Life after Tebow

Tim Tebow didn't have the world's best passing mechanics. He didn't always throw a tight spiral. He didn't always put the ball on the money. All he did was win ... 35 times in 41 college starts.

That's why fans who believe the Florida Gators won't miss "Superman" this fall are in for a shock. Sure, they have 2009 understudy John Brantley, who is a better pure passer. Sure, they still have an impressive arsenal of weapons. But they no longer have Tebow, and that may require an adjustment period.

For instance, Florida converted on a mind-boggling 49 percent of its third-down plays last fall. Why? Because third down was Tebow Time. Third-and-one, third-and-two, third-and-three were virtual gimmes because he'd take the shotgun snap, find a crease, then burrow his fullback-sized frame ahead for the necessary yardage.

And how many times the past three years did opponents shut down all of Florida's other threats only to have Tebow beat them almost single-handedly by running for 100 yards and passing for another 250?

Mark it down: Florida will miss Tim Tebow in 2010, even though it still projects to prevail in a weak SEC Eastern Division. Georgia and Tennessee are in down phases, and South Carolina projects to be half-decent, as usual.

If replacing Tebow were Urban Meyer's only problem, he might not have stressed out to the point of briefly retiring last winter. Meyer faces the challenge of replacing nine players taken in the recent NFL Draft, including first-rounders Joe Haden (cornerback), Maurkice Pouncey (center) and Tebow. Meyer lost both of 2009's starting defensive ends in Round 2 of the draft and waved goodbye to standout middle linebacker/eye gouger Brandon Spikes in Round 3. Meyer said adios to last fall's leading receiver (tight end Aaron Hernandez) in Round 4 and last fall's second-leading receiver (wideout Riley Cooper) in Round 5.

In spite of the talent exodus, Florida's cupboard is not bare. He's no Tebow but Brantley is no slouch, either. He completed 75 percent of his passes (36 of 48) last fall for 410 yards, with 7 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a sparkling 194.88 passer-efficiency rating that was 30 points better than Tebow's.

Brantley then capped a strong spring showing by completing 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the Orange & Blue Game. Backup Trey Burton had a big day, as well, completing 12 of 18 throws for 120 yards and a touchdown but also rushing for a Tebow-esque 123 yards and two TDs on 10 carries.

Although the top three receivers from last season are gone, Florida isn't hurting too badly. Deonte Thompson is back after averaging 14.3 yards per catch on 24 receptions last fall. Carl Moore, who missed 2009 due to injury, showed his speed with five catches for 102 yards in the spring game. And, for good measure, Florida moved 4.3 speedster Chris Rainey to wideout during the spring, even though he averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a running back last fall.

Speaking of 4.3 speedsters, Jeff Demps returns at running back after posting 745 rushing yards and a 7.5 per-carry average last fall. He's backed by Mike Gillislee, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry a year ago and rushed 10 times for 47 yards in the spring game.

Even with Maurkice Pouncey gone, the offensive line should be among the SEC's best. The other four starters return, led by Mike Pouncey, who is moving over from guard to assume the center spot vacated by his twin brother's departure.

Defensively, Florida is at a point where it merely reloads each August. That appears to be the case again in 2010.

Like Alabama, Florida again appears to be the class of its division. But neither team projects to be nearly as potent as it was in 2009.


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