GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow returned to his alma mater Friday.
He is now an analyst for SEC Network, which will broadcast live from Gainesville on Saturday before the Gators’ game against South Carolina.
Tebow discussed a range of topics during his media availability Friday, including Florida’s offensive struggles and the quarterback position.
Q: What’s it like to be back in Gainesville?
Tebow: “It’s good. It changes everything, it’s just fun. It’s coming home somewhat. It will be fun, fun to experience (SEC) Nation tomorrow and the game. I’m excited about it.”
Q: Why has UF been unable to get good QB play since you left?
Tebow: “You know I think that they’ve been able to recruit some big time guys. But it’s just something, their quarterbacks have been streaky and for a while Luke (Del Rio) was playing pretty good. He had a couple games where it wasn’t his best. Started off the season pretty hot and after that Kentucky game you think, this is someone that’s doing pretty well and it will be interesting to see when he gets healthy what he can do again. We’ll see what Appleby can do tomorrow.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the freshmen quarterbacks?
Tebow: “I know a little bit, but you know we’ll see. They’re freshmen and they’ve been in practice, but practice is a lot different than games.”
Q: As a former Gator, is it frustrating for you to see their QB struggles?
Tebow: “Well, if fans had their way the team would score every single possession and that’s not really realistic. (Jim) McElwain is someone who knows how to coach quarterbacks. Everywhere he’s gone his quarterbacks have succeeded. I think he’ll continue to work with the quarterbacks and he’ll get the offense right.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Florida coach Jim McElwain?
Tebow: “I think he’s been able to get a lot of wins and put the Gators in position to go to back-to-back SEC Championships. I think from that standpoint it’s good. I think there’s a lot of work to be done and you can see that from last week’s game. I think they’re getting there and just gotta continue to develop a lot of young players.”
Q: What does the offense need to do to have more success?
Tebow: “Score. Score a little more. Put some drives together. Gain some momentum. Don’t make it just be one or two plays, counting on that. Create an identity as an offense and then be able to stick with it. This is kind of our go-to, this is our bread and butter, and then you can play action and do everything off of that. I think they’re still looking for a big-time identity as an offense.”
Q: How can the Gators get their playmakers more involved?
Tebow: “I think it’s get a little bit of confidence and momentum. I touch on that a lot but I really believe in it when you’re dealing with 18-to-22 year olds, confidence and getting in a rhythm and momentum is so important. All these kids have so much talent but sometimes the difference between getting it done and stalling is the confidence to believe in yourself and momentum behind you to be able to rally the troops a little bit. To get Antonio Callaway in the game early, get him a play or two, give the quarterback position a little bit of confidence, loosen the secondary up to get the running game going. I think all of that is huge.”
Q: What do you think about Will Muschamp’s return to The Swamp?
Tebow: “I’m sure that Muschamp loves the opportunity. Muschamp’s competitive and he did some really good things here at the University of Florida and he’s doing really good at South Carolina. He knows how to coach defense and he’s getting the defense better. He’s got a freshman quarterback and he’s got a good kicking game. It’s kind of the recipe that can work in the SEC a little bit. He’s riding some big winds and I’m sure he’d like to get another one.”
Q: What will be the key matchup in the game Saturday?
Tebow: “I think it’s Florida’s secondary. I think they give Florida the biggest edge in the game, but they have to play good because Jake Bentley’s been improving every game that he’s started and made some really good throws last week. That secondary really needs to not give him any easy throws. I mean, I think they need to be aggressive and make Jake hesitate a little bit and have the defensive line get some pressure. Also have The Swamp be The Swamp, where this is the first real road game and he’s getting tested. Then try to get some big interceptions like they did against Missouri.”
Q: What will it take for Florida to start clicking offensively?
Tebow: “They’re all going to have to come together. But most of the time, honestly, in my opinion, that takes leadership. It takes someone saying, ‘Enough is enough. Let’s rally together and let’s get this done.’ This is kind of that perfect moment because you control your own destiny as far as Atlanta. So you show up in this game. You’re able to get a win on senior night. You travel to Death Valley and get a win there. And then we know the big game at the end of the year, but then you’ll have a chance to play for the SEC Championship. Every year that I was a Gator here, yeah, we had dreams of winning national championships, but our No. 1 goal was always an SEC Championship and that is still right in front of this team. So I think they need to stay focused on the task at hand and the No. 1 goal, and that’s getting to Atlanta and winning that game.”
Q: What do you remember about your Senior Day at UF?
Tebow: “It was emotional. It was kind of surreal. It was an awesome day, but it was sad at the same time, thinking that I was never going to get to run out of that tunnel and play again. Then coach (Urban) Meyer started crying and he was like, ‘OK, now you’re making us all emotional.’ It’s definitely an emotional day. It’s surreal. It’s a lot of fun, but I think you want to be able to walk out of that stadium with a good memory of your senior day and that’s up to the players. If they show up and do their job and get a ‘W,’ that’s going to make senior day a whole lot better.”