Tough, talented Tebow

He isn't the only mobile quarterback in college football ... but he's the only mobile quarterback in college football who is built like a fullback and runs like a wide receiver.

That would be Florida's Tim Tebow, who tormented Tennessee a year ago in Gainesville and looks to inflict further damage on the Vols this Saturday at Neyland Stadium.

The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner completed 14 of 19 passes for 299 yards – 21.4 per connection – and two touchdowns in the Gators' 59-20 drubbing of the Vols last fall. He also rushed 18 times for 61 yards – 3.5 per carry – and two more TDs.

What separates Tebow from other mobile quarterbacks is (1) he's a much better passer than most of them and (2) he's a much bigger load to bring down than any of them.

"He's like a linebacker playing quarterback," is how Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer puts it.

Actually, the 6-3, 240-pound Tebow is a lot bigger than any of Tennessee's linebackers. Moreover, he is both willing and able to use his heft to punish would-be tacklers.

"He's got the ability to run over you," Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis said. "Michigan had some big linebackers that were really physical but I saw him go one on one with them (in the 2008 Capital One Bowl) and watched them melt at the goal line. He's a tough, physical guy.

"Obviously, you have to attack him and gang-tackle him. He's a very, very, very talented athlete that's about 240 pounds who runs well and throws the ball extremely well."

Tebow throws so well, in fact, that he routinely completes passes while being knocked to the turf.

"There were a couple of plays last year where he was falling down and flipped it up there and completed it," Tennessee defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell recalled. "LSU had him almost to the ground and he threw it sideways and completed it. He's so strong that he's going to get the ball off a lot of times even with people hanging on him."

In addition to brute strength and a powerful arm, Tebow has surprising ability for a guy so big. That elevates him to a level other quarterbacks can only aspire to.

"He'll kill you going north and south," Caldwell said. "But, at the same time, when he gets out on the edge he can make some things happen. We've got to do a great job of, hopefully, pushing from the inside and collapsing from the outside."

Michigan managed to contain Tebow in the Capital One Bowl last January by constantly blitzing him. Miami used the same blueprint with some success earlier this month.

"The Miami game, even though they lost, they were blitzing all over the place," Vol linebacker Rico McCoy recalled. "They kept the pressure on him, and he had to get rid of the ball."

The pass rush had better knock Tebow off his feet, though, because it isn't likely to knock him off his game.

As Caldwell recalled: "I was looking at stats from last year (wondering) do you pressure or do you drop eight (into coverage)? Against four-man pressure he threw 73 percent and he threw 71 percent with five-man pressure. So, what do you do to him?

"There's no doubt he's a great player. You've just got to try to keep mixing it up on him and hope he doesn't get hot on you. But I haven't seen too many people he didn't get hot on."

Michigan went after Tebow for 60 minutes, hitting him on virtually every pass he threw. That strategy seemed to work, since the Wolverines beat the Gators 41-35.

"You want to do that with any quarterback," Caldwell said. "That gets 'em shook a little bit. But he's bigger and stronger than most quarterbacks, so he can take a little more of the pounding."

Tebow took such a pounding during the first half of 2007, however, that he was somewhat limited in losses to LSU and Georgia last October. Gator head man Urban Meyer hinted this preseason that he'd reduce the hits on Tebow by running him less in '08.

"I don't think so, not from what I've seen," Caldwell said. "There's still what we call Tebow runs, where they're definitely called plays. He's not reading it.... They're still doing everything they did last year, as far as I can see."


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