John Brantley came to Florida to honor a family tradition. Today at the Orange & Blue Game, he finally ascends to the throne to lead the Gators in one of the glamour positions in college sports; Quarterback, Florida Gators.
Brantley's turn at quarterback comes as nearly the entire team is in rebuilding mode. Gone are Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper, replaced by a pair of young tight ends (Gerald Christian, Jordan Reed) and the unproven Carl Moore and Deonte Thompson. Maurkice Pouncey is replaced by brother Mike, but injuries in spring camp have led to position battles along the offensive line. Only Florida's running backs; Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey and the emerging Mike Gillislee, remain the same.
The rebuilding on defense begins at the top with Teryl Austin taking over at coordinator for Charlie Strong. Florida has new personnel, but similar guys. At safety Jordan Haden (brother of Joe) and Matt Elam (a South Florida Will Hill) fight for starting time. Only one linebacker spot is open, with Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, and Brendan Beal all making a case for MLB. Defensive line is still a weak spot, but Florida will be buying time until Ronald Powell, Dominique Easley, and Sharrif Floyd (who is bigger than most SUVs) get to campus. Hurricane Leon Orr has been in camp, but like any freshman, has been getting knocked around.
Gator fans are known for their patience and understanding, so I'm sure if Brantley struggles or the defensive line gets knocked off the ball, we will approach the situation with calm and measured words. But in all seriousness, today is the start of Brantley's two year plan. The Gators can win the SEC East this season, since Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee apparently cannot pick a quarterback. But, Florida does not have the institutional knowledge needed to win the whole damn thing. 2011 will be the year when Florida can challenge for the National Championship. What we will hope to see this season will be similar to UF in 2007; frustration mixed with flashes of brilliance. Brantley will be leading this charge, hopefully with more brilliance than frustration. Remember today though that the goal is not to become a good team tomorrow, but a great team in the future.