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Grossman, Jacobs staying at UF

Despite encouraging words from the NFL, the QB and receiver will return.

[AP photo]
Gators quarterback Rex Grossman he will return next year to play under new coach Ron Zook. Grossman was the Heisman Trophy runner-up this season.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- Ron Zook watched Florida quarterback Rex Grossman walk out of his office at about noon Friday, then picked up the phone and called his wife, Denise.

"We just got our first (recruit)," Zook said. "It's a big one."

Two days into the job, Zook and his staff have their biggest accomplishment, convincing Grossman and wide receiver Taylor Jacobs not to leave early for the NFL draft.

Grossman, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, and Jacobs, the Orange Bowl MVP, said Friday they will spend another season with the Gators, causing a sigh of relief among the new coaching staff.

"I am going to stay, and I am real excited about it," said Grossman, who will be a redshirt junior next season. "Don't think I wouldn't be here if I wasn't totally excited to be here and want to play another year of college football or maybe two more.

"I am real excited about the coaching staff and the players coming back. We can still accomplish all my goals next year." "I am not ready to leave Gainesville," said Jacobs, who will be a senior next season. "I think I have a great opportunity to make some big things happen.

"I like the situation that is coming to me now." Grossman threw for more than 4,000 yards this season, and Jacobs was one of his three primary receivers.

He had 10 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns at the Orange Bowl.

Jacobs' return is crucial because Florida's other top receivers -- Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell -- are entering the draft.

"I just became a whole lot better coach with those guys coming back," offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher said. "I coach good players a whole lot better than guys that I have to teach how to play.

"That was a big key for us, and I'm very excited about it. It makes my first day on the job a whole lot easier."

Zaunbrecher, the offensive coordinator at Marshall for the past two seasons, runs a wide-open, passing offense. That was a factor in Jacobs' and Grossman's decisions.

"He is going to utilize what we have here -- all of our talents," Grossman said. "I think he is going to concentrate on the run as well. We are going to have a balanced attack, maybe throw a little more.

"But we are going to run the ball effectively, and that is a huge part of our offense. Obviously, Marshall was second (nationally) in offense, so that eases a lot of my concerns."

Both players said they stayed despite positive feedback on their NFL potential.

"They said mid first round to late second round," Grossman said.

"Anywhere in there, and that's a pretty big jump and a pretty big risk."

Jacobs said he was told he would be chosen between the late first and early second rounds.

Zaunbrecher and Zook said they didn't have to do much of a sales job. But Zook admitted he had no idea what either would decide. He was under the impression backup quarterback Brock Berlin would return until a friend called late Thursday and let him listen to Berlin on the local news announcing his decision to transfer to Miami.

"(Rex) came by my office at about 11:45," Zook said. "As he walks in the door, you're trying to judge by his emotions.

"The guy is a good card player, I didn't know what he was going to say."

Jacobs said he and Grossman talked about once an hour during the past few days, weighing their options and vowing to stick together.

Grossman said he varied from 90 percent sure he was leaving to 60 percent sure he was staying. "I decided that I love being a Gator, and I haven't accomplished all my goals," Grossman said.

"Hopefully, the NFL will be there down the road. I wanted to do both things. This is the only way I can do both."

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