2001 recruits haven't lived up to promise

Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 12:53 a.m.

Florida is one of several SEC schools that is not going to lose any juniors to the NFL Draft, which is hardly a surprise.

Especially when you look back at the class four years ago that produced the players who might have had a decision to make.

It was Steve Spurrier's final recruiting class, and if you want to talk about the cupboard being bare when Ron Zook took over, it's the class of 2001 that is the culprit. A lot of people point to the class of 2000, which was ranked No. 1 in the country but didn't produce the championships that were expected.

That class did produce 13 players who started for the Gators this season, including Ben Troupe, Shannon Snell, Max Starks, Carlos Perez, Kelvin Kight, Keiwan Ratliff and Guss Scott.

The 2001 class has been a huge disappointment, one marked by players leaving and the tragic death of Eraste Autin.

Of the 18 players signed, only 11 of them are still on the roster and that includes Jonathan Colon, who originally signed in 2000 but wasn't ruled eligible until the following year, and Dallas Baker, who needed two years to join the program.

Five have transferred (Wesley Bryant, Larry Kendrick, Ingle Martin, Sylvester McGrew and Antoine Sharp) and a seventh - Brian Savelio - was a junior college transfer who was gone following the 2002 season.

The stars of that class are center Mike Degory and placekicker Matt Leach. Mo Mitchell has been a starter as was Lance Butler last season.

When you combine that class with a 2000 class whose best players are gone and a 2002 class that was hamstrung by Zook's late start, well, you can understand why the Gators will be even younger next season than they were in 2003.

  • BIG ASSIST: Last week, a lot of us sat in a sports bar waiting for the satellite feed of the Florida-South Carolina basketball game. Alas, because Sunshine now sends all of the tape-delayed Gator games digitally, it could not be picked up.

    Fortunately, we won't have that problem Saturday night when the 15th-ranked Gators play at 23rd-ranked Vanderbilt, thanks to Florida assistant athletic director Mike Hill.

    Because the game is such a big one, Hill went to work to try to get it telecast on pay-per-view. Instead, you will be able to watch it for free.

    "To say mountains were moved, they were moved," Hill said. "This is a unique situation, but we felt it was the right thing for the fans. Sunshine, the SEC and SEC-TV all really came up big. It was a collaborative effort. They really bent over backwards."

    The game can be seen in Gainesville on Cox Channel 15 and in South Florida on Sunshine.

  • HIGH MARKS: A few weeks ago, I wrote about Florida's low RPI despite games against Arizona, Louisville and Maryland. At the time, the Gators were 79th in the nation, but you knew it wouldn't stay that low.

    Still, it's amazing that Florida is now sixth in RPI with the fifth-toughest schedule in the country.

    It just goes to show you that RPI should follow the BCS lead and not even be available until the middle of the season.

  • THE RING: Another column I wrote last fall finally has a happy ending.

    You may recall that Emmanuel Baker, the father of former Florida football player Tyrone Baker, was devastated when the 1996 SEC Championship ring his son had given him was stolen from his home.

    Baker called over the weekend to say that the ring is finally back in his possession after the owner of the pawn shop where the ring was sold returned it.

    "It was slightly damaged, but I'm happy to have it back," Baker said. "It means a lot to me."

  • PICKIN' GOOD: The Gainesville Guru finished the season strong with a solid bowl record and another thrashing of Sister Hazel's Andrew Copeland.

    The Guru went 18-9 despite missing on two big ones - Florida's bowl game and the LSU-Oklahoma game. Copeland went a miserable 11-16 and word is his next song will be a blues number.

    "I went down to the crossroads

    Had myself a beer

    Made some bowl picks

    The Guru kicked my rear."

    Unfortunately, the Guru's picks for the Super Bowl - Kansas City and St. Louis - have both been eliminated by poor coaching decisions. On Sunday, I like the home teams. And I predict that Indianapolis will punt at some point.

  • BETTER PICKER: As well as the Guru did, a Gainesville resident actually deserves the title of the city's best when it comes to picking games.

    Mike Kitchens beat out more than 600,000 college football fans to win this past season's ESPN Games Pigskin Pick 'Em contest.

    "I knew I was doing well, but I was only checking out my age group and never looked at the overall standings," he said. "It's pretty cool."

    For his efforts, Kitchens won a new plasma television. Picking against the spread, Kitchens went 159-97 for the season.

  • TAKE IT AWAY: Coveted high school linebacker Willie Williams related to the Miami Herald that when he visited Florida State he was told by FSU coach Bobby Bowden that the school would unretire Charlie Ward's No. 17 jersey because that is the number Williams wore in high school.

    I would hope they would ask Ward first. All he did was win a Heisman Trophy and lead the Seminoles to their first national championship title.

  • PAT-POURRI: One reason for Oklahoma's late struggles this football season was the pressure that was put on quarterback Jason White. He was sacked 12 times in the first 10 games and 16 in the last four ... Christian Laettner? Christian Laettner? When Christian Laettner gets suspended for five games for substance abuse, it's a crazy world ... Roger Clemens to the Astros? Good, I can like him again ... Dan Marino? Dan Marino? What's next, Deion Sanders named general manager of the Braves? ... And Kevin Butler, at 41, is trying to make a comeback with the Arena team that Vince Dooley has joined? Who's going to coach that team, Erk Russell? ... Be safe.

    You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or 374-5053. You can hear Pat weekdays from 4-5 p.m. on WGGG 1230-AM in Gainesville and WMOP 900-AM in Ocala.

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