Dawgs prepare for all of Gators QBs
Grantham says announcement of Brantley's return could be nothing more than ploy
ATHENS, Ga. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp solved a problem for Georgia on Monday when he said that he expects starting quarterback John Brantley to play against the Bulldogs this weekend in Jacksonville.
Then again, maybe he didn't.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Tuesday evening that Muschamp's announcement could be nothing more than gamesmanship and that the Bulldogs will be prepared to face any of the Gators' three quarterbacks -- Brantley and freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett -- when the teams meet Saturday.
Brantley twisted his knee and ankle Oct. 1 while being sacked by Alabama's Courtney Upshaw in the second quarter of the Gators' 38-10 loss to the Crimson Tide. He has not played since, and the Gators' offense has struggled mightily in his absence, totaling a measly 17 points in 10 quarters without Brantley.
Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis told reporters Tuesday that Brissett will be the starter if Brantley can't go, but noted that he's cautiously optimistic that the senior will indeed be available against the Bulldogs.
"The most important thing, really, with him coming back is not what's going to happen with him down the road. It's the psychological lift that he'll bring to our entire team, because this was no big secret that the kid had been playing good," Weis said. "I think that everyone feels a lot more confident going into a game now knowing that there's a good chance that he's going to be out there slinging it."
Brantley was indeed performing capably before his injury. He was 11-for-16 for 190 yards in the first half against Alabama's vaunted defense and had passed for 942 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in leading the Gators to a 4-0 record before leaving the Alabama game.
Brissett and Driskel are a combined 29-for-58 for 287 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions, operating what Grantham said was a condensed version of the offense the Gators would typically run with Brantley under center.
"The offense with Brantley in there would obviously be the most expansive coverage that they would have. With [Brissett and Driskel] in there, it would obviously shrink a little bit," Grantham said. "So I think you've just got to get ready for everything and then adjust to the game plan they've got for us, because obviously they've had two weeks to prepare."
Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) lost three consecutive games -- to Alabama, LSU and Auburn -- before last weekend's open date, so Grantham believes Muschamp's coaching staff would be perfectly willing to use Brantley's potential return as a decoy in order to glean an advantage against a rival.
And he wouldn't blame them if that is in fact the case. After all, college football coaches aren't bound by the same rules as those in the NFL, who are required to submit a daily injury report to the rest of the league.
"In my opinion, we're in the [business] of collecting information, not giving it," Grantham told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "I know that's not good for you guys, but the more information you can have and the least amount you can give out, the better off you are. So I think what they do is smart. I just think you've got to get ready because you never know. It's not like pro ball, when you've got to fill out that information sheet."
Either way, the Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1) know rushing the passer will be an important facet of their defense Saturday, whether they face a senior on a possibly gimpy ankle or freshmen who have been mistake-prone under pressure.
Junior defensive end Abry Jones said the Gators' offense is much better with Brantley in the lineup, so he wouldn't mind seeing one of the freshmen on the other side of the line.
"Pretty much you kind of hope you get a couple shots at him to kind of rattle his cage," Jones said, "especially in a game such as this one that's big, pretty much being the first time to walk into the stadium and play in this game."
Clearly, Brantley will be the Gators' choice, though, as long as he is physically able to play -- in which case the Bulldogs' duty will be simple, according to safety Bacarri Rambo.
"If they put him out there, we've got to get him off the field, I guess," Rambo said.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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