Tim Tebow never had to start as a freshman with the Florida Gators, but he still knows a thing or two about seeing action as a first-year player and competing in pressure situations as a rookie, including in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Tebow, who finished his collegiate career with a 2-1 record as a starter against the Georgia Bulldogs, fully understands the pressure freshman quarterback Treon Harris will feel Saturday afternoon and had some advice for the young signal caller during a radio appearance Tuesday morning on 1010 XL (92.5 AM) out of Jacksonville, Florida.
“It’s his first start. He’s going to be nervous. He’s going to have butterflies. There’s going to be emotions going through him,” he said.
“Emotionally, you’re always going to be nervous. It’s a huge game. This is something that you grow up dreaming about. This is what you love. If I’m him, I’m loving it. I don’t want my first start to be against one of the schools that you get to open the season up against. You want it to be against a team like Georgia.
“If I’m him, I’m loving this opportunity and this situation to go out there and show that this is why I came to the University of Florida. I think we’ll see a lot of what he’s made of. From everything I’ve heard and seen, he’s been a winner in the past and we’ll see how he comes out and plays Saturday afternoon.”
Harris making quick decisions, something the Florida coaching staff has praised him for in the past, will be of paramount importance if he hopes to have success at EverBank Field, according to Tebow.
“You don’t want him, especially early in the game, to be sitting back there in the pocket too long trying to go through all his reads, to be a pocket passer,” Tebow said.
“In this game, let him go through [reads] 1-2, if that’s not there, step up in the pocket and go get me five yards, go get me seven yards – because he’s going to be nervous. That’s one thing that’s going to settle him down, that’s going to get him into the ball game, that’s going to really let him be able to to see the game better, get a feel for the game and not try to win it for the pocket, which can also hurt you by him forcing the ball into the Georgia secondary, which has improved a lot throughout this season to get any big plays.
“If you’re Florida in this game, you want to hit a few shots, you want him to make a few plays scrambling, get the run game going, but you don’t want to lose this thing offensively with some turnovers, which has happened the last few weeks. … You need to give Treon a little bit of time to get in the game and also find a way to get it to some of your other playmakers offensively and have them make some plays.”
Tebow also thinks Harris should rely on his athleticism to complement his passing and get him out of some potentially tough situations.
“In this game, that might be one of the best things — to get first downs and keep drives alive — is his athleticism,” he said. “His athleticism versus Missouri in those few drives, that was the best thing that we had going when he was able to get out of the pocket. I think that will be key.”
Tebow’s innate running ability was completely stymied during his first start against Georgia as he carried the ball 13 times for -15 yards, a dire complement to his 14-of-22 passing for just 236 yards and a lone touchdown.
Harris will certainly have to do better than that if the Gators are going to upset the No. 9 Bulldogs on Saturday.