he’s doing and has got a track record to show it.”
The duo is already getting along “pretty good,” said Brantley, who noted that he is comfortable in the offense. “We haven’t had too much time together but time spent has been good. We’re getting that relationship. He’s a real cool guy. He loves to coach us hard, but he understands how we are and is going to do great things here. […] This [pro-style offense] is more my style. This is what I do – just drop back and throw it. We have some great running backs to take that pressure off of everything. All around I think it’s going to be a great thing.”
Asked if he lost confidence in himself last year, Brantley avoided the question by looking ahead to the future. “That’s the past. I’ve moved on, he said. “That’s what’s good about this new coaching staff – you’re starting new, from scratch, and building from there.”
Asked to evaluate how they believe Brantley will perform in Weis’s offense, three of Florida’s primary receivers for 2011 sounded amped for the senior. “I feel like Brantley is loving this offense,” redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose said*. “He’s enjoying every second of it. Him and Coach Weis, those two are enjoying each other a lot. I can tell; they’re bonding a lot.”
Junior Omarius Hines and redshirt senior Deonte Thompson conveyed similar sentiments. “Oh yeah. Brantley will be very comfortable,” said Hines, with Thompson adding*, “The offense will be a great fit for him, a great fit.”
REED GETTING RAVE REVIEWS
Spring practice has just begun, but one of the hottest names among the Gators is redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed. Originally supposed to move to that position last year, Reed did not have much time to develop there in the offseason and a spread offense in need of athleticism from the signal caller brought him back into that role.
“Hopefully, I’ll be better than last year because I’ll just be focusing on tight end,” Reed said*. “It is kind of a relief because I can focus on getting better at one thing, and I don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades, as they say. […] I’m just happy I can help out any way I can with the offense. If it’s me getting the ball, then that will be good. If it’s me blocking, anyway I can help.”
Brantley, the man who will be throwing him the ball and making sure he is productive, is just as excited about the change. “[Reed]’s going to be a huge weapon,” he said*. “It’s great to have a guy attached to the line, be able to block, be able to run for routes and be able to flex out into the slot and do the same things from there. It’s going to be huge for us to have that, and he’s going to be a dynamic player for us. We’ve got a lot of athletes, but he’s definitely one of the most athletic, that’s for sure.”
Thompson was also pumped about how Reed can help. “He’s a great athlete. He runs good routes, too. He’s diverse, man, so he’ll be great at tight end,” he said.
TAKING A DEEPER ROUTE
The receivers each had a glimmer in their eyes when a particular question was asked of them. That question? “Are you noticing any differences in the routes this year?” Hines, trying to distinguish how they are different, realized it was a pretty simple answer. “The routes are just deeper…not really different…just deeper,” he said. Thompson, who said he expects to play X receiver mostly but should see some time at the Z position as well, conveyed that the deeper routes are much-needed. “That’s really exciting,” he said. “Now the [defensive backs] can’t just sit on us.”
Perhaps the most notably excited overall was sophomore WR Solomon Patton. “The coaching staff that we have this year, I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I just feel like our swag is back. This coaching staff is so laid back, but at the same time they’re coaching us hard. They’re letting us play how we’ve been recruited to play. I’m really excited.”
Brantley on where the team is at right now: “We’re a long way from where we want to be, but it was a good start yesterday.”
Hines on his outlook for the offense: “Once we get everything situated, it’ll be real good.”
Hines on being in good shape: “The offseason program was difficult. A lot of running… but it was worth it.”
Debose on if he is anxious to learn the new system: “It’s a lot different. It’s a totally different offense from last year. Going through the winter program and the winter workouts, we’ve been really anxious just to get on the field and do football instead of just conditioning and everything.”
Debose on how he is adjusting: “I’m still trying to learn and just soak up all the information Coach Weis is asking of us. I can’t really tell you what they’re going to do with me; it’s just basic information right now.”
Debose on participating in spring practice: “This is actually my first spring that I was actually able to practice on the first day of practice. Everything is pretty much new to me, too, so I’m still trying to pick up the way practice is going.”
Debose on what WR position he can/will play: “I see my role everywhere. I’m able to play inside or outside.”
Thompson on being listed at the F position on the initial depth chart: “I think that was a misprint. I haven’t been in the slot yet. Frankie is in the slot.”
Redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy on how reps are being shared^: “We’re all getting equal reps. Come in the fall, none of us will be upset, and we’ll all be content with the decision knowing we all got a fair chance.”
Murphy on rumors he was going to transfer to Temple*: “It was a coincidence that [Steve Addazio] did go to Temple. But I really like this school. I enjoy it off the field and academics are great. I thought it would be best if I stayed and give it a shot.”
Attribution: Quotes without marks were acquired by OGGOA. Those marked with * are courtesy of The Gainesville Sun, and those with a ^ are courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.