Florida coach Steve Spurrier has done some impressive things
over the last two years. He won the SEC title twice, fashioned
the Gators' first 11-win season (1993) and led them to their
first Sugar Bowl championship (after the '93 season). But he
hasn't beaten a Bowden. Twenty-one-and-0 against the rest of the
world and 0-4-1 against Florida State's Bobby and Auburn's
Terry. Eliminate that pesky father-son combination and Spurrier
might have two national championship rings instead of none.

It is not something Spurrier likes to discuss. When asked about
the Bowden factor, Spurrier tends to don his offensive
coordinator visor and say he's not coaching against Bobby or
Terry, but against their defensive coordinators. O.K., Steve, as
you wish. But we must ask: Is this the year you finally beat
FSU's Mickey Andrews and Auburn's Wayne Hall? Because what's at
stake is not just a national title, it's the image of the
Gators, and their coach, as underachievers.

Last year Florida was the consensus No. 1 pick and quarterback
Terry Dean the Heisman front-runner before the wheels fell off
against 17-point underdog Auburn. How ugly was it? Dean threw
four interceptions and was benched--never to return to the
starting lineup--as Florida lost 36-33. Five weeks later Florida
State fought back from a 31-3 deficit to tie Florida at 31 and
to tie the NCAA record for fourth-quarter comebacks. Things
continued downhill as a vicious fight between reserve
nickelbackers Darren Hambrick and Anthony Riggins at a team
dinner before the Sugar Bowl cast a pall over a game the Gators
went on to lose 23-17 to the Seminoles and Bobby Bowden--er,
Mickey Andrews. Can the Gators hope for smoother sailing this
year?

A look at the offense (at Florida the offense comes first--and
goes first when the two units' buses depart hotels and stadiums)
reveals another season of score-a-thons waiting to happen. The
No. 1 quarterback going into the fall is junior Danny Wuerffel,
a prolific passer who survived last year's shuffle with Dean
only to face a new challenge from Eric Kresser, a cannon-armed
junior. Kresser, who throws the ball so hard that tight end
Tremayne Allen says he "could hurt somebody," may be best known
for the "hobble-off" play in last year's SEC championship game
against Alabama. With the Gators trailing 23-17 late in the
fourth quarter, Wuerffel feigned an injury and was replaced for
one play by Kresser, who calmly fired a 25-yard bullet to
freshman wideout Ike Hilliard at the Alabama 42, preserving a
drive that would end in the winning TD. The play says a lot
about both quarterbacks: Wuerffel is willing to let his
understudy make the big play, and Kresser is able to step in and
make it.

The Gators have another available passer in junior Brian
Schottenheimer, the son of Kansas City Chief coach Marty
Schottenheimer. "If we get two of our quarterbacks hurt, we know
we'll have someone who can go in and run the offense," says
Spurrier. "We've got three quarterbacks who can play."

There will be no shortage of targets for any one of them, even
with the early departure of wideout Jack Jackson to the NFL.
Senior Chris Doering and sophomores Hilliard and Reidel Anthony
lead a pack of fleet wideouts that Spurrier calls "probably the
fastest group of wide receivers we've ever had at Florida."

Adding to the aerial threat is Allen, a walk-on who won a
scholarship and the starting tight end job in spring practice.
"I think my biggest motivation to make the team was not getting
to travel to the SEC championship last year," says Allen, a
junior. "Watching the team's celebration on TV really got to me."

That celebration came about largely because of Spurrier's
offensive mind, which created plays like the hobble-off and the
"Emery&Henry shift." But Spurrier's focus on the offense has
often come at the expense of the defense, whose fortunes dipped
dramatically with his arrival in 1990. After leading the league
in total defense five times in the '80s, Florida dropped to
ninth in the SEC and 44th in the nation in total defense in
1992. But since Spurrier installed Bob Pruett as coordinator a
year ago, the defense has become respectable once again, giving
up just 84.6 yards a game last year and leading the league
against the rush. This year's line may not be as stingy, now
that NFL first-round draft picks Kevin Carter and Ellis Johnson
have departed. But fortunately for the Gators, theirs is one of
the best recruiting classes in the nation, and probably the best
group of defensive recruits. High school All-Americas Reggie
McGrew and Ernie Badeaux should provide quality backup help for
ends Johnnie Church and Mark Campbell and tackles David Barnard
and Keith Council.

At last, the secondary may shed its reputation as so much burned
toast. Sophomore Fred Weary, who entered Florida as a wide
receiver, will man the corners with Anthone Lott. We know Weary
can run (his time in the 40 is under 4.4) and Lott can leap.
Last year Lott vaulted an eight-foot fence to escape reporters
after a practice.

If Bobby and Terry, and Mickey and Wayne, succumb this year,
Spurrier and the Gators could make the big leap as well.

--Kelli Anderson

COLOR PHOTO: ANTHONY NESTE Wuerffel's '95 mission includes beating a Bowden. [Danny Wuerffel in game]

THE DATA BOX

Head coach: Steve Spurrier
Career college record: 69-25-2
Sixth year at Florida (49-12-1)

1994 RECORD 10-2-1
SEC record: 7-1 (first)

W New Mexico State 70-21
W Kentucky 73-7
W at Tennessee 31-0
W at Mississippi 38-14
W LSU 42-18
L Auburn 36-33
W Georgia 52-14
W Southern Mississippi 55-17
W South Carolina 48-17
W at Vanderbilt 24-7
T at Florida State 31-31
W Alabama 24-23 (SEC championship)
L Florida State 23-17 (Sugar Bowl)

Final '94 ranking: 7 AP, 7 CNN/USA Today

Lettermen lost: 19
Lettermen returning: 42
Returning starters, offense: 6
Returning starters, defense: 5

KEY GAMES:
Sept. 16 Tennessee
Oct. 14 at Auburn
Nov. 25 Florida State

Player To Watch

When Florida takes on Houston in Gainesville on Sept. 2, the
Gator offense will be in the hands of a center who has never
snapped the ball in a game. But coaches have supreme confidence
in 6'5", 287-pound junior Jeff Mitchell, who started at left
guard last year and was a co-recipient of Florida's most
outstanding offensive lineman award. "Jeff has certain qualities
that I think make for a great center," says offensive line coach
Jimmy Ray Stephens, a center and tight end at Florida in the
'70s. "Quickness, intelligence, flexibility. It also doesn't
hurt that Jeff is probably the strongest guy on our team."

A defensive lineman in high school, Mitchell broke into the
Gator starting lineup at left guard before the SEC championship
game in his redshirt freshman year. Says Mitchell, who runs a
4.9 40, "I'm not quick enough for the defensive line here, but
I'm really quick for an offensive lineman." Best of all for the
Gators, he'll be a quick study at center.

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