- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

MIAMI It's chemistry that sometimes takes years to develop between a quarterback and receiver the timing and understanding between them, the confidence in each other.
After only two seasons, Florida quarterback Rex Grossman and wideout Jabar Gaffney, both immensely talented sophomores, have that connection. The pair hooked up for 13 touchdowns this season, and could stand to become one of the top quarterback-to-receiver batteries in college football history.
Grossman's combined 55 touchdown passes in the last two seasons are a Division I-A record for a quarterback in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Not surprisingly, Gaffney's 27 TD receptions are a I-A record for a receiver in his freshman and sophomore seasons. The duo has done more in two seasons than most quarterback-receiver combinations accomplish over three or four years and have taken their place near the top of the lineage of outstanding Gator tandems.
This season, the post-season honor list reflected as much: Grossman, who threw for 3,896 yards and led the nation in total offense per game, became just the fifth sophomore to finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, was a first-team All-American and voted AP Player of the Year. (Perhaps Grossman's most rousing endorsement came from coach Steve Spurrier, long known for his willingness to bench his starting quarterback, who didn't bench him once.) Gaffney was named to several first-teams and named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.
"From the opening play of the season, I knew I could count on him," Grossman said. "I know I can count on him whenever there's man-to-man he's going to get some separation. He's pretty much a go-to guy. … Whenever I'm stuck, I usually just go to Jabar and he just pulls it out for me."
Grossman says because Gaffney can get open against any coverage, it is easy to throw it to him. Gaffney says Grossman puts the ball on the money, so "usually all I have to do is put my hands up." Certainly part of it is polite media-speak, but when Grossman and Gaffney deflect credit for their success, there is a genuine appreciation for the other's talents.
Assistant offensive coordinator Buddy Teevens said the Gators don't throw to Gaffney any more than other receivers; he's just an important part of the offense as are the other receivers. But even Grossman said he's a "go-to guy," and he demonstrated that when Florida needed to throw the ball.
Tackle Mike Pearson says games against Auburn and Tennessee the only two Florida losses were evidence of Grossman's and Gaffney's ability to make plays under pressure. One play after Auburn had taken a 20-13 lead, Grossman hit Gaffney for an 80-yard touchdown to tie the game. Against Tennessee, Grossman drove the Gators 66 yards for a score to make it 34-32 with 1:10 remaining, but missed Gaffney on the two-point conversion.
Grossman got comfortable with Gaffney more than two years ago, when they worked on the scout team together during the 1999 season, which they both redshirted.
"We just bonded instantly," Gaffney said. "Every time, no matter what team we were trying to prepare for, we were out there doing our thing. He would throw me the ball almost every time. In catching the ball, I got the feel for him, he got the feel for me. We've just been doing that ever since."
It's a connection teammates can sense.
"They came in together, and they got to work together maybe a little more than some quarterbacks and wide receivers do," Pearson says. "They kind of seem to be on the same page. … Rex always knows where he's at."
Junior wide receiver Reche Caldwell (65 catches, 1,059 yards, 10 touchdowns) complements Gaffney, and Taylor Jacobs (38, 712, 7) provide a third option.
"A lot of the [Florida] receivers are great playmakers, and Rex Grossman puts the ball right on point," says Maryland cornerback Curome Cox. "I've seen a lot of corners in great position, but if the ball is not right on the money, there is nothing you can do about it."
Grossman and Gaffney will continue to put up numbers … as long as they are at Florida for the next two years. Grossman has said he intends to return for his junior season, but Gaffney, at 6-1 and 197 pounds, said he will decide after the Orange Bowl whether to enter the NFL Draft.

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