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The '99 Gators were 9-4; that for Spurrier is a losing season. Will the suffering end?
By B.J. Schecter
Alex Brown understands the question and concedes that it's fair: How could Brown,
the junior defensive end, dominate in two games last season and disappear in
several others? Against SEC powers Tennessee and Georgia, Brown was a monster,
getting a total of seven sacks, forcing two fumbles and intercepting a pair of
passes. Brown showed flashes of brilliance in a few other games, too, but as
coach Steve Spurrier says, "For the most part he looked like a pretty
| || |
| The Book |
| An opposing team's coach sizes up
"Florida is controlled by how well its quarterback and receivers play. Palmer has
shown signs of doing things, but he's never been the Man. The Gators have no
experience at receiver.... They've got everything else. Good linemen, good
defense.... Ball State and Middle Tennessee will help them develop a
quarterback, whoever it is.... Steve got his dander up by losing those last
three games. He worked 'em hard in the
Still, the 6'4", 265-pound Brown set a school record with 13 sacks and
became only the third sophomore in Gators history to be named a first-team
All-America. But Brown was often chided by coaches and fans for his inconsistent
play and questionable conditioning. "A lot of people said I should have had
more sacks," says Brown. "Looking back, I should have gotten at least
18 or 19. I'm ready to have a better
So are the Gators. In 1999 they started 9-1 but lost their final three games.
"We understand that last year was unacceptable," says senior
Spurrier has named Palmer his starter, but Palmer knows he's getting only a mild
vote of confidence. ("Jesse realizes that he has to play better than he's
ever played here if he wants to continue to be the guy," says Spurrier.) If
Palmer sputters, the Gators have two high school All-Americas waiting to step
in: redshirt freshman Rex Grossman and true freshman Brock Berlin, the 1999
USA Today offensive player of the year.
In '99 he was Letdown Brown but still had 13 sacks. This year he promises to play harder.
Whoever is at quarterback will benefit from an experienced running game anchored
by tailback Earnest Graham, a bullish 5'9", 214-pound sophomore who last
year led the team with 654 yards rushing despite missing nearly four full games
with a thigh injury. The Gators, though, don't have a proven receiver after
losing Travis Taylor and Darrell Jackson to the NFL, and Spurrier hopes to find
a go-to guy among the six freshman wideouts he signed from a recruiting class
that was ranked No. 1 by several recruiting
The Sept. 16 game at Tennessee will make or break the Gators' season, and Brown
insists Florida will be ready. "There's been a dark cloud hanging over
Gainesville since the end of last season," he says. "It's time to let
Issue date: August 14, 2000
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