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College Football

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Next stop, NFL

Florida's Kearse, McGrew to skip senior seasons

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Posted: Tuesday January 05, 1999 06:48 PM

  Kearse, projected as a top-10 pick, led the Gators with 7.5 sacks this season Scott Halleran/Allsport

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida linebacker Jevon Kearse and defensive tackle Reggie McGrew said Tuesday they will forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.

Kearse, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound Butkus Award finalist, recorded 54 tackles and a team-best 7.5 sacks to lead the Gator defense, which ranked ninth in the nation.

"I think I've accomplished the four goals I wanted to when I attended the University of Florida: To become a better person, to win a national championship, to get an education and finally to have a chance to play in the NFL," said Kearse, a projected top-10 pick who could play defensive end. "That time is now. I'm not going to pass it up."

Meanwhile, McGrew, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound first team All-Southeastern Conference selection, is likely to be drafted in the first two rounds. McGrew had 41 tackles and five sacks in nine games this season. He missed two games with a back injury.

"I wouldn't say it was an easy decision, but once I looked at it and weighed all my options, it wasn't that hard of a decision to make," said McGrew, who recorded seven tackles and two sacks in the Gators' 23-12 loss to Florida State on Nov. 21. "I've accomplished a lot. I was all-conference this year, I won a couple of SECs and a national championship. I'm close to getting my degree and I've made a lot of good friends here. It's been nice."

Said Florida coach Steve Spurrier: "We wish Jevon and Reggie well and thank them for their contributions to the Gators. Hopefully everything will work out the best for them in the NFL."

With the departure of Kearse and McGrew, 10 of the Gators' 11 opening-day defensive starters will be gone next season. Only sophomore strong safety Rod Graddy returns, leaving Florida with plenty of holes to fill this spring.

But linebackers Keith Kelsey, Alex Brown and Andra Davis should emerge from the shadow of one of the best linebacking corps in the country in Kearse, Mike Peterson and Johnny Rutledge. Though the Gators also lose free safety Teako Brown and cornerback Tony George, they signed five defensive backs last year, including current freshmen Robert Cromartie and Lester Norwood, who both earned significant playing time this season.

On the defensive line, Florida returns veteran backups Derrick Chambers, Buck Gurley, Gerard Warren, Thaddeus Bullard and Anthony Mitchell.

"We're going to require a lot of guys to step up and play big for our defense now that we lost some key guys on the defensive line and the entire front seven really," Kelsey said. "It's going to be a big challenge for us starting off this spring, but we have a lot of guys ready to step out into the limelight and get the spotlight put on them. I think they really are going to accept the challenge."

 
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