By JILL MARTIN, ANTONYA ENGLISH and JAMAL THALJI
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 29, 2002
TAMPA -- Florida's offensive line will not lose one of its most productive players next season, as offensive guard and Tampa native Shannon Snell said Saturday he will return for his senior season.
Snell, as well as several other Gators, submitted his name to the NFL draft advisory committee a few weeks ago.
"As of right now I know where I'm pretty much projected, probably second or third round," said Snell, a second-team All-SEC selection. "But I'm going to stay. I'm staying. There's no doubt about it. I told coach (Ron) Zook and I told coach (Joe) Wickline I'm not coming back just to come back. I'm coming back to get better and hopefully come out my senior year as a good lineman."'
ROUGH TRIP: Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and offensive lineman David Jorgensen practiced Saturday after being delayed by snowstorms in Ohio and Connecticut, respectively.
Ratliff drove from Columbus to Dayton then flew to Atlanta. He then drove all night from Atlanta to Tampa, about seven hours. Ratliff arrived in Tampa around 5 a.m. Saturday, "a little bit past curfew," he said, laughing.
"That's the first time I drank coffee, and I don't want to do that no more," Ratliff said. "I couldn't go to sleep when I got to the hotel."
MORE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS: For special-teams coach Jerry Odom, his decision to follow John Thompson to East Carolina next season was difficult. Odom still will be an assistant, but it will be the first time he's not affiliated with Florida.
As a former player and as a coach, all of Odom's experience has been with the Gators. And for that reason, he said he had many sleepless nights before making his decision.
"It's definitely hard to leave," Odom said. "I'm excited but at the same time a little bit sad because this is my place, where I grew up."
STARTING ANEW: Transfer Billy Griffin, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound guard/center from California, practiced with the Gators for the first time. Zook said two more of the Gators' five incoming junior college signees are expected to join the team today.
ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE: During a joint coaches news conference, Michigan's Lloyd Carr said his team has had very good practices partly due to the "nice" weather. Zook responded with "our players think it's a little chilly, Coach."
BACKUP PLAN: How does Michigan plan to defend Florida with as many as four linebackers missing?
When Florida lines up in a one-back set, three-year outside linebacker Victor Hobson will move inside.
He and freshman Scott McClintock will take the field when the Wolverines use five defensive backs.
Just one linebacker will take the field when Michigan goes to six defensive backs, likely Hobson.
Inside linebacker is the most critical need on the Wolverine roster. Sophomore Zach Kaufman injured his knee against Minnesota, junior Carl Diggs broke his leg against Ohio State and backups Roy Manning (knee injury) and Lawrence Reid (blood clot) were lost for the year.
McClintock and Joey Sarantos, two redshirt freshmen, finished the season at inside linebacker for Michigan. They'll be counted on to play quality minutes to keep All-Big Ten linebacker Hobson fresh for the fourth quarter.
INJURY REPORT: Michigan junior wideout Calvin Bell fell on his shoulder in practice, Carr said, and is questionable for Wednesday's game. The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Bell played in all 11 games, catching 10 passes for 102 yards and scoring on a 34-yard reverse.