Caleb Brantley is coming back.
The redshirt sophomore defensive lineman announced Friday that he plans to return to the Gators next season.
“I never thought about leaving,” Brantley said. “I just felt like I could better myself if I came back next year.”
Brantley has been a quiet force along Florida’s defensive line this season.
In 12 games, nine of which were starts, the 6-foot-2, 314-pound Brantley recorded 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, all career highs.
“I feel like I really haven’t played how I can play yet,” he said. “I mean, I played good, but I know I can do better.”
Brantley said watching senior Jon Bullard, one of his mentors, return and raise his draft stock gave Brantley extra incentive to return to school.
Bullard moved from defensive end to tackle and had the best season of his collegiate career as a senior, racking up 63 tackles, a team-best 17.5 tackles for loss and a team-high-tying 6.5 sacks en route to first-team All-Southeastern Conference and second-team All-American honors.
“He chose to come back and really surprised me,” Brantley said. “I think he moved himself into the first round with a stellar season. ... I still haven’t.”
With Brantley’s return, the Gators are guaranteed to return at least three defensive linemen with major playing experience, the others being freshman All-American CeCe Jefferson and redshirt freshman Taven Bryan, in addition to freshmen Jabari Zuniga and Keivonnis Davis, who players said have impressed in practice.
True junior Joey Ivie and redshirt juniors Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister are eligible to declare for the NFL Draft but have not made an indication either way about their football futures.
Deadline for underclassmen to apply for the NFL Draft is Jan. 18.
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UF defensive lineman Caleb Brantley lines up during Florida's 14-9 win against Kentucky on Sept. 19, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky.