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Spurrier: Grossman will start at QB until someone plays better

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 9, 2000


GAINESVILLE -- Freshman quarterback Rex Grossman has the chance to play the rest of the season for No. 10 Florida, coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday.

Grossman was 18-for-28 for 276 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, a 41-9 victory against Louisiana State on Saturday. Senior Jesse Palmer is being relegated to backup.

"He played well; he really did," Spurrier said of Grossman. "If he can keep his mind working and focused, because he is a natural passer, sure, he's got a chance to go the distance. He's our quarterback."

For now.

If Spurrier later believes that Palmer, who started the first five games, or freshman Brock Berlin gives the Gators a better chance to win, he will change again.

"I know some people say you should say, "He's the quarterback for the rest of the year,' " Spurrier said. "But you play the best player you can every week, and things change. If Rex can play well and go the distance, he'll have that chance. But we'll see how things develop."

Palmer seemed to emerge as the clear No. 1 after engineering a 91-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes for a 27-23 victory at Tennessee on Sept. 16. The next week he tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns in a 59-31 victory against Kentucky.

But when Palmer was sacked for safety in the first quarter at Mississippi State on Sept. 30, spraining his right ankle on the play, it opened the door for Grossman. Palmer was healthy enough to play against LSU, but Spurrier chose Grossman.

"Rex, we thought, played very well against Mississippi State (a 47-35 loss) and deserved a chance to see what he could do starting a game, okay?" Spurrier said. "Jesse had a good attitude about it. Hopefully, he'll continue to have a good attitude.

"I know he's a senior. I know he wants to play. Hopefully, he has confidence in us as coaches that if we believe he's the player to play, he'll be in there."

UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS: Spurrier had a black eye after playing pingpong at athletic director Jeremy Foley's house Saturday night. Spurrier, who had back surgery Aug. 4, went for a low shot, a knee buckled and he ran into a wall.

"I can do the treadmill but can't run real fast, and I can't move as well as I used to," Spurrier said. "I guess it takes three or four months to come back from that surgery. I am giving up pingpong. Pingpong can be a dangerous sport, too rigorous for me."

LINEUP CHANGES: Few changes will be made for Saturday's game at Auburn, Spurrier said. Junior tailback Robert Gillespie regained the starting job from Ran Carthon with his 120-yard effort. Center David Jorgensen, who snapped the ball over Grossman's head in the shotgun for the third time in two games, will compete with Tommy Hillard in practice.

INJURY UPDATE: Backup offensive guard Erik Strange (dislocated knee cap) likely will miss the rest of the regular season. Cornerback Lito Sheppard (hamstring) will be evaluated at practice.

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