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Parting Shots is a series in which Inside the Gators interviews departing seniors and NFL early entrants for a detailed look back on their time at Florida as well as what they're up to now and plans for the future.
Today, in part two, former quarterback John Brantley shares his thoughts on why he signed with Florida in the first place, his time with the Gators, the Urban Meyer rollercoaster ride, Will Muschamp, Charlie Weis and lots more...
ITG: Even though this past season wasn't exactly a pretty one, what differences did you see between the 2011 season and the 2010 season?
Brantley: It seemed like we had a renewal of life I guess. We got to start all over. There were still some guys around the facility that we knew and had been around the past four years, but it was just a restart of the program. With new coaches we figured, out with the old and in with the new. Most people were really excited about it.
ITG: Going back to 2010, do you think that former offensive coordinator Steve Addazio took an unfair about of heat for the way things turned out?
Brantley: Absolutely. Without a doubt, absolutely. I think the head coach and the quarterback, they take too much credit or at least are given too much credit when a team wins, and are blamed too much when a team loses. But, the next person that gets blamed in the OC, and I think he took way too much of the heat. We are a team. We get to win as a team, but we also have to lose as a team. That's how it happens.
ITG: Your center in 2010, Mike Pouncey, had quite a few ugly snaps. But then he went on to be such a high draft pick and be so successful. Was that surprising to you, given how he performed his last season at UF?
Brantley: It wasn't surprising at all. He is a great athlete and a great player. It was a new position that he had never played. Things are going to happen. You can take a million snaps as you want in practice, but once you get in a game situation, things change. Look at him now, he clearly learned this position. But, I can tell you, those growing pains weren't happening in practice. He's a great athlete and a great person. He is very physical. I wasn't surprised at all.
ITG: What kind of pressure did you feel, not only as a quarterback, but as a legacy coming into the University of Florida?
Brantley: Um, definitely felt a lot of pressure. My dad played and my uncle Scot was a Hall of Famer for Florida and went on to play NFL ball for eight seasons. There was a lot of pressure. Everyone knew their names. Everyone knew our name. It definitely added a little more to my shoulders.
ITG: It's pretty well documented that it was your dream to be a Gator quarterback. But, it seems like the fans had a hard time accepting you and at times, even rooted against you. How does that make you feel?
Brantley: It's whatever. I had and still have the respect of my coaches and teammates. They all liked me and they all respected me, and that is all that mattered.
ITG: What do you think your legacy at Florida will be?
Brantley: I'm not sure. Probably, 'The guy that followed Tebow' or something, I'm not sure. Hopefully it's a good one, but I really don't know. I do know I made a lot of good relationships there and friends and that is all that matters to me. I think sometimes people think I didn't have passion or I didn't care. That's not true at all. I loved my team and I wanted to win as much or more as anyone on the field. I'm never going to be the guy running around yelling and screaming. That's just not my personality. But, it doesn't mean I wasn't a leader or that my teammates didn't respect me. I feel like I was and they did.
ITG: What do you want your legacy to be?
Brantley: Not a bad one I guess. It would be nice if it could be positive. I guess, I hope I can be remembered as a guy that was always a good teammate and loved and still loves the University of Florida.
Brantley: Heck of athletes. They were super young, coming in this last year and being thrown in the mix. I think they will learn from that. They are going to have a good battle going into spring football. They are both good quarterbacks. They are both really smart guys. They know the game of football. I promise you they are both going to be very successful.
ITG: Who is going to be the starting quarterback in the fall?
Brantley: (laughing) You know I can't guess that. Honestly, I really don't even have an opinion yet. They will both learn so much this spring; I don't think Muschamp even knows who he is leaning towards. They are both very talented.
ITG: So Florida is in good hands regardless?
ITG: What is your impression of Muschamp? Early on, it seems like he was kind of a madman on the sidelines and we know that you are way more reserved than that. Was it hard to adjust to that?
Brantley: No, I mean, I've had some crazy coaches in my past. He probably tops that list, but he is a great coach and a great person. I think everyone knows that. And, if I guy comes in like that, it might even bring some more energy out of you and you are able to show it more. I definitely found myself doing things that I wouldn't have found myself doing before this past year. I think it was really good for me. Muschamp was good for me.
ITG: What was team chemistry like in 2011? How did the holdover players mesh with the new coaching staff?
Brantley: Switching to all new schemes, we definitely were around each other a lot more. We all tried to help each other out and help each other learn. The learning aspect really helped with the chemistry. We needed to work together to make sure we all understood the game plan, which naturally brought us all closer.
ITG: Compare Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp?
Brantley: Coach Muschamp, he's really energetic. Coach Meyer, he's a little more laid back. Coach Muschamp might still have a little of that position coach still in him, whereas Coach Meyer knows how to channel his energy as a head coach more, but he shows that energy too. I think Coach Muschamp is going to have a heck of a career at Florida. He really loves being a coach.
ITG: What are some specific examples of things they did differently?
Brantley: I don't know. Geez, that is really hard question.
ITG: So are you saying you feel like they are similar?
Brantley: I think so. I think all head coaches are similar. They have to figure out what makes each guy tick; they have to let their position coaches do their jobs. Both of them jump in there when they need to, I think they are very similar. Just maybe Coach Muschamp is more energetic. Only by like a hair though, not much.
ITG: Did you feel like you connected more personally with one more than the other?
Brantley: I liked them both a lot. I guess I probably connected more with Coach Meyer, just cause I was with him for four years. I'm sure if I was with Coach Muschamp longer, I mean, we have a great relationship now, but it would be stronger if I was with him longer.
ITG: Do you think that most players have bought into Muschamp's plan for success at Florida?
Brantley: Absolutely. Everyone that didn't is gone now. (Laughs). Seriously though, almost everyone I have talked to since day one to now, they all love and respect the guy. Everyone thinks he is going to be a heck of a coach. Everyone is really looking forward to what he has to offer. Bringing in the new coach from Boise, Pease, he was a big hire for us. Everyone is so excited. If you've met Coach Muschamp, you know what I mean. He is so good at reaching his players. He's so down to earth and you want to play for him.
ITG: So all the things that are rumored throughout the season, that some people bought in and some didn't, that there was some divide in the locker room, that is not true?
Brantley: No. I mean, at least not from my perspective. Everyone I have ever talked to about Muschamp loves and respects the guy.
ITG: What are you doing to prepare for Pro Day?
Brantley: I'm down here training at Disney. We have a great group of guys over there, a bunch of receivers and running backs, so I have plenty of guys to throw to. I'm working out six days a week. Trying my best to prove I can play.
ITG: Are you working with a quarterbacks' coach?
Brantley: Yeah I am. I'm working over at Tom Shaw and they have some different guys working with me.
ITG: What do you think you need to improve on to be successful at the next level?
Brantley: The game gets even faster there. Mentally, I have to be ready. If I get selected to go to a team, I have to be ready to jump right in. I might not have a position, I mean, I know I'm not going to have the starting job, but I still need to be able to run the offense without mistakes. I really need to focus on mentally preparing.
ITG: What are you hearing about your pro options?
Brantley: Not too much right now. I'm not really trying to think about that right now. I'm just trying to focus on my pro day and get ready for that. I have to do well there and then see.
ITG: If you could pick an NFL coach to play for, who would it be and why?
Brantley: I hear a lot of good things about Coach Tomlin, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. He is from Ocala, he is an Ocala boy. He seems like a really good guy. I know Maurkice Pouncey really well and he says he is a heck of a guy. Every single thing I have ever heard about him is positive stuff. That's just the first one that jumps out, I am sure there are many others, he is just the first one that jumps out at me.
ITG: This past season, Florida had a definite problem finishing games. Look at the Auburn game, the Georgia game, it feels like there were three or four games where UF was two or three plays away from winning. Florida could just as easily had a 10-win season this past year.
ITG: Yeah, I mean, its true that quarterbacks and head coaches take most of the heat. When you are the quarterback at such a big University like Florida, you got to expect that. That comes with the territory. And I was ready for it. But yeah, you know, there was a couple, in the SEC, you play in such a good conference, one or two bad or messed up plays can and does affect the outcome of games. That happens when you consistently play good teams. I don't think there is another conference were so many games are decided by just a play or two as the SEC.
ITG: Looking forward to next season, who are some young guys that fans should look out for?
Brantley: Hunter Joyer. That kid is a beast. He's really intelligent. Not to be mean, but I don't throw the word intelligent around lightly, but he really is. He's also a hard worker and he keeps his mouth closed. I promise you that you are never going to see his name in the paper for doing something wrong. He's just hardworking and does the right things. He was good last year, but he is going to be great down the road for Florida.
ITG: If you could do it all again, would you do it differently?
Brantley: No, probably not. Actually, absolutely not. I always wanted to play for Florida and I couldn't see myself in any other colors. I was born a Gator and I'm going to die one.
ITG: So, if you have a child that plays football, will we get a John Brantley the fifth here?
Brantley: (laughs). Maybe, maybe. There is probably a good possibility. Maybe I should have him play golf or something.