One month ago, all the talk about Florida QB Doug Johnson concerned the Heisman Trophy race. Now the only talk swirling around the 20-year-old sophomore is how much he will play for the Gators.
Coach Steve Spurrier has not named a starter for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. He has been hesitant to name one since Johnson was suspended for the Oct.
18 Auburn game for violating team curfew.
Johnson started in the 37-17 loss to Georgia on Saturday, but Spurrier was not pleased with his effort. He pulled Johnson at halftime and again in the second half. At his weekly luncheon Tuesday, Spurrier ripped the offense's performance and Johnson's transgressions.
"We'll see if we can regroup and try to get some fun back in the game," Spurrier said. "Seems like our players haven't had much fun, except for on Thursday nights. Hopefully we can have some fun on Saturdays."
After practice, Johnson dispelled rumors about opting to play baseball year-round for the Devil Rays organization.
"Why would I not be here next year?" he said. "If I didn't plan on staying here for four years, I would have taken the money and ran. I would have gotten a lot more money if I wouldn't have stayed here, so why would I decide now that I wouldn't stay here?
"It doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter if I sit on the bench for the next four years. I'm still going to be a Gator. That's what I wanted to do all my life."
BRINDISE BACK: Senior QB Noah Brindise returned to practice after missing Monday's drills with a pinched nerve in his neck. His status for the Vanderbilt game remained probable, but he could start.
_ MARK LONG
Jackson earns I-AA honor
TAMPA _ South Florida kick return specialist/receiver Charlie Jackson, who had the first kickoff return for a touchdown in school history Saturday, earned another first for the Bulls: He is the Division I-AA national special teams player of the week.
Jackson, a 5-foot-6, 156-pound freshman from Miami Edison High, returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown in the first half of USF's 24-6 victory over Charleston Southern. He also had four punt returns for 100 yards, one a 42-yarder that set up a second Bulls touchdown. He totaled 204 return yards.
The weekly award, USF's first on the national level, is given by Football Gazette.
BRING 'EM DOWN: Stopping the run will continue to be a big part of USF's focus, coach Jim Leavitt reiterated. And that's stopping the run. Not just slowing it.
The Bulls had some big problems making tackles against Charleston Southern, and partly for that reason allowed 131 rushing yards _ nearly 50 yards more than the Bucs had averaged.
"We didn't tackle very well," Leavitt said. "If we would have, it would have been a whole different story."
Tackling will be a focus during this week's practices; upcoming opponent Cumberland is averaging 296 rushing yards.
_ SHARON GINN, TIMES WIRES
McDowell irks UCF head
ORLANDO _ Central Florida coach Gene McDowell has more problems than finding a way to stop opponents.
Monday, UCF president John Hitt said he was displeased with McDowell's handling of the ongoing investigation of players in a federal cellular phone fraud case.
"I don't think it would surprise anyone that I was not entirely happy with some of Gene's decisions last week," Hitt said. "But people should not jump to the conclusion that Gene is in imminent danger of being fired."
McDowell has an 84-61 record in his 13th season at UCF. He works on a one-year contract with a one-year rollover, as is standard at UCF.
Hitt said McDowell's status would be reviewed at the end of the season, primarily by athletic director Steve Sloan, and that McDowell's comments about the Secret Service investigation "will be just one part of the evaluation."
Sloan said he had nothing to add, noting "we evaluate every program at the end of the season."
McDowell had no comment.
INJURIES: Sophomore LB Deaubrey Devine of Lakeland is scheduled to have surgery today on his left shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. His rehabilitation will take 5-6 months.
_ TIMES WIRES
Seeking the right balance
CORAL GABLES _ Miami hopes to keep its balance against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Hurricanes rushed for 300 yards or more in three straight games for the first time in school history in wins over Boston College, Temple and Arkansas State. But Virginia Tech is in a different class.
"We've gone into every game expecting to have to throw the ball," coach Butch Davis said. "We threw for 300 yards against Boston College and threw for nearly 300 against Temple. We go into games with the whole idea that we'd like to be balanced. If we get 500 yards, we'd like 250 of it to be running and 250 passing."
INJURIES: Starting SS Dennis Scott sustained a left knee injury Saturday that may sideline the senior for the rest of the season. Freshman LB Dan Morgan, UM's most consistent defender, reinjured his right knee. MLB Rod Mack, who had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago, might be able to play against Virginia Tech, Davis said.
_ TIMES WIRES