Tebow Senior Bowl’s big headliner-question mark
MOBILE, Ala. – Tim Tebow’s position is set: He will play quarterback, and not the Wildcat version. Not tight end or H-back, either.
The guessing game for the former Florida quarterback’s NFL future is hardly over, but in Saturday’s Senior Bowl his role is clear. He will help lead the South team against Tony Pike and the North and operate an NFL-style offense that doesn’t call for him to plow over defenders on designed running plays when he’s not flinging passes.
This week’s practices and game are just the start of Tebow’s bid to prove he’s an NFL quarterback. But regardless of whether he convinced the pro teams, the week hardly diminished his faith in his own abilities.
“I believe in myself,” said Tebow, who battled strep throat early in the week. “I believe in my ability and my ability to be coachable and my ability to work hard. So I feel with those things I can be an NFL quarterback.”
He will be the biggest name in the All-Star game for senior NFL prospects, which includes few players regarded as surefire first-round draft picks.
It will have something of a rematch of the Sugar Bowl quarterbacks, Tebow and Pike. Both will have their favorite targets in Riley Cooper and Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard, respectively.
Tebow outshined Pike in the first matchup, passing for a career-high 482 yards and three touchdowns in the Gators’ 51-24 victory. Pike was held to 170 yards and four interceptions.
Tebow’s college track record hasn’t been the question, though. Senior Bowl practices are scrutinized by sidelines full of NFL team representatives noting every misstep and technique glitch.
At least one observer didn’t think the trip has helped Tebow.
“He’s out there every drill and he’s showing improvement getting snaps under center, and he’s working at it,” said Todd McShay, ESPN’s director of college football scouting. “But he’s just not there. I thought coming in that maybe all the intangibles and all the little things he did and showing signs of improvement could help his stock, but I would say unfortunately that he’s hurt his stock.”
As an NFL-type pocket passer, McShay said, “He was no better than the fourth-best here.”
South coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins said Tebow brings plenty of assets. He won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and helped Florida win two national championships with a unique style of power running and passing.
“Obviously this guy knows how to win,” Sparano said. “That’s not something that you take lightly at all. When you get a player the caliber of him, that comes with the stripes he has and has won as many games as he’s been involved in winning at Florida, that says an awful lot.”
The Dolphins have utilized the Wildcat formation, though Sparano said that won’t be used in this typically vanilla offensive game. They drafted West Virginia’s athletic QB Pat White, who played in last year’s Senior Bowl.
Asked if Tebow could be effective in the Wildcat, Sparano said, “Oh, I think he’d do good.”
The South’s other quarterbacks are West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown and Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State, and they’ll hand off to four Southeastern Conference running backs. The North has Oregon State’s Sean Canfield and Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour, who holds the record for total touchdowns in a Football Bowl Subdivision career – more even than Tebow.
Mississippi’s Dexter McCluster is one of the Senior Bowl’s most dynamic offensive players, a dual threat who had an 86-yard touchdown run in the Cotton Bowl.
The game also features players like Southern California safety Taylor Mays (South) and six members of Alabama’s national championship team. That Crimson collection includes four All-Americans – nose tackle Terrence Cody, cornerback Javier Arenas, guard Mike Johnson and placekicker Leigh Tiffin.
There also are highly regarded offensive linemen from smaller schools trying to crack the first round – Vladimir Ducasse of Massachusetts and Idaho’s Mike Iupati.
“It’s crazy up here,” Pike said. “As a college football player and a college football fan, you watch these guys any chance you can get, and you watch the plays they make and what kind of athletes they are.
“It’s unbelievable I’m sitting next to them or sitting across from them or playing against them.”