Spurrier defuses QB debate -- for now
Despite injury, Johnson will keep Gators' starting QB job
Posted: Sunday January 03, 1999 02:01 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Less than 12 hours after Florida's Orange Bowl win over Syracuse, coach Steve Spurrier was subtly turning up the heat on Doug Johnson.
Spurrier said Sunday that Johnson, who broke his left leg midway through the seventh-ranked Gators' 31-10 victory, would remain his No. 1 quarterback ahead of Jesse Palmer when spring practice begins.
"Doug is first in line to be our quarterback next year," Spurrier said before going on recruiting visits. "Hopefully we won't have to alternate them. We're not planning on it."
Of course, that could change based on Johnson's ability to recover in time for spring ball. Or his decision whether to concentrate on football this summer instead of playing minor-league baseball.
"We don't know how all of this is going to play out," Spurrier said. "Doug's got to make a decision whether to stay in Gainesville all summer. It helps a quarterback to be a team leader if he's with them working out."
A third baseman in the Tampa Bay system, Johnson was rated the Devil Rays' 10th-best prospect by Baseball America magazine before rotator-cuff surgery caused him to sit out last summer.
"I'll talk to some people, talk to the Devil Rays," Johnson said Saturday night. He expects to make a decision in about a month.
Johnson appeared on the way to his best game of the season before getting injured on a hit by Syracuse's Marc Pilon with 4:18 left before halftime. X-rays showed a broken fibula, requiring about 12 weeks of rehabilitation.
Johnson completed his first six passes for 139 yards and touchdown tosses of 51 and 26 yards to Travis Taylor, finishing 12-of-17 for 195 yards. That came after a regular season in which he threw for 2,346 yards with 19 TDs and only eight interceptions.
"Doug's got one year left of college football," Spurrier said. "If baseball's his best sport, he's got the rest of his life to do that. He's only got one more year to see if football's his best sport."
Palmer, whose broken collarbone gave Johnson the starting job midway through the season, completed 10 of 14 for 113 yards and a TD against the 18th-ranked Orangemen.
"He understands, he'll be fine," said Spurrier, who had the duo alternating plays for the first five games this year. "He'll be ready to go when called upon."
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