GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -There were all kinds of theories flying around earlier this season about why Tim Tebow wasn't playing up to his usual high standards.
Was the Heisman Trophy winner hurt? Maybe a bad back or a bum knee? Was he staying in the pocket too long? Maybe trying to elude hits or avoid scrambling? Had defenses adjusted to him? Maybe spying him with a linebacker or blitzing him early and often?
Turns out, Florida's folk-hero quarterback was just pressing.
Yes, the same guy who handles autograph-seekers, picture-takers, leering fans and finger-pointing classmates as easily as he does an undersized defensive back near the goal line struggled to deal with sky-high goals and off-the-chart expectations.
d being a great decision-maker.''
Call it Tebow's turnaround.
The junior from nearby Jacksonville shied away from running early in the season, missed open receivers deep and was taking enough hits to play quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had just eight total touchdowns in the first four games and looked nothing like the record-setting quarterback from last season.
Now, following an eye-opening loss to Mississippi, Tebow has looked more like, well, Tebow.
``He's playing like the Heisman Tebow now,'' guard Mike Pouncey said. ``He's back in his groove, and it's going to be hard to take him out of it. He's way more relaxed, more comfortable with the people in front of him now and he's just playing like Tim Tebow.''
In the last five games - wins by an average score of 49-11 - Tebow has completed 70 percent of his passes for 932 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has 229 yards rushing and eight scores.
He's helped the third-ranked Gators (8-1, 6-1) clinch the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and surge back into the national title picture.
He's also put himself right back in the Heisman race, trying to become the second to earn college football's most prestigious award in consecutive seasons.
s in a 51-31 Florida victory at Columbia, S.C., last season.
Tebow insists a second Heisman was never cause for concern. All his pressing stemmed from something else.
``What was a big deal was trying to have that undefeated season and trying to go to the SEC championship and trying to win the national championship,'' he said. ``That was a big deal for me. That was a big deal for me all year long. It was a big deal for us to lead my team to an SEC and a national championship. It wasn't the Heisman I was worried about. It was more the team championships.''
Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen could sense something was wrong with Tebow early, but he knew there was little he could say or do to help Tebow through it. The guy who has played through pain - he played with a broken leg in high school, with a badly bruised shoulder last year and with a hyper-extended knee earlier this season - was going to have to play through pressure.
``Some of that pressure got taken off him once he just realized he's still just playing football,'' Mullen said. ``He's the first returning sophomore Heisman Trophy winner, and then the expectations that he put on himself and the team. Some of that early on, it can get to you. It can get a little overwhelming.
ent and quarterback, and not anything more than that.''
Tebow may have struggled under the pressure early, but he seemed to add more after that 31-30 loss to the Rebels. He stood behind the podium, choked back tears and promised something good would come from the setback. He put the loss on his shoulders and vowed that he and his teammates would play harder than anyone in the country the rest of the season.
``It had to be that way for him,'' Mullen said. ``As we got into the flow of the season, he started playing again, and it really came natural for him to get back to being relaxed and normal.''
And start putting up big numbers - maybe Heisman numbers.
Tebow's stats don't measure up to those put up by Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Colt McCoy of Texas, the quarterbacks considered the Heisman front-runners. But Tebow's definitely back in the running for the award.
``That's really not as big a deal for him right now,'' Mullen said. ``It's a tremendous honor, a tremendous individual honor. I expect for him, as the season goes on, he's going to keep playing and being Tim Tebow. If he keeps doing that, he's probably going to get a bunch of individual honors at the end of the year.''

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