Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators a Magnet for Passing Specialists

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gators a Magnet for Passing Specialists

Article excerpt

Four years ago, Ike Hilliard was one of the first to point it

out. At the time, Hilliard was a prized wide receiver recruit

from Patterson (La.) High School, and his college options were

virtually limitless.

Hilliard chose Florida.

And when asked why he picked the Gators, Hilliard didn't

hesitate.

"I am a wide receiver," Hilliard said at the time. "And if

you're a wide receiver, Florida is the best program in the

country."

A few Southeastern Conference championships later, Hilliard's

words are as accurate today as they were then, if not more so.

Florida has become a magnet for the nation's top wide receivers

and quarterbacks; a magnet powered by coach Steve Spurrier's

highly successful passing game.

The nation's top running backs have a natural attraction to

Nebraska.

Linebackers, to a lesser extent, have a similar attraction to

Penn State.

And after eight seasons of Spurrier's act, quarterbacks and

receivers have taken notice of Florida.

"Certainly, it helps a little bit," Spurrier said. "We've

thrown more touchdown passes at Florida than anybody since we

[Spurrier and his staff] have been here, so I guess it's natural

that some of the high school players take notice of that."

Last recruiting season alone, the Gators corralled a pair of

quarterbacks who combined played roughly 1,650 miles from

Gainesville: Tim Olmstead, who played his high school football

in Virginia, and Jesse Palmer, who played club ball in Ontario,

Canada.

Palmer took so much notice that he actually initiated his own

recruitment to Florida. Palmer sent video tape of his play to

Spurrier, who liked what he saw enough to sign him.

"I started wanting to play at Florida after the [1995] Fiesta

Bowl," Palmer said. "It's just the offense and obviously the

coaches. …

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