Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators will forever be intertwined. The Head Ball Coach led the program to six SEC titles in 12 seasons and one national championship in 1996.
Now an ambassador for the school’s athletics department, it’s only natural that the former Gators All-American and Heisman Trophy winner cares about the current state of the football program, including the battle at quarterback during fall camp between Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio. In an exclusive interview with SEC Country’s Chomp Chat podcast, Spurrier was careful not to step on coach Jim McElwain’s toes, but also wasn’t afraid to offer analysis on each competitor.
“I don’t know how Coach Mac [Jim McElwain] and Coach [Doug] Nussmeier are going to do it, but I really think Felipe has a lot of talent,” Spurrier said on the podcast. “He’s 6-foot-5, beautiful throwing motion just watching him in practice a lot last year and a little bit this year. Malik is an athlete back there but a good thrower also. We know about Luke Del Rio, good solid player. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, I’m sure they’ll have some scrimmages and that will be a big reason whoever I think they go with, the scrimmages coming up.”
Spurrier had experience switching quarterbacks at Florida. He took fans for a roller-coaster ride with his frantic changing of the guard, occasionally on a play-by-play basis. The most prominent example came in the 1997 game against No. 2 Florida State with Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise.
“You’ve got to give everybody a chance and sometimes you’ve got to give them a chance in the ball games instead of just practice,” Spurrier said on the podcast. “It’s helpful to have two that can really play, especially if one gets hurt.”
Spurrier did it again in 2000 on the way to another SEC title, often flipping Rex Grossman and Jesse Palmer. Grossman had 212 passing attempts, Palmer 223. Spurrier voiced that wouldn’t be his preference, though.
“I think all coaches would like to have one quarterback that’s clearly the best,” he said. “He’s the man, he’s the leader and let’s go. Certainly Danny Wuerffel the last two years [in 1995 and ’96], he was that.”
The Gators have a tough task in their first game of the season, as they take on Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The two teams met in the 2016 Citrus Bowl, and the Gators lost 41-7.