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THE INSIDE TRACK

Gators Get Boost From Hoosiers

October 22, 2000|From Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Never a big fan of recruiting, Florida coach Steve Spurrier would rather spend the summer golfing for fun than fishing for blue chips.

Keep those clubs handy, coach.

Spurrier's two best players this season are a quarterback from Indiana who came knocking on his door, and a receiver the coach called on a whim, more out of respect for his Florida bloodlines than his prep accomplishments.

They're Rex Grossman and Jabar Gaffney, two talented redshirt freshmen who offer proof that gut feelings, good luck and great timing still mean something in the ever-competitive world of college recruiting.

"Recruiting can be misleading at times," Spurrier said. "It's important to recruit well. But most important is what the players do after they get there. Some peak during high school. Others during college. The goal is to get the ones who peak during college."

That's exactly what's happening with Grossman and Gaffney.

With 14 touchdown passes and a throwing touch that has people thinking of Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, Grossman's decision to move South seems brilliant after his first two starts.

"Let's not get carried away," Grossman says of the Wuerffel comparisons. "It's only two games."

Gaffney has caught 10 touchdown passes and become the single consistent, big-play threat on a receiving corps considered questionable at the start of the season.

"It's fun making big plays," Gaffney said. "It's great when things are clicking like this."

In a story quickly becoming a legend in Gainesville, Grossman came with his parents to Spurrier's office one day in the summer after his sophomore year of high school, hoping to show the coach tape of his prep highlights.

Spurrier is rarely in on nice summer days--not because of recruiting duties, but because the golf course beckons.

"He caught me on the one, single day I happened to be there," Spurrier said. "I guess we both got lucky."

Grossman impressed Spurrier. The coach offered him a scholarship and the quarterback committed in March of his junior year.

Grossman had his fair share of skeptics back home in Bloomington, Ind., where he had become something of a hometown hero, and had received heavy interest from Notre Dame and virtually every Big Ten school.

"I can't say I wasn't nervous about it," said Mo Moriarty, Grossman's coach at Bloomington South High. "That's a long way from home. And you're going from somewhere where everyone knows who you are to where nobody knows who you are.

"But he's different from most kids. He can handle most any type of situation."

Grossman has helped lead the No. 8 Gators to a 6-1 record (4-1 Southeastern Conference). The team is off Saturday and will play No. 12 Georgia next Saturday, a game that could decide the SEC East.

While Grossman came to Florida as something of a mystery, everybody knew Gaffney.

He grew up in Jacksonville, a short trip from Gainesville, and always dreamed of following in the footsteps of his father, Derrick, and uncle, Don, who both played for the Gators in the 1970s.

But the Gators weren't so high on him.

"Jabar got recruited by a lot of people, but for some reason, the people we had evaluating him had him behind other guys," Spurrier said. "Fortunately, we felt like we had one scholarship available. I called him late in the recruiting season. That's the reason he's here."

Gaffney's Gator career nearly ended last year when he was accused of stealing $245 in cash and an $80 watch from the Florida locker room, which was being used by a high school during a championship game. He was charged with grand theft, and in April signed a "deferred prosecution agreement."

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