ATHENS – How big of a deal is Nick Chubb being out of Saturday’s game? A pretty big deal, according to Tim Tebow.
I talked to Tebow for a short time Friday as he prepped at UGA’s Myers Quad for his SEC Nation appearance for the Georgia-Tennessee game. Yes, Tebow, the professional baseball player, is still part-timing as a college football analyst for the SEC Network.
He actually worked out with his New York Mets instructional league team Friday morning before jetting into Athens for his television gig. He said this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of fall, pro baseball Sunday through Thursday, SEC football on Friday and Saturday.
Tebow has been at this only a couple of days. You may have heard how his baseball debut went this past Wednesday. In case you didn’t, he hit a home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat. But Tebow has played another game since, going 2-for-4 Thursday.
“I was (practicing) this morning before I flew in,” Tebow said Friday. “I practice all day and then came in this afternoon. I’m just working hard. (The home run) was two games ago. But it was a fun game.”
But baseball was not what Tebow was in town to talk about. In fact, an ESPN publicist stepped in to make sure of that after his Q&A with a small group of reporters started drifting more toward the diamond. But Tebow was more than happy to talk about the Bulldogs, a team for whom he actually professes a decent about of affinity despite his deep association with one of their biggest rivals, the Florida Gators.
Tebow, who watched both Tennessee and Georgia play last weekend, doesn’t believe the Bulldogs are as bad as they looked in Oxford, nor the Vols as good as they were against his Gators in the second half of their game in Knoxville.
Most are predicting a run-away win for 11th-ranked Tennessee, which hasn’t won in Sanford Stadium since 2006. Tebow is not.
“I think it’s going to be a good game,” Tebow said. “I think Georgia’s going to bouonce back a lot from their performance last week. I know it’s probably tough for a lot of the Georgia faithful right now, but I think they’ll back up. I think they’re a better team than that. Sometimes it’s about matchups. Sometimes it’s just not your week. They just have to be mentally tough and show that they’re the same team that beat North Carolina.”
Of course, the Bulldogs had Chubb at tailback for that 33-24 win over the Tar Heels in the Georgia Dome. In fact, Chubb had 222 yards rushing and two touchdowns in that game.
All indications are Chubb is going to miss the Tennessee game with a high-ankle sprain. Even the sunshine-and-rainbows Tebow had a hard time putting a positive spin on that.
“It takes a big hit,” Tebow said of Georgia’s running game. “You want to say ‘next man up’ and that’s really easy to say. But it’s hard when it’s the best running back maybe in the SEC, maybe in the country. I mean, Nick Chubb is an absolute warrior. He’s tough. He’s reliable. He goes in there and fights. He gets the dirty yards, too. When he should get one or two, he maybe gets you three or four, you know. That’s someone that they’re going to miss.
“He’s tough to replace because there’s no one else like him. They don’t make them like him, they don’t make them as strong, they don’t make them as tough. He’s a special, special player. So I think he’ll be missed.”
Tebow said the Bulldogs could possibly mask Chubb’s loss by throwing the ball around with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason and Georgia’s receivers. But he also expressed some concern about Eason and the expectations that are being placed on him by the Bulldogs’ fan base.
“He’s had to handle a lot. He was so highly-recruited and so many people were talking about him. Honestly, he has to handle something differently than a lot of the other freshmen, than a lot of other 18-year-olds,” Tebow said. “He has to handle the pressure of expectations. I hope for his sake he’s able to quiet his mind enough to play ball and be the best he can be, not the best that everybody else wants of him.
“I think we’ve seen his talent at times. I think he’s got a chance to be a really good quarterback. I think he’s show poise. He’s obviously shown talent. He’s got a craxzy arm. But it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be easy playing in the SEC against a lot of good defenses. You have to be not only physically tough, but more than anything you have to be mentally tough.”
So that’s Tebow’s analysis of the Georgia Bulldogs heading into Saturday’s game. And who better to break it down than a baseball player from the University of Florida?