|Defending national champs trying to determine Tebow's backup|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 11 August 2007 12:19|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -Florida coach Urban Meyer wants to play two quarterbacks, hoping to find the same type of rotation that propelled the Gators to the national championship last season.|
It might not be possible.
Highly touted sophomore Tim Tebow, a formidable runner who successfully shared snaps with Chris Leak last year, has taken over the starting job.
Behind him, though, things are far less clear.
``I have no idea which way that's going to go,'' Meyer said.
Mobile and strong-armed freshman Cameron Newton was supposed to be Tebow's backup. The 6-foot-5 Georgia native enrolled in school in January and seemingly locked down the No. 2 job in spring practice.
But Newton injured his back during the summer and is still experiencing pain that could limit him during fall practice. Less concerning but still a problem, Newton missed the first week of practice while trying to take care of some academic work.
He practiced for the first time Saturday, and Meyer said how he performs in the next few days could affect Florida's depth chart.
``He hasn't done a whole lot,'' Meyer said. ``The quarterback at Florida has got to get out there and throw, so we'll know soon. The other ones are throwing it pretty decent.''
Fellow freshman John Brantley and junior college transfer Bryan Waggener have taken advantage of Newton's absence, getting more repetitions in practice than they normally would.
Brantley, the nephew of former Florida star linebacker Scot Brantley and one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, has been impressive in just a short time, showing Meyer and offensive coordinator Dan Mullen talent comparable to Leak and former Utah quarterback Alex Smith.
``He's as natural a passer as Danny and I have had,'' Meyer said. ``That's pretty good considering there's a bunch of professional quarterback that have played for us. Chris was a very natural guy, but this guy might even be a more natural thrower. He's tremendous.''
Although Brantley is turning some heads, he also is preparing to redshirt this season and create another year of separation between himself and Tebow.
``I wouldn't mind redshirting at all,'' said Brantley, a standout at Ocala Trinity Catholic who was coached by former Gators quarterback Kerwin Bell. ``If it happens, I would just have more time to develop as a quarterback, get the offense down and get bigger.''
Waggener, like Newton, enrolled in January but missed most of spring practice because of a broken left foot.
Meyer said Waggener was ``way behind'' entering fall practice. Newton is quickly falling into the same position, leaving the Gators with few options behind Tebow and the season opener against Western Kentucky just three weeks away.
``We have an issue at that position, and it's a positive one,'' Meyer said. ``Who do we get ready? We have to put pressure on Dan to make that decision. Once that's made ... then you get that package ready. If that young person can do it, we'd like to have a little change of pace.''
The system worked to perfection last season, with Leak passing for nearly 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns and Tebow making big plays in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
But can the Gators find it again?
``We have a long way to go before we figure any of that out,'' Mullen said.
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