GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Once Florida hired offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to run a pro-style offense, John Brantley’s decision became clear.
Brantley, mostly ineffective in Florida’s spread system, chose Friday to stay in Gainesville and finish his college career with the Gators. Brantley considered transferring after coach Urban Meyer stepped down last month, wanting to see if he might find a better fit elsewhere.
But his father, John Brantley III, told The Associated Press in a text message that his son has “been a Gator his whole life and no reason to change now.”
So Brantley will get a fresh start under Weis, whose resume includes productive, pro-style offenses at Notre Dame. Weis also won three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and helped the Kansas City Chiefs make the playoffs this season.
“(The pro offense is) something that he was very comfortable doing in high school and I’m sure that’s something he’s going to look forward to doing,” said Jacksonville coach Kerwin Bell, who coached Brantley at Trinity High in nearby Ocala. “He is going to have a wonderful guy with a lot of experience who’s coached a lot of great quarterbacks.”
Brantley, one of the country’s prized recruits in 2007, had a disappointing season after replacing former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Brantley completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,061 yards, with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He was clearly a misfit in the spread, struggling to read defenses, missing open receivers and often holding the ball too long. It didn’t help that the Gators were plagued by bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, sacks, missed field goals and poor execution in the red zone. All the issues resulted in some of the program’s worst offensive performances in more than two decades.
In hopes of turning things around, Florida experimented with tight end Jordan Reed and versatile H-back Trey Burton at quarterback, but neither proved to be a long-term solution.
Brantley could be, in the right offense.
The 6-foot-3 junior spent three years waiting for this opportunity. He came to Florida a year after Tebow, knowing he might have to sit behind the left-hander. He certainly could have transferred and might even have become a star elsewhere.
But Brantley didn’t leave — not after Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman in 2007 and not after Tebow decided to return for his senior year in 2009. Instead, he simply served as Tebow’s long-standing understudy.
Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio insisted they tweaked the offense to tailor Brantley’s strengths, but the quarterback rarely lined up under center and was asked to run option plays.
Brantley, though, never questioned his coaches. He repeatedly said he trusted their judgment and would do whatever asked — even if it meant stepping aside for Burton and Reed.
But Brantley’s frustration became evident when he said last month he planned to sit down with his family and talk about transferring. They never got close to making a move, not after new coach Will Muschamp hired Weis and made it clear he wanted to install a pro-style system similar to the one Brantley ran to near perfection in high school.
Brantley’s Florida lineage made his decision to stay in Gainesville even easier. He grew up rooting for the Gators and followed in the footsteps of his dad and uncle.
His father threw for 1,334 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1978. His uncle, Scot Brantley, was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference linebacker for the Gators (1978-79).
“Johnny loves the Gators,” Bell said. “That’s what ultimately made the decision as far as playing college football. He loved going to the games. He went there as a child growing up. He’s a true Gator and I know he really wants to do well this year for the Gator fans and have a great senior year.”