There is a lot of ambiguity this week on whether Tim Tebow will be around to lead the top ranked Florida Gators against LSU in the Gators next big SEC contest. Regardless, the Gators must prepare to play without him. Senior receiver David Nelson isn’t sure either, but he is confident the Gators will play well as they have on offense.
The Gators have a week before the matchup in Baton Rouge and there may have not ever been a better timed off week in Gator scheduling history.
“It’s definitely an important week for us,” David Nelson said of the time off to get things in order. “We have a huge SEC stretch coming up with LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia. This is a time for a lot of guys to get healthy. We have a tough four weeks. We have a few guys dinged up a little bit, so we need to get some guys healthy and ready to go for next week.”
At the front of everyone’s mind is the health of Tim Tebow. Tebow was knocked out of the last game against Kentucky and has been diagnosed with a concussion. His return for the game with LSU is unknown, but Nelson is like most and just wants what is best for the Heisman Trophy winner.
“If you know Tim, it’s hard for him,” Nelson said of Tebow missing practice time and possibly the game. “It is going to be tough for him to hold back. At the same time, he has to listen to the doctors if he wants to get better…It’s out of his control, if it was up to him, we all know he would play.”
If Tebow can’t go, Nelson is quite confident in his backup, sophomore John Brantley.
“We have seen what he can do,” Nelson said of Brantley. “We know he is a tremendous quarterback and a tremendous player. We see the effort he gives in practice. Every time Tim had to take a step back, when Tim had a back injury in two-a-days (Brantley) stepped in and did a great job for us. This past Saturday he stepped in and did a great job for us.”
Nelson also believes Brantley can run the offense and they won’t have to change it up a lot.
“He is a good runner and a great athlete,” Nelson said. “I think they will do some things with his skills. He is different than Tebow, so I think they will find a way to use his skills to the fullest…They have a very different style of play and coach will do a great job of doing what they need to do to make him successful. Whoever is in the game, coach will do a great job of game planning.
In the end, the different parts of this offense are working at high levels and Nelson thinks it will stay close to the same no matter who the quarterback is.
“We have three running backs that can run the ball,” he said. “We have receivers that are getting open and catching the ball. When (Brantley) came in against Kentucky we didn’t’ see much change. We haven’t been forced to change the offense and tune it to his skills. We were running our normal offense out there (at practice Wednesday).
The Gator offense is on a record pace, but that hasn’t kept the media and fans from wanting to see more from the passing game. Nelson believes that the receivers are playing well and biding their time to take off.
“Apparently it hasn’t been up to par with what you guys think,” Nelson said of the perception of the passing game in the media. “We feel good about it. The past two weeks we haven’t had any dropped balls. We feel like we are getting wide open. All three of us have graded out champions the last three weeks in a row.
Nelson is ready to welcome back one of the team’s most important players, sophomore receiver Deonte Thompson.
"We get Deonte back. He is back and healthy, and ready to go. We have four strong receivers and feel good about it…He didn’t practice today, but he was running around for the first time and when we get to LSU he will be 100 percent. (For Kentucky) was dressed out and ready to go. We were going to try him out a little bit. He was a game time decision. They just felt like he wasn’t ready at that time.”
With Nelson, Thompson, senior Riley Cooper, and senior Brandon James, Nelson believes that they will get to a point where they will be leaned upon to produce.
“There will be a point this season where the game will be won by the receivers,” Nelson said. “The receivers have done a great job of not getting selfish and not getting down and block and do what we have to do to win the game…There will be a point in the season where the receivers will have to beat corners and beating man to man coverage to win. I don’t know when that day will come, but it will happen. We will be ready for that.”
With the health of the quarterback position in question, the Gators may turn to more of a passing game to keep them from taking a pounding. The reliance on the receivers may come sooner rather than later.