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3 Florida
Lars Anderson
August 20, 2007
A budding legend is set to lead the defending champions
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August 20, 2007

3 Florida

A budding legend is set to lead the defending champions

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THE ADVICE HE got at this year's spring game was short and simple, but Tim Tebow promises he's going to remember it every time something goes awry this season. "Just relax and play your game," Danny Wuerffel, the Gators' 1996 Heisman-winning quarterback, told Tebow. "Don't worry about all the hype."

It's a wise suggestion, because the 20-year-old Tebow is fast becoming a full-blown folk hero in Gainesville. A true freshman last season, he played as a bruising, single-wing-style back in Florida's spread offense, gaining 469 yards rushing (second-best on the team), and his 5.3-yards-per-carry average was the second-highest in the nation for a quarterback, trailing only that of West Virginia's Pat White (7.4). As a result, there are now three dozen tributes to Tebow on YouTube, and he's received requests to speak to more than 200 organizations since last January. This year Tebow will take over the full-time job at quarterback, replacing four-yvar starter Chris Leak, and the defending national champions will go only as far as he guides them.

"That's the role of the quarterback at Florida," says offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, "and that's been passed to him. Last year he was a playmaker; this year he has to get the ball to our playmakers. Everyone knows he can run, but he's going to surprise some people with how well he can pass."

In 2006 Tebow put the ball in the air only 33 times. This spring he worked on shortening his throwing motion with Mullen, who helped Utah quarterback Alex Smith develop into the No. 1 pick of the '05 NFL draft. "His windup was too much like a baseball player's before," says Mullen. Tebow also improved his balance and footwork, which were spotty at times last season, causing some of his throws to miss their mark.

"There's definitely a lot of pressure because everyone is gunning for us, but we're ready to go," says the 6' 3'', 235-pound Tebow. "We have the potential on offense to be pretty explosive."

Tebow will have as much talent to work with at the skill positions as any quarterback in the nation. The Gators' wide receiver tandem of senior Andre Caldwell and sophomore Percy Harvin combined to catch 91�passes last season. The elusive Harvin, who hauled in nine passes for 60 yards in the BCS championship game against Ohio�State, was also the team's third-leading rusher in 2006, with 437�yards.

"A great day for us on offense will be if seven to nine guys each have 10�touches in the game," says Mullen. "And then we've got the added element that Tim brings. We'll definitely still mix a little single-wing in there." Which, if all goes according to plan, will only keep the Tebow legend growing in Gainesville.

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