With No Tim Tebow, What Will the Florida Gators Do on Third and Two?

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With No Tim Tebow, What Will the Florida Gators Do on Third and Two?
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Here’s a question for you.  Can you name Florida’s fullback last year?  Go ahead, think for a minute.  I’ll wait.

Give up?

It was Tim Tebow, of course.  I know, I know, technically, he was the quarterback.  But, when Florida needed to pick up the tough yards inside, that’s who carried the ball.  And not just last season, but, really, for the last four.  As the saying goes, it has been like a Fargo winter; you knew what was coming, and that information did you no good whatsoever. 

Even when everybody knew what to expect, it was almost always successful.  The only notable exception was Florida’s last possession in the 2008 home loss to Mississippi when Tebow was unable to convert a fourth and one.  But the disappointment of that game prompted “The Promise ,” and Florida plowed through their remaining opponents on the way to a second national championship in three years.  So, even that worked out pretty well. 

For those expecting to witness the demise of the Gators in the post-Tebow era, I have bad news for you.  This year’s offense should be more diversified and less predictable.  A solid nucleus returns on the offensive line.  The backfield is fast and deep.  There are a handful of young but gifted receivers.  And redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley has a strong, accurate arm.  Big plays could become routine.  But here is the one unanswered question: With no Tebow, what will the Gators do on third and two?

Florida enters the fall with two fullbacks on the roster, neither of whom has ever touched the ball in a college game. The biggest of the returning running backs is Emmanuel Moody .  When given the opportunity, he has shown himself to be capable, but has missed six games with injuries in two seasons since transferring from USC.  At 5'11" and 212 pounds, he is reasonably sturdy, but won’t exactly cause nightmares for SEC defenders.

While he isn’t the brute force that Tebow was, Brantley, at 6'3", 218 pounds, is more of an athlete than most people realize.  But Florida’s coaches won’t be eager to have him risk injury carrying the ball.  Behind him on the depth chart there are only freshman. 

During spring drills, without making a big deal of it, the Gators experimented with having quarterback-turned-tight end Jordan Reed run plays out of the shotgun.   Reed is listed at 6'3", 240 pounds.  Think back, for a moment, to the 2006 season, when a young bruiser named Tim Tebow frequently relieved Chris Leak in short yardage situations. 

Perhaps Florida’s fullback this year will be a redshirt freshman tight end named Jordan Reed.

By the way, Florida did have a fullback last year, a senior named Rick Burgess.  And he did touch the ball.  Once.  He returned a squib kickoff for eight yards against Mississippi State.

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