"My confidence is a lot higher now since when the new coaches arrived," John Brantley said. "When the new coaching staff got here, it was all new to me. Now that I have spring football under my belt and have had all summer to study the playbook, I think as a team we're ready to go. We're excited about this camp and this upcoming season."
The problems from last season are well documented. After coming in with expectations of throwing the ball all over the field, Brantley struggled early in the season and never was able to recover.
Things seemed to snowball from one week to the next. His confidence took one beating after another. By the end of the season, Brantley struggled to throw with any confidence, making the throws worse.
The struggles eventually caused Brantley to look back on the season and see what he could've done better. He realized a need to forget the criticism and try to move on, avoiding the mental issues that it can cause on a quarterback.
"I definitely learned last year that when things aren't going right or when things are just going wrong that you need to forget about it and just move on," Brantley said. "You have to keep your head up and keep pushing forward. If your head is down, other people's heads are going to go down. You have to keep moving. Bad things aren't unavoidable; they're going to happen – even if you're the number one team in the country. A play or two is not always going to be perfect. You just have to forget about it and move on."
Because of the struggles for the 2010 team, the Gators head into the 2011 season with lowered national expectations. The USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll was released on Thursday with Florida coming in at No. 23 after an 8-5 record last year.
"We don't mind it," Brantley said. "We're going to go out there like we have every season and just try to be our best. That is all we can do. We can go out there every day, try to win that day, try to get better each practice and if that happens, we'll be able to get back to where we were."
The questions about the 2011 team start with the Gators having a new coaching staff. There will be new schemes implemented on both sides of the ball, and it's usually tough for teams to win championships in the first year of a new scheme.
Learning the offense of Charlie Weis hasn't been easy, especially with injury issues on the offensive line in the spring. Hard work during the summer studying the playbook and working out in player-led drills helped the offense come together easier.
The older players set up seven-on-seven drills for the team to go through, and Brantley said that drew the team together and helped the timing as the team starts fall camp on Saturday. The playbook is coming together for most of the players now after some early struggles.
"Well, for the older guys we were in the same system for a while and to switch over to that, it was tough," Brantley said. "But, with great coaches like Coach Weis and the rest of our coaching staff, they make the transition a lot easier for everyone and help us learn a lot in a quick amount of time."
Playing for Weis is another reason for the added confidence of Brantley. His track record of success as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator gave him instant credibility with the Florida players, especially Brantley.
"He's coached some of the best quarterbacks ever to play," Brantley said. "I'm just excited and honored to play for him. He is someone that can turn a good team into an even better team. We're all excited and glad to be playing for him. During spring ball, he tried to get our offense down and pound that in our heads. I think during this camp and during this upcoming season he's going to teach me a lot more about watching film and preparing for games."