Brantley entered the season after throwing nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season as a junior. He lost his third down safety valve receiver in Carl Moore and the Gators added no other receivers to the mix to make life easier for the senior.
To make matters worse, Florida lost four starters on the offensive line, three of which are currently starting in the NFL. The season looked dreary for Brantley at best.
But, Brantley started the season looking like a confident leader and one that quickly won over the confidence of the Florida coaching staff. He wasn't dazzling, his stats weren't out of this world, but he was operating the offense in the way they wanted him to and taking on a leadership role in the process.
Brantley took to the tutelage of Charlie Weis, a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator that has taught some of the best quarterbacks and at every level of the game. Brantley has already surpassed his touchdown performance from last year by one (10). He also has a passing efficiency rating off 144.44 (ranked 32nd in country), more than 28 points above last year's number (would rank about 85th). A lot of that has to do with only throwing three interceptions as opposed to his 10 interception total of a year ago.
Brantley is only 253 yards away from his last year total of 2061 yards and in three and a half less games. As mentioned, he already passed his touchdown total of a year ago.
For Weis, Brantley is a completely different person than the first time the two met in January. Weis knew Brantley was better than what he showed a year ago and so for the young man, Weis is just happy he is having a much better year.
"I wouldn't say he's been the most pleasant surprise, but probably the thing I have been the most pleased about (this year) is John Brantley," Weis told the media Tuesday. "The conversations I had with him in January (and then) now …it's just a totally different persona than the one I sat down with."
Unfortunately for Florida, Brantley and the offense was derailed quite a bit just before halftime of the Alabama game. Brantley went down with an injury that would keep him out of the second half of that game and the next two.
The schedule meant that rookie quarterbacks were forced to start and play on the road at #1 LSU and at Auburn and in some sense of irony, showed just how different this team would run under the guidance of the senior that not many wanted to return, and the freshmen that everyone wanted to take over.
Despite his proven importance to the offense, Weis is most happy for the senior that will greet his former Gator quarterback father on the field for senior day, and the personal gratification Brantley has gotten from proving himself a much better player than he was a year ago.
"He's a wonderful young man and a great kid, but watching him evolve from where he was to where he is now both on and off the field, I couldn't be more satisfied," Weis said.
And as a lifelong gator, Weis understands just how important this game is to Brantley.
"I would really like nothing more than to finish this out with him going and beating Florida State, he said. "I think that would be just a great thing for him."