Haden looking to be Tebow's backup
And it's not John Brantley, the No. 2 guy on the depth chart.
Joe Haden, one of the team's best defensive players, is working with the quarterbacks in fall practice and planning to get some repetitions there this season.
"I'm not going to steal [Tebow's job]. I'm going to borrow it for a second," Haden said Monday. "I'm real excited about that. I always told coach [Urban] Meyer I wanted to get back on that side even if would get me two plays or something like that."
Haden, a 5-foot-11 junior from Fort Washington, Md., played quarterback at Friendly High School and set a state record with 7,371 yards passing. He also tied a state record with 80 touchdown passes.
When he got to Florida, Tebow had already secured the starting job, so Haden switched to defense. He became the first freshman in Florida history to start at cornerback, and has started 26 games in two years. He has 150 career tackles, 24 passes defended and four interceptions.
But he never lost his desire to handle the ball. So he kept asking Meyer for a chance, and with the departure of speedster Percy Harvin, the Gators were looking for someone to offer a change-of-pace style behind Tebow.
"I used to really play quarterback," Haden said. "It's not like I'm a defensive back trying to play quarterback. [Opponents] might have to play the same defenses as they do against Tebow, because I can throw the ball, too."
Haden said he started taking repetitions behind Tebow and Brantley during summer workouts. He knows nine plays, all from the shotgun formation, and could see action when Florida opens the season Sept. 5 against Charleston Southern.
"We were out there screwing around at the beginning of summer and he threw me a football and that thing came at me a tight spiral and hot," Meyer said. "I said, 'Do that again,' and he did it again. Ever since that, he's been talking to me. That's a possibility."
Harvin had plenty of success lining up in the "Wildcat" formation. He ran for 1,852 yards and 19 touchdowns in three season, some of it after he lined up behind center.
The Gators believe Haden might be able to have similar success.
"You're chasing the most physical running quarterback in college football in Tim Tebow and all of a sudden here comes a guy that can hit it and is one of the fastest kids in college football," Florida assistant head coach Dan McCarney said. "It can really keep you off base."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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