April 5, 2006

Breaking down Brantley

Some team is getting one of the best prep quarterbacks in the country Wednesday.

Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic signal caller John Brantley will announce what program will benefit from his services for the next four or five years in a 4 p.m. press conference today at his school.

Brantley's father, also named John, told reporters this week that "all of the same schools" that have been associated with Brantley are still in the mix, but that the time had come to end the process. Florida, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma and others all have been mentioned as being in contention for the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder's services.

Florida has long been considered the favorite to sign Brantley. His father played quarterback for the Gators in the late 1970s and his head coach is former Gator quarterback Kerwin Bell. Ocala sits in the heart of Gator Country, a 40-mile or so drive down I-75 or U.S. 441 from Gainesville. The question with regards to Florida, however, has been how well Brantley, who runs a pro-style offense that is a combination of former Colts and Packers coach Lindy Infante and former Gators and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's principals, fits in to the spread-option attack of Urban Meyer. There is no question that Brantley is a good enough athlete to run the ball when he needs to (He posted a 4.65-second 40-yard dash time at a NIKE Camp last year), but just how much does he want to run? Still, Gator blood is pretty thick and Florida has to be considered a contender. Also, the Gators depth chart at quarterback affords an abundance of opportunity.

Brantley's last unofficial visit was to Austin, Texas, to check out the Horns. Shortly after his visit, Texas told in-state quarterback Ryan Mallett that they wanted a decision from him. Mallett balked and early this week, Brantley made the announcement that he would reveal his choice, causing widespread speculation that Texas is indeed the choice. Like Florida, however, there were questions about the read-option system used by Longhorns offensive coordinator Greg Davis after Texas rode the legs and arm of Vince Young to this year's national championship. But there is only one Vince Young and someone has to play quarterback for the Longhorns in the coming season and none of the candidates are currently blessed with the type of ability that he put on display this season. Previously, the Texas offense has featured plenty of drop-back passes that suit a quarterback like Brantley. Also, Longhorns head coach Mack Brown is one of the best recruiters in the country and Texas has a ton of recruiting momentum right now with 17 early commits, so Austin is a possibly destination.

Farrell's Forecast
Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic quarterback John Brantley was long considered a lock for the Florida Gators. After all, Brantley's father, John Sr., played quarterback at Florida as did his head coach, Kerwin Bell.

Early on, this one looked to have all the suspense of Tim Tebow's commitment last year. But then Texas entered the picture. Brantley, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who led his team to the 2B championship last year with 41 touchdown passes, took an unofficial visit to Austin in March and apparently fell in love. While connections to Florida are strong, there is a connection to Texas. Longhorns defensive coordinator Gene Chizik played at Florida with Bell.

But more importantly, Brantley likes the Texas style of offense and wants to win a national title, something he feels he can do with the Longhorns.

Forecast: Texas
Confidence Level: Medium
-- Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell

Alabama was the visit before Texas and Brantley came away impressed with multiple aspects of Tuscaloosa. In an interview following his trip, he talked about the new facilities on that campus and a visit to the Paul W. Bryant Museum as just a couple of the highlights. Brantley also remarked at how much attention the Crimson Tide staff showed him while he was at Bama. Tide offensive coordinator Dave Rader and head coach Mike Shula not only offer a pro-style offense in which a quarterback like Brantley can thrive, they offer an attractive depth chart for early playing time. Alabama has been in the thick of things since the visit and while it would be a mild surprise, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see him announce for the Tide.

From early reports, Brantley came away very impressed with head coach Mark Richt and the Georgia program. Just because the Bulldogs signed the nation's top quarterback in the class of 2006 in Matthew Stafford doesn't mean that Richt and company haven't been actively involved with several big-timers from the class of 2007 early, including Brantley and fellow Floridian Stephen Garcia. As things stand today, it would appear that the Bulldogs are somewhat of a long-shot, but they still have done a great job recruiting Brantley.

There has been a large amount of speculation with regards to Brantley and South Carolina. Spurrier was the elder Brantley's quarterback coach for one year at UF and Bell was a graduate assistant under Spurrier after he completed his Gators playing career. Spurrier's offense also fits Brantley like a glove and the Gamecocks are aiming to sign a big-time quarterback in this year's class. Also, the younger Brantley was born in Columbia, S.C., and there are many family connections to the Palmetto State. As recently as last week, two separate sources indicated that Brantley to South Carolina was a strong possibility, one even claiming that it was a "done deal." There are very strong indications that those sources, however, proved to be incorrect. Not one source that is actually close to Brantley or his family ever even mentioned South Carolina in his top three. The Gamecocks may have been players for Brantley, but they were more "in the picture" than "strongly in the picture" at least publicly. At this point, the South Carolina program simply cannot offer what the others can in terms of prestige and facilities, even with Spurrier on campus. Still, while it would be a shock for Brantley to announce for Carolina, the Gamecocks have to be mentioned as contenders.

Oklahoma was mentioned early as a potential suitor by a source close to Brantley's situation. A quarterback like Brantley could thrive in the Sooners spread offense and head coach Bob Stoops is a former Florida defensive coordinator so there is somewhat of a Gator connection here. Still, OU would have to be considered a long-shot at this point.

Ultimately, the decision boils down to teams from the Big 12 and teams from the Southeastern Conference. Will Brantley stay near or in the Sunshine State and play in the SEC or will he head for the wide-open spaces of Big 12 country? Stay tuned to Rivals.com to find out.

Tune in to Rivals Radio for a Commitment Wednesday special at 3:40 p.m. EDT featuring Rivals.com analysis and a live audio stream from the Brantley press conference. Following the announcement, stay tuned for more analysis and interviews.




 

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