Bringing their talents to light Emerging QBs: Florida State's Danny Kanell and Florida's Danny Wuerffel have put up big numbers in big victories. One of them will make a big name for himself with a victory in Saturday's showdown in Gainesville, Fla.

November 23, 1995|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

They have played most of their college football careers in the shadows of others: Danny Kanell in the one cast by his predecessor at Florida State, Charlie Ward; Danny Wuerffel in the one cast by his coach at Florida, Steve Spurrier.

But now these former recruiting buddies seem to have emerged, just as their teams are about to meet again in what has become one of the biggest and most significant rivalries in the sport. It will be renewed Saturday in Gainesville, as the sixth-ranked Seminoles try to stop the third-ranked Gators at "The Swamp."

For Kanell, it's a chance to erase the single blot on what had the makings of a dream season: a poor third quarter that led to his team's narrow defeat at Virginia earlier this month. It comes against a team that helped Kanell resurrect his career a year ago.

Pressing throughout the 1994 season after replacing Ward at quarterback, Kanell led the Seminoles back from a 31-3 deficit going into the final quarter to a 31-31 tie. Florida State later beat the Gators, 23-17, in the Sugar Bowl.

"It was a big turning point for me," said Kanell, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior who last week broke the ACC career record for touchdown passes. "I gained a lot of confidence in myself, and I think my coaches and teammates gained a lot of confidence in me that I could do big things in big games."

Asked what it was like trying to replace Ward, who as a senior two years ago won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to their first national championship, Kanell said, "It was extremely tough on me because Charlie made things look so easy."

Kanell certainly doesn't play with the same flair as Ward, but what he lacks in quickness and natural leadership he makes up for in arm strength and toughness. Those who have watched Kanell the past two seasons saw his on-field personality emerge last year in Tallahassee against the Gators.

"He's a lot more confident," said center Clay Shiver. "He'll be a different player going into this year's game than he was last year. I think he's matured a great deal because of the trials and tribulations he went through last year."

Wuerffel, a 6-2, 211-pound redshirt junior, certainly has found himself on an emotional roller coaster during his four years in Gainesville, mostly the result of sharing the No. 1 job with Terry Dean in 1993 and 1994.

But since taking over for Dean after last year's loss to Auburn, Wuerffel has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the country. He is second nationally in pass efficiency behind Ohio State's Bobby Hoying and second all-time to former BYU star Ty Detmer among Division I-A quarterbacks with at least 400 pass attempts.

"I think Danny has thrown the ball a little bit better this year, plus he's gotten better players around him," Spurrier said yesterday.

Because of the high-powered offenses they play in, neither Kanell nor Wuerffel has received a great deal of credit. Kanell's Heisman candidacy ended in Charlottesville, and many believe Wuerffel's numbers are merely a byproduct of playing for Spurrier.

Asked about the possibility of setting the single-season Southeastern Conference record for touchdowns -- with 29, he is tied with former Gator Shane Matthews -- Wuerffel said, "I'm not even thinking about it. Records are nice, but going undefeated is more important."

The matchup between Kanell and Wuerffel is an interesting one. As high school seniors in football-rich Florida four years ago, they met on a recruiting trip to Florida State. Kanell, who also was recruited by Florida, committed to the Seminoles a couple of days before Wuerffel picked the Gators.

"The roles could have been reversed," said Kanell, who selected Florida State because of coach Bobby Bowden's willingness to let him play baseball. "I could have played there for Spurrier. I think Spurrier knows what to do with quarterbacks -- if you listen to him."

Said Wuerffel: "I'm excited that I've had the opportunity to be where I'm at. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Kanell vs. Wuerffel

The career stats of Florida State QB Danny Kanell and Florida QB Danny Wuerffel:

KANELL

Year ... Att .. Comp .. Pct. .. Yards .. TD .. INT

1992 ... 20 ...... 9 .. 450 ..... 135 ... 1 ... 0

1993 ... 49 ..... 36 .. 735 ..... 499 ... 7 ... 0

1994 .. 449 .... 272 .. 605 .... 2781 .. 25 .. 13

1995 .. 358 .... 240 .. 670 .... 2773 .. 31 .. 10

WUERFFEL

Year .. Att .. Comp .. Pct. .. Yards .. TD .. INT

1993 .. 273 ... 159 .. 582 .... 2230 .. 22 .. 10

1994 .. 212 ... 132 .. 622 .... 1754 .. 18 ... 9

1995 .. 257 ... 165 .. 642 .... 2547 .. 29 ... 9

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