A four-star recruit out of Crescent City, Florida, Caleb Brantley was a familiar name to diehard Florida Gators fans for a long time before he signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Florida. His star rose throughout the process and Brantley quickly became a household name to even casual fans before he stepped foot on campus.
Brantley was viewed as the next in line behind Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, a sure fire All-SEC defensive lineman and maybe even an All-American before his time was done in Gainesville.
Brantley came to Florida ready to make an impact from day one but that wasn’t in the cards for him. Brantley took a redshirt. It wasn’t the way he pictured his career starting but he remained focused and was named to the SEC First-Year Honor Roll and was named the Scout Team Offensive MVP.
Those things were nice but behind the scenes Brantley was struggling internally.
“Coaching was definitely a problem for me. Like last year, me and [defensive line coach Brad] Lawing obviously didn’t get along and it was just a hassle,” Brantley said. “I didn’t want to go to practice every day because I didn’t want to deal with the kind of coaching I was getting.”
Brantley wasn’t used to the style of coaching he was getting from Brad Lawing and the young defensive lineman didn’t know how to process it. It got to the point where Brantley was hesitant to even ask questions during film sessions for fear of what kind of reaction he would get. When Lawing would get on Brantley in practice, the redshirt freshman would hang his head and be mentally out of the next several reps, something his teammates picked up on.
The hiring of Jim McElwain gave the Florida Gators a brand new coaching staff on both sides of the ball and is giving the program — and Brantley specifically – -a fresh start.
“Coach Rumph did his job,” said Brantley. “He motivated me. He brought out something in me I didn’t think I had in me.”
Ultimately, that is the job of a football coach. You need to build the kind of relationship with each player that makes them want to run through a brick wall for you. They don’t question the things you tell them because the trust that a coach has the player’s best interest in mind is understood. Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, Brantley finally feels like he has that type of relationship with his position coach.
“He’s more patient with me. I mean, I don’t want to really talk about coaches or nothing like that, but with Coach Lawing, he didn’t really, he didn’t make me feel like I was worthy of becoming better,” Brantley said. “Coach Rumph just reminded me how good I could be if I just pushed myself.”
Brantley has always had the physical tools. He was well over 300-pounds in high school and is as strong as any player on the defensive line, it was the mental part of the game that held him back. His lack of confidence in himself and his last position coach mirrored itself into his game. The once confident Under Armour All-American doubted his skills. Did he have what it takes to play in the SEC? A question Brantley would have scoffed at as an 18-year old actually crept into his mind.
Rumph has been hard on Brantley but in a more effective way. The challenge for a coach is to find what teaching methods will get the most out of different players. There isn’t a cookie cutter way to reach every 18-to-20 year old athlete. Rumph has recognized this and it’s paying benefits for Brantley and for the Gators.
“I think [Brantley] is a person who is going to shock a lot of people. He’s a very talented guy,” Joey Ivie said of his teammate. “He’s come around a lot. The main thing with him was just his motivation, and he’s definitely motivated this camp.
“We came in together when we were in high school. We talked about playing together, and it’s kind of cool that we’re starting next to each other. I’m expecting big things out of him.”
The Florida Gators fans are expecting big things out of the defense and Caleb Brantley is ready to leave his mark.