GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's two-quarterback system could be vastly different this season.
Tim Tebow was a change-of-pace guy in 2006, replacing Chris Leak in short-yardage and goal-line situations, running option plays and taking on defenders with reckless abandon.
Now, Tebow's the starter.
And although coach Urban Meyer wants to use Cameron Newton in a somewhat similar backup role, the highly touted freshman from Georgia hasn't shown he can handle it. At least not yet.
Newton could get a chance to prove himself Saturday, when the sixth-ranked Gators begin defense of their national championship against Western Kentucky.
"He's still young and you can see the youth show up on hard days, and that's a major concern," Meyer said. "He's a great person, but he's not a great leader. He's not what Tim was at this time a year ago. Tim, when he was in sixth grade, he could have gone in and been a leader.
"Cameron has come a long way, but he still has a ways to go."
Newton enrolled in school in January and almost immediately earned the No. 2 job. But he injured his back over the summer and had academic issues that forced him to miss a week of practice this fall.
Meyer said the backup spot was open for competition, but Newton eventually outplayed freshman John Brantley and junior college transfer Bryan Waggener for the spot.
Now, like Josh Portis and Tebow before him, he'll likely play in the opener.
"He's really impressive," center Drew Miller said. "He'll make some mental mistakes like all freshmen quarterbacks will, but he bounces back. He's ready to go."
The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Newton scrambles as well as Tebow and has a stronger arm than Leak. He also seems to fit in better during position meetings.
"Cam is a different guy, different player, has different attributes, so the relationship is different," Tebow said. "Me and Cam probably have a little bit more in common than me and Chris did. ... Cam has a totally different personality. Chris was more of the silent type. Cam is definitely a talker. You'll get a few more laughs out of him in the meeting rooms."
But will it mean anything on the field?
The Gators hope to find out against the Hilltoppers, who are beginning their two-year journey from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).
The quarterback rotation is just one of several questions Florida hopes to answer in the opener.
How will the defense perform after losing nine starters from the title team? How will the offensive line hold up after losing left tackle Phil Trautwein with a stress fracture in his right foot? How will the young Gators -- they have just 10 seniors and 11 juniors on scholarship -- handle playing with such a big target on their back?
"We're looking forward to getting everybody's best shot," Miller said. "We're the defending national champions, and they're going to play better than they do against anybody else because of that reason. If we play how we know how to play, we should be fine."
Western Kentucky, which won the I-AA national title five years ago, is ready to be the first to challenge the Gators.
"To tell the truth, I think a lot of people are going to be shocked by our performance on Saturday," offensive lineman Cody Hughes said. "A lot of people are underestimating us."
The Hilltoppers have had 11 consecutive winning seasons and were in games against Kansas State and Auburn in recent years.
But opening against Florida could be a bigger challenge.
"We're not going to beat around the bush -- we're a transitional program and they won the I-A national championship last year," Western Kentucky coach David Elson said. "People look at it as difficulty or adversity, but it's a great opportunity -- and that's the way we will look at it."
It's a great opportunity for Florida's Newton, too.
"He's still a young quarterback and is still picking up everything," Tebow said. "But he does a lot of things well."
Top 25 Overview
Florida begins its title defense against I-A newcomer Western Kentucky. Tim Tebow is under center fulltime for the Gators, who must replace a host of talent on defense.