|RUSSO ON FOOTBALL: Too-good-to-be-true Tebow should be first sophomore to win Heisman|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 11 November 2007 13:00|
An athletic freak. A charismatic leader. Good looking, charitable. Jim Brown on the football field and Mother Teresa off it. Please, enough already. He's already got it all, do we really need to give him a bronze statue, too.
Here's a poor reason to keep the award from Tebow: He's an underclassmen.
All kidding aside, the Florida quarterback should now stand as the clear front-runner in what has been a slow-developing Heisman race. Only juniors and seniors have won college football's most prestigious award. Tebow is a sophomore and it shouldn't make a difference to those filling out ballots.
Yet, it will to some.
Several weeks ago the AP polled 23 Heisman voters and Tebow won the vote, ahead of Matt Ryan of Boston College and Andre Woodson of Kentucky, who've both fallen off since.
One voter who submitted a ballot with Tebow at the top said he expected to move him down because he didn't think the award should go to an underclassmen ahead of a senior who won't have another shot.
Considering the history of the voting, it's doubtful he's the only one using this misguided logic.
When Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson was the runner-up to USC's Matt Leinart for the 2004 Heisman, who didn't think, ``Peterson will get his eventually.'' Peterson didn't stay healthy enough to make it happen.
Tebow shouldn't have to wait, either.
He's been a a one-man offense for coach Urban Meyer. Tebow runs as well as the best running quarterbacks and throws as well as the best drop-back passers.
On a team without a go-to tailback, the 230-pounder has given the Gators a power runner to go with Meyer's side-to-side option game. Tebow has rushed for 718 yards on 170 carries and tied a Southeastern Conference record with 19 rushing touchdowns.
Unlike Oregon's Dennis Dixon and West Virginia's Pat White, Tebow does most of his running between the tackles. That rough-and-tumble style has taken a toll. He's had a sore right shoulder for weeks, but has played through it.
In Florida's 51-31 victory over South Carolina on Saturday night, Tebow ran 26 times for 120 yards and five touchdowns.
``He's so used to making plays on his own,'' Meyer said Sunday. ``He's doing a much better job of protecting himself. I counted five times where he makes a 12-, 15-yard run and steps out of bounds. We're coaching him up on that.''
There were questions coming into the season about whether Tebow could be a consistent passer. That's hard to believe now.
Tebow is the second-highest rated passer in the country with a 177.1 rating. He's completed 68 percent of his throws for 2,532 yards and 23 touchdowns, numbers that compare quite nicely to Woodson, a top NFL prospect who's passed for 2,653 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Dixon's running and passing numbers are comparable to Tebow's. With three games left, the Ducks' quarterback has a 163.1 rating, 2,074 yards passing and 20 TD passes. He's also run for 549 yards and eight touchdowns. Dixon also plays with one of the best tailbacks in the country in Jonathan Stewart.
Tebow's best weapon, receiver/running back Percy Harvin, has been nicked up all season and didn't play Saturday against South Carolina because of a sinus problem.
Without the Gators' leading receiver, Tebow was 22-for-32 for 304 yards passing and two more touchdowns against the Gamecocks.
Chase Daniel has had a great season for Missouri, passing for 3,306 yards and 26 touchdowns. As good as he is, he also has far better weapons at his disposal than Tebow. Tigers tight ends Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker are future pros and the dazzling and versatile Jeremy Maclin is what Harvin could become if he could stay on the field more.
Meyer said he doesn't feel the need to campaign for Tebow to win the Heisman the way he did when he had Alex Smith at Utah.
``We were at a school where not many people saw him play and weren't at as high a profile place as Florida, so I felt an obligation to at least get it out there,'' he said. ``Tim's performance, the defending national champs and a high profile place, I imagine a lot of people have seen him play.''
If you're a Heisman voter and think Dixon, Daniel, Arkansas' Darren McFadden, or some other player for that matter, have been better than Tebow, by all means vote that way.
If you're inclined to only use your vote on players whose teams are still in the national championship chase, than Tebow doesn't make the cut, though it's certainly not his fault Florida has fallen out of the hunt.
Just don't snub Tebow because he's got more eligibility left than the other guys ... or because he's too good to be true.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrusso(at)ap.org.