Tebow shines; leads Orange to 24-6 win

Tim Tebow shone today / TIM CASEY

The sun didn't shine today, but Tim Tebow did. The southpaw with the impressive bench press drew quite a crowd and he didn't disappoint leading the Orange to a 24-6 victory over the Blue. He completed 15 of 22 for 197 yards and a 16 yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Tookes.

Tebow's performance led Florida fans watching today's Orange and Blue game in "The Swamp" to question how often they should expect to see the true freshman next season?

For goodness sakes, speculation has surrounded quarterback Tim Tebow since his meteoric rise at Nease High School. Can he improve his mechanics? Can he be a quarterback at the next level? Will he sign with Florida or Alabama? Is he going to enroll early? Will he play as a true freshman? Those questions answered- again many were inquiring aloud as to how much he'll play?

The answer is simple. If Tebow stays healthy -- he'll play a significant role next September.

He seemingly was given the opportunity to gain some much needed confidence today, as he didn't have to face a defensive front consisting of Joe Cohen, Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey, Clint McMillan, and Brandon Siler. But, that's just smart coaching. One step at a time. He has tamed one lion and will be further challenged in August when Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas, and Steven Harris return to their rightful spots along the Florida defensive front.

Regardless, Florida will have a two-headed monster of sorts at quarterback next season. That's not to say that quarterback Chris Leak will be shuffled in one series and out another. Nor should we expect one guy getting a quarter, while the other waits on deck for the following quarter. Tebow obviously still has some decision making skills to work on with offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. But, by and large he was on target today. And you can bet that Mullen and Coach Urban Meyer want him ready to challenge from that first kickoff. It may be that he starts the season in a similar fashion to that of Josh Portis, one year ago. And why not?

The Florida coaches have just what they had hoped to have last season when Portis backed Leak up. After just four weeks, Tebow is light years ahead of Portis. He's a better leader. A better pure passer. More decisive. A total team player. Tim Tebow will play football next season.

Tebow's presence forces defensive coordinators' to prepare for an offense that Meyer and company have wanted to unleash on the Southeastern Conference since their arrival at Florida. Tebow can run...and pass. He's even proven this spring that he can make decisions. This spring he successfully added another dangerous element to the Florida offense, which culminated with a fine showing in the Orange and Blue game.

He completed his first five passes that led the team downfield for a Chris Hetland 52 yard field goal. He finished the first half 9 of 13 for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Perhaps his greatest asset was his ability to step up and make plays on the fly. Just as he did in high school, Tebow demonstrated an uncanny ability to eat up yardage running the football or stepping up, forcing defenders to keep an eye on him as he deposits the ball to a receiver who has found open space. That's not just something he was able to do today, but something he proved pretty consistently this spring.

How much might he play? We don't know exactly, but indications are that Tebow will team with Chris Leak to lead the Florida offense next fall- and that's significant.

Post Game Notes

  • Chris Hetland's 52-yard field goal was the longest in Florida spring game history. Jeff Chandler set the previous best with a 51-yard field goal during the 2001 game.

  • 45,200 was the second-largest attendance for a spring football game at Florida. The record was set last season when the Gators drew 58,500 for Urban Meyer's spring coaching debut.
  • Freshman quarterback Tim Tebow completed his first five passes against the Blue Team defense. Tebow finished the day making 15-of-21 passes for 197 yards through the air.
  • Tebow and David Nelson connected on a 55-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Nelson led all players in receiving yards with 90.
  • Chris Leak passed for 145 yards on 17-of-33 attempts. Leak hit six different receivers (Louis Murphy, Nyan Boateng, Billy Latsko, Tate Casey, Chevon Walker, Anthony Gay) for the afternoon.
  • The Orange has won two consecutive spring games and five out of the last six spring games. The Orange has won eight spring games over the Blue since 1996.
  • Former Gators Danny Wuerffel and Chris Doering were honored at halftime along with the rest of the University of Florida 2006 Athletic Hall of Fame class.
  • Play was suspended for 30 minutes shortly before the start of the second half due to lightning and rain in the area. The 1985 contest was the only other time that rain altered the course of a spring game.
  • Darryon Robinson and Nick Brooks combined to record one interception for each of their respective teams.
(Photos by Ron Irby)

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