Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Florida players no longer caught up in hype when Steve Spurrier returns

GAINESVILLE — Florida QB Jeff Driskel was 3 years old when then-coach Steve Spurrier led the Gators to their first national championship in the 1996 season. Driskel and most of his teammates weren't even old enough to be Gator fans.

So it's no surprise that the man who won the Gators' first Heisman Trophy, then led their rise to national prominence as their head coach, is more myth than reality to today's younger Gators. He's the guy in front of the stadium with the two other Heisman Trophy winners.

"He's definitely a Gator great," Driskel said. "I drive by his statue every day. But it's not really anything that's going to bother us."

It has been 10 seasons since Spurrier coached his final game with the Gators, and now in his eighth season at South Carolina, playing Spurrier just seems old hat now.

Senior LB Jon Bostic said Spurrier remains "a legend in Gainesville," but the Gators can't get caught up in the Spurrier's-returning hype.

"I know he's always one of those guys, he likes to air it out," Bostic said. "He can draw up a lot of different things and give a defense headaches. We got to make sure we're on our keys. We're playing smart. Everybody's eyes are in the right place."

HALAPIO HONORED: Jon Halapio on Monday was named the SEC co-offensive lineman of the week, sharing the honor with Mississippi State's Tobias Smith. The former St. Pete Catholic standout has helped anchor the line this season and graded out a team high among offensive linemen last week. Halapio has started every game this season and currently owns UF's most consecutive starts on offense, 18.

STILL IN THE HUNT: Spurrier was bitterly disappointed about the Gamecocks' loss at LSU last week, but he said during his weekly teleconference that the Gamecocks are still in the hunt for the SEC East title.

"Even if we'd somehow lucked up and won the game, we've still got to beat Florida, we've got to beat Florida if we're going to win the Eastern Division or have a chance at the Eastern Division," Spurrier said. "Florida's pretty much in the driver's seat, yet they still have got to beat us and Georgia. So it's wide open pretty much. Three teams are still in it, and a lot can happen in the next two or three weeks."

INJURY UPDATE: Florida coach Will Muschamp said he expects to have several injured players back for the South Carolina game: LB Jelani Jenkins (hamstring), DT Dominique Easley (knee), OL Jon Harrison (arm), OL James Wilson (eye) and OL Xavier Nixon (upper body) should be ready to play. WR Latroy Pittman (ankle) is questionable.

JO DRAGOTTA'S RISE: Tampa Gaither alum Jo Dragotta was named SEC offensive player of the week and is part of Top Drawer Soccer's national team of the week. The senior has scored five goals, all in the past seven matches. Last weekend, she provided game-winning goals in both matches. Dragotta has scored once in each of the past three matches.

FINAL WORD: "It has absolutely nothing to do with anything in our season right now. We have one goal, and that's to play South Carolina on Saturday. Really, nothing matters other than playing South Carolina and preparing ourselves well throughout the week."— Muschamp on the Gators' No. 2 BCS ranking

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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