John Brantley IV (6-2, 180) spent his sophomore season rotating with senior Seth Varnadore, who will soon be graduating. He threw 17 touchdown passes and only one interception and that one was on a tipped pass.
Brantley is expected to take the field as a junior directing Coach Kerwin Bell's soaring Trinity Catholic High School squad toward a first ever appearance in the state championship.
Combining the talents of John Brantley III and Trinity Catholic Head Coach Kerwin Bell hardly seems fair, but thankfully football is about gaining an edge. Brantley has had the good fortune of securing a wealth of knowledge from his father, Bell and at the BMW Passing Academy, a quarterback camp featuring Bell, Shane Matthews, and Danny Wuerffel held each summer. I jokingly asked Brantley Jr. to squelch rumors that Larry Ochab is largely responsible for his tutelage. The young gun shot me a most curious look, which made me feel like I should be looking for my AARP card.
"He's (John III) pretty much taught me everything I need to know about football," John. said. "Kerwin is just filling in the blanks right now. We (Bell, Brantley III, and assistant coach Chris Martin) talk about the game after we play a game. Sometimes it's in the parking lot, sometimes at a restaurant. It's going pretty good. It's good that I'm here. I was going to go to (Ocala) Forest, but I had the opportunity to go here, and it's been good.
"Our first game in here I started listening to the plays, and I was thinking, Oh, God, I don't think that I'm going to learn these plays," Brantley said. "But, you work on them everyday and it gets easier. We practice every single play through the week. My favorite pass to throw is the out route to the sideline. I like the hi/low passes, the crossing routes, and the post."
The video clearly shows that Brantley can make all of the throws. But, admittedly, I can't think of a time where I ever heard a quarterback at the high school level say that the out route is his favorite. It takes a gun to fire that thing out there, and since Brantley only threw one pick throughout his varsity campaign, he must have been uniquely successful.
"When you're in the game and that adrenaline is flowing, you can do it," he said, grinning. "It gets pretty easy. I just like throwing it out there."
Obviously, there are aspects of his game that he feels a need to address.
"I need to get bigger," Brantley quickly stated. "I know that I'm a little small right now but I'll be starting to fill out soon. I know that I need a lot of work on the field. It was pretty good last year to share playing time and get used to varsity football. I think that I'll be used to it after last year. It helped me out a lot. I need to get better reading the defense. I'll be seeing more when I'm out there as the full time starter."
"He's got a really strong arm," says Bell, who knows a few things about throwing a football around. The former All-SEC quarterback was also the MVP of the Canadian Football League. Bell loves what he sees of the young Brantley.
"He's got great anticipation, and that's something that we work on all of the time," said Bell. "Take your steps and throw the ball on time. Anticipate your throws. We don't want all of these throws being late. We believe a quarterback should see it happen before it actually happens. If you want to be a good offense, a good quarterback, you have to see and anticipate things before they happen. You just can't see things happen and then throw it or you'll be late every time.
"He (Brantley) just has a natural ability in that area. He's just going to get better and better as he grows up and gets bigger and stronger. He's working hard on the weight and getting bigger."
Bell addressed Brantley from the psychological perspective of a quarterback who has been through the wars, and fully understands what it takes to play the position.
"He's a kid that things roll off of his back," Bell said. "He handles things really well. Even when I get on him, and I'm pretty tough on quarterbacks, he takes it. He's got a lot of confidence in himself and that's an intangible that a quarterback has to have. He has that inner confidence that great leaders have to have. You don't have to be cocky. Nobody wants a cocky guy, but you have to that confidence."
The General Mail Facility in Ocala is receiving a trickle more mail these days because of the talents of Brantley. However, that trickle will increase exponentially over next two years, until he signs his name on the dotted line of a national letter of intent in 2007. Add Brantley to the talent that Bell and his staff are stockpiling at Trinity Catholic and it's likely that the Irish will be responsible for the creation of at least one or two new jobs at the Ocala Post Office.
Brantley has received letters from South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa, Georgia, USF, and UCF thus far. Steve Spurrier, Chan Gailey, Bobby Stoops, and Mark Richt have shown plenty of interest. To date, the Gators have yet to send a letter to John, but I would be shocked if that wasn't addressed in the very near future. Coach Urban Meyer said at his press conference on Wednesday that he expects to sign a quarterback every year. He may have his Class of 2007 quarterback developing just 35 miles down the road from Gainesville.
John runs a 4.7 forty yard dash, but has designs on improving that as well. It's rare when he takes a day off, either from physical training or throwing the ball. During the summer he plans to attend several camps to help to fine tune his abilities.
Brantley said that he plans on playing baseball this spring which means he won't be around for spring practice. That's a potential negative since Trinity Catholic returns only one starter from last season's offensive line. However, younger players and transfer students give offensive line coach David Williams a sound group with which to work.
While most coaches would find it difficult to give up their starting quarterback during spring practice, Bell sees the benefit of having a well-rounded athlete.
"He'll play baseball this spring, and that's okay." Coach Bell stated. "That was tough [on the baseball program] last year, because we have a great baseball program with (former Gator) Tommy Bond coaching there. They went to the final four, and when they do that, it just wipes out your entire spring for your football program. He [John IV] really needed the reps last year. He needs some reps this year, too, but I believe a kid should play. There are a lot of negatives out there, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I believe if a kid is good at that sport he should experience it. Now, if a kid is out there wasting his time, sitting on the bench, then concentrate on something that you're good at. Johnny is so good at baseball that he should go out and play. There are times when he should come out and participate in some drills and then he'll come out and work all summer."
Brantley will also seriously deal with the whispers of being a legacy. He is the son of former Florida quarterback who has been among the Gators most vocal and interested supporters through the years. His uncle, Scot, rates among the greatest middle linebackers in Florida history. Scot Brantley is currently an analyst for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio broadcasts and he still does some pre- and post-game analysis for the Gator radio network.
"He [John IV] had a phenomenal year, that I think is just going to catapult him to great things the next two years," Bell said.
Kerwin Bell and John Brantley III, both former thoroughbred quarterbacks themselves, understand better than most exactly what it feels like to have that kind of talent, and how best to mold it.
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