Gators should free Tebow


Published: Monday, September 29, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 12:23 a.m.

It was late, like last-question late, when Urban Meyer finally was asked about Arkansas in his Monday news conference. You remember Arkansas, Florida's opponent this week?

But that's what tends to happen after deflating losses, especially when players are not made available on Monday. Everyone wants to know (again) what went wrong and what is being done to fix it. And for the second straight week, the Gator Nation is disgusted with the offense.

You know, the one that produced 30 points and 443 yards of offense.

I've received suggestions about what the Gator coaches are doing wrong through e-mail, phone calls and smoke signals. Distribute the ball better. Use a fullback. Quit relying on Percy Harvin, who averaged 11.7 yards every time he touched the ball against Ole Miss, so much. Dump Dan Mullen. Quit being so predictable. Throw the ball to Deonte Thompson. Carl Moore. Lenny Moore.

We have even seen columnists attack the Gator play-calling because of Florida's last series where the Gators threw deep twice and failed to convert a fourth-and-1 play. The comment I loved was about UF not using Emmanuel Moody enough when Moody was lost early in the game with a high ankle sprain.

It's the world of second-guessing where you always have the right answer after the play is over. Imagine if Florida had run some other play on fourth down and it hadn't worked. Everybody would be screaming, "Why didn't you run Tebow?!! It always works."

I'm not trying to defend some of the play-calling Saturday. The third quarter was abysmal. But Dan Mullen didn't lose two fumbles. He didn't miss tackles on Dexter McCluster's 40-yard touchdown run. And he didn't let Greg Hardy loose on Tim Tebow twice on one drive.

But that doesn't mean I can't pile on.

Because I minored in play-calling in college. At least that's what my journalism teachers would tell you because all of my notebooks had diagrams of plays on them.

I asked Meyer on Monday if he gets wind of all of the advice that is available out there, all of the sage wisdom of cyberspace. He said he doesn't because his secretary, Nancy Scarborough, deflects it. Which is a good thing.

But just in case he reads this column looking for the solution to a quarterback whose numbers are down from his Heisman Trophy season, Dr. Football is always ready with an answer.

So here's what I think free Tebow.

I think the emphasis on having Tebow become a better pocket passer has backfired to a point. We saw it Saturday against Ole Miss when Tebow was sacked three times and that doesn't include the pass he threw to Maurkice Pouncey under pressure or any of the others that went awry because he held the ball too long.

That's not Timmy being Timmy.

"I think we've made a conscience effort for him to sit in the pocket, but that's healthy as well," Meyer said. "Last week, he did a great job. That fourth quarter was classic. He moved the team down the field several times."

The fourth quarter was classic even if it ended badly. Tebow completed 11-of-15 passes for 131 yards and had a 22-yard run in the quarter. But what made Tebow so effective last year was that threat to scramble when the pressure came. Anyone remember the Florida State game?

Whether Tebow's pocket presence is based on the future or the present is anyone's guess. Certainly, his NFL status is not going to be based on his ability to run over cornerbacks. And Florida obviously wants him healthy for an entire season, which means fewer scrambles.

I'd let Tebow be Tebow, let him pull it down and run when the play isn't there. Get him out of the pocket to throw on the run more. Tell him it's OK again to be the guy he was last season.

Either that or throw it to Deonte Thompson.

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