Mullen Likes His New QB, Tim Tebow

As National Signing Day winds down, the Florida Gators can make the transition from solidifying verbal commitments to preparing for the roles the Gator newcomers will play in the fall of 2006 and beyond. Every Gator position coach has to wait for the formality of the letters coming across the fax machine except for one, Florida offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen.

Mullen already has his one and only newcomer on campus and can't wait to get him on the football field. Tim Tebow came over from St. Augustine for the start of the fall semester to be able to take part in spring practice. I sat down with Mullen to talk about the Gators heir apparent. We also discuss the right role for Cornelius Ingram on this Gator Football team.

LV: You have a unique situation with national signing day on Wednesday in that your guy, Tim Tebow is already here. How pleased are you that he's already enrolled at UF and getting ready for spring practice?

DM: It makes me sleep a lot easier on Tuesday night not having to wait for that signature to come in on Wednesday morning. I guess it makes life a lot easier at that one position come Wednesday. But really, it's great when you look at us and our quarterback situation and lack of depth right now at that position. It's critical that Tim is here and competing in the spring. When you look at his personality he wants to play. He's going to come in with everything he has to try and push Chris (Leak) and get on the field.

But with that attitude comes a great work ethic. I know that he's going to do everything in his power -- learning, throwing, and getting stronger -- to be ready to play next season for us. So spring ball will be invaluable to him.

LV: Assess Tim as a player. What do you see in him and how his skills will translate into this system?

DM: Number one, what you see is a competitive guy. He's someone who wants to do anything it takes to win. With that, he makes everyone around him better. Those are the two things. I think everybody looks at him and thinks boy he can run, he's big and fast, he's stronger, he's running people over and has a cannon for an arm. He has all those things, but that doesn't always make you a good quarterback. What makes you a good quarterback is that you have a tremendous competitive fire and you make everyone around you better. Those are the two traits that I'm excited to see Tim bring to our program.

LV: As you look at Tim if you were able to sculpt the ideal guy for this offense does he come pretty close to what the master designer might have in mind?

DM: He does, and he has a lot of the tools and all that stuff, but what we have to do is see him out there on the field. The biggest thing that Chris has to work on -- the speed and the processing of information and the decision making process, being able to go from good to great – that's going to take some time for Tim. He has to deal with the speed of the game at this level and how fast things will be moving out on the field for him to be able to make those reads, make those decisions.

That's what it takes to go from a guy who is physically superior to everyone in high school to now being an all-around quarterback. He's going to find there are times he's not going to be able to run people over. He's going to have to stay in the pocket a little bit more and rely on his skill and his mind more than just his pure athletic ability.

LV: Well if we're going to talk about pure athletic ability we have to talk a little bit about Cornelius Ingram. He's worn several hats at the University of Florida, three of them in football last year. With the thin situation at quarterback, will he play there some this spring or have you decided to focus in on him as a receiver?

DM: When you watch him run routes, when you watch him as a physical specimen on the field there's some jaw dropping that goes on. You look at him run a route and you say is he a tight end? Is he a receiver? Well, that's what we want other teams to have to try and figure. He's too big for a corner to try and cover and he's too fast for a linebacker. He lines up and blocks people. For us, we're going to really focus his skills on that receiver/tight end position this spring. We hope he gets it mastered by next fall and he can become a go-to guy and a real matchup problem for every defense we play.

LV: Is that a real challenge with a guy like Cornelius to find the right niche where he can be great since there are so many places he can be good?

DM: It is, and he really wants it. Cornelius has so much talent and he's got a lot of desire that he wants to be good. So it's our job to get him in that role where he can succeed, because everybody look sat him and knows he has that talent. Everybody also knows he can throw the ball a little bit, so don't be surprised to see him motion into the backfield and we pitch him the ball and run some trick plays or other fun things you can do with a kid like him.

Next up, we'll talk with Mullen about the Gators offense in year two. Where the offense can and must make strides, how he sees the offensive line taking shape and the return of Bubba Caldwell at wide receiver.

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