Commentary

Top 25 Intel: No. 1 Florida

The Tebow legend ends this year, and it may well end with another ring

Originally Published: July 3, 2009
By Chris Sprow | ESPN The Magazine

Former Nebraska star Tommie Frazier is considered by some to be the quintessential version of the running quarterback. (Many use this run as evidence.) Frazier was 6-foot-2 and topped out at 200 pounds. As a starter, he rushed the ball nearly 400 times and as an option quarterback, was drilled perhaps a thousand.

Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is a fraction under 6-foot-3 and weighs 240 pounds; based on dimensions, he's nearly a twin to the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Brandon Spikes, the star middle linebacker for the Gators, a guy who hits and is hit on nearly every snap he'll ever take for Florida.

Getty ImagesAnother key element of Tebow: unquestionably passionate leadership of others.

Last year, Tebow was hit 232 times, down from the 264 hits he took as a sophomore. (Though Tebow getting hit and delivering a hit counts the same.) Head coach Urban Meyer gets questions about this a lot.

"There is a fine line between protecting your quarterback and allowing him to play his style," says Meyer. "Part of what makes Tim successful is his ability to be a dual threat and make big plays by running the ball aggressively. If you take away his aggressiveness, you take away what makes him go."

But here's the thing: Anything can make Tebow go.

ESPN Stats & Analysis staffers charted every Tebow snap in the 2008 season, discovering that when he was in the pocket -- out of what some consider his prescribed element -- he completed 163 of 252 throws for 2,640 yards, 26 TDs and just four INTs. How could he have possibly been better?

Still, there's the critique in NFL and scouting circles that Tebow isn't a traditional NFL quarterback. He's a runner, a linebacker with an arm, a product of an offense, neither Tom Rathman nor Joe Montana. He's -- he's just different. But according to the numbers (and there are more), perhaps we just have it wrong. Maybe it's simply that pro quarterbacks just aren't Tim Tebow.

His odd combination of talents -- it's natural for him to plow over a safety, then, on the next play, throw a tight 20-yard out -- is something we just haven't seen. Frazier was great because running was his element. Scouts question Tebow because he has no single element. He can do anything. And while it's a philosophical debate, to critique Tebow is to question the 2009 Florida Gators. Trying to nitpick at their faults only underscores their excellence.

To read the rest of this Top 25 Intel, you must be an ESPN Insider.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider