As Elijah Williams, schoolboy All-America, walked through the
halls of Milton (Fla.) High five years ago, choices, choices,
choices swirled through his head. North Carolina or Florida? Tar
Heel or Gator? Tobacco or oranges?
"I finally decided Florida had two things I wanted," says
Williams. "First, Errict Rhett was graduating, so I had a chance
of coming in at running back right away and playing. And second,
no one wore number 25. It was mine."
Funny how things change. Though Williams, now a senior, has been
the Gators' top rusher for two seasons (671 yards last year), he
is moving to left cornerback, where, in the pass-happy,
let's-give-Florida-a-taste-of-its-own-medicine SEC, everyone
could have his number. "I'm gonna be target number 1--no doubt,"
says Williams, who was a part-time defensive back in high
school. "But it's a challenge I like. It's just another way to
With safety Lawrence Wright and cornerback Anthone Lott lost to
graduation, the 5'10", 182-pound Williams has become more
essential to the defending national champions' defense than to
their offense, which is well-stocked with talented runners. "Our
job is to get the best players on the field," says coach Steve
Though the Gators lost Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel to
graduation, they have Doug Johnson, already established as a
championship-caliber clipboard holder, ready to take over at
quarterback. Johnson has the arm--he was a second-round pick of
baseball's expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays last year as a third
baseman--and should thrive under Spurrier's quarterback-
friendly system. That is, unless no one knows how to catch.
Florida's top two receivers last season, All-Americas Reidel
Anthony and Ike Hilliard, are gone, having opted for NFL riches.
The Gators will turn to Jacquez Green (33 catches, 626 yards in
'96), a bona fide deep threat who, for the first time, will have
to carry a heavy load. Spurrier is also looking for
contributions from at least two of the team's five freshman
Unlike its receiving corps, Florida's backfield is
experienced--and deep enough not to miss Williams. It includes
tailbacks Fred Taylor (629 yards, five touchdowns last fall) and
Eugene McCaslin (290 yards, four touchdowns), as well as
versatile fullback Terry Jackson (388 yards, eight touchdowns).
A promising omen, if you believe in such things (which Spurrier
does), is the presence of freshman fullback Rod Frazier, the kid
brother of a former option-running, number 15-wearing,
two-time-national-championship-winning Nebraska Cornhusker named
70 Consecutive weeks, dating back to January 1993, that the
Gators have been ranked in the Top 10, the longest such streak
in Division I-A.
TWO GAMES TO WATCH
SEPT. 20 VS. TENNESSEE Florida has won five of the last six
meetings and couldn't care less if Peyton Manning is back.
NOV. 22 VS. FLORIDA STATE The Gators will likely have more in
their six-shooter than the Seminoles. As usual, state bragging
rights will be riding on the outcome--and so might a national
Passing Doug Johnson Soph. 12 comp., 27 att.,
171 yds., 2 TDs
Rushing Fred Taylor Sr. 629 yds., 5 TDs
Receiving Jacquez Green Jr. 33 catches, 626 yds.,
Tackles LB Johnny Rutledge Jr. 108
Sacks DE Tim Beauchamp Jr. 7
Interceptions CB Fred Weary Sr. 5