It is going to be a little strange not having Chris Leak roaming the sidelines and throwing passes at The Swamp for the first time in four years. Leak not only promised a national championship before he left but he delivered. His large shoes will be filled by Superman and a legion of super heroes in waiting, hoping to carry on the championship legacy, starting with spring practice today.
Leak started the last 47 consecutive games and broke almost every passing record in the Florida books. Leak was the leader of the offense for four full years, but the position took on quite a different look last year when a freshman quarterback came on the scene and for the most part, lived up to all the hype. Even if Tim Tebow’s playing time was limited, he had quite an impact. He was the man in the red cape — Superman — and he simply made things happen when he was in the game. Now it’s his team and his turn to shoulder the load of the Florida offense.
If ever there was a quarterback born to play the Meyer offense (yes, I know he doesn’t have an offense, he patterns his offense around his players, blah, blah), it is Tim Tebow. The sophomore from Jacksonville is big, strong, athletic, can make a ton of throws, and has a presence around him that carries over onto other players on the field. He makes everyone around him better. Just let him run out of the phone booth and Superman is ready for action.
If there is probably one knock on Tebow it is his lack of touch. That isn’t to say he isn’t improved or won’t get better, but the truth is in the Gator offense and the list of plays he will be asked to run, Tebow does not have to be Joe Montana accurate. He just has to know which receiver to get the ball to and more times than not it will be short throws and let the receiver do the rest of the work. Tebow makes the spread work and forces the defense to account for everybody on the field because he can take off and run. Because defenses have to pay so much attention to the running game, the passing game should open up.
Last spring the quarterback position was a two-horse show with only Leak and Tebow in camp getting ready for the fall. This spring the legion of superheroes includes a junior college transfer and a physically intimidating freshman from Georgia. The battle for playing time will be fun to watch at the quarterback position.
Citra College transfer Bryan Waggener comes in with a strong arm and a little bit of mobility. More of a drop back passer, Waggener had a rough sophomore year in college as he had a really bad team surrounding him. He has great size and probably more resembles a blocking tight end but he has an arm that may allow him to play the Leak role as it pertains to the particular routes and plays Leak ran well. There will be no priority to red-shirt Waggener so odds are he will see the field this season.
Atlanta (GA) true freshman Cameron Newton brings his 6-5, 242-pound body to the field on Wednesday. He has a lot of the same physical skills you see in Tebow. He would be another natural fit for the athletic quarterback that the Meyer system looks for. The fact that he is enrolled early can only help his chances of being the freshman quarterback that sees the field first. Coach Meyer stated that he would like to play one of the freshmen and red-shirt the other.
Three quarterbacks in the spring means the offense can play hard with a little less worry than last season. In the fall the depth gets even better when Gatorade National Player of the Year John Brantley of Ocala (FL) arrives on campus in June. Brantley is more of a drop back passer but does possess a lot of running ability himself. This is one position that will be a joy to watch this spring and on into next year.