Gator coach keeps QB decision a mystery

Updated: August 28, 2003, 7:46 PM ET

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For some reason, Florida coach Ron Zook doesn't want anyone to know who his starting quarterback will be Saturday.

The Gators open their season against San Jose State (1-0) -- in what is essentially a warmup for the next week's meeting with No. 3 Miami. Among the many theories floating around town is that whoever plays better in the opener will get the call against Miami.

From the looks in practice, it's clear that either sophomore Ingle Martin or freshman Chris Leak will start and that both will play. Redshirt freshman Gavin Dickey might get a chance, too.

"We've decided but we're not really going to talk about it," Zook said. "We're going to keep it under the hat until we come out on Saturday."

Dickey considered transferring last week, but changed his mind. The fourth quarterback in the mix, Justin Midgett, has been playing with the scout team in practice this week and is a long shot to play, despite his pronouncement earlier this month that he could win the job.

Zook has been impressed with Leak, and may take the rare step -- at Florida, at least -- of putting a first-year player at the most important position. Not since Wayne Peace in 1980 has a freshman taken the bulk of the snaps for the Gators.

"Leak has been excellent," Zook said. "The guy has an unbelievable work ethic. He's studied. He's competed. He's improved vastly and really has a great, great grasp of the offense."

Martin, on the other hand, could have a bit of an advantage, because he has been around the offense a bit longer.

"That does show up from time to time," offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher said. "But there have been no surprises with Chris. When we recruited him, we expected him to learn enough to be able to compete for the position. And he's doing that."

This marks the first time the Gators have opened a season unranked since 1990, when Steve Spurrier made his debut as Florida's coach.

The Gators are coming off an 8-5 season, and many expect them to struggle even worse this year.

"We're Florida and we're going to take other teams' best shots," linebacker Todd McCullough said. "When they step on the field, they're going to face a good team. We can go out there and dominate. I believe we can do that."

Maybe so against San Jose State, a team that went 6-7 last year and plays in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans opened the season last week with a 29-0 win over Grambling State.

Last year, San Jose State beat Illinois and stayed close with Washington and Ohio State for a while, before losing both.

"I'm very confident, the most confident of any of the opponents -- Ohio State, Washington, Illinois -- that I've ever been," San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. "Our guys understand that they've been in that environment before."

San Jose State definitely has more experience at the quarterback position, where senior Scott Rislov will start. Last season, he threw for 3,251 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Martin, meanwhile, is the only Florida quarterback with experience. Backing up Rex Grossman last year, Martin threw for 96 yards on 10 attempts.

"I think we're going to have three guys ready to play, and three will play well on Saturday," Martin said, including Dickey in that mix. "I don't know. It's all up to Coach Zook."

This story is from's automated news wire. Wire index