Redshirt sophomore Caleb Brantley told reporters on Friday that he intends to return to Florida next season.
“I’m coming back,” Brantley said. “I never thought about leaving. I just felt like I could better myself if I came back next year.”
Brantley will be a key piece on the Florida Gators defense next year, joining junior linebacker Jarrad Davis as draft-eligible players who have decided to return to school. A four-star prospect out of high school, Brantley had a different career path in mind as a high school senior, a quick three-year pit stop on the way to the NFL, perhaps. However, after a redshirt season and a great example of what coming back to school can do for someone, Brantley needed only to look at Jon Bullard to see the benefits of coming back to school.
“He chose to come back and really surprised me. He definitely helped himself move into the — I think he moved himself into the first round with a stellar season,” Brantley said of Bullard. “I mean, I still haven’t, for me, I feel like I really haven’t played how I can play yet. I mean, I played good, but I know I can do better.”
Like Davis, Brantley’s goal of “doing better” isn’t necessarily a personal goal. Sitting on a stool, peeling tape off of his fingers, Davis spoke about getting the chance to play for a SEC Championship and what it meant to him and his teammates. Brantley echoed the sentiment on Friday.
Part of putting the team first came when Florida began bowl practice. Seniors and underclassmen that have decided to declare for the draft were separated from the rest of the team. This will help the coaching staff see some of the younger players on the roster and evaluate what they have moving forward. For Brantley, it was eye opening, a passing of the guard even.
“It was kind of scary at first. I’ve always had Bullard there,” Brantley said. “Last practice when we split up, he was like “hey Caleb, it starts here.” I’m one of the older guys now. It’s definitely new, but we’ve got to embrace it.”
With Davis and Brantley back in the fold, the Gators’ defense will once again be a unit to be reckoned with in 2016, if not a better defense altogether.