Florida junior quarterback Danny Wuerffel walked into an interview carrying an umbrella, which, on a scale of likely accessories of the contemporary college male, ranks somewhere below six-packs, Walkmans, lava lamps and even books. Hey, Mr. Big Man on Campus, no plastic pocket protector? "But I was wearing a nice shirt," Wuerffel protested, "and there were reports of storms all over the news, and...."
That's Wuerffel: a good decision-maker and very dry.
Of course, Gator quarterbacks must be ready for anything. Terry Dean went from Heisman Trophy candidate to bench warmer midway through the 1994 season in a demotion that sparked thunderclaps of controversy. Wuerffel, reinheriting the job he and Dean had shared the previous year, finished 5-1-1. Now coach Steve Spurrier has designated Wuerffel as the Man, but Eric Kresser, a strong-armed junior, looms large in a program that has no regard for tenure. "Two years ago a player complained there was no job security," says Spurrier, whose revolving quarterbacks threw 43 touchdowns passes last season, 14 more than any other Division I-A school. "That was one of the best compliments I ever received. I try to get the best players on the field. Sometimes your best players change."
Wuerffel is from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., by way of the old Chip Hilton novels. He is strapping, blond, blue-eyed, square-jawed, gracious and devout, an Air Force chaplain's son who boasts a 3.68 grade point average in public relations. Alas, his one wart is public: Wuerffel's funky two-piece throwing motion—he cocks the ball behind his head and drops his elbow—saps his arm strength. But his mechanics are improving. "In practice you wouldn't think he was anything special," Spurrier says. "But give him a game uniform, put 84,000 people in the stands, and something comes over him." Wuerffel has thrown for almost 4,000 career yards and 40 touchdowns while starting only 14 games; his 22 TD passes in 1993 were an NCAA freshman record. "It's fun here," Wuerffel says. "I've been able to throw for more yards in half a season than most quarterbacks do in a year."
The Gators, whose 43.4 points per game was second in the nation in 1994, will continue to move the football at Mach 5 with a talented group of wide receivers that includes senior Chris Doering and sophomores Reidel Anthony and Ike Hilliard. Spurrier also is tinkering with the idea of integrating his new starting tight end, junior walk-on Tremayne Allen, into the offense. Sophomores Fred Taylor and Elijah Williams, who combined for 1,525 rushing yards, again will split the tailback job. There is no tailback controversy at Florida. But a defense that allowed the most passing yards (5,354) in the SEC the last two seasons might have trouble keeping up its end, especially after the loss of linemen Ellis Johnson and Kevin Carter, both first-round NFL draft picks. Senior defensive end Mark Campbell, another potential first-rounder, could also play some tackle. Campbell, who moved to Miami from Jamaica in 1986, went out for football his junior year in high school and knew so little about the game that he couldn't dress himself for his first practice. Now he spends his Saturdays undressing quarterbacks.
Florida competes for more championships than anyone in football: the SEC Eastern Division title, the SEC overall championship (which it has won the past two years) and the all-important yet unofficial state title—a weekly war for position in the polls (and for recruits) with Florida State and Miami. Although the Gators don't play the Hurricanes, their finale against the Seminoles is brutal preparation for the postseason. Florida could challenge for No. 1 if Wuerffel plays as flawlessly as he conducts himself off the field, but somebody or something may rain on the Gators' parade.