Five Reasons Tim Tebow Is No Longer "Defending" His Heisman
I hesitate to even broach this topic.
However, when the reigning Heisman trophy winner is returning for his JUNIOR season and has pretty much become the face of college football, it's hard to avoid.
His picture is everywhere, and we all know about his love of Jesus Christ and have heard about the missionary trips he makes to the Phillippines while most of his classmates from the No. 1 party school in the country are on Spring Break, making a mess out of Daytona Beach, Panama City, and Cozumel.
Combine this with the fact that he already has a National Championship and a Heisman Trophy, eats his vegetables, and answers "yes ma'am, no ma'am" to Erin Andrews during interviews...and truth be told, Tim Tebow is a little bit boring.
The real drama lies in the question, "Can he become the first player since Archie Griffin to win the Heisman trophy twice?" After watching all that I could stomach of the UF vs. Hawai'i game, the drama is gone from that as well.
Seeing the style of football that it looks like Florida is going to play, as well as some changes in attitude and skill on the defensive side of the ball, Tebow's drive for 55 (the amount of touchdowns he scored last year) will fall well short, probably by about 25 TDs.
We all knew some things were going to change this year, but after watching that game and thinking about it for a bit, it may be a fairly dramatic change—and some of it unintentional.
Here's why Tebow's numbers and Heisman drive died a quiet death in a rain-drenched Swamp on Saturday.
That's the number of "hits" Tim Tebow took last year on rushes, option pitches, sacks, and knockdowns when he threw. This one is obvious: Coach Urban Meyer wants to reduce some of the wear and tear on his young QB. If you're keeping score at home, that's about 20 hits per game.
Tebow is a large hulk of a kid, but one season as a battering ram and two more as a battering ram that can throw is a bit much to take.
One second-quarter play from Saturday's game made it very evident that his hits will be reduced. Florida had the ball on the Hawai'i two-centimeter line, and Tebow lined up under center (very rare) and handed off to Brandon James for an untouched TD run.
2. Emmanuel Moody, Brandon James, Chris Rainey, and Jeff Demps
The stable of running backs Florida trotted out there against Hawai'i is exactly what Urban Meyer has been looking for and was unable to find in previous backs Kestahn Moore, Mon Williams, and poor Markus Manson, who was relegated to defensive back last spring.
This is why Percy Harvin took so many handoffs between the tackles and Tebow ran an inhumane amount of sprint-draws in 2007.
Moody didn't look great on Saturday, but he'll be useful when we get in a real fistfight with someone (think: LSU, Arkansas, Georgia) down the road. Rainey and James seem to have the playbook down and are ready to make a difference.
If you wondered what it would be like if Usain Bolt were to play football...look no further than "Mr. 4.25," Jeff Demps. I'm not sure if he can take a hit yet, but he may not have to. I'll curb my enthusiasm, as most Gator fans can remember how the "John Capel project" worked out.
3. Percy Harvin
I hesitate to put him in here since his surgically repaired heel hasn't healed (no pun intended) like the Gators had hoped. If the running backs mentioned pull their weight, Harvin's carries will be reduced but more effective.
He'll have the opportunity to focus on being a receiver, a position where the Gators are a little thin, young, and unproven with the loss of Cornelius Ingram to an ACL tear this spring.
4. The defense
I don't want to jump the gun too early. After all, it was Hawai'i with June Jones in Texas and Colt Brennan holding Jason Campbell's clipboard here in DC. It's NOT the same team that went to the Sugar Bowl last season.
That being said, the defense had a different feel to it. They ran to the ball. They tackled as a team. Most importantly, they made in-game adjustments.
Hawai'i limited Tebow to five snaps in the first quarter and moved the ball pretty well their first two drives. Florida's defense adapted and began causing turnovers and pressuring the opposing QB.
The turnovers, short fields, and defensive scores will limit Tebow's yardage this year. He typically had some fairly long fields to traverse in 2007. I suspect he'll get the ball inside the opponent's territory much more this year. If it's not because of a turnover, it will be because of the...
5. Special Teams
Again, I know it's against Hawai'i, but Brandon James' two years and one game as a body of work have proven him to be an EXTREMELY dangerous weapon in the punt game. If he ends up getting the bulk of the work in the backfield, maybe Rainey or Demps takes over. I'm not sure how they will be, but Demps runs in a straight line faster than any high schooler ever has.
The alternative is for teams to start punting the ball out of bounds to avoid a return, which rarely works in the NFL and has even more spectacularly dreadful results in college.
This combination of factors leads me to the conclusion that Tim Tebow will likely not even sniff the Playstation-like numbers that he put up last year (32 TD passes, 23 TD runs), but instead will focus on the number that he and everyone on his team was holding up at the end of the 2006 season...Number One.
Tebow will gladly sacrifice his individual awards and trophies for the opportunity to lead his team to another national title. My early prediction is that he throws at about a 65 percent completion rate and has 2,900 yards passing, 550 rushing, 10 rushing TDs, and 27 passing TDs.
Compared to 2007's 67 percent-3,286-895-23-32, it's a down year. However, if Florida goes into December with one loss or fewer, Tebow will certainly be in the running.
He'll smile and nod and congratulate Chase Daniel on winning the trophy, and he'll say and do all the right things. Make no mistake about it: He means it all. But deep down in Tim Tebow's heart, he is a giver. He gets the most out of life when he's giving to others and making them happier and better off.
Deep down, Tim Tebow would rather bring back one glass football for all 51,000 students in Gainesville than a bronze statue for himself. On second thought, maybe he's not boring. Maybe he's just economical and believes in getting the most bang for his buck.
Let's hope the Gators do the same.
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