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Florida Gators unveil Heisman statues, play spring football game

GAINESVILLE — It wasn't a work of art by any means, but honestly, what spring game is?

The portion of Saturday's Orange and Blue game that elicited the most excitement was the arrival of former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and the countdown to the halftime unveiling of the Heisman Trophy statues of Tebow, Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel outside the stadium.

But when it was all over, new Florida coach Will Muschamp said he was pleased with what he saw and that the Gators have had a very productive spring.

Combined, the Orange and Blue squads had 340 yards of total offense: 181 passing, 159 rushing. The Blue team (led by the first-team offense) defeated the Orange 13-10.

But having installed a new offense and defense in 15 practices, Muschamp said the real work begins now.

"I just told our team this is a critical time for us," he said. " …By NCAA rules, we're very limited on how much time we can spend with the football team, and our leadership needs to take over. I challenged some guys in the locker room. It's time for them to step up. We're only going to be as good next year as the work ethic takes us."

STILL NO. 1: Senior QB John Brantley will enter the fall as the starter. He began the game 0-for-5 in the first two series and finished 4-of-14 for 45 yards.

"The offense is going to look different," Brantley said. "We're going to be more comfortable with it, everyone will be healthy. We can only get better from here on out. I think all around we made a lot of progress in the spring. We're going to be okay."

Muschamp said he is pleased with how Brantley performed all spring, and that his experience and consistency earned him the starting role. But the coach reiterated that it's not set in stone.

"The quarterback position is no different than any other position," Muschamp said. "We'll have great competition in the fall for that job. Right now, Johnny Brantley is the starter."

LEGENDS RETURN: Tebow (2007) and Wuerffel (1996) were the toast of halftime as they stood at midfield while statues of them and Spurrier (1966) were unveiled commemorating their Heisman Trophy accomplishments.

Spurrier, 65, the coach at South Carolina, didn't attend because the Gamecocks also held their spring game Saturday. But he spoke via a taped message. His daughter, Amy Moody, spoke in person on his behalf.

"When do you ever think growing up that you'll have a statue somewhere where people will look at it and have great memories?" Wuerffel, 36, said. "It's even more special being next to two guys that I love and admire in my coach Steve Spurrier and my friend Tim Tebow. That even makes it more special for me."

Tebow, 23, is the only one of the three captured in a running pose.

"That's fine," he said. "You have to change it up. We can't all be throwing."

VYING FOR TIME: Redshirt freshman QB Tyler Murphy showed potential as the Orange team's starter, and freshman Jeff Driskel gave fans something to get excited about. In limited action, Driskel was 2-of-6 for 13 yards and had a 19-yard run. "Right now he should be going to the prom," Muschamp said of Driskel. "Tyler was very good in the pocket, creating plays, and he was accurate with the ball. Jeff's got all the tools. He's going to be a really good football player for the Gators. It's just going to take some time."

SAMS' BIG MOMENT: Walk-on sophomore FB Ben Sams, a St. Petersburg High alum, scored on a 10-yard pass from Murphy with 9:49 remaining.

Sams said the many injuries Florida endured in the spring allowed him more of an opportunity to play, which he tried to use to his advantage.

"I can die a happy man now," Sams said. "I really can't explain the feeling."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators unveil Heisman statues, play spring football game 04/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 7:24pm]
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