Commentary

Brantley set to return for Florida

Notebook: Gators QB has missed two games with injury, offense tanked without him

Updated: October 25, 2011, 1:17 PM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp expects John Brantley to be his starting quarterback when the Gators face Georgia this weekend in Jacksonville.

Brantley missed Florida's last two games -- both losses -- after suffering an ankle injury while being sacked late in the second quarter of the Gators' 38-10 defeat against Alabama.

"As of today, on Monday, he's probable for the game," Muschamp said Monday afternoon at his weekly news conference. "We expect his reps to increase as the week grows. We want to get him out there today -- get him out there moving around, have people around him and throw the football around a little bit. I fully expect him to continue to progress throughout the week unless we hit something that we're not predicting. I fully expect him to be fine."

[+] EnlargeJohn Brantley
Kim Klement/US PresswireThe Florida offense stalled without John Brantley, and Will Muschamp is unsure who will be his backup on Saturday.
Brantley had started 18 consecutive games and led the Gators to a 4-0 record this season before twisting his knee and ankle awkwardly while being sacked by Alabama's Courtney Upshaw. The senior actually connected on a 65-yard touchdown pass on the game's opening play and led the Gators to a 10-all tie against the Crimson Tide before throwing a second-quarter interception that Upshaw returned 45 yards for a touchdown and a lead that Alabama would not relinquish.

The Gators quickly collapsed on offense when Brantley -- who was 11-for-16 for 190 yards, one touchdown and one interception -- left the game and turned over the offense to freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett.

Driskel did not lead the offense to a single point the rest of the way against Alabama, and Brissett didn't fare much better in a blowout loss the following week against LSU, or in a loss to Auburn a week later, when both freshmen struggled.

The Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) have scored just 17 points in the 10 quarters since Brantley's injury -- the worst offensive stretch for a Florida offense since 1988 -- so Brantley is an obvious starter if his ankle holds up in practice.

"Whoever their quarterback is, we've just got to go attack them," Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said Monday. "If they put those freshmen in, we've got to go attack them. If they put Brantley in, we've got to go attack him. We can't let the decision of who's going to be their quarterback slow us down. We've got to continue to play full speed because whoever they put in, that's who they think is going to help their offense beat our defense."

The bigger question might be which player follows Brantley against Georgia (5-2, 4-1) if the ankle injury flares up again, but Muschamp was not sure Monday whether Driskel or Brissett would be the backup in Jacksonville.

"We haven't decided at this time," Muschamp said. "Both Jacoby and Jeff practiced really well last week. We put them in a lot of situations, and we're going to continue to do that today. We'll give John some early reps in practice, and then get those guys in some good-on-good work versus the defense. Whoever continues to progress and play well in those situations will be the backup quarterback."

Muschamp vs. alma mater Muschamp, a 1994 Georgia graduate, predicted Monday that "there will be a lot of wasted ink on the fact that I played at Georgia and now I'm coaching at Florida," but he reminded those at his news conference that this is not the first time he has coached against the Bulldogs.

"This profession is different than a lot of professions. You do your job for the school that you're working for," Muschamp said. "It's my job to do a great job for the University of Florida, and that's what I'm trying to do. Again, I talked about it earlier, I don't mean disrespect to anybody, but I'm loyal to people, not places.

"I work for [Florida athletic director] Jeremy Foley and [university president] Dr. Bernie Machen, and those are the people I need to do a good job for, and this football team and staff. That's how I view things. I've worked at Auburn, LSU and Texas. I've worked a lot of different places, and this isn't the first time I've played against Georgia."

Muschamp's teams were 2-3 against Georgia in his previous stops as defensive coordinator at LSU and Auburn, including three consecutive losses -- a 45-16 loss in 2004 while at LSU and 37-15 and 45-20 losses in 2006 and 2007, respectively, at Auburn.

Injury update Rambo said he does not expect the toe injury that kept him out of last week's practices to affect his status for the Florida game.

"I did everything today," Rambo said of practicing with the injury he suffered on the second-to-last play against Vanderbilt. "Full contact."

Georgia coach Mark Richt said on his Monday call-in show that he believes leading rusher Isaiah Crowell's injured wrist has improved after it affected him in wins against Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

"What has happened is he's had that injury and by the next week it feels pretty good going into the game, and if you take another shot on the very same spot, it just kind of lights it up and makes it difficult to really perform at your very best," Richt said. "But as of right now, Isaiah feels real good about his wrist, as far as I can see. I watched him practice today and didn't see any ill effects from the wrist, so hopefully he's over that."

Extra points Georgia announced Monday that kickoff for its Nov. 5 game against New Mexico State will be at 12:30 p.m. ET, the game will be televised live on CSS. ... Richt said Georgia's coaches tested walk-on linebacker Kosta Vavlas at fullback in a scrimmage last week to determine whether he might fit in at the position in the future. At fullback, the Bulldogs already have senior Bruce Figgins and sophomore Zander Ogletree on their roster.

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.