It just isn’t easy and it keeps getting harder. The Florida offense, besieged by injuries and who knows what else, has woefully underperformed in 2010. At the helm of the offense is junior quarterback John Brantley who has at times looked like a fish out of water with some of the plays he has been asked to perform. However, he remains true to the cause.
In the spring against a very strong Florida secondary, John Brantley would throw the ball all over the yard at practice. It appeared then that the Florida Gators would see a changing of the guard at quarterback from maybe the most prolific player in college football history, to a guy that could do well for himself and his team, albeit in a different way.
So far this season that hasn’t panned out.
The Florida staff has tried to play Brantley in a number of different ways. He’s a strong thrower with all the tools to put the ball where it needs to go and so they have had him throw a bit. Brantley has made passes this season that Florida fans haven’t seen since Rex Grossman was on the field playing for the Gators back in the 2002 season.
He has also been asked to run a great deal more than he has ever been used to, but that was probably a given for him coming into the season. On Saturday night, in the 10-7 loss to Mississippi State, he was accountable for nine rushes on the night, a career high which also included three sacks.
Saturday night, we saw just how frustrating the Florida offense can be. There were plays here and there, but the offense could only score seven points. Brantley got off to a slow start, completing 2-of-8 passes for five yards, but then followed by completing 10-of-13 for 116 yards to finish the first half 12-of-21 for 121 yards and an INT. He finished the game 24-of-39 for 210 yards
One problem this offense and Brantley has faced is the lack of a down field threat. Teams are just not allowing the Gators to break anything big on them.
“They are (getting open), they are doing a great job,” Brantley said after the game. “We have to take what the defense gives us. Sometimes we can’t get that down the field and we have to settle for a three to five-yard gain.”
One thing they were able to do Saturday night was try and get the ball in a lot of receiver’s hands. Nine different receivers caught the ball on the night, but, scoring and big plays remain the issues with this offense.
Despite the spreading around of the ball, injuries and whatever reasons have kept this team from being better.
“Some guys are banged up, but we have a bunch of great play makers on the field,” he said. "It is tough to say right now (what the issues are).
Production in the red zone has been a huge issue in the last three weekends. Saturday night, the Gators could only score one time inside the 25-yard line.
“I’m not sure right now,” he said when asked why the team is having such difficulty scoring in tight. “We practice it. I just don’t have a good explanation for it.”
Some left the game dismayed that Florida never took a shot at the end zone near the end of the game when they had a few chances to do so. Down by three, they were close enough to try a field goal or take a couple of shots, but Brantley didn’t feel his guys were open due to MSU’s defense.
“We practice two-minute (drill) a lot, it is a big part of what we do,” he said. “I always say we will fight till the very end. We tried to get it done.
“They dropped back everyone they could and took away about everything. In a two-minute drive, you have to take what you can get, get five yards at a time and that’s what happens.”
The one time the Gators were able to find the end zone, they scored on an 80-yard drive and Brantley threw two incomplete passes the entire drive. Backup quarterback Trey Burton was one of the main weapons on the drive and Burton capped it off at the end with an option pitch to receiver Omarius Hines for the score.
Brantley said the two quarterback situation is something the team is conditioned for at this point.
“I don’t think it affects us too much,” he said. “We’re just trying to make plays. Trey is a great player and he makes those kinds of plays. Anything to give us a chance to win, I am all for it.”
The Gators have lost three games in a row for the first time since 1988. It could be a very fragile locker room with a great mix of young and old players alike. That just isn’t so according to the junior from Ocala.
“The locker room…we have each other,” he said, “We are a real close bunch. Just seeing (Ahmad Black) and the guys, we all have each other’s backs and will help each other. Win or lose, we will all keep fighting and have each other’s back.”
The Gator Nation has turned their frustration on offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Addazio is in his second year as coordinator at Florida and most fans feel the gators under performed a year ago as well. Brantley isn’t going in that direction.
“We trust coach Addazio and trust the plays he calls and believe in what he does,” he said.
Florida head coach Urban Meyer said he expects some big changes to come before the Gators play Georgia in Jacksonville in two weeks. This bye week comes at a time where they can use it to possibly retool a bit and rethink what direction they want to move forward.
A frustrated and teary eyed Brantley is as upset as anyone and when told of Meyer’s response that he expects to make big changes soon, Brantley stood his ground for his coaching staff.
“If that’s what Coach Meyer thinks we need to do then we are all for it,” he said. “We have Coach Meyer’s back, and we have Coach Addazio’s back. Whatever they want to do we are all for it.”
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