August 14, 2009

Brantley to see significant playing time for Florida Gators

Head coach Urban Meyer stated that backup quarterback John Brantley will likely see a good bit of meaningful playing time in the first half of games this season.

While this comes as little surprise to myself and many in the Gator Nation, ESPN has run wild with the idea. Around the Horn tackled the topic two days ago and the general consensus was that Brantley will essentially play a mop-up role.

Personally, I disagree. I've watched Brantley for the past three years and he has all the tools to be a terrific quarterback. Even as I sat watching the segment with an LSU friend of mine, I had trouble explaining to him how bringing in Brantley during an important part of the game could be an effective strategy for the Gators.

Here's how I see Brantley fitting into the offense. Much like Urban Meyer did when Tim Tebow was a freshman, Brantley will be brought in to run a specific package. Meyer will set up teams this way, getting them to see a general tendency when Brantley is in the game.

So, to figure out what this type of package may be, we need to analyze the areas of Brantley's game that are better than Tebow's.

Clearly, as my friend pointed out, Tebow is a much better runner than Tebow. While Brantley is a much more effective runner than most people give him credit for, that much is true.

Tebow is also a very good passer, but there is one aspect of Brantley's passing game that is clearly better than Tebow's: the deep ball.

I see Urban bringing on John Brantley to throw a good number of deep balls early on in the season. This will force defenses to drop back in coverage a bit more when Brantley is in. Once Meyer gets defenses to respect Brantley's deep ball, that's where the Brantley package can be truly effective.

Much like defenses stacked the box when Meyer brought Tebow in for Chris Leak, defenses will drop back a bit more than usual with Brantley in. Instead of pulling up after a one step lunge fake, and then tossing a jump pass, Brantley will do the opposite.

Defenses will drop back, and Brantley will drop back like he's ready to throw the bomb. Instead, he'll find one of his elite playmakers (Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Deonte Thompson, Andre Debose, etc.) to take the ball short and run in the added space due to the defense being dropped back a bit.

Do I think that Brantley will come in as much as Tebow did as a freshman? Probably not. There's just no denying that adding Brantley to the mix early in games gives the defense something else to think about and something else to prepare for.

If there's anything we've learned from Urban Meyer over the past few years, it's that he likes to throw new wrinkles at opposing defenses to make them prepare for more. His entire offense is built around this manner of thinking.

So while ESPN may call BS on the Brantley package, it's something that Meyer will be likely to try just to get defenses off balance, if nothing else.

One final point made by the Around the Horn crew was that bringing in Brantley early would hurt Tebow's Heisman chances. I see their point to a certain extent.

However, at the same time, with the two rotating I think it allows the coaches to keep Tebow in the game for longer. When you're mixing up your quarterbacks throughout the whole game, it is effectively the same thing as playing each for one half. Either way,

it limits the amount of hits the quarterback can take, and in fact it's probably more effective since they get breathers throughout, rather than playing full back-to-back drives.

Personally, after watching Brantley's deep ball over the past few years, I'll be holding my breath getting ready to yell "TOUCHDOWN" every time Brantely enters the huddle and Tebow jogs for the sideline.

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