Meyer hopes to take weight off Tebow's shoulders
DESTIN, Fla. -- Everywhere you turn this offseason, there's Tim Tebow.
The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner is visiting jails and speaking at youth rallies. He even assisted in the circumcision of poor Filipino boys while most college students were partying it up on spring break.
His legend spread to the golf course earlier this year at a charity event in Gainesville. Tebow stepped to the first tee and promptly crushed one 375 yards.
Florida coach Urban Meyer admitted he worries whether his star quarterback is being spread too thin.
"It's my job to worry," Meyer said Tuesday during the SEC spring meetings at the Sandestin Hilton.
"But he's made an impact on a lot of people. We could sit here and talk for three hours about Tim Tebow. The impact he's made on our team, on our university, on a lot of people it's been phenomenal. He walks the walk, talks the talk. He does it all."
The trick for Meyer this fall might be making sure Tebow isn't doing it all, at least on the field.
Meyer said Tebow never was the same after bruising his right (non-throwing) shoulder prior to the Georgia game this past season. He also played with a broken right hand against Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.
He was beat up, more so than anybody will ever know because he won't tell you. If you watch that [Georgia] game, he didn't play like Tim.
-- Urban Meyer on Time Tebow
For the record, both were Florida losses.
"He was beat up, more so than anybody will ever know because he won't tell you," Meyer said. "If you watch that [Georgia] game, he didn't play like Tim."
Such is life when you carry the ball 210 times at the quarterback position in the SEC and handle most of your team's dirty work around the goal line.
Part of that is Tim Tebow being Tim Tebow. He takes on defenders the way David Ortiz takes on fastballs. If there's a sliver of daylight, he's going to take off and run.
The other part of it, though, is that Meyer knows he needs to get his quarterback some help if Tebow is going to make it through the SEC in one piece this coming season.
To that end, Meyer is hoping to play a second quarterback some (likely Cam Newton), use several different players on the direct snap that was so effective with Tebow last season and find an honest-to-goodness running back to take on more of the short-yardage duties.
"I'm hoping Kestahn [Moore] has the kind of year he had in the spring," Meyer said. "He has to be that guy. You've also got [Emmanuel] Moody. I'm hoping we're more versatile there. I'll know more as we get closer.
"The one thing the direct run gives you is it gives you a chance to spread that extra defender out of the box. Everybody thinks it's just because it's Tim. That's a big part of it. But the minute you move another back out of the backfield, someone leaves that box. Now you have everybody blocked. It's single-wing football."
The most encouraging part of spring practice for the Gators, according to Meyer, was the play of their offensive line, which will average well more than 300 pounds. Just about everybody returns from last season, and Phil Trautwein is back after missing all of last season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Meyer also thinks the cadre of playmakers surrounding Tebow will be the deepest since Meyer came to Florida in 2005. In particular, Meyer envisions getting Percy Harvin and spring sensation Chris Rainey on the field at the same time.
Tight end Cornelius Ingram will be more involved, and Florida fans might want to prepare themselves for an early look at incoming freshman Jeffrey Demps, who has run a 10.17 in the 100 meters.
A renowned doodler, Meyer clearly will have a few more options this fall when he's going through his pregame ritual of drawing up plays for his best offensive players.
"Think about how far it's come," Meyer said. "We always list our playmakers, and I do it about two hours before every game, sitting in the hotel room. I've done it for seven years. You list your playmakers and who you want to touch the ball. There were times when the playmaker list stopped at about two or three.
"Now, it's going up toward six, seven, eight or nine, which is a good sign."
Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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