Friday, December 13, 2002
Grossman could be Florida's best
By Bob Griese
Special to ABC Sports Online
The FedEx Orange Bowl is going to be a contrast of two offensive styles -- Florida's Fun 'N Gun and Maryland's run-oriented game. Here are the players who will lead their teams on Jan. 2 (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
Maryland's offense is built around the running game. The Terps want to run first and pass second. They were just eighth in the ACC in passing and second in rushing. They scored 33 rushing TDs and 13 by the pass.
What is giving Maryland hope is that Tennessee ran the ball so well on Florida. The offensive line isn't as good as Tennessee's, but it's pretty good.
Bruce Perry is the key. Not only does he run the ball well (1,242 yards, 10 TDs), but he is also an excellent receiver. He caught 40 passes and two TDs. He's a main guy for Maryland.
Perry's strengths are his quickness and escapability. His liability is his size. He can't carry the ball a lot because he's only 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and gets beat up a lot. If you use him too much in one game, you may not have him for the next game. That's not the case against Florida because he will have the whole offseason to recover. His backup, Marc Riley, is a big back (6-3, 218 pounds).
Perry is the one who makes them go. He is the best player on this offense. He's the big-play guy. He can take it all the way. But Maryland won't be able to run left-to-right because of Florida's speed. The Terps have to run up the middle between the tackles.
The Terps will run some option, which sends chills down the backs of all defensive coordinators when they find out an offense will run the option. That means that they have to adjust to make sure every scheme they have is good against the option.
Maryland wants to control the ball. The Terps can't outscore Florida. They average 36 points per game, but they want to run the ball, and keep their defense off the field. They can't move the ball 80 yards each drive. They need help from their defense and special teams. That's what they got all year.
Rex Grossman didn't play a lot last year, and he went into the spring battling Brock Berlin for the starting job. In fact, Berlin was ahead of him coming out of the spring. Steve Spurrier said he would decide in the summer when they came back. Grossman played lights out. Berlin has nine TDs and only one interception while completing 60 percent of his passes this season. And he's the backup.
If you have talent and you're in the quarterback system for Florida with Spurrier on the sideline pushing the buttons, that's a pretty good situation to be in.
Grossman's had a great year. He was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. He probably throws the football as well as anybody ever at Florida. He's only a redshirt sophomore, and he could have two more years at Florida. He could come out of Gainesville holding every record, and maybe be the best that was ever there.
He has a lot of room for improvement. He still needs to mature in making decisions at the line of scrimmage, getting Florida out of potential bad plays, and reading coverages. He doesn't scramble real well, but he can throw the ball as well as anyone in the country.
He can see it, get rid of it and throw the football. That's what he does best. He does it better than Danny Wuerrfel or anybody that ever played at Florida.
Maryland plays defense different than most teams. The Terrapins use a three-man line with five and six defensive backs. They blitz a lot, and give a lot of different looks. They are disruptive and try to confuse the offense. The good thing for Grossman and the Gators is that they have had a month to study for it. The bad news is that Maryland has had a month to study Florida's offense.
The Terps are a containing type defense. They will blitz you a lot and try to knock you off-balance. They don't give up any big plays. They led the ACC in sacks, interceptions and takeaways, and are fourth in the nation in turnover margin (+16).
They need to confuse Grossman, blitz him, come at him in different angles. The key is whether or not Grossman can handle it and not turn it over.
Bob Griese will do the analysis of the FedEx Orange Bowl on ABC with Brad Nessler and Lynn Swann. He is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.