By DEBI JONES and BRIAN LANDMAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 21, 2001
GAINESVILLE -- Addressing the team after the final practice of the year at Florida's practice field is generally reserved for departing seniors.
But offensive tackle Mike Pearson, a redshirt junior who is considering early departure for the NFL, spoke to his team Thursday with seniors Marquand Manuel and Zac Zedalis.
"He is undecided; he and (junior receiver) Reche Caldwell are both undecided," Spurrier said. "I think all of the other guys are planning on returning, but they are both four-year guys. If a player has been here for four years, and he feels it's in his best interest to move on, then we understand that more than some of those three-year guys."
Spurrier said cornerback Lito Sheppard and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney indicated they likely will be back next season.
Caldwell said earlier this week he would be ready to announce his decision after the bowl game, but Pearson said he would take a few days to make his final.
GATORS SIGN LINEBACKER: The Gators received a national letter of intent Thursday from Lance Mitchell, a junior college All-America linebacker for City College of San Francisco.
Mitchell, 6-3, 245 pounds, was a first-team All-America selection by J.C. Grid-Wire. Mitchell helped lead the Rams to undefeated National Junior College Championships in 2000 and 2001.
INJURY UPDATE: Tailback Earnest Graham (knee) dressed for practice and participated in some morning drills. Defensive end Kennard Ellis (knee) said there was an "outside chance" he would be ready for the Orange Bowl.
TALLAHASSEE -- Gator Bowl officials expect a sellout crowd of more than 68,000 for the New Year's Day game between Florida State and Virginia Tech.
As of Thursday morning, the bowl had about 2,600 seats remaining and had been selling about 1,000 a day, bowl president Rick Catlett said. The game last sold out three years ago when Notre Dame and Georgia Tech came to Jacksonville.
"It sure does help when you go out there and the place is packed," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.
Although the Hokies have cobbled together more than 15,000 tickets and FSU has sold 10,800 of its 12,500 allotment, Catlett said the crowd will be "predominantly" Florida State.
CAPTAINS NAMED: As the Seminoles ended their final preholiday workout Thursday afternoon, the players voted for their permanent captains: senior receiver Javon Walker (offense), senior middle linebacker Bradley Jennings (defense) and senior fullback Chad Maeder (special teams).
The team plans to reconvene in Jacksonville on Wednesday and resume preparations later that day.
INSPIRATIONAL LEADER: Although Patton might be his father's favorite movie, freshman quarterback Chris Rix said he has gained a new appreciation for the World War II general.
"I like a lot of the characteristics he possessed, how firm a leader he was, how he went out and treated everything like a war," said Rix, who has done some extra reading about Gen. George S. Patton and even has clipped a picture of him and attached it to his daily planner. "That's a quality I'd like to see in me. I think I've displayed it at times, but I want to be consistent in that, going out and rallying the troops and leading them, "Hey. Let's go out and fight; losing really isn't an option.' "
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