No spy on this guy

His number is 7 – not 007 – but Tennessee middle linebacker Jerod Mayo seems a good candidate to play the role of "spy" in Saturday's game at Florida.

Because most defensive schemes do not account for him, Gator quarterback Tim Tebow has been able to compile some imposing rushing stats in his first 16 college games. Even as a freshman backup, he ranked second among Florida rushers in 2006 with 469 yards and a 5.3 per-carry average. He's even more effective as a sophomore starter in 2007, rushing for 65.5 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry.

To counteract a running quarterback, some teams assign one defender to shadow him on every play. This "spy" makes sure the QB is accounted for on each snap, limiting his opportunities for big gains.

It's a good plan and it often works. Tennessee's defensive coordinator says he will not designate a spy to monitor Tebow's every move, however.

"No. You can't afford to do that," John Chavis said. "Everybody's got to play. To designate one guy to do that – with everything else you're going to see – there's not enough (defenders). Now if they'll let you play with 12, we might could do that and get away with it. But I don't think they're going to do that."

One thing's certain: Nothing Florida's first two opponents tried worked on Tebow, whose passing stats are even gaudier than his rushing stats. He has attempted just 42 passes in the first two games – barely half as many as UT's Erik Ainge (83) – yet Tebow has thrown for more touchdowns (6 to 5) and nearly as many yards (536 vs. 547). Moreover, Tebow is completing a mind-boggling 73.8 percent of his attempts. That's not bad for a guy known more as a running threat than a passing threat.

"I'm really impressed," Chavis said of Tebow's passing skills. "Coming out of high school he had great numbers, so I'm impressed but not surprised."

What separates Tebow from Ainge and most other quarterbacks is the fact he can exploit a defense with his feet, as well as his arm. He has the size, speed and power of a fullback.

"He's a good athlete ... a big guy – 6-3 and 235 or 240 pounds," Chavis said. "He's got good speed. He's capable of running the ball; he's proven that already."

Tebow also has a talented supporting cast, led by Percy Harvin. The 5-11, 187-pound sophomore speedster has scored touchdowns on two of his six catches this fall. Routinely utilized as a rusher, Harvin averaged a mind-boggling 10.4 yards per carry in 2006 and has upped that to 11.6 thus far in 2007. His explosiveness makes Tebow even more effective.

"He's got a good offensive line and got great skill people around him," Chavis noted. "If he just does some things that a normal quarterback does, they're going to be pretty special because of the people around him."

Historically, Tennessee has trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Just last weekend Jeremy Young of Southern Miss threw for 254 yards and ran for another 53. Perhaps facing him helped prepare the Vols for Tebow.

"It was good seeing a quarterback that was mobile," Chavis conceded. "But I think this one this week's going to be a lot more mobile and probably a lot better thrower."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories