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Gators lose key receiver, lineman to injury

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 18, 2005

GAINESVILLE - After avoiding serious injuries in the first two games, Florida lost two of its best players Saturday.

Former Jefferson High standout Andre Caldwell was returning the second-half kickoff when he was hit and suffered a broken right leg.

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald left in the second quarter with a torn ACL. Caldwell will have surgery Monday, and McDonald will be re-evaluated.

"The Gators won, but that was devastating," coach Urban Meyer said.

Caldwell had been playing a stellar game. After lamenting last week he hadn't made it to the end zone this season, he scored on an 18-yard reverse in the first quarter that gave the Gators a 7-0 lead.

Late in the first quarter, Caldwell broke up a near interception after a pass intended for him sailed and hit Antwan Stewart in the hands. He also surpassed 1,000 receiving yards with an 18-yarder in the second quarter.

THE FIGHT FOR RECRUITS: The battle between Florida and Tennessee extended beyond the field.

Straight into recruiting.

Among the spectators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium were some of the top high school prospects in the nation.

Virginia receiver Percy Harvin, the No.1 overall prospect in the nation, according to rivals.com, attended with his teammate and receiver Damon McDaniel. Florida commitment Jevan Snead, a Texas quarterback, also was in the group.

In all, 10 prep players made official visits while six other top prospects made unofficial visits. Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said the outcome of Saturday's game most likely will have some impact on recruiting for both schools.

"It helps wherever you go to play well and win," he said. "We have to go a lot of places to recruit. Winning is the first thing wherever you play.

"But if you can have some success in some areas that are particularly regional for us, it does help, whether it be Georgia or Florida or wherever."

WATCH THE GATORS? MAYBE, MAYBE NOT: The man who helped make Florida-Tennessee the mega-rivalry it is was low-key about the game last week.

When Steve Spurrier was asked if he would watch, he didn't seem interested.

"We'll be through about 7:30-8 p.m., I guess, something like that," he said of South Carolina's game against Alabama on Saturday afternoon. "I don't even know what time that the Tennessee-Florida game is. Is it at 7:30 or 8? Oh, I'm sure we'll come up to the office here and watch whatever's on. And I guess that one will be on."

MUTUAL ADMIRATION: They were on opposite sides of the field, but Meyer and Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen and his family have developed a relationship over the past few years.

As an assistant at Notre Dame, Meyer recruited Clausen's brother, Casey, out of high school. He spoke of the Clausen family kindly during Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference. Rick Clausen said the respect is mutual.

"He's a very nice guy," Rick said. "He treated my family with the utmost respect, so I, of course, have the utmost respect for him, too."

HOME, SWEET HOME ... SORT OF: When Sarasota native Chris Hannon lined up on Florida Field, he felt right at home.

So what if the senior receiver was wearing a Tennessee uniform?

"I kind of look at it as a home game, personally," said Hannon, the Vols' active career reception leader. "I'm going to have a lot of family members (attending), 15 or 20."

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