John Brantley is coming up on his fourth season at Florida.
Some guys are already thinking about whether to leave for the NFL by that time. In Brantley’s case, he’s yet to take a meaningful snap for the Gators.
That’s what happens when you’re playing behind one of the best college football players of this era.
“When you look back, it seems like it’s been a while,” said Brantley, who takes over for Tim Tebow after patiently waiting his turn. “But in a lot of ways, it’s also gone by pretty fast.”
Brantley, who broke the Florida state high school record with 99 career touchdown passes, admits it was almost surreal when he walked onto the field Wednesday for the Gators’ first practice of the spring.
“It felt different going out there on the field and being the guy for the first time,” Brantley said. “But my focus doesn’t change. I’m just trying to go out there and get better each day and win the trust of my teammates so that we can keep winning.”
Brantley, a redshirt junior, is thankful now that he wasn’t rushed into being a starter and had the luxury of soaking everything in as Tebow’s backup.
There’s no doubt in his mind that he’s much more equipped to step in and lead this team now because of that experience.
“You learn so much by sitting back and watching and learning the game,” Brantley said. “As a freshman, I didn’t know what was going on. The game was way too fast for me. Now that I’ve been around and gone through the springs and participated with the first team, it doesn’t seem nearly as fast.
“I know I’m ready to go in and play right now. I wouldn’t have been as a freshman.”
Brantley threw the ball extremely well Wednesday, but he’s been throwing it well ever since he arrived on campus. That’s what he does, and the Gators will tweak their offense to take advantage of his ability to fit the ball in just about anywhere.
And while some Florida fans may be concerned about who Brantley will throw the ball to next fall, he insists he’s not.
“You’re definitely going to see new faces come out and make names for themselves,” Brantley said. “I think all of my playmakers are very good. It’s not just one, and some of those guys who haven’t gotten as much of a chance to play are ready to show what they can do.
“We’re all sort of in this together.”
While the offense will change some with Brantley at the helm, he said the pass plays are all the same and it’s not going to look a lot different to fans.
There is one exception.
“I won’t be running over people and outrunning people,” joked Brantley, referring to Tebow’s running prowess. “I’ll let somebody else handle those duties.”
As great as he was on the field, Tebow was an even better leader. It was his team, and his teammates fed off his energy, passion and commitment.
That’s a role that Brantley’s not going to inherit overnight, which is OK. He’s not trying to be Tim Tebow. He just wants to be John Brantley.
“I have to become more vocal and be a leader on that field and a leader in the huddle,” Brantley said. “The best way to do that is to perform and make sure your teammates know that you’re always going to have their backs.”