Alan Dell

Brantley’s presence needed for Florida

John Brantley’s recent decision to stay at Florida is the best thing that could’ve happened to Jeff Driskel, the Gators anointed savior.

It gives Driskel time to grow and stay free of the wolves.

Time is what he needs; to digest Charlie Weis’ pro style offense and for the fan base to accept the reality that Tim Tebow can no longer suit up for the Gators.

Many of those who spend their autumn Saturday’s at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium are not yet over Tebow; like a jilted spouse, they are having trouble accepting their love affair is only a memory.

You could feel the ghost of Tebow all over the Swamp last season, and it seemed to be stalking Brantley at every opportunity.

Fans will tell you Tebow is gone, but act like he is coming back reincarnated as the next high school phenom signal caller. They thought he would return as John Brantley and when that didn’t work out they leashed their fury on the unassuming junior and former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.

Now they are saying Tebow will come back as Driskel, the Oviedo Haggerty graduate, who was voted high school football’s top player in 2010 by the Maxwell Football Club.

That is a lot to put on a kid, who has yet to be initiated into college football by SEC defenses.

But this could be a double win.

Brantley’s presence can ease the transition and in the process he might shine and show the world he was victim of his former coach’s inability to design an offense to fit his needs rather than a bumbling quarterback who couldn’t get out of his own way.

Weis has done wonders for quarterbacks; making Matt Cassell good enough to earn an NFL paycheck, helping Tom Brady become Tom Brady and turning Jimmy Clausen and Brady Quinn into early round draft picks, which may yet prove to be his greatest feat.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Driskel has numbers that have infused new life into Gator Nation, making its residents believe they can put Nick Saban back in his place and continue their domination of Tallahassee.

Driskel threw for 4,844 career yards with 36 touchdowns. Last season, he had 15 TDs and 1,819 passing yards while rushing for another 1,333 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Brantley’s high school passing numbers are better with 6,802 yards through the air, a state career record 99 touchdown passes and 41 TD passes in each of his last two seasons.

But that’s high school, and this is big-time college football, and the landscape is filled with wunderkinds who never made it up the slope.

The rap on Brantley is that he is statuesque in feet and perhaps brain.

Every scouting report says Driskel is much more mobile, which would’ve been crucial if Urban Meyer stayed and the Gators were still using his spread offense.

With Weis’ style of attack, a quarterback’s mobility is helpful, but not crucial.

Tom Brady has never been accused of being fleet of foot or elusive, and he won three Super Bowls running Weis’ offense.

Though the upside on Driskel is far reaching, he still needs to get rid of some bad habits he had in high school such as taking risks and making decisions a SEC defensive back will turn into a pick six. Most of that will take care of itself over time, and it would be best for him if it happened in moments that do not turn into game changers.

With the help of Weis, whose credentials as an offensive coordinator are impeccable, Brantley can smooth things over for the freshman and demonstrate to the college football world that he was the product of a system that was bad for him and not a bad product.