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New assistant will have UF on the attack

Ed Zaunbrecher has SEC experience and his offenses have been explosive and productive.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002

Ron Zook's credentials might not have impressed some Florida faithful, but those of incoming offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher should.

He has Southeastern Conference experience.

He likes to pass.

And here's the kicker: His teams score.

"He knows how to attack a defense, throw the ball and put points on the board," Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said. "He's a very good football coach."

Just what Florida fans want to hear.

Zaunbrecher, 51, has been an assistant at Marshall since 1999, spending the past two seasons as offensive coordinator. His 2001 Thundering Herd unit averaged 505 yards and 37.3 points. Quarterback Byron Leftwich threw for 4,132 yards and ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency, four spots behind Florida sophomore Rex Grossman.

"I think (Zaunbrecher's hiring) will help the Gators," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. "I got a call from Ron (Tuesday night) and I told him he'd be a great hire. He's a great guy and a great coach."

Zaunbrecher's system at Marshall was similar to Steve Spurrier's at Florida. He uses three-receiver sets, and like Spurrier he believes in passing to set up the run.

"We've been fortunate to move the ball and score a bunch of points," said Zaunbrecher, who also will coach quarterbacks. "We hope it continues. That's the plan. I like to mix formations. I like to run. It takes pressure off the pass. Still, we want to have an attack-the-defense mentality. I know Ron is committed to running a wide-open offense, and that's what we really enjoy doing."

Zaunbrecher is schedule to arrive in Gainesville today.

It won't be his first trip to the Swamp.

From 1984 to 1990, he was LSU's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Bill Arnsparger, who later became Florida's athletic director. Among those he coached were quarterbacks Tommy Hodson and Jeff Wickersham, two of the SEC's best in the '80s.

"I went (to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium) the first game that I was coaching in the SEC," Zaunbrecher said. "I was so impressed with it. I always thought it would be great to stand on that other sideline."

He got there in a roundabout way.

After leaving LSU, Zaunbrecher spent three seasons at Michigan State, where he coached quarterbacks for one season, then linebackers and kickers for two. In 1994, he landed the head job at Louisiana-Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana) and went 20-36 in five seasons. The 1998 team lost to Florida in Gainesville 42-10.

The following year, Zaunbrecher was at Marshall, where he coached quarterback Chad Pennington, a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets in 2000.

"I've been very fortunate to have worked with some great quarterbacks," Zaunbrecher said. "I'd sure like that to continue and I anticipate it continuing."

At Florida, Zaunbrecher will be greeted by enormous expectations. He doesn't seem worried.

"I've dealt with similar types of situations before," he said. "If you don't want to deal with it, don't get into that arena. I understand what I'm getting into and I welcome it. I have a great situation at Marshall, but this is a different level and I'm obviously looking forward to it."

Following in Spurrier's footsteps as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach won't be easy, but Zaunbrecher at least knows he will have exceptional athletes to work with.

"At (Marshall), the personnel was more limited in some positions," Zaunbrecher said. "Obviously, something you always look forward to is having guys who can make plays. It makes it a whole lot easier to call plays."

In the Mid-American Conference, teams feared Zaunbrecher's offense. One former opponent believes the same will happen at Florida.

"Marshall has had as good an offense as there has been in the country," Amstutz said. "With his imagination, use of the passing game and ability to mix the ball around the field, it's fun for fans to watch. Now that he has Florida's talent, it's going to be an exciting combination."

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