They have zigged and they have zagged. They have been way, way up and occasionally down. And now, after going to and fro with fellow quarterback Terry Dean for the past year, Florida's Danny Wuerffel has somehow come full circle.
He is starting anew Saturday against Georgia. As opposed to 1993 when he was starting to lose against Georgia.
Wuerffel has replaced Dean as UF's starting quarterback, making him a clear-cut No. 1 for the first time since losing that position with a poor performance in last season's Georgia game.
"It's a little ironic, but it's not something I'm really thinking about," said Wuerffel, a sophomore from Fort Walton Beach. "I know anything can happen; we've been through it a lot before. I've been looking forward to this opportunity for so long, I'm just excited to get it. I don't think I'll let any pressure get to me now."
Unfortunately for Dean, the pressure did seem to weigh him down. Although his statistics still rate among the best in the nation, Dean's effectiveness seemed to wane as Florida coach Steve Spurrier became more critical of the junior in recent games.
So now Wuerffel is available to offer Spurrier a distinct, and proven, alternative to Dean.
Where Dean has a strong arm, nifty running skills and a big-play-or-bust mentality, Wuerffel has an awkward throwing motion, a tendency to dump off passes and a less-dynamic psyche.
Yet they always have managed to achieve, more or less, at the same rate. Dean has completed 60 percent of his passes the past two years; Wuerffel has completed 59 percent. Dean averages 8.3 yards per attempt; Wuerffel averages 8.2. Dean averages slightly more interceptions; Wuerffel averages slightly fewer touchdown passes.
And, of course, Florida has won 16 of 19 games with them around.
"I don't think it really matters," said receiver Chris Doering. "They're both very capable. We went through this last year and still had a great year."
Wuerffel's early success this past season did come at a price. While he was setting an NCAA record for touchdown passes (22) as a freshman in 1993, he also was setting a standard for himself. And that standard could not be met from his seat on the bench through 1994's first six games.
There was talk in August and early September that Wuerffel was struggling at practice. Based on Dean's performance in the final two games of '93, Spurrier had made him the undisputed starter coming into this season and Wuerffel looked to all the world like a young man with very little to play for.
Spurrier once asked reporters after a preseason scrimmage whether it was his imagination or whether Wuerffel's passing looked terribly unstable. Strong practices by sophomore quarterback Eric Kresser had people wondering whether Wuerffel was even No.
2 on the depth chart.
"I never really felt I was doing that poorly," Wuerffel said. "Some days are better than others. That's always true."
What was not being taken into account was Wuerffel's history of uninspiring workouts followed by spectacular games.
Much like Shane Matthews before him, Wuerffel does not appear to be a big-time quarterback in practice. Sometimes his throws are wobbly, sometimes they fall short. Yet he has a knack for doing whatever it takes to get the job done come game time.
"Danny doesn't have the strongest arm on the team, but he gets the ball there when the game starts," Spurrier said. "You judge players on how they do in practice, but you also have to take into account how they play when they get the chance in games."
The question now is how long will this last. How many interceptions are in Wuerffel's future before Dean's career is revived?
Spurrier says this is no week-to-week experiment. Wuerffel now has the chance that Dean had for the past month:
Perform well and the job is yours to keep.
A factor that may be working in Wuerffel's favor is Spurrier's apparent dissatisfaction with Dean's approach the past two weeks. Publicly, Spurrier has taken all responsibility for Dean's poor performance against Auburn and his subsequent benching.
Yet Spurrier reportedly has been unhappy with Dean talking to the media about his strained relations with the coach. Dean did not help his cause by appearing to sulk as Wuerffel tried to rally UF against Auburn.
Spurrier says on-field performance was the only determining factor in the lineup switch, but his praise of Wuerffel's demeanor might be construed as criticism of Dean's.
"Danny has handled everything that's happened around him extremely well. He's been a great team player," Spurrier said. "He's handled coaching decisions as well as you could ask of any player."
Duke at Florida State, noon, Ch. 13.
Virginia Tech at Miami, 3:30 p.m., Ch. 10.
Georgia at Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN.
The Dean-Wuerffel shuffle
They have been replaced after victories, they have been replaced after losses. Danny Wuerffel had a streak of five straight starts in 1993; Terry Dean managed six straight in 1994. But no matter what was happening in the huddle during the past two seasons it was always wise to keep one eye on the sideline because a relief pitcher never seemed far away. Here is a look at the month-to-month and sometimes game-to-game comings and goings of Dean and Wuerffel.
Opponent Starting QB Result
Arkansas State Terry Dean W 44-6
Kentucky Terry Dean W 24-20
Tennessee Danny Wuerffel W 41-34
Mississippi State Danny Wuerffel W 38-24
Louisiana State Danny Wuerffel W 58-3
Auburn Danny Wuerffel L 38-35
Georgia Danny Wuerffel W 33-26
SW Louisiana Terry Dean W 61-14
South Carolina Danny Wuerffel W 37-26
Vanderbilt Terry Dean W 52-0
Florida State Danny Wuerffel L 33-21
Alabama Terry Dean W 28-13
West Virginia Terry Dean W 41-7
Opponent Starting QB Result
New Mexico State Terry Dean W 70-21
Kentucky Terry Dean W 73-7
Tennessee Terry Dean W 31-0
Ole Miss Terry Dean W 38-14
Louisiana State Terry Dean W 42-18
Auburn Terry Dean L 36-33
Georgia Danny Wuerffel ???
Dean vs. Wuerffel
A comparison between Terry Dean and Danny Wuerffel's 1993-94 numbers.
Comp Att Pct Yards Int TD
Dean 219 365 60 3,061 19 36
Wuerffel 181 306 59 2,518 12 26