Mitchell also deciding NFL fate

Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 2:50 a.m.
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Former Florida Gator Emmitt Smith chats with fans Wednesday.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
TAMPA - While most of the will-he-stay or will-he-go attention will be going to Florida junior quarterback Rex Grossman the next few days, defensive end Clint Mitchell will be trying to determine the same answers for himself.
Mitchell, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound (he said after a week of Outback steaks) junior, has requested information from the NFL Draft Advisory Board and said Wednesday that he was uncertain whether his future will include playing another down for the Gators.
"Physically, I'm ready (to leave for the NFL)," said Mitchell, who had three tackles and a sack in the 38-30 Outback Bowl loss to Michigan. "But there's a lot more to it than just that. It's like going from high school to college, a whole new world.
"I've got a lot to think about."
Mitchell, whose brother Jeff is the Carolina Panthers' center (and was on the UF sidelines for the Wolverines' game), said he will announce his plans soon, likely separate from when Grossman tells of his intentions. A source said Jeff has told his younger brother he was not ready for the NFL.
Earlier, offensive linemen Max Starks and Shannon Snell announced they would return to Gainesville for their senior seasons.
  • After Southern California's Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy, Gator tailback Ran Carthon met with Starks and Snell to offer a pledge.
    I'll commit myself to giving this team the best running game possible. I'm asking you to do the same.
    Starks and Snell eagerly agreed, and the trio promised that starting immediately after the Outback Bowl, they would start preparing for next year.
    "We made a vow to ourselves," said Starks, who will watch Carthon replace graduating Earnest Graham in the starting lineup. "Shannon, Ran and I are going to do everything we can to get ourselves as good a shape as we can."
    Starks and Snell each said that Wednesday's 183-yard team rushing effort was a confidence-builder and something that makes each believe the 2003-04 season can be special.
  • DAY OF RECORDS: En route to winning MVP honors at the Outback Bowl, Michigan tailback Chris Perry broke three game and Michigan bowl records.
    Perry's four rushing touchdowns topped the mark previously held by Robert Edwards (Georgia, 1998) and Jamie Morris (Michigan, 1988). His 24 points bettered the mark of 18 set by Edwards, Morris and Ryan Brewer (South Carolina, 2001), and his four total TDs topped the three Edwards, Morris and Brewer all earned for their respective teams.
  • EXTRA POINTS: Former Gator tailback Emmitt Smith was on the UF sidelines at the Outback Bowl. Smith, a longtime Dallas Cowboy, became the NFL's all-time leading rusher this season. ... Former UF offensive tackle Mike Pearson, who just completed his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, watched the game from the pressbox. ... Keiwan Ratliff's 33-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was the first offensive score of his career. Earlier in the season against Kentucky, Ratliff ran an interception in for a TD. In that game he also took a blocked extra point the length of the field for a two-point score. ... Florida coaches are 3-5 in the first bowl games of their careers with UF. The late Charley Pell was the last Gator coach to win his first bowl game (35-20 against Maryland on Dec. 20, 1980 in the Tangerine Bowl). Since then, Galen Hall, Gary Darnell, Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook have been defeated in their first bowl game for UF. ... FireRonZook.com has been selling T-shirts saying "Outback: It's Australian for FireRonZook!" ... Future UF defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was on the Gators' sidelines during the game. Strong, hired from South Carolina, will replace John Thompson, who was named the head coach at East Carolina last month. "I met coach Strong in the hotel this week," linebacker Mike Nattiel said. "He's a pretty awesome, up-tempo guy." ... On the season, Florida was outscored 121-57 in the third quarter. ... Offensive lineman Mo Mitchell had to come out some during the game because of back spasms. He wasn't on the field for UF's botched two-point attempt in the first half. ... Michigan quarterback John Navarre's 21-of-36, 319-yard performance marked the only time all year UF allowed a 300-yard passer. His yardage also is a Gator opponent bowl record, topping Florida State's Thad Busby (271 in 1997 Sugar Bowl). ... The loss dropped UF to 3-12 in bowl games where the opponent scores first. The Gators are 14-16 overall in bowl games and 4-2 against Big 10 members (but 0-2 in their last two outings - Wednesday and the 2000 Citrus Bowl loss to Michigan State). ... Gator senior tailback Earnest Graham became the first Gator back to rush for more than 100 yards in three bowl games (136 vs. Miami in 2001 Sugar Bowl, 149 vs. Maryland in 2002 and 120 vs. Michigan on Wednesday). He also moved into third place on UF's all-time rushing list behind Errict Rhett and Smith.
  • NOTEBOOK: Seven team records also were tied or fell Wednesday.
  • Michigan's four rushing touchdowns tied Georgia's 1998 mark.
  • UF (506) and UM (423) combined for 929 yards, besting the 2000 record of 925 by Purdue (528) and Georgia (397).
  • The teams combined for 159 plays (85 were Florida's), three more than Purdue and Georgia in 2000.
  • The Wolverines and Gators combined for 68 points, three more than the 1993 game that saw Tennessee beat Boston College, 38-23.
  • UF and Michigan combined for nine touchdowns, one more than Tennessee-Boston College (1993) and South Carolina-Ohio State (2002).
  • Florida forced Michigan into nine punts, one more than the eight booted by Auburn (1996) and Boston College (1986). Seven of the punts were by Adam Finley, one by Andy Migery and another that counted as a team punt. UF's Ingle Martin tied an individual Outback record with eight punts. Matt Hawkins (Auburn, 1996) and David Rooney (Boston College, 1986) also punted eight times in the game.
  • Michigan's punts totaled 347 yards, 33 more than the previous number (Georgia, 1986).
    You can reach John Patton by calling 374-5074 or by e-mail at pattonj@gvillesun.com.
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