Vol fans undoubtedly recall what Tebow did to the Big Orange defense back on Sept. 15. He rushed 18 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns that day. His mobility also helped him buy extra time to throw, leading to 14 completions in 19 attempts for 299 yards and two more TDs in a 59-20 beat-down of the Vols.
Certainly, Tyler Donovan is no Tim Tebow. But he doesn't have to be. Historically, quarterbacks who can run even a little bit give Tennessee's defense all kinds of trouble. The Vols know this, which is why they are acutely aware of Donovan as they prepare for the Outback Bowl.
"They have a mobile quarterback. He will beat you with his legs," sophomore defensive tackle Dan Williams noted. "We saw a couple of mobile quarterbacks this year, but he's very good."
There is nothing more frustrating for a defensive lineman than to be on the verge of sacking a quarterback, only to see him escape the pocket and scramble for a sizable gain. Donovan excels at this.
"A lot of times he bales 'em out," Williams said. "When the offensive line breaks down, he can step up and run, make a 15-yard gain, so we're going to have to keep an eye on the quarterback."
Donovan also has the ability to hurt opponents with quarterback draws and option keepers. If you discount his sack yardage, he rushed 73 times for 468 yards (6.4 per carry) and four touchdowns. Facing a quarterback with that kind of agility complicates matters for a defense.
"Always," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "It always does when you've got a guy back there that can run. It's easier to play against a guy that's going to sit back there and throw it.
"When you're one-dimensional back there and can't run with the ball, there's a lot of things (the defense) can do coverage-wise. When you've got a guy that can run as well as he throws it, you've got to account for it. And, when you account for it, that takes somebody out of coverage."
Like Tebow, Donovan is not a reluctant runner. The 6-1, 185-pounder is not inclined to "slide" or run out of bounds, either. He'll take a hit in order to gain an extra two or three yards. At least one Vol finds that prospect intriguing, however.
"It's kind of good, to be honest," senior defensive end Xavier Mitchell said. "You don't have to worry about him running out of bounds; he'll tuck it and run. That makes us lick our chops and want to come after him even more.
"If he wants to run the ball, so be it. We'll bring the hit with the hat, just like he will."