The question for the Florida offense leading into Saturday’s matchup does not revolve around whether quarterback John Brantley is hurt but the extent is certainly up for debate.
When the Gators junior quarterback addressed the media Monday morning, he attempted to downplay reports that he was playing through broken ribs, a broken bone on his thumb on his throwing hand and a shoulder issue.
ESPN.com college football reporter Joe Schad reported sources were telling him Sunday that Brantley had all of those previously mentioned injuries but Florida officials quickly said that was highly inaccurate.
“There was never no doubt that I wasn’t going to play,” Brantley said after Florida’s loss to LSU. “I knew since Monday or Sunday I was. They’re just a little banged up. Nothing too serious. Nothing you can’t play through.”
In Florida’s 33-29 loss to LSU, Brantley was 16-of-24 for 154 yards with one interception and was sacked three times.
Florida head coach Urban Meyer confirmed Monday Brantley, who injured his ribs two weeks ago at Alabama, did wear an athletic-version of a flak jacket to protect a rib injury and it was the pain of that rib injury that caused some discomfort in his shoulder while throwing in practice.
“Johnny Brantley had a rib injury, has a rib injury that he fought through and I thought he fought through great,” Meyer said. "He's a tough guy and he played really tough in that game. That really showed us a lot about who Johnny is.”
Brantley said Monday he even had to send text messages “all week” to his sister that he was playing against LSU after the rumors got heavier throughout the Gainesville campus.
Brantley said he felt less sore than he did at this time last week and as Mississippi State’s coaching staff prepares for their Saturday matchup with the Gators (6 p.m., ESPNU), Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen said he expects Florida’s starting quarterback to take every snap just as he did last week against LSU.
“Brantley came out and said after the game this week that he was fine so I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be truthful about that,” Mullen said. “I would think he’ll be the guy.”
However, just because Brantley says he’s healthy doesn’t mean in a game as violent as college football that the MSU defensive players don’t have a target on the midsection of the Florida quarterback.
"Last week we were going against a freshman quarterback and wanted to knock him out of the game," said MSU sophomore cornerback Corey Broomfield. "That's nothing new and the quarterbacks know it. We're trying to knock him out of the game."
Florida’s backup quarterback Trey Burton is also a starting wide receiver option for the Gators but more importantly the freshman has completed just one pass this season and his last attempt was a jump pass that was intercepted at the goal line at Alabama.
“I wasn't limited too much (in practice) I took the reps I needed to take," Brantley said. "I wouldn't really call it limited. Maybe one or two less throws, but I wouldn't call it limited."
Mullen’s answers to questions about his relationship with Brantley while MSU’s second-year head coach was the offensive coordinator with the Gators were very similar to descriptions given last year about former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
“You could just see talent from day one,” Mullen said. “He was the most gifted passer while I was at Florida. I spent more time with the quarterbacks than I did my wife.”
Brignone questionable for Saturday’s game
Mississippi State officials have said senior center J.C. Brignone will “be extremely limited” this week in practice after suffering what State officials are calling a severe knee sprain injury early in MSU’s victory at Houston Saturday.
Mullen said Monday his knee injury is “completely different” to the season-ending variety suffered by Bulldogs junior tight end Marcus Green.
The Bulldogs second-year head coach said Sunday that Brignone, who has 27 starts at his position in his MSU career, won’t likely practice until at least Thursday in the hopes of giving the training staff the proper time to get the 300-pound offensive lineman healthy.
Brignone did not return after suffering the injury in the first half and was replaced by Quentin Saulsberry, who moved from right guard to center for the rest of the game.
“We plan on having J.C. for the game,” Mullen said. “That was told that by the end of the game and nothing has changed since then. If he’s still sore throughout the week and can’t go, somebody will have to step up.”