Tebow's Time To Shine

For the Florida Gators, there is a little bit of familiarity involved with the game being played this Saturday. They haven't played Alabama in two years, or in Atlanta in two seasons, but a lot of the players that will see the field Saturday have done both. Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow will be one of those, albeit he will be serving in a much different role.

Florida will get their second chance in three years to play for the SEC Championship Saturday and Tim Tebow has come a long way since the first time he saw the field in that game. For Tebow, his path has been extremely challenging and full of highs and lows and feels that the knowledge he has gained in the two years since will help him on Saturday.

"It's a lot different for me," Tebow said comparing this season to the national championship season of 2006. "There's a little bit more responsibility and pressure on (my) shoulders. I've enjoyed it every step of the way, In 2006, everything was new for me. It was my first time playing in The Swamp, first road game, first time fourth down, first time doing all that stuff. I'm just blessed I got the opportunity so now I feel more prepared and more ready to handle the situation."

There are several upperclassmen on the Florida roster that played a part in the SEC Championship game two years ago that will be back to play on Saturday. According to Tebow, that may help the Gators a little over the Tide who hasn't been there in a while, but it shouldn't be a big factor.

"I think it helps us, but I don't think it's going to be a huge difference," Tebow said. "They've played in big games, too, and they know what it's like. There may be a little advantage, but I don't think it's anything big."

Tebow knows the Gators have their hands full this week taking on the number one team in the country. There is nothing but respect coming from the Florida camp about the Crimson Tide and Tebow says Alabama is absolutely one of the most fundamentally sound and best coached teams in the country.

"Number one, when you look at them, you see they are coached really well," Tebow said. "Coach Saban is a great coach. He's everything he's cracked up to be with his defenses, their blitz packages and their third down package and everything they do. He puts their guys in a position to make plays and they go out and consistently make plays over and over again. You don't see teams getting the big play on them a lot. They really make you work it down the field. Their corners, even though they play a lot of man coverage, they don't let people get behind them, and they've got a really good free safety. And they are going to play physical and try to face that run, too. Overall, they are a really good defense."

This match up is somewhat of a bitter sweet one for Tebow although time has likely worn on any fondness he had for Alabama. Florida and Alabama were in a huge recruiting battle for Tebow in 2005 before he signed with the Gators in their 2006 recruiting class. Alabama was coached by Mike Shula at the time and Tebow had a great deal of respect and admiration for Shula as well as the University of Alabama during the process.

Shula had a rough going again in 2006 without Tebow and was let go at the end of that season for current coach Nick Saban. Tebow thinks he could have made a difference that year in stemming the tide to replace Shula.

"I think if I did (go to Alabama), I would have tried to help in recruiting that year with other guys and he might have had a chance to be there a little longer with that recruiting class and try to bring some more guys in and maybe it would have made a little difference," he said.

The general consensus among pundits in this game is that Alabama is the more physical team and is playing a Florida team, of speed and finesse. The Florida quarterback who would just as much love to run around a defender as plow over him won't disagree on the speed portion of those thoughts, but he isn't conceding toughness to the Crimson Tide.

"I think they're a powerful team, but I think we've got a little bit of power, too," Tebow said. "And I'm looking forward to it. I think people always will (think finesse) because of the spread, but we're not too bad in the short yardage times either.

Florida has been a team that has gotten out to a lead and then coasted for the rest of the game almost all year long. There were really two exceptions, the only loss to Ole Miss and one game later when Arkansas hung around for a while before the Gators hit their stride in the late third quarter. There are questions about the Gators and what will happen if they get behind early in the game.

"I hope we do get out to an early lead, that's our goal, but I think we'll be able to handle it with everything from this year and our older guys from the past if they jump out and get momentum swings," he said. "In the SEC championship game, it's going to go both ways. We jumped out on Arkansas, then we had the interception and all the stuff that happened and they got the lead. Then we bounced back. So we've been through a lot of stuff and if they jump out, we'll be fine. You just have to manage the highs and lows.

The Gators may go to Atlanta without the services of their most dynamic player. Wide receiver Percy Harvin has a sprained ankle that has kept him out of practice through Wednesday of this week and is listed for questionable in the game. Tebow is confident that someone will step up like they did against Florida State where Harvin had only six carries, and 13 yards before being injured. The Gators still managed to score 45 points on FSU.

"Obviously we miss him, you can't replace a player like that," Tebow said. "But we have guys stepping up and they are doing a great job. We've had to prepare like this before in several other games, so we know how to do it and guys know how to step up and play ball. Again, Percy's a great player and depending on what happens with him, we'd love for him to play, but if he can't, the other guys will step up too."

Tim Tebow will lead his Florida Gators into battle Saturday in a game that ha a lot more than just an SEC title on the line. His approach all season hasn't changed and we should expect the best from Tebow in a game made for him to shine.


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