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Original Issue

2 Florida The Gators' toughest task may be choosing which passer will run their potent attack

Coach Steve Spurrier knows his team is loaded and has a chance
to win its second national championship in five years. At the
same time, he realizes that much of the talent on this team is
raw, and throughout the summer he has tried to keep his players
from getting cocky. "I tell our guys all the time that we're not
that good yet," says Spurrier. "We have back a lot of players
[18 starters] and have a chance to [win the national title] if
we work hard, but anyone who thinks we're a great team now is
fooling himself. Last year we were eighth in the SEC in total
defense, 11th in rushing offense and last in time of
possession--and we don't know who our quarterback will be. Trust
me, we have a lot of work ahead of us."

Choosing a quarterback is Spurrier's primary dilemma. Sophomore
passers Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin are locked in a battle
that might last until the first week of the season. Spurrier,
who has been known to alternate quarterbacks on every down, says
whoever emerges as the starter will be given the opportunity to
play full time. Grossman, who started eight games last fall and
threw for 1,866 yards and 21 touchdowns, is more experienced,
but Berlin, who was the 1999 USA Today Offensive Player of the
Year and played sparingly in four games for the Gators in 2000,
is considered to have the better arm.

"Both guys throw the ball well, and the guy who wins the job will
probably be the smarter one," says Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy
winner and former NFL quarterback who is entering his 15th season
as coach at his alma mater. "Rex was instrumental in four
victories for us last year, but he has to eliminate the bad
plays. Brock is coming along nicely, but he hasn't played much.
We hope one of the two will separate himself from the other. Our
best years have been when we've had a quarterback who is
definitely the guy." (Senior Danny Wuerffel started all 12 games
in '96, plus the 52-20 Sugar Bowl win over Florida State.)

Whoever wins the quarterback derby will benefit from an
experienced line, led by All-SEC senior tackle Mike Pearson and
senior center Zac Zedalis (out for most of the last two seasons
because of injuries), and one of the top receiving corps in the
country. Sophomore wideout Jabar Gaffney is coming off a
spectacular year, in which he set NCAA freshman records for
catches (71) and receiving yards (1,184) and had 14 touchdowns.
If he draws double coverage, juniors Reche Caldwell (760 yards,
six touchdowns) and Taylor Jacobs (11.6 yards per catch) are
skilled alternatives. The running attack, which produced only
110.5 yards per game last year, should improve because senior
Robert Gillespie (678 yards, five touchdowns) and junior Earnest
Graham (676, six touchdowns) are more seasoned, and highly
touted redshirt freshman Willie Green, who scored a Florida
high-school-record 107 career touchdowns but missed last year
after having surgery on both knees, is healthy.

Featuring two big-play performers, junior cornerback Lito
Sheppard (team-leading six interceptions in 2000) and senior end
Alex Brown (11 1/2 tackles for loss, including 7 1/2 sacks),
Florida's defense figures to be one of the nation's best. Senior
linebacker Andra Davis, who made 109 tackles in 1999, is back
after missing most of last season with a torn ligament in his
right knee.

As usual, the schedule is daunting, but the Gators play
Tennessee, Mississippi State and Florida State at home. "We have
a lot of guys who can play," says Spurrier, "but with our
schedule, who knows?" He pauses, slouches in his chair and
finally admits the opportunity to win a national championship is
there for the taking. His sly grin suggests he's playing with a
stacked deck.

--B.J. Schecter

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Sheppard, who had a team-high six interceptions last fall, leads a defense that can head off any scoring threat.


2000 record: 10-3 (8-1, 1st in SEC East)
Final ranking: No. 10 AP, No. 11 coaches' poll


Weeks in a row, dating to 1990, that Steve Spurrier's Gators have
been in the AP Top 25.


DE Alex Brown [Sr.]
Two-time Lombardi Trophy semifinalist

OT Mike Pearson [Jr.]
13 starts after fracturing skull in July 2000

WR Jabar Gaffney [So.]
Gators' first freshman All-America wideout

CB Lito Sheppard [Jr.]
Gained 37.4 yards per game as KR-PR

K Jeff Chandler [Sr.]
School's alltime leading scorer (265 pts.)

An opposing team's coach sizes up the Gators

"This could be the most explosive offense in the country. Either
quarterback, Rex Grossman or Brock Berlin, is going to create
problems, but they're not so drastically different that you
change your defensive calls. They can both make the throws they
need to make because Steve Spurrier's system takes advantage of
what the defense is doing.... The receivers [Jabar Gaffney and
Reche Caldwell] make you work from sideline to sideline. Tight
end Aaron Walker can stretch you up the middle.... [New defensive
line coach] Ricky Hunley will toughen up end Alex Brown. Brown's
a dog. He made big plays, but he doesn't show up when they need
him. Great players play every down.... Their coaches are lazy
when it comes to recruiting. They rely on the Florida name. You
see them signing good players on offense because of the draw of
Spurrier, but since they lost [defensive coordinator] Bob Stoops
they haven't had the same success recruiting defensive players."

Strength: 15th of 117

22 at Kentucky
Oct. 6 at LSU
13 at Auburn
10 at South Carolina

*At Jacksonville