Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
This week is no different than any other week for Florida backup quarterback John Brantley.
OK, it’s dramatically different. But as a backup quarterback, you go into every week expecting and preparing to play.
If not, there’s no way you’re ever going to be ready if they call your number.
Brantley is ready, at least as ready as he’ll ever be on such short notice, if Tim Tebow can’t play this Saturday against LSU.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to come, so you always have to be ready,” Brantley said. “I think about that every week. You’re always just one play away.”
Brantley, a 6-foot-3, 217-pound sophomore, finished the game at Kentucky after Tebow went down with a concussion. The Gators were already ahead 34-7 when he entered the game late in the third quarter, but he said it was still good to get some time on the road.
“I know it wasn’t anything like it will be at LSU, but to get some quality minutes on the road definitely benefited me,” said Brantley, who was 4-of-6 for 30 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper. “Just to have played a whole quarter and to get the feel of the game can’t do anything but help.”
Even though he’s preparing to be the Gators’ starter this weekend, Brantley sure isn’t counting out Tebow, especially after seeing him practice Tuesday.
“None of us know what’s going to happen. Tim doesn’t even know,” Brantley said. “He came to practice yesterday all pumped up. I just know that he looked really good at practice. I haven’t heard any feedback of how he felt. But so far, so good.
“I know he’s treating it like he’s going to start, and I’m treating it like I’m going to start.”
Brantley’s forte is throwing the football. He threw 99 career touchdown passes at Trinity Catholic High in Ocala, Fla., breaking the Florida state record shared by Tebow and former Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee.
With Tebow limited because of offseason shoulder surgery, Brantley was one of the Gators’ stars this past spring with how he threw the football. He was impressive enough that Florida coach Urban Meyer said he deserved to play some in the first half of games this season.
But as much as anything, that experience in the spring where he took about half the snaps with the first-team offense was a chance for Brantley to win the trust of his teammates.
“They trust me, and I trust them,” Brantley said. “I think that’s very important going into such a hostile environment. They know I can step in and make this happen if they need me to.”
While not giving away too much, Brantley said it’s no secret that what he does best is throw the ball. He’s not going to bring to the running game what Tebow does. In four games, Tebow has already carried the ball 55 times for 271 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
So that part of the game would change if Brantley’s under center. He’s not going to be the go-to guy on third-and-short or down near the goal line, but he also doesn’t see the Gators overhauling what they do on offense, either.
“We really haven’t changed much that I’ve noticed, so I don’t think our plan will change a whole lot,” Brantley said. “They’ll definitely use my strengths. I’m not a runner. But I’ve been practicing very well [this week] and executing what we’re calling.”
The thing Meyer and Florida quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler have pounded into Brantley’s head this week is to be prepared for anything, and that starts with being mentally prepared.
“That’s what I really worked on this past spring and this camp, the mental aspect, going into an environment like this, and if something goes bad, how you forget about it and come back and keep playing,” Brantley said. “If you have a bad play, move on.
“I think I’m mentally ready. If I get the chance, I guess we’ll see.”