The University of Florida has proudly boasted the moniker “DBU” but there might be a new trend going on in Gainesville. The last three years the Florida Gators have had a defensive lineman drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft and Jon Bullard has an outside chance of making that four years in a row this April.
If Bullard can extend the streak, redshirt junior Caleb Brantley thinks he has what it takes to keep the streak alive.
“I feel like I’m the best d-lineman in the country,” Brantley said. “So I’m going out and trying to prove it.”
Brantley had his best season in 2015 with 29 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, three sacks and two quarterback hurries. Playing next to Bullard proved a formidable duo for Florida and Brantley seriously thought about following Bullard and entering the NFL Draft. Instead of following Bullard to the league, Brantley decided to follow in Bullard’s footsteps, taking on a leadership role for the defense.
“I mean he taught how to be a leader, a role model to the younger guys and always do stuff right,” Brantley said of Bullard. “You don’t want to be the guy that coaches look to, to lead the younger guys and you’re messing stuff up. I’m just trying to lead by example. Do all the little stuff. Like having your shirt tucked in, just the little things.”
That’s an unselfish attitude that Brantley also shows on the field. Playing inside Brantley is not just greeted with double teams but demands them due to his size, speed and strength. Often times that means Brantley holding up two offensive linemen in order to create a play for a teammate, a role that Brantley has taken on without complaint.
“It is frustrating, but at the same time I can’t be selfish, you feel me? If you’re good, you’re going to get double-teamed nine times out of 10. It’s a chance for other guys to step up. I’m not the only one on the D-line that’s a hell-raiser. You’ve got CeCe Jefferson, Bryan Cox, Taven Bryan. I love our whole D-line. Pick your poison
Taking on those double teams all game at over 300 pounds is also tiring, but Brantley knows that he needs to be on the field more than he has been and he has to put in the work now to be able to ensure that can happen this fall.
“Speed and quickness. Like my speed off the ball, hand quickness and running to the ball. Conditioning,” he said. “I mean, I feel like if I can stay on the field longer and get my wind up, I feel like I can help this team a lot.”
Caleb Brantley has come a long way the last four years. A cocky recruit was humbled by a redshirt — something he didn’t expect — and then his role wasn’t what he expected as a redshirt freshman. Brantley’s transformation from a young, brash, selfish player has come full circle. He’s a veteran; a leader and someone the rest of his teammates look to now.
“From the first day we walked onto this campus, Caleb has done a lot of growing. He’s definitely become a grown man for that defensive line,” senior linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “When it’s time for somebody to block him, good luck because that man knows what he wants and he’s not going to be stopped, he’s not going to be denied.”