GAINESVILLE — The status of his health remains his own private matter, but the excitement in Florida coach Urban Meyer's voice after the Orange and Blue Game on Saturday indicated his love for the game — and his team — hasn't changed at all.
"I'm kind of excited right now," Meyer said. "I'm kind of jacked. I see a lot of bright eyes. I see a lot of healthy players who will be trained by the best strength coach in America, so I'm kind of pumped right now."
After nearly a month of spring practices, Meyer gave the Gators an "A" overall.
"We stink, we're not a good team, but that's not the intent. The intent is to have a good atmosphere, establish a good work ethic and try to go as hard as you can and try to identify players. … We really identified some players (Saturday). To finish spring like that, that's a heck of a deal."
In his first public outing as starting quarterback, John Brantley opened the game with a 47-yard pass to WR Deonte Thompson, which set up the Blue team's first touchdown five plays later. The Blue defeated the Orange 27-24.
"It was just fun to let loose for one time, just get everything out of you," Brantley said of the game, before an announced 51,500 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The redshirt junior went 15-of-19 for 201 yards and two touchdowns, setting a spring game record for completion percentage (.789).
"I feel like it's my huddle now," he said. "I definitely do. That's what I've been working on with that leadership, being more vocal in the huddle."
Burton and Leak
When freshman QB Trey Burton threw an interception that was returned 31 yards by freshman Josh Shaw, former QB Chris Leak, on hand for the game, had some advice. "Chris Leak helped me out a lot with that. He told me it's how I rebound from it, how any quarterback rebounds from an interception, is how good he's going to be," Burton said.
The freshman went 12-of-18 for 120 yards and one touchdown and set a spring game record for the longest run from scrimmage with a 76-yarder that set up a touchdown.
No offensive worries
After spending the spring trying to discover an offensive identity in the post-Tim Tebow era, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said he's confident the offense is going to be fine. "We're going to be a strong throwing team," Addazio said. "We're going to be able run the ball with three great backs, with a fourth one coming in. We'll be able to line up in the I-formation and play some power football, but we'll be able to run wildcat football, we can run screens, we've got dynamic guys on the edge like (Andre) Debose and (Chris) Rainey, and we can run the field vertically with Deonte Thompson, Carl Moore and those guys.
"We've got a lot of weapons right now, so we feel good about it."
About that defense
With so much talk surrounding the loss of Tebow, you might forget that UF is trying to replace six starters on defense as well.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said he joined the staff in February with no preconceived notions but ended Saturday's game with great expectations.
"I'm very happy with where we are," Austin said. "We've got a ways to go; we're not by any stretch where we need to be. But I like the direction we're heading. … I think we have all the things in place to have a heck of a defense. It's not going to be a bunch of guys you know, but they are going to be a great collective group."
Meyer's final word
"You talk about a team with a chip on their shoulder in that locker room, it's kind of cool to have that again and a group of coaches with a chip on their shoulder to do it the Florida way," coach Urban Meyer said. "We're excited to get going."
Antonya English, Times staff writer