Aug. 30, 2002
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Football Writer
The year of the quarterback moves into full swing this weekend, with Florida's Rex Grossman, Miami's Ken Dorsey and Texas' Chris Simms among the top passers returning from last season.
Also ready to put up big numbers are Louisville's Dave Ragone, Marshall's Byron Leftwich, Tennessee's Casey Clausen and Washington State's Jason Gesser.
These guys know how to pass, and should have a field day in season openers against overmatched opponents.
The Saturday lineup has Florida A&M at co-No. 1 Miami, North Texas at No. 3 Texas, Wyoming vs. No. 4 Tennessee (in Nashville); UAB at No. 6 Florida, Nevada vs. No. 12 Washington State (in Seattle); and Appalachian State at No. 19 Marshall. Kentucky is at No. 17 Louisville on Sunday.
Grossman was the Heisman Trophy runner-up after throwing for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns in the Gators' 10-2 season. And with new coach Ron Zook taking over for Steve Spurrier, the junior can't waiting to get going.
"I'm anxious to see how well we play," Grossman said. "I think we're going to be good, but you just never know until you go against another team. I'm real confident in our chances and how well we're going to play."
Dorsey led the Hurricanes to a 12-0 record and a fifth national title. He threw for 2,653 yards and 23 TDs, and says he wants to improve his completion percentage of 57.86. He's likely to do so against the I-AA Rattlers.
Simms threw for 2,603 yards and 22 TDs in the Longhorns' 11-2 season. But it's the losses to Oklahoma, and then Colorado in the Big 12 title game, that has Simms geared for a title run in his final season.
Florida is favored by 33 points over UAB, and Texas by 37 over North Texas. There is no betting line on Miami's game.
Clausen may not have star receiver Kelley Washington for the Wyoming game, but he should find the range early and often. Clausen threw for 2,696 yards and 22 TDs last season.
Gesser, who led Washington State to a 10-2 record, looks to improve on last season's 2,729-yard, 25-TD effort that put him on most Heisman Watch lists for this season. With the Cougars playing their opener in front an expected full house in the new Seahawk Stadium in Seattle, he'll receive plenty of attention.
Leftwich threw for 4,132 yards and 38 TDs, while Ragone passed for 3,056 yards and 23 TDs.
With so many strong arms warming up, Leftwich hopes to stay on target all year.
"Everybody has a Heisman Trophy candidate right now in August," Leftwich said. "If you're one of those guys in late November, then you've got a shot."