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The question for the Florida offense leading into Saturdayâs 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.
âThere was never no doubt that I wasnât going to play,â Brantley said after Floridaâs loss to LSU. âI knew since Monday or Sunday I was. Theyâre just a little banged up. Nothing too serious. Nothing you canât play through.â
In Floridaâs 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.
âJohnny Brantley had a rib injury, has a rib injury that he fought through and I thought he fought through great,â 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.â
Brantley said Monday he even had to send text messages âall weekâ 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 Stateâs coaching staff prepares for their Saturday matchup with the Gators (6 p.m., ESPNU), Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen said he expects Floridaâs starting quarterback to take every snap just as he did last week against LSU.
âBrantley came out and said after the game this week that he was fine so I canât imagine why he wouldnât be truthful about that,â Mullen said. âI would think heâll be the guy.â
However, just because Brantley says heâs healthy doesnât mean in a game as violent as college football that the MSU defensive players donât 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."
Floridaâs 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.
âI 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."
Mullenâs answers to questions about his relationship with Brantley while MSUâs 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.
âYou could just see talent from day one,â Mullen said. âHe was the most gifted passer while I was at Florida. I spent more time with the quarterbacks than I did my wife.â
Brignone questionable for Saturdayâs game
Mississippi State officials have said senior center J.C. Brignone will âbe extremely limitedâ this week in practice after suffering what State officials are calling a severe knee sprain injury early in MSUâs victory at Houston Saturday.
Mullen said Monday his knee injury is âcompletely differentâ 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, wonât 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.
âWe plan on having J.C. for the game,â Mullen said. âThat was told that by the end of the game and nothing has changed since then.Â IfÂ heâs still sore throughout the week and canât go, somebody will have to step up.â