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Spurrier: Capel is key to improving return teams

Florida's offense is sure to continue utilizing the sprint-draw, the post-corner and a little trickery this season. Now coach Steve Spurrier wants to add special teams to the arsenal. And he plans to do it primarily with sophomore John Capel.

"We're going to try to emphasize returning kicks a little bit better this year," Spurrier said at Wednesday's media day. "Certainly John Capel can go the distance every time he touches it. I hope that whenever the other team is punting, our fans stand up and say, "Capel is going to get it. Let's see if he goes the distance.'

"It should be that way because he can. If we do our jobs up front, he should be able to go all the way every time he touches it."

After the Gators returned five punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in 1996 and '97, they managed just one _ Mike Peterson's 27-yard blocked punt return against Vanderbilt _ last season.

Those numbers should improve this fall with Capel, the reigning NCAA champion in the 200 meters. He captured the title in a school-record 19.87 seconds.

"Coach Spurrier is always finding ways to utilize talent, so if I just show up in practice and do the best I can, I'm sure he will use my talents whether it's on punts, kickoffs or in the offense," said Capel, a 5-foot-11 receiver from Hernando High.

Though he has no career receptions, Capel averaged 27.4 yards on kickoff returns and 9.6 yards on punt returns. He nearly broke returns on several occasions.

"We're going to hope that becomes a big play at Florida," said Spurrier, who will be able to work more with special teams because of the addition of assistant quarterbacks coach Noah Brindise.

GRADDY A NO-SHOW: Junior SS Rod Graddy, whose career is in jeopardy after an off-the-field incident, did not report for the first team meeting Tuesday night. Spurrier said despite published reports, Graddy has not been expelled from UF.

"He has not been dismissed by me or anyone," Spurrier said. "All the facts did not come in, but we haven't seen him. I don't know where he is."

FIVE SUSPENDED: Starting DT Gerard Warren and backup DE Anthony Mitchell have been suspended for the first two games for violating unspecified university rules. Starting RT Kenyatta Walker and LB Teddy Sims and WR Steve Shipp have been suspended for the Sept. 4 season opener against Western Michigan.

WARREN WATCH: Junior CB Cedric Warren, who sustained a career-threatening neck injury last fall, has been cleared to practice by team doctors and will work out with the Gators today.

Warren competed for a starting job a year ago but injured his neck in the last scrimmage before the season.

"I need to find out what he can do," defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said.

JUNIOR LEADERS: Spurrier said the coaching staff has decided to allow a few selected juniors to be picked as team captains. He said DT Derrick Chambers and WR Travis Taylor are likely candidates. Team captains will be decided the week before the season opener.

_ MARK LONG

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