Mullen's Focused on Keeping Tebow Grounded

Dan Mullen didn't get to go on the victory tour with his prized quarterback after he won the Heisman on Saturday night, but that doesn't bother him. Just the chance to witness Tim Tebow hoist the trophy was good enough for him.

"I was there Saturday," Dan Mullen said after Florida's light workout on Monday afternoon. "That was good enough for me."

Mullen didn't even stay with Tebow in New York for Sunday's festivities because he was busy hitting the recruiting trail. When you can add a Heisman Trophy winner to your resume, all of a sudden it becomes a lot easier to convince high school prospects to come to the University of Florida.

"I spent all day yesterday with coach [Urban] Meyer and we were on the phone all day long," Mullen said. "It's not going to hurt us. All it can do is help us."

And actually, it's the same kind of rhetoric that Mullen used when he was recruiting Tebow to Florida two years ago. The Gators at the time already had two Heisman winners under their belt plus a national championship. There was no reason why Tebow couldn't accomplish those same things if he became a Gator.

"We told him you're going to win championships and you're going to win a Heisman Trophy in this offense," Mullen said. "When we were recruiting Tim, we had Alex Smith who was a finalist in the Heisman Trophy and went first in the NFL Draft, that can be you. You'll get a chance to win the Heisman and be a top draft pick."

The first two parts have already come true for Tebow. It's still too soon to tell where the sophomore quarterback will fall when he decides to enter the NFL Draft, but all signs from Tebow are pointing towards him staying at Florida for his full four years. That could limit Mullen's ability to recruit top-flight quarterbacks to Florida, but he thinks he can spin it in favor of the Gators.

"I think quarterbacks look at the system and say that's where I want to play," Mullen said. "To walk in, especially to an SEC school, and start as a freshman is not an easy thing to do. But to come in and learn the system, especially from a guy that is successful and then when he leaves you can take over the program."

Recruiting aside, Mullen still has two talented quarterbacks that he's developing behind Tebow in Cameron Newton and John Brantley. He also still has Tebow for at least one more year, and Mullen said that Tebow still has some work to do.

"We lost three games this year," Mullen said. "That means a ton. We have to find a way to get those three wins back next year. That's where the improvement needs to come."

Mullen said Tebow has made small improvements each game this year from understanding the offense to understanding where holes will open up against certain types of defenses. But even though he won college football's grandest individual award, Tebow hasn't reached his ceiling. And it will be up to Mullen to keep Tebow motivated, although that shouldn't be too difficult to do.

"I think he'll do fine," Mullen said. "I think I'll do a pretty good job of keeping him in check. I'll get some pent up aggression and start screaming at him and that will get him right back to normal."

Plus, Tebow's got to make up for lost time. The Gators have still been practicing while Tebow has been bouncing between award shows and late-night television appearances.

"I'll see if I let him go with the ones or not," Mullen said. "He missed three practices. Those other guys have been improving, so he's got some competition when he comes back."

All joking aside, the Gators didn't accomplish their team goal of returning to Atlanta for a second straight SEC Championship and that will be all Mullen needs to keep Tebow grounded.

"I don't think with Tim's personality that we'll have any issues," he said. "He's such a competitive kid at everything he does. When we sit down and break it down and look at all the things he still needs to improve on, it will be easy for him to get balance back into what he needs to do."

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


Fightin Gators Top Stories