In the debut edition of InsidetheGators.com's Point/Counterpoint, Senior Writer Kyle Maistri and Columnist Adam Silverstein put their opinions aside and tackle both sides of two of the hottest topics going into the Florida Gators' 2011-12 football season.
TOPIC: Is new head coach Will Muschamp acting like too much of a disciplinarian in his first few months at the helm or is his hard-line approach exactly what the team needs?
POINT - Kyle Maistri: While I acknowledge that the off-the-field arrests under Urban Meyer were something of a black eye on an otherwise stellar tenure, I think it's important for Muschamp not to overreact to those statistics just for the sake of maintaining a clean public image. College is a place where high school kids go to become young men, and in any process of that nature, mistakes will be made by individuals.
There are certain transgressions, such as domestic violence, which must be handled with swift and unwavering action, but it's important to keep a level head about the role the coaching staff and university should have in the relationship with their athletes. They're young adults who are going to make mistakes. Teaching them how best to rehabilitate themselves from those mistakes, rather than simply breaking ties, is a far more constructive approach for the athlete.
COUNTERPOINT - Adam Silverstein: As Kyle menioned, the arrests made during Meyer's tenure undoubtedly cast a black eye on the football program. Muschamp was well aware of this when he accepted the job, and I have no doubt that he had a conversation with athletic director Jeremy Foley and perhaps even University President Bernie Machen about this exact topic.
While, ideally, no coach wants to step into a program and immediately come off as the "bad guy" who is too strict and demanding, that is exactly what Meyer did when he strode into Gainesville, FL as Ron Zook's replacement. Some of the entrenched players bought in right away, but most hated his guts...until they realized that his methods were being employed to help them succeed...then they loved him. Muschamp's dismissal of cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been his most controversial decision, but if he let him stay after that second marijuana arrest, that would have weakened the no-nonsense image he is trying to portray internally. Recent statements by Jenkins, admitting he was in the wrong and that he has respect for Muschamp "as a man and as a coach" prove that his approach is working.
TOPIC: Will Redshirt Senior quarterback John Brantley bounce back from a rough first season and succeed in 2011 or will his performance be a repeat of 2010 just in a brand new system?
POINT - Adam Silverstein: There are a lot of ways to look at Brantley's output in 2010. You can defend him for playing in a system he was not suited for, under an offensive coordinator who had no business holding that job, and with an offensive line that did little to protect him. You can also say he had a serious lack of support around him on the field and, after some rough outings, was stripped of any chance to succeed later on when Meyer went to the three-quarterback system that was temporarily successful. No matter how you slice it, whether you place the blame all on his shoulders or decide to spread it around, Brantley failed last year.
So why will things be different in 2011? There is the obvious reason - Brantley is much better suited for new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis's pro-style system. But there are others, too. Weis and Muschamp have each said independently that they believe in Brantley and are throwing their support completely behind him (though of course that could just be because all of their other options just got out of high school). Former Florida QBs Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews have each told me on separate occasions that Brantley has all of the tools to not only be successful in college but also the NFL.
Also notable are stats compiled by "The Football Scientist" K.C. Joyner, who determined that against UF's three toughest pass defense opponents (Tennessee, LSU, Alabama), Brantley compiled a 214.4 passer rating on mid-range passes (11-19 yards), going 18-for-24 for 347 yards with one touchdown and no picks. Efficiency is something Weis loves and mid-range passes to dynamic receivers could be the recipe he employs in order to get the most out of Brantley and turn his career around in his final season donning the Orange & Blue.
COUNTERPOINT - Kyle Maistri: I think success is a very relative term, so it's a little bit difficult to answer such a broad question. I do believe Brantley will be more successful than he was a season ago due, in part, to some of the factors laid out by Adam in his Point, such as Steve Addazio, some inadequacies of the offensive line, etc.?
However, I do not believe that Brantley is primed to make some giant leap in his game. I don't recall ever seeing anything from Brantley last season that made me think, "That was great." To forecast greatness, an athlete needn't always have been great, but I do believe that it is wise to try to look for signs of greatness when attempting to predict the future, and I saw none of those signs a season ago. All the outside factors Adam mentioned, and I agree with, certainly effected Brantley's ability to be great with any consistency, but the lack of any isolated incidents of greatness very much concerns me and makes me weary of jumping on his bandwagon.
Either plays that were botched through no fault of his own effected his ability to do his job on plays in which he had the opportunity to succeed, or he is just not very good under any circumstances. Either way, it doesn't bode well for his future prospects. I question Brantley's self confidence after a season like 2010; with the offense around him being relatively green, he will be counted on to provide confidence for the unit and direct traffic.. I do not think it is impossible for Brantley to have a successful season, I just haven't seen anything from him to make me believe that will happen.