Florida QB Brantley a different kind of leader

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The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)

NYT Regional Media Group

GAINESVILLE — Florida’s new starting quarterback can walk across campus or eat at a Gainesville restaurant and go virtually unnoticed, just another college kid going about his business.

Man, how things have changed now that Tim Tebow is out in Denver making a living in the NFL.

The legend is gone, and things are different now.

Things are different in a big way for John Brantley, the fourth-year junior from Ocala who has waited and waited and waited – and finally has taken over for Tebow.

The wait ended bright and early Thursday morning, when the former Ocala Trinity Catholic star and lifelong Gator fan stepped onto the UF practice field for the first time as Florida’s starting quarterback.

“It was a lot of fun to run out there and be with the ones,” Brantley said. “For the first day, we looked pretty good. I was real happy with it. We’re just going to keep getting better from here on out.

“Just knowing I’m the guy, I need to step in there and lead the team. Having those playmakers around me makes it easier on me. I have a different outlook on things knowing I’m going to be the guy stepping on the field in that first game. I’m really excited about our team right now and the direction we’re heading.”

For the past three seasons, the Gators were led by Tebow, one of the all-time great players in college football and perhaps the most popular figure in the history of UF football.

Now, the players say they’re ready to be led by Brantley.

“Tebow was a once in a lifetime quarterback. You can never replace a player like that,” senior offensive guard Carl Johnson said. “But we have a phenomenal quarterback in John Brantley.”

Senior center Mike Pouncey of Lakeland is predicting good things – for the Gators and for Brantley.

“I think we’re going to have a great team this year and Johnny B is going to hold his own and everyone is going to be surprised how he plays,” Pouncey said. “I think he’s going to do a really good job.”

Brantley is a different kind of leader and a different kind of player than Tebow. He’s a drop-back passer; Tebow was Mr. Everything.

Brantley is a little more on the laid-back side, but a strong leader as well, tailback Jeff Demps said.

“It’s just the way he carries himself,” Demps said. “He’s not a showboat or a cocky guy. He’s real down to earth. He can walk around and people treat him like he’s a normal person, which he is.

“John Brantley grew up as a Gator,” Pouncey said. “His whole life, that’s all he wanted to do (is play quarterback for UF). He bleeds orange and blue.”

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