Desmond Howard on Gators, Brantley

ESPN commentator Desmond Howard was in Gainesville Wednesday night to speak with the Fightin' Gator Touchdown Club. Howard is one of the hosts/commentators on the "Game Day" program which airs live from a different campus every Saturday in the fall.

The 1991 Heisman Trophy winner visited with me prior to his address to discuss a number of things, but particularly the Gator program looking ahead. Howard told me he really feels comfortable around the Florida program.

"We've been here so many different times with Game Day and I'm so familiar with the landscape of Gainesville, what Urban Meyer has been able to do and all the talent that's come through here."

Howard will be making a tour of many of the top programs during spring practices and there's no question Gainesville will be another stop along the way. He says Florida is going to have a fascinating spring when you consider the departure of Tim Tebow as well as nine other guys who are at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. He says the Gators have a lot of opening to try to fill this spring, but all eyes will be on the quarterback.

"They really do, but I think this is going to be a big year. Obviously after having four years of such a mega performer in Tim Tebow they have to make the transition to John Brantley."

Howard said from what he's seen and been told, the Gator quarterback position is in very good hands.

"It's really interesting because I was here last year during spring practice and I sat in on the quarterback meetings. I also spoke to Coach (Steve) Addazio and Coach (Scot) Loeffler and they told me that Brantley was a guy who was really coming into his own."

Howard added it was in those meetings that he became convinced that Brantley has all the attributes you need for the position.

"When I sat in the meeting (I) could pick up on things just by the way the quarterback answers the questions. As Scott shot questions off to the quarterbacks Brantley was on top of things. He was really quick and sharp with his responses. Everyone knows he can throw the ball. He has a strong arm. He's had time to learn the system and watch a guy like Tim Tebow and how he runs the system. I think it's going to be really interesting to see how Brantley does during spring ball and how that catapults him into the season."

I asked Howard to talk about what he's seen about the process a player goes through in terms of going from back up to the starting quarterback.

"I think one of the biggest challenges for John is that he's following such a great football player who was also a great person and a great leader. Tim Tebow had all the intangibles. But John has to be himself. Obviously there are going to be a lot of comparisons between Tebow and John, but John has to play his style of football."

Howard added that responsibility is not Brantley's alone.

I asked Howard if he thinks the Gator offense in 2010 might look a lot like what Florida ran in the 2006 (season) BCS Championship Game against Ohio State when Chris Leak was the primary quarterback."

"I think so, because again you definitely have more of a pure passer in John Brantley and I think the system is going to be tailored that, but he has a lot of talent around him."

But Howard was quick to point out the Gator offense will not change completely.

"They're still going to run the ball. I don't care what anybody says. Urban Meyer is a guy who comes from a coaching school where they like to run the ball. Think about that. Whether they are in a spread of a traditional set they're going to run the ball. They're also going to throw it with John, so it's going to be interesting to see how they go through the transition and how they call the plays this year."


Howard said there are lots of interesting story lines all over college football this spring. He seemed particularly interested in traditional powers trying to get back on top like Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame and his alma mater, Michigan.

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