Orange Bowl, 1/2: Maryland-Florida
The upstart Terrapins make it back to a "January 1" bowl date after running through the ACC as "Fridge Feva" runs rampant through College Park. Florida had a disappointing season as two costly losses kept them out of a date with the national championship and a renewal of their rivalry with the Miami Hurricanes, a reunion of sorts that will be cranked up again in 2003.
EJ Henderson of Maryland will be the first linebacker drafted if the junior opts to leave school and will end up somewhere in the middle of the first frame. He was outstanding in a game we scouted on site this year against North Carolina State, a win which put the Terps in this spot. Center Melvin Fowler's position in the draft will heavily depend on the results of pre-draft exams on his shoulder. Terrapin quarterback Shaun Hill is tough, intelligent and runs the offense with supreme confidence but is a limited athlete with minimal arm strength. Receiver Gulian Gary is steady and will get some late round looks.
The Gators as usual, have a slew of highly rated prospects. Jabar Gaffney and Mike Pearson carry grades that would make both top 15 choices if they leave for the draft. When we saw the Gators in person this season and posed the question to people "in the know" afterwards, Bosselli was very elusive answering anything and though Gaffney has been swaying with his decision the opinions given to him are leaning heavily against him entering the draft. One Gator whose made noise about leaving is Reche Caldwell, who reminds us a lot of Darrell Jackson, and like the former UF wide out fits into the third round area. Ditto for Lito Sheppard whose all but signed on the dotted line declaring his eligibility. A shut-down corner and big play return specialist who may be put on the field as a receiver on occasion, Sheppard will be drafted in the middle portion of round one. The Gators also have a slew or talented underclassmen at linebacker and a trio of solid prospects at tight end. Defensive end Alex Brown could have a field day against a mediocre offensive line and quarterback with limited mobility and ability to escape the rush. Running back Earnest Graham will play despite a knee injury sustained in the Florida State game, which he felt was a cheap shot. Watch for Rex Grossman who violated a curfew and may not play at all during the first quarter; formerly affirming his decision to stay in Gainnesville, this latest transgression may cause him to reverse his thinking.
Florida: Bennie Alexander/CB, Alex Brown/DE, Reche Caldwell/WR, Travis Carroll/ILB, Jeff Chandler/PK, Robert Cromartie/CB, Andra Davis/ILB, Jabar Gaffney/WR, Earnest Graham/RB, Rex Grossman/QB, Marquand Manuel/S, Clint Mitchell/DE, Thomas Moody/G, Mike Pearson/T, Lito Sheppard/CB, Aaron Walker/TE, Kirk Wells/TE, Zac Zedalis/C
Maryland: Melvin Fowler/C, Guilian Gary/WR, EJ Henderson/ILB, Charles Hill/DT, Marlon Moore/OLB, Anthony Thompson/OLB