BOWLING GREEN - As a wide receiver on the Bowling Green football team, Kenneth Brantley II has learned all about seizing opportunities.
That's because there are a limited number of chances - not to mention plenty of talented players eagerly waiting to snap up those chances, since the Falcons return every starter and backup from last year's corps of receivers.
Brantley is listed as the backup at the "E" receiver position behind James Hawkins and Justin Martin. The Falcons also return starters such as Cole Magner and Charles Sharon as well as experienced backups such as Steve Sanders and Cornelius McGrady.
So when Brantley was given an opportunity to shine at last night's scrimmage, which was played on the practice field next to Perry Stadium, he took advantage of it. Working with the second unit, the 5-11, 199-pound sophomore combined with freshman quarterback Anthony Turner for several big-yardage pass plays.
Brantley said all of that talent at one position makes for spirited battles for playing time.
"There is so much competition out here, it's a fight every day in practice," he said. "When your number is called, you've got to make a play because that's the only way the coaches are going to trust you."
Several other receivers played well last night, as Sharon snagged two TD passes, while Hawkins also made several catches.
"James Hawkins had some nice catches, Steve Sanders made some catches," said BG coach Gregg Brandon. "It was kind of what I expected receivers-wise: The guys who have made plays for us the past couple of years made plays today."
Perhaps the only surprise was Brantley, who has caught just two passes in his injury-plagued career. He received a medical hardship in 2002 as illness limited him to two contests and one catch, a three-yard grab against Tennessee Tech. Last season the native of Shreveport, La., tore his ACL during fall drills and played in only four games, catching a 15-yard pass in the victory at Purdue.
"It's always been little things that have been nagging me off the field," Brantley said. "I think God is working to put patience in me. My time is coming, and today God worked some miracles in me. I just hope that the coaches saw that [today] and that I can be a guy [who plays] this year."
"Kenny Brantley showed up big today," Brandon said. "We've challenged him, because he needs to do that. He had a knee injury last year that ended his season, but he's coming back from that and really responded."
Brantley said the pressure to earn playing time touches everyone in the receivers unit.
"There's a lot of pressure, even on the starters," he said. "The starters know that if they don't come out and perform every day, somebody is going to slip in and take their spot."
And Brantley said any time he doubts that fact, he reminds himself of last year's Purdue game.
"In that game, Hawkins came out and I got to play for one play," Brantley said. "On that one play I got to catch a pass. It's simple: You have to be ready at all times, because you never know when your number is going to be called."
Yesterday's scrimmage, which was played before a crowd estimated at roughly 500, featured several series starting at the 30-yard line, followed by drills at the goal-line and in the red zone.
"It was the way you would anticipate it [would go]," Brandon said. "The first offense moved the ball against the second defense, and the first defense dominated every time they were out there."
With classes at Bowling Green starting today, the Falcons will take the day off and return to the practice field tomorrow as they continue preparations for the season-opener at Oklahoma Saturday, Sept. 4.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.
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