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UF: Looking ahead

By Times staff

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- Laughter.

Steve Spurrier hears laughter ringing out across the campuses of Florida's rivals, who, based on Florida's three-game losing streak and 9-4 record last season, assume the Gators are no longer championship material.

"Right now, we've got some other schools laughing at us and thinking the Gators have had their run and they've returned to mediocrity," said Spurrier, in his 11th season at UF. "So, that's a good challenge for all the coaches and players to see if we can't get back on top."

Laughter?

"Well, I don't know if they're laughing, but they're sort of giggling a little bit," Spurrier said. "That's okay. Soon, we hope to be the guys laughing."

Coming off a decade of unprecedented success -- the 1996 national championship, five Southeastern Conference titles, 102 victories -- the Gators finished on a downward slide. But Spurrier feels strongly the Gators are more than one-decade wonders.

"I don't know about 10 years, but the next four to five years are going to be good for us as a football team because of our recruiting classes the last two or three years," Spurrier said. "Certainly, we have the talent here to get back to where we were in 1995 and '96 real soon. I don't know if it's this year, but real soon."

Florida brought in the nation's top-ranked recruiting class for this season, headed by quarterback Brock Berlin, USA Today's national offensive player of the year. But the class is not just top heavy. It is loaded with talent at nearly every position, prompting Spurrier to say he could field an entire team of true freshmen.

Given the talent and desire, the biggest question facing Florida in the new decade could be how many more seasons Spurrier, 55, will coach. He no longer seems interested in an NFL job but has indicated he will retire at age 60.

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