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Sizing Up the quarterbacks // Danny Wuerffel

Of all the statistics people throw out about Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel _ and the noteworthy numbers can be mind-boggling _ the biggest is perhaps the smallest:

Three.

That's how many SEC championship rings he has.

For all of Wuerffel's so-called physical shortcomings _ his stilted throwing motion, questionable arm strength and stocky frame _ he is perhaps college football's best quarterback because he does one thing consistently: win.

"I let the statistics and the championships speak for themselves," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "Danny's been actively involved in three (SEC titles) in a row, and hopefully he'll be involved in four in a row."

Only if Wuerffel can lead No. 4 Florida to victory over No. 2 Tennessee today in a game that virtually will decide the SEC East title, as well as influence the SEC title game, national championship picture and Heisman Trophy race.

But then, he's done it before.

Last year, Wuerffel rallied his team from a 16-point second-quarter deficit to beat Tennessee 62-37 in Gainesville. The Gators went on to their first undefeated regular season, a third SEC title and a Fiesta Bowl berth against Nebraska for the national championship.

Wuerffel, meanwhile, was recognized as the nation's top quarterback with the Davey O'Brien Award. He threw for 3,266 yards and 35 touchdowns and set an NCAA record with his single-season efficiency rating of 178.4.

His season was among the best ever by a college quarterback.

"Danny's accuracy and decisionmaking remind me of Joe Montana," said Kansas City Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose son, Brian, is Wuerffel's backup. "Danny's ability to consistently throw to the right spot is what has enabled him to be such a productive and winning quarterback."

But according to skeptical NFL scouts, Wuerffel lacks the frame, throwing motion and arm strength of a classic pro quarterback, even though he runs Spurrier's explosive pro-style offense better than any of his predecessors.

"The pros are maybe looking for a 6-5 guy that can throw it a 100-miles-an-hour, that type thing," said Spurrier, who is yet to see any of his highly successful college quarterbacks make it in the NFL.

"Our quarterback has to be an excellent leader, a good decisionmaker and very courageous. Danny Wuerffel led his team to a high school state championship. He came here a winner and expecting to play well every time."

In the opposing huddle today is junior Peyton Manning, that 6-foot-5 guy who throws 100-miles-an-hour. He is hailed as a can't-miss NFL quarterback, perhaps a No.

1 pick, who scouts say is ready now.

But for Wuerffel, who has three SEC championships to Manning's none, today's showdown is not a clash of the quarterbacks. He knows the opinions of many Heisman Trophy voters will be swayed by today's game, and he doesn't care.

"If that was something that was No. 1 or No. 2 on my list, it would be one thing, but it's not," Wuerffel said. "It's not anywhere near the top. If we get the "W' I couldn't care less if I don't complete any passes."

Florida running back Terry Jackson is tired of hearing people sell Wuerffel short. There is more to winning, he said, than physique.

"People often look past those intangible things that a person has," Jackson said, "but I think the intangible things are sometimes the most important things. Danny always seems to be in control. He never gets overzealous about anything, just goes out there and makes everything work.

"We always seem to come out on top with Danny."

Wuerffel is none too worried about his detractors, or the somewhat dismal outlook they have for his future.

"If it's something that's supposed to happen, then I'll be very thankful and do the best I can," Wuerffel said of a pro career. "But more and more, I'm to the point where if that's not going to work I won't lose any sleep over it.

"You can only throw the ball as hard as you can throw it or run as fast as you can run. I can't in one day get a lot faster or a lot stronger. I'll do what I've been doing and it'll work out or it won't."

Wuerffel said he has nothing to prove on the playing field, only a game to win.

"I don't think I have anything to prove to anybody," he said. "If we go 13-0 and win all our games it doesn't matter if I don't win any individual honors. It's not something I've sat around and thought about as the goal for my life.

"If we were playing for All-American or the most magazine covers it might be a problem, but we're not. We're playing for team goals."

Wuerffel has left precious few of those goals unmet.

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