DT Scott surprises by leaving

Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 2:20 a.m.
The Florida defense took a severe and unexpected hit Friday when junior defensive tackle Ian Scott stunned the coaches with the news he's leaving UF to enter the NFL Draft.
A three-year starter, the former Gainesville High star was expected to be one of the Gators' defensive leaders and the key player in the middle of the defensive line in 2003. Scott's departure leaves the Gators with only two scholarship defensive tackles - junior Kenny Parker, who has missed the past two seasons with a chronic back problem, and incoming junior college transfer Eric Holcombe, who likely will be stepping into a starting role in the spring.
"He's made a decision that he's going to try the National Football League," UF coach Ron Zook said. "You hate to lose people. That's attrition. But as I just told the coaching staff, it could have been the first day of practice next year and he blows his knee out.
"You go on and people rise up. That's one of the great things about the University of Florida - people always step in. Eric Holcombe is going to be an awfully good football player. Kenny Parker went through the bowl practices and seems to be healthy. He's another 300-pounder who is awfully quick. He excites me the way he moves around."
Scott has elected to leave early even though the information he received from the NFL indicates there's a chance he won't even get drafted at all, his father, Randy Scott, said.
"They said he could go anywhere from late in the second round to the seventh round, and there's a chance he wouldn't even get drafted," Randy Scott said. "His decision is not based on that information. This has nothing to do with the money.
"For as long as I can remember he's dreamed about playing pro football. He's 21, he's lived in Gainesville his whole life. He just needs a page turned in his life. I'm excited for him. I know he'll succeed."
Randy Scott also said the coaching changes at UF were not a factor in his son's decision.
Scott is an excellent student who is only 26 credit hours shy of earning a degree in industrial engineering.
"He's got to do what he thinks is best for him," Zook said. "I was surprised. I'm not going to lie. That's the world we live in. He feels his opportunity is in the NFL, and he'll have to test those waters."
The Gators still are awaiting decisions from two other underclassmen also considering a departure for the NFL - quarterback Rex Grossman and defensive end Clint Mitchell.
Zook said he had a long talk with Grossman on Friday morning and expected to have another telephone conversation with him Friday afternoon or evening. As of yet, there's been no decision, Zook said.
"I really believe this, if Rex knew what he wanted to do he would have said something this morning," Zook said. "I haven't pushed him for an answer. He wants to get it over with as soon as he can.
"He told me (Thursday) he plans to come back to Gainesville and enroll in classes. He's got until Jan. 15 (the NFL deadline to declare), so he's got some time."
Zook said he also expected to talk, in person, to Mitchell late Friday. It appears Mitchell is leaning toward staying at UF.
"He's on his way up here (from Clearwater) to tie up some loose ends academically and we're going to talk," Zook said. "The fact he is coming up here is a positive. But I'm not going to speculate."
In other news from Zook's season-ending news conference Friday, Zook said he plans to fill the vacancy on his coaching staff with a coach who has a background coaching special teams. Zook said if he hasn't hired a replacement for Jerry Odom by next Monday, he'll screen other candidates at the annual NCAA Coaches' Convention next week.
"It will be a guy with a little background in special teams," Zook said. "When I say I'm close (to making a hire), I've got names I'm looking at. A lot of people are interested, and a lot of people want to jump into it. It's a great job."
Zook said he didn't foresee any further changes in his coaching staff. Despite a growing legion of critics, offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher has received a strong endorsement from Zook.
"Absolutely," Zook said when asked if Zaunbrecher would return next season. "We've got a pretty good offense. I know we didn't put up the numbers and points people want to see. But we had 506 yards and 30 points against a pretty good (Michigan) team. I thought the offense played more than well enough to win the game.
"I think Coach Zaunbrecher did a great job. I really think coaching is putting players in a position where they can be successful. That's what our staff did. They did a great job on offense. You have to do what your players can do, and I think we did a great job of that.
"From the LSU game on, Rex, for all practical purposes, didn't throw an interception except on a tipped ball here or there. We showed we could run the football and pass protection got much better."
Zook said he expects the Gators to be more wide open next season in the second year under Zaunbrecher.
"I think we'll be a lot more explosive," he said. "We'll have an opportunity to make more big plays."
Zaunbrecher's attempt at a big play in the closing minute of the Outback Bowl loss to Michigan backfired when reserve wide receiver Vernell Brown's pass attempt to Grossman was intercepted. Zook hesitated before accepting the play called by Zaunbrecher from the press box. He said if he had to do it over again, he would have vetoed the call.
"There are a couple of calls I'd take back if I could," Zook said. "I learned a valuable lesson from it. In that situation you have to make sure you know whose hands we want the ball in. In that particular situation, that's something you don't do."
  • RECRUITING UPDATE: As expected, Zook is fired up about recruiting. UF will have its first big recruiting weekend Jan. 10-12, with more than a dozen prospects expected on campus. "It's big. It's time to lock and load. We'll go wide open. We were just going over our board and we're in on some awfully good football players," Zook said. Zook said the addition of new defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is having an early impact. "Charlie knows a lot of these guys we're in on. It's exciting. More than one recruit has told me they're excited about Charlie Strong being here. I got three phone calls last night (during the Orange Bowl), one from a recruit at 12:10 a.m. I'm excited about recruiting and where we're at right now," Zook said. ... Strong talked to the media for the first time since taking the job and said the UF defensive scheme basically will remain the same it was under John Thompson. "I know we're losing a lot of players. Defense is no more than disruption. We're going to put players in a position so they'll have a chance to win. We always want to be an aggressive defense. We just want to tell recruits it's going to be exciting and fun. We're going to be fun to watch," Strong said. ... Zook said the leading contenders to fill the void left by the departure of senior Bam Hardmon at middle linebacker might be freshman Taurean Charles and incoming freshman Channing Crowder, who will participate in spring practice. Charles spent his redshirt year at outside linebacker, but has grown into a possible middle linebacker. "We really didn't think he'd be a Mike linebacker, but he may be now. Channing Crowder. ... wow, just having him in bowl practice and watching him is exciting," Zook said. ... Mike Degory was named to the 2002 Scripps/Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team. He was the only player from the SEC on the team. Degory became just the third Gator freshman in history to start every game on the offense line.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.
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