- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

MIAMI No matter what season or how many new starters the team has, it's seemingly automatic: Florida, using a pass-heavy offense, will stockpile points and finish among the nation's leaders in several offensive categories.
Consider the quarterbacks that have come through Gainesville: Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel, Doug Johnson, Rex Grossman. And the receivers: Jack Jackson, Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, Jaquez Green, Jabar Gaffney. All these players put up big numbers while continually replacing one another, keeping the Gators' offense a primed and efficient machine.
In each of the last 12 seasons, Florida quarterbacks have tossed 25 or more touchdowns. From 1994 to 1996, Florida averaged more than 45 points a game. The Gators finished No.2 behind Brigham Young in Division I-A this season in total offense and scoring offense.
Coach Steve Spurrier's system has allowed the Florida offense to remain the best in the game. He's a perfectionist (no doubt reinforced by a Florida career that included winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback in 1966), so much so that he has never hesitated to pull his starting quarterback if he wasn't pleased.
But as much as the Spurrier offense (known as the "Fun 'n' Gun" in the past) has become the hallmark in Gainesville, so has the brash, confident attitude that makes some others call him "Steve Superior."
"You hear a lot of coaches that like to bite their tongue a little bit, but the style of offense that coach Spurrier has is of a cocky nature it carries over to his style of play," said reserve running back Robert Gillespie. "If you have a coach that believes that highly in the things we can do, it makes you want to go out there and play."
It's almost as if Spurrier isn't bothered by controversy and, in some way, encourages it. Spurrier's nature rarely makes for a dull moment, whether he speaks to the media or his team. It's something that his players get used to; they learn quickly that no matter how Spurrier comes across, he is just trying to help them improve.
"Number one, he knows he can't help how he is," said sixth-year senior center Zac Zedalis. "He's not trying to be that way; that's how he is. He's not cocky, that's just coach Spurrier. Some people don't like it, but that's just the way he is. … He's not putting on a front or an act for anybody."
The self-assured Spurrier is never at a loss for words. This season he maintained that Florida State's Darnell Dockett had tried deliberately to injure his players. In 1996, he ran up the score on LSU because its defensive coordinator had gone to other coaches pitching a formula on how to stop the Florida offense after the Tigers held Florida to 28 points the year before.
"The confidence that coach Spurrier has in himself and his ability is astounding sometimes," Gillespie said. "When he comes to apply it on the field, you can't question it. He's just a winner."
However he does it, it produces success. In his 12th season, Spurrier has his Gators in the top five and playing in a top bowl again. The Gators, who had never won an SEC title before Spurrier was hired, have won six in the last 12 years. And Spurrier is the only coach in the country to win nine or more games in each of the last 12 years.
"Once you reach a certain level, you try to at least [equal] that if not do a bit better [every year]," Spurrier said. "Winning the SEC, that was sort of the standard for the rest of the way."
Spurrier's success has brought him some overtures from the pro ranks, but he has stayed in Gainesville, where he signed a four-year contract extension after the 2000 season that paid him $2.1 million this year, and has said he has no plans to leave.
"He'd be crazy if he left," said Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and ABC broadcaster Bob Griese. "He's making two million a year, he's got all the players in the world he wants, and he can win nine games a year. … I think he knows that."
Florida extended Spurrier's contract after he spoke with the Redskins' Pepper Rodgers, who at the time was heading the search to replace Norv Turner. Spurrier's name again came up when the Redskins started the season 0-5 and questions were raised about Marty Schottenheimer's job security.
"You always keep a little crack open," Spurrier told the Associated Press last December. "But the odds [of leaving Florida] are very slim. I'd be foolish to leave. … I've got it made."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide