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Gator spring football

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

SCRIMMAGE: 9 a.m. March 16. Other scrimmages will be scheduled later.

SPRING GAME: 1 p.m. April 6, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville. Tickets $3 general admission; free to UF students, letter-winners, alumni and boosters.

KEY LOSSES: LB Andra Davis -- Butkus Award semifinalist, All-SEC selection and second-team All American who led the team with 107 tackles last season; CB Lito Sheppard -- Had 87 career tackles, eight interceptionsand was a two-time All-American who bypassed his senior season for the NFL; K Jeff Chandler -- Florida's all-time leading scorer with 368 points, he had 67 field goals and 167 PATs; DT Alex Brown -- UF record-holder in sacks in a career (33) and a season (13), he was school's first Lombardi Award finalist; T Mike Pearson -- Two-time All-American who played in 36 games with 34 starts before bypassing his senior season for the NFL; C Zac Zedalis -- Played 35 games with 25 starts for 1,550 plays despite missing 2000 with injuries; WR Jabar Gaffney -- Played in 25 games with 138 receptions and 2,375 yardsand was only player in school history with back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons, left after sophomore season to enter NFL; WR Reche Caldwell -- Biletnikoff semifinalist who had 141 receptions for 2,088 yards, sixth best in school history, and left after junior season to enter NFL; RB Robert Gillespie -- Had 1,854 yards rushing and 1,091 receiving. His 3,312 all-purpose yards is ranked 10th in school history; T Max Starks -- Started all 12 games last season and was in on 752 plays, second on line; G Shannon Snell -- Also started 12 games, ranked third on offensive unit; DT Ian Scott -- Second-team All-SEC selection; LB Mike Nattiel, 1,103 career plays and 162 tackles; S Todd Johnson -- Two-time All-SEC selection, has 198 career tackles and seven interceptions.

KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: QB Rex Grossman -- Heisman Trophy runner-up who led the nation in efficiency rating (170.75) and passing yards per game (354.2). He also set a national record for TD passes (55); WR Taylor Jacobs -- Has 62 career catches for 1,009 yards and 8 touchdowns. Was named MVP of the 2002 Orange Bowl; RB Earnest Graham -- Ranked sixth in the SEC in rushing last season.

BIGGEST QUESTION: Everything. The Gators are getting a facelift -- new offense, defense and special teams. With a new coaching staff, Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N Gun is out. Well, sort of. New offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher has said he will keep a similar offense, much as he did at Marshall. But he also plans to make the running game more of a priority. The defense is also a question mark. John Thompson has made a name for himself as a coordinator who produces aggressive, blitzing defenses. How it will play is the most pressing question of all.

OF NOTE: Several Gators change positions this spring. Ronald Dowdy moves from defensive end to tackle; Chris Reynolds from defensive tackle to end; linebacker Marcus Oquendo-Johnson to end; strong safety Larry Kendrick to outside linebacker; and defensive tackle Sylvester McGrew to end.

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