One of the things I admittedly struggled with was evaluating early Gator Greats. Now I may look like a real old-timer but I'm just 46 and having an opinion about athletes prior to the mid-sixties is very difficult. For years I have be regaled by stories about the physical abilities of Casares on the field and his notable exploits off it. Most everyone who saw him considers him among the greatest athletes ever at UF.
However, his college career does not generate an adequate level of recognition to even get him in this discussion. He was a one-time All-SEC second-team honoree --- that's it. His Gator teams from 1951-53 accomplished little of note. Yes, he helped Florida to its first bowl game, a Gator Bowl win over Tulsa. But that 8-and-3 season was flanked by a 5-5 campaign in '51 and a '53 season that ended up 3-5-2. It can easily be argued that he was a better basketball player for the Gators, averaging a double-double in '52 (14.9/11.3) and '53 (15.5/11.5).
Casares has an outstanding NFL career with the Chicago Bears for ten years and also played one season each for the Washington Redskins ('65) and Miami Dolphins ('66).
If the "wall" ever becomes a reality, perhaps a veterans committee would be needed to give fair consideration to pre-1960 Gators. But with the evidence I have on hand, his Gator football career doesn't get him into the top ten.
When Dale Dorminey got hurt the week of the '84 season opener Florida turned to a redshirt freshman from Mayo and a legend was born. Kerwin Bell was a guy none of us knew at the time, but we all learned to respect and like "The Throwin' Mayoan." He performed admirably in his first game, a loss to Miami in Tampa, and led the Gators on a tying scoring drive in game two against LSU. Then came 17 games without a loss, highlighted by the '84 wins over Auburn and Georgia. Bell added to his legend in '86 when he came off the bench and led the Gators to an amazing rally against fifth-ranked Auburn… hobbling into the end zone for the winning two-point conversion.
Bell had the advantage of playing behind a great line early in his career and having the best backfield in school history to go with it (Neal Anderson, John L. Williams, Lorenzo Hampton). His numbers dropped over his final two years due to weaker offensive lines and the emergence of a guy named Emmitt during Kerwin's senior year.
For me, it came down to Bell versus Grossman and Matthews for the number two spot in UF QB history. (Spurrier the coach overshadows the player)
- Matthews 9,287 yds 74 td 46 int
- Grossman 9,164 yds 77 td 36 int
- Bell 7,585 yds 56 td 35 int
On numbers alone, Grossman warrants a slight edge over Matthews with Bell a distant third. All three showed toughness and competitiveness and led the Gators to an SEC Championship. I went with Matthews, Grossman, Bell in that order because I felt what Shane did in '90 and '91 was more difficult than what Grossman did in his two best years. I think Grossman had better receivers (a lot more speed) while the rest of the team was comparable.
That Kerwin is one of the five greatest quarterbacks in Florida history is a great tribute. That his remarkable career still leaves him behind Wuerffel, Matthews and Grossman is no knock on the guy I still call "Country", but rather a tip of the hat to the three best ever to play the position at the University of Florida.
Time for Gators To Make their Move
With seven games to go in the regular season, the Gator basketball team needs a strong finish in order to claim a top two finish in the SEC East and assure themselves of a seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Florida's 14-6 record has the team in pretty good shape where that's concerned.
It starts Saturday in Knoxville where the Gators try and get even for one of the two worst losses of the season to this point (Blowout at FSU is number one). Tennessee is an up-and-down team that is driving its coach and fans nuts… but they are capable of beating most anyone. They play best when they go small and play three guards --- a lineup that causes the Gators serious match up problems --- but Buzz Peterson tends to shy away from that group.
One thing to watch will be the play of freshman Al Hoford who is struggling to find consistency. Horford's last two road games have been disasters. Granted they have come against Mississippi State and Kentucky… but seven points, eight rebounds, seven fouls and six turnovers won't often lead to victories.
I'm convinced the Gators need to finish 10-and-6 in the SEC to feel comfortable about NCAA's. With 6 wins in the bank and home games against Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky still to come, a couple of road wins are a must. The sooner they get them the better.
Roberson Record Watch
Florida's sharp-shooting junior is six three-pointers from taking over second place on the Gators all-time list. Roberson's 238 long range baskets is five fewer than Greg Stolt knocked down. At the top of the list is Bret Nelson who finished with 274. Unless the Gators make a deep tournament run, or Roberson starts making four or five every night, it appears "Peep" will have to stay in school and finish his eligibility in order to claim the top spot.
Roberson is already the Gators all-time leading free throw shooter (.856) and his senior year could vault him into top five scorers ever at UF. His return would also mean the Gators bring back ten of their eleven players. That's the kind of carryover and continuity Florida's been lacking in recent years.
We'll see if it happens.
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