Commentary

Brantley suited for Weis' pro-style attack

Originally Published: March 15, 2011
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When new Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met Gators quarterback John Brantley IV for the first time, Weis couldn't help but rib Brantley for his college choice.

Five years ago, then-Notre Dame coach Weis tried to recruit Brantley to play for the Irish. Brantley, from Ocala, Fla., decided to follow in his father's footsteps and play for the Gators, even though his skill set wasn't a perfect match for then-Florida coach Urban Meyer's spread offense.

[+] EnlargeJohn Brantley
Kim Klement/US PresswireJohn Brantley threw nine TD passes in 2010.

"You came here to run the spread; that made a lot of sense," Weis told Brantley. "That was a smart decision on your part."

Brantley, who was one of the country's most highly recruited quarterbacks as a senior at Ocala's Trinity Catholic High School in 2006, waited three seasons behind 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. When Brantley finally got his chance to start for the Gators last season, it didn't take long to see he wasn't the right fit for Meyer's offense.

"On the hoof, he looks like a pure drop-back quarterback playing in a spread offense," Weis said. "It's not a natural fit. That's not an indictment of John or the previous staff."

Weis said he believes Brantley is better suited to play in his pro-style attack, and the Gators will give Brantley every chance to win the starting job this spring. When Florida opens spring practice on Wednesday, he will be the only returning quarterback with game experience.

Rising sophomores Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, who played quarterback last season, have moved to other positions. Burton will play a hybrid "F" position in Weis' offense, and Reed is listed as the team's first-team tight end.

"Fortunately for [Brantley], what he does the best athletically, it fits with what I like to do," Weis said. "Now that doesn't guarantee him a spot, but it gives him an upper hand with the experience that he has now fitting into an offense that fits what he does. I think that gives him a pretty good chance."

Florida's coaches aren't allowing Brantley to talk to reporters until spring practice begins. Brantley's father, John Brantley III, also declined comment when reached by ESPN.com on Tuesday.

Brantley was somewhat of a scapegoat in Florida's 8-5 campaign in Meyer's final season in 2010. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,061 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Brantley was sacked 22 times, and the Gators even struggled to snap him the football at times.

Brantley was so disappointed with his role last season that he nearly transferred to another school until Weis was hired.

Weis, who earned the reputation of a quarterback guru while working with NFL quarterbacks such as Tom Brady, Matt Cassell and Brady Quinn at Notre Dame, said his first task is restoring Brantley's confidence.

"The first thing you have to do is work on their confidence because nothing else matters," Weis said. "If you don't get the quarterback confident in his own abilities and leading the team, you don't have a chance."

[+] EnlargeWeis/Quinn
Elsa/Getty ImagesCharlie Weis tutored QB Brady Quinn at Notre Dame.

New Gators coach Will Muschamp said Brantley was one of Florida's better performers during the team's offseason conditioning program. Muschamp also singled out Brantley as one of the Gators' emerging leaders.

"He's worked hard in the offseason and he's a talented player," Muschamp said. "John needs to worry about John's expectations and mine and Charlie Weis' and nobody else's. That's what I think about expectations. Because ours are high, we expect a lot. And I know John expects a lot of himself, and we expect him to have an outstanding year."

Muschamp, who was Texas' defensive coordinator and coach in waiting before leaving for Florida, said he isn't looking for Brantley to perform like Brady or Tebow.

"I just know from the quarterback position, it's managing the game," Muschamp said. "Peyton Manning manages the game. Tom Brady manages the game. They don't turn the ball over. They take care of the ball. They provide great leadership for their offense and their football team. They convert on third down. They check and get in the right run. They check and get in the right protection. They see the pressure coming and they slide the offensive line. That's managing the game and that's what we want to see, and he's got the ability to do all of those things."

Weis said he won't ask Brantley to do things he's not equipped to do.

"He's not super athletic, but then Tommy Brady was not super athletic," Weis said. "I'm not comparing John Brantley to Tommy Brady, but just because somebody says you're not super athletic does not mean you can't be a front-line quarterback. I'm just saying there are certain systems that are more quarterback friendly to the guy that doesn't run sub-4.5 [seconds in the 40-yard dash]. He's not sub-4.5."

In Weis' system, Brantley won't be asked to run. He'll just be asked to take care of the football and distribute it to Florida's playmakers.

"That's really what I want to see and that's really true at every position, manage the game, play the game, play the game the way the position is supposed to be played to the best of your ability," Muschamp said.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball