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Gators waiting on Grossman as Berlin, Gaffney depart

Backup quarterback is heading to Miami, star receiver to the NFL.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- As Florida quarterback Rex Grossman pondered his future Thursday, backup quarterback Brock Berlin and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney have decided to move on.

Berlin, who sat behind Grossman most of the past two seasons, said late Thursday night he is transferring to Miami. Gaffney will forgo his junior season and head to the NFL.

"I've decided to leave the University of Florida and head down to the University of Miami," Berlin said at an impromptu news conference in front of his Shreveport, La., home. "I just wanted to make sure I was making the right choice. I felt good about it."

Berlin said after Florida beat Maryland Jan. 2 in the Orange Bowl that he planned to make a decision soon, but that decision was put on hold when coach Steve Spurrier resigned Friday.

Grossman has been unavailable for comment this week, but his mother, Maureen, said her son spent Thursday consulting with the family. Grossman and wide receiver Taylor Jacobs are expected to hold a news conference today to announce their decisions.

Berlin said he spoke with Grossman Thursday and believes Grossman will remain at Florida. Underclassmen have until just before midnight today to declare whether they are going to the NFL.

Gaffney, an All-American who caught 67 passes for 1,191 yards in his sophomore season, is a likely first-round draft pick. He becomes the fourth Florida underclassman to declare for the NFL, along with cornerback Lito Sheppard, offensive lineman Mike Pearson and receiver Reche Caldwell. All were considering leaving before Spurrier resigned.

Part of Grossman's dilemma may have been figuring what his NFL draft chances are. He said last week he hadn't gathered much information because he hadn't planned to leave. Then Spurrier resigned.

NFL analysts aren't sure it's a good idea for Grossman to depart.

"On the plus side he's got a strong arm. Certainly an NFL-quality arm," said Jim Sabo, NFL scout for Ourlads Scouting Services. "I think he's got a tremendous mental makeup. A strong mental makeup. Anybody who's had to deal with Spurrier for a number of years like he has and not gone loony, I think is a plus. I think that he certainly is intelligent.

"I think the negatives are that he's a third-year sophomore, just like Michael Vick was, and Vick has no clue what's going on in the NFL. I know he'd be much better prepared for the NFL than Vick was, so he'll assimilate faster. But quite frankly, quarterbacks coming out early have struggled. That extra year, that full complement of eligibility, you age an awful lot."

"I think he should stay for another year just because I think he's got a little bit more he can do," said Terry Bowden, former coach at Auburn and now an ABC analyst. "He can develop and I think he'll move up (in the draft), and any time you can move up, you want to make the big money, you've got to be one of the first 12-15 picks, and I'm not so sure in my mind he'll be a 12-15 pick."

While Grossman tries to figure out what is best for him, new Florida coach Ron Zook was busy assembling his staff, hiring seven coaches.

Wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon and linebackers coach Jerry Odom will be retained from Spurrier's staff. Dixon just completed his 11th season at Florida. This was Odom's first as a full-time coach.

One other coach, Jerry "Red" Anderson, also has UF ties. He was an assistant football coach at UF from 1985-94 and rejoins the staff as a defensive coach. Anderson produced All-Americans Tony McCoy, Brad Culpepper and Ellis Johnson.

Anderson spent the past seven seasons as an administrator with Gator Boosters. "I believe this is an excellent combination of highly qualified coaches with solid backgrounds and a proven track record of success," Zook said. "They are all high-energy people who work very hard at coaching, recruiting and everything else that is involved in producing a program which can compete at the highest level of college football and make Gator fans proud. I'm excited and confident about coaching with this staff."

Twenty-one recruits are expected to be on campus on official visits this weekend.

Zook, known as a highly successful recruiter during his college tenure, said he would make in-home visits.

"I'm not afraid to recruit against Florida State or the national champions (Miami)," Zook he said. "I've done it before."

Ed Zaunbrecher, a 25-year coaching veteran, will join the staff as offensive coordinator, and Larry Fedora will coach running backs.

Former Gator lineman and St. Petersburg native Joe Wickline will replace Jimmy Ray Stephens as offensive line coach. Fedora and Wickline both come from a record-setting offensive system at Middle Tennessee State, where Fedora was offensive coordinator.

Mike Woodford, a defensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints, will be UF's secondary coach.

-- Times staff writer Bruce Lowitt contributed to this report, which used information from the Times wires.

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