It took a lot longer to get started than he thought it would for Florida red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. Recruited to Florida as a high school All-American, Brantley had to go through an adjustment period as a freshman and now is ready to make a difference for the Gators.
On Saturday Brantley was on point with three tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a quarterback hurry that helped the Gators to the 65-0 beating of Eastern Michigan. It had been a while and Brantley almost couldn’t control his nerves before the game began.
“I put in a lot of hard work and it was great to see it pay off,” he said about his day in The Swamp. “At first I was nervous. I had to go talk to Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, and Darious Cummings. They told me that I was good and I didn’t need to worry about it. I just needed to get the first game jitters out of the way.”
Brantley has showed quite a bit of quickness and athleticism this year and at 295 pounds, he feels he is in the best shape he has ever been in.
“I am faster, stronger, I lost 30 pounds since I have been here, so I am moving quicker,” he said. “When I first came to camp I was out of shape. It was hard for me to play at that weight. The University of Florida expects a lot of their defensive linemen.”
He says that going against the Gators linemen in practice made it much easier than facing a new opponent.
“I know I was capable of doing it, I just had to believe in myself and do what my coaches told me to do,” Brantley said. “Practice is 100 times harder. Going against Trenton Brown at guard is pretty crazy. He’s the biggest guard I have played. It was 100 times easier today.”
Saturday Brantley was able to use his excessive strength to handle the line up front.
“Coming out of my hips and striking the guy,” he said of what he does better than most. “I am a strong guy, if I get my hands on you and under your face mask, I will win that.”
He also knows that when the coaches see the game film, he will have some explaining to do.
“I know I messed up on some assignments, so I really expect to get chewed out,” he said with a grin when asked what the coaches will say of his performance. “I was in a certain gap and got nosy and peaked in the wrong gap. On the forced fumble I was in the wrong gap. On one play I was swung on the ground because I was too high. They used my weight against me… a learning experience.”
The Gator defense pitched a shutout thanks to five turnovers and a stingy line of scrimmage that allowed just 80 rushing yards and 125 total yards on the day. That wasn’t a surprise to Brantley who is just happy to be able to add what he can to what he believes will be a great year.
“We know how good we are going to be, so that was the goal,” he said of the shutout. “I just want to contribute to the team. We want to win a championship and I just want to contribute.”