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QBs stay close as Spurrier wants improvement

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 8, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- Sophomore quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Brock Berlin combined for 476 yards passing and three touchdowns Saturday in Florida's annual Orange and Blue spring game.

But did either gain any ground?

Battling to be the Gators quarterback in 2001, Grossman and Berlin did little to separate themselves in the eyes of coach Steve Spurrier during the Orange's 23-12 victory before an estimated 26,500 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Berlin, quarterback of the Orange team, overcame an early interception to complete 15 of 34 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Grossman was 13-for-24 for 215 yards with one touchdown, but lost one of four fumbles.

"We'll see who improves the most and is ready to play next fall," Spurrier said. "A quarterback can really improve between now and September. They need to get sharper and more knowledgeable."

Spring drills traditionally have been laid-back at Florida, but Spurrier upped the intensity this year by devising a scoring system for scrimmages that allowed the defense to earn points. The result was inspired competition among players and units.

"It makes it a little more intense when the defense gets points for this and the offense gets points for that," offensive tackle Mike Pearson said. "Our scrimmages were a lot more spirited and we got a lot more done than we have in the past."

Played by traditional rules, the spring game was evenly matched with several stars.

Junior Reche Caldwell, from Jefferson High, led all receivers with seven catches for 113 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown from Grossman.

Freshman tailback Willie Green, playing for the first time since knee surgery, barreled over tacklers for 71 yards on 17 carries for the Orange team. Junior Earnest Graham had 68 yards on 12 carries for the Blue.

Tight ends, rarely key figures in the passing attack, stole the pass-catching show. Junior Aaron Walker had six catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns for the Orange; sophomore Ben Troupe had three catches for 55 yards for the Blue.

NOTEWORTHY: Senior tailback Robert Gillespie, who led the team with 678 rushing yards last season, missed the game because of a death in the family. Junior tight end Kirk Wells did not play because of a lung he bruised in practice. ... Senior center Zac Zedalis, sidelined by injuries since the 1999 season opener, played for the Blue.

STADIUM EXPANSION: Construction begins next month on a $50-million expansion/renovation to the skybox tower at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The project will create 56 luxury suites and a 2,900-seat club level, triple the size of the Bull Gator level and double the press box for the 2003 season.

The project will be paid for by the University Athletic Association using private funds and a 30-year bond. No state monies will be used, athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

Seating capacity will increase to nearly 90,000. Deposits for suites and club-level seating will be taken in May. For information, call Gator Boosters at 1-800-344-2867.

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