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October 26, 2010

Burton: No quarterback controversy

With starting quarterback John Brantley struggling and the emergence of true freshman Trey Burton as a potential dual-threat quarterback, many might question if the Florida Gators have a bit of a quarterback controversy on their hands.

Not even close, according to Burton.

"John Brantley is the best quarterback at the University of Florida, hands down," Burton said Tuesday. "By far, not even a comparison."

Brantley has gone more than 15 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass and has thrown five interceptions since his last touchdown, a first-quarter connection with Burton in the Kentucky game.

But Burton and the rest of the Gators are throwing their full support behind the redshirt junior from Ocala.

"He's going to be quarterback for us, and we're all happy with that," Burton said. "Nobody has a problem with that. That's actually what everybody wants."

And to be fair to Brantley, he has played relatively well the past two games, completing 40 of 63 passes for 364 yards. Both of his interceptions in that span came on tipped balls - one by an LSU defender at the line of scrimmage and another on a dropped pass by Deonte Thompson.

Burton, on the other hand, hasn't even been asked to throw the ball much this year. He's thrown two passes. One was a 42-yard strike to a wide-open Omarius Hines down the right sideline. The other was an intercepted jump pass at the goal line on Florida's first drive against Alabama.

So talking about a potential switch at quarterback seems rather absurd.

The fact that it's being talked about by the media and fans is more a testament to what Burton has been able to accomplish than about Brantley's shortcomings so far.

As an option quarterback, Burton has been extremely effective. He's currently fourth on the team in rushing with 32 carries for 138 yards and eight touchdowns.

He has scored half of the team's rushing touchdowns, with five of them coming in the game against Kentucky. That points to his effectiveness in the red zone, the area that Florida has used him the most this season.

As Burton has continued to improve running the football, his overall touches have gone up.

In the first four games, he ran the ball 11 times while catching eight passes. In the last three games, he's run the ball 21 times and caught 12 passes.

Expect those numbers to continue to increase if Burton keeps getting the job done.

With Florida re-evaluating the offense, the coaches have promised to identify what is and isn't working. What Burton has done has worked, so his workload should increase.

Even though teams know he'll likely run the ball when he lines up in the backfield, he has a natural instinct running the option. He knows when to make the pitch to keep teams from keying on either him or the running back.

Asked Tuesday why he's so effective running the option, Burton gave a simple answer: a lot of practice in high school.

"I ran the ball a lot in high school," he said, "and most of the time it was option."

Burton's ability to run the option effectively has been one of the few bright spots for the offense the past few weeks.

Against Mississippi State, Burton ripped off four runs of seven or more yards. He also caught three passes for seven or more yards. His contributions helped Florida put together its only solid drives of the night.

That's something the offense will try to build on this week when it plays a Georgia team on a bit of a hot streak.

Burton said he's comfortable playing the same role that he has been. He said he'll do whatever it takes to help the team win, and he isn't concerned about getting more reps as a pure quarterback.

He also made it abundantly clear there's no quarterback controversy.

"I just try to work on what I have to do and what I can do better," he said. "I'm not really focusing on (getting more reps at QB)."

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