Sunday, December 9, 2007

Is Florida's Tebow Revolutionizing The Position?

By ANDY STAPLES, The Tampa Tribune
Published: December 8, 2007

NEW YORK - The scene looks so familiar. A linebacker-sized quarterback in the shotgun. Five receivers, spread the entire width of the field.

The quarterback takes the snap and runs into the teeth of the line. He bursts through. The free safety stands in his way. The poor, poor free safety. The quarterback dips his shoulder. Kaboom! The free safety lands on his back. Two defenders finally wrestle the quarterback down inches short of the goal line.

Another one for the Tim Tebow highlight reel, right? Not exactly.

The scene is the first play of a highlight video for Los Alamitos (Calif.) High junior quarterback Clark Evans. And thanks in part to the 51 TDs scored this season by Tebow, the University of Florida's sophomore quarterback, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Evans could become one of the nation's most prized recruits next year.

After tonight, the demand for a single-wing tailback with a howitzer for an arm may soar. Tebow could become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy in the award's 72-year history.

While Tebow, Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel wait to learn who will claim the trophy, coaches from schools throughout the country are scouring high schools looking for the next Tebow. Meanwhile, thanks to Tebow, junior varsity linebackers, tight ends and fullbacks may go to bed tonight dreaming of one day tossing TD passes and freight-training free safeties.

"I've been saying it all season. I think Tim Tebow is revolutionizing the position," ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. "There are kids who are in middle school now, built like linebackers or tight ends, and they've always been pushed in a certain kind of way as a 13-, 14- or 15-year-old.

"Now they see Tim Tebow, who's built like a linebacker, but he has the ability to throw the ball and now there's a place for that guy in this spread offense."

Even teams that don't use the spread may want a Tebow-type running their offense.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Florida's first Heisman Trophy winner and one of the nation's best molders of pro-style, drop-back quarterbacks, decided after this season he needs an athlete - not just a pure passer - under center. To that end, he hopes former Jefferson High star Stephen Garcia, a mobile, 6-3, 215-pounder, can win Carolina's starting job next season.

"You need a guy back there who can move around," Spurrier said, "because four or five times in the course of a game, you have an opportunity to change things." recruiting analyst Barry Every believes other coaches who run more traditional offenses may alternate between recruiting drop-back passers and what recruitniks call "dual-threat" quarterbacks. Every, who said West Virginia quarterback Pat White deserves as much credit as Tebow for the paradigm shift at quarterback, said coaches who run pro-style offenses might use the athletic quarterback as a change of pace. Florida did it last year, spelling Chris Leak with Tebow. This season, LSU played its way to the national title game with pro-style quarterback Matt Flynn occasionally replaced by dual-threat Ryan Perriloux.

"You're really going to see schools try to get an athletic quarterback," Every said.

Recruiting rankings have begun to reflect that demand. Rivals lists Terrelle Pryor, a 6-6, 235-pound dual-threat quarterback from Jeannette, Pa., as the nation's No. 1 prospect in the class of 2008.

Meanwhile, across the country, Los Alamitos coach John Barnes is preparing for the onslaught of college coaches who will try to get Evans to make their campus his home in 2009. Barnes, who used four-receiver sets before Evans, said he has switched to a version of the spread, except near the goal line. There, Barnes said, Evans runs a 1950s-style single-wing. Evans threw for 2,358 and 16 touchdowns and ran for 958 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games as a junior. Do those numbers ring familiar?

"I tell coaches," Barnes said, "he's Tim Tebow."

But the Tebow effect hasn't only changed offenses. Just ask Armwood coach Sean Callahan, whose team lost to Tebow's Ponte Vedra Beach Nease team in the 2005 Class 4A state title game.

"We changed our defense," Callahan said, "because of him."

Callahan realized he needed faster defensive linemen to stop the spread. Now, when it comes time to place a player on offense or defense, Callahan makes sure his biggest, fastest players go to the defensive line - because they might stand a chance against a rampaging 235-pound QB.

Still, some believe the Tebow effect may be limited because Tebow may have once-in-a-generation ability.

"Is he going to revolutionize the position? I don't see many out there like him," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said this week. "That's a very unusual skill set he has. I don't see many Tebows out there."

Maybe because they've all been playing linebacker or defensive end. But the next generation of football players may not feel constrained by an antiquated idea of how a quarterback should look. Want proof? Go to Google and enter the phrase "next Tim Tebow" into the search box.[See Video below]

Then click the second link and watch Clark Evans and imagine how many more running, throwing juggernauts dot the football landscape. And while you're at it, pity the poor, poor free safeties who'll get steamrolled by a quarterback revolution.

Reporter Andy Staples can be reached at (352) 262-3719 or

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