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July 20, 2011

Gators' Brantley ready to bounce back

HOOVER, Ala. - First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp admitted Wednesday at SEC Media Days that he was concerned about numbers.

He was referring to depth issues, particularly along the offensive and defensive lines, because of a lack of scholarship players (Florida has just 71). Still, the Gators' most worrisome numbers should be nine and 10 -- as in the amount of touchdown passes (nine) and interceptions (10) that quarterback John Brantley threw last season.

If the Gators are to bounce back from a disappointing 8-5 showing in 2010 and resurface as challengers in the SEC East, they're going to need much more efficient play from Brantley, who was a convenient scapegoat for everything that went wrong in Gainesville last season. And there was a lot that went wrong, especially considering Florida had lost just twice total in the preceding two seasons.

Brantley threw one touchdown pass and six interceptions and did not pass for more than 210 yards in any of the Gators' five losses. That was hard to accept for a group of fans that had been spoiled by the performance of Tim Tebow.

The change in coaches brought a change of schemes. Previous coach Urban Meyer utilized a spread option offense that was at its best when there was a running quarterback -- such as Tebow -- at the controls. Brantley, a classic drop-back passer, wasn't a good fit in that system, even though the previous staff had praised him and predicted big passing numbers before the season.

Muschamp hired former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator and he has installed a pro-style offense, which better suits Brantley.

"I'm excited about John," Muschamp said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "He had a great offseason and a great spring. What we're doing now scheme-wise fits his skills more."

Brantley seemed even more excited.

"I'm a drop-back passer and I've been working on that," he said. "The [new scheme] definitely helps me out a lot. I'm not a runner. I don't like to run. I like to hand off to a fast guy or pass to a fast guy."

Now that Brantley will look downfield rather than field long snaps, he thinks he can improve his performance. Consequently, he thinks the Gators will improve, too.

"We had some down moments last year and that brought us a lot closer," he said. "No one pointed fingers or blamed anybody. We're ready to start off with a new slate."

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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