HOOVER, Ala. — The majority of John Brantley's spare time since April has been spent watching old film. Notre Dame, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs football games to be exact.
The hiring of Will Muschamp as head coach and former NFL and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator at Florida has given Brantley a new lease on his career. And the senior quarterback is not taking the opportunity lightly.
"I think I've got more drive, especially with this new offense," Brantley said Wednesday during SEC Media Days. "Just to be able to get this new offense down, go out there and play to the best of my ability and put our team in the best position to win. That's my goal for this season. I'm preparing for it right now."
Gone are the spread offense and the option plays that kept him from his strengths. In their place, emerging slowly, is a passing, pro-style offense that Weis used with the Irish, Patriots and Chiefs and fits Brantley.
The last time Florida fans saw Brantley, he didn't look much improved— just three weeks into the new system. He insists time is making a significant difference.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "I thought it looked like Chinese at first, I'm not going to lie. But after a few days with Coach Weis in the spring, it started becoming real clear to me. I just keep improving on it every day. It looks like normal English (now). I know how to read again. I know every word now. It's just rolling off my tongue a lot easier, and it's definitely a lot more understandable, the reasons why we do things."
On Wednesday. Brantley was candid about his struggles last season, which included a 116.4 passing efficiency (No. 10 in the 12-team league), nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Yes, his confidence took a hit. And there were times he saw himself on film and didn't recognize the guy wearing the No. 12 jersey based on how he was playing. No, he wasn't able to give Florida fans his best effort because he couldn't succeed in the spread or as a running quarterback.
But even during his lowest moments, Brantley continued to believe in his heart he was supposed to be a Gator. Muschamp and Weis have given him an opportunity to reaffirm that belief.
In the first meeting between new coach and QB, Muschamp shook Brantley's hand and said, 'I'm happy you're here.' "
"I think he was just going through a phase," senior receiver Deonte Thompson said. "I knew he was coming back. I said, 'Come on man, we need you.' "
Thompson on Wednesday remembered being in the locker room with Brantley in January when Muschamp called the quarterback into his office. Brantley returned and told Thompson, "I'm not going anywhere."
Muschamp, the son of a coach who like Brantley grew up a diehard Gator fan, said he's impressed with the way Brantley has handled the adversity.
"It makes you grow up a little bit," Muschamp said. "It hardens you a little bit. But I've been really pleased with his demeanor, how he's handled it, and the respect he's got from his teammates on both sides of the ball."
Yes, Brantley said, he has been stung by falling out of favor with fans. But he's still a Gator, and he's hoping his play beginning with the Sept. 3 opener against Florida Atlantic will bring them all back on his side.
"It's tough because I've seen it from both sides now," said Brantley, an Ocala native. "I've never been one, even growing up, to boo a player because those were my idols out there. I've always looked up to them and wanted to be like them. It's unfortunate, but hopefully we'll be able to bounce back and have those boos turn into cheers this year."
Antonya English can be reached at English@sptimes.com.
"I'm a lot more comfortable. I thought it looked like Chinese at first, I'm not going to lie. But after a few days with Coach Weis in the spring, it started becoming real clear to me. I just keep improving on it every day. It looks like normal English (now)."
John Brantley, on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' pro-style offense