KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Florida championship quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow shared his thoughts on Tennessee Saturday night, minutes before the Vols kick off against Appalachian State.
Q: Give us your take on Neyland Stadium:
TT: “I played in here a couple of times, I’ll tell you what, it’s a great stadium, great fanbase, it’s loud, I still remember my freshman year the fourth-and-1 here, and I remember thinking at the time, ‘that is the loudest I have ever heard. This place gets jumpy pretty fast, so I expect it to be a really good atmosphere tonight.
Q: Your thoughts on what you’ve seen from Josh Dobbs:
TT: “I think Josh Dobbs is a really good quarterback ,really good kid, obviously he’s incredibly intelligent, but to get where this team wants to go, to win an SEC and national championship — which they have the talent for it, they really do, I’m not just saying it, it’s not just words, I really think they have the talent to compete for the College Football Playoff and national championship, but to do that they are going to have to play so much better in the fourth quarter and second half
They have to learn to be the aggressor in the second half and the fourth quarter rather than just hoping they will win, they’ve got to make themselves win and find a way to finish at the end
As a team they have to do that, as a culture and also Joshua being a leader really has to do that and I think he can.
Q: How does Tennessee have to approach an opponent like Appalachian State?
TT: “You have to get out fast, the more you leave a team like App State in the game, the more they believe, the more dangerous they are and the better they can play and the better chance they have of upsetting you, so you have to execute early, you have to get a lead and you have to kind of kick them when they are down a little bit and not let them get into the game.
We’re both guys that run and throw in spread offenses, and use forms of a zone read type of scheme, and I think both of us like it. We do certain things similar.
Q: How efficient does Tennessee’s down field passing game have to be?
TT: I think it’s key because their running game is excellent, it will be one of the top running games in the country, I think. But the teams they have to play this year, Florida, Alabama, whoever they play in the SEC Championship, eventually your running game will be stopped, maybe for a quarter, maybe for two, and when it’s stopped do you have the ability to make a play down the field, do you have the ability to convert on third-and-7, third-and-11. I’m not saying you have to do it every time, but if you have the ability and you can execute to do that three or four big third downs or big plays down the field, that changes the game and it changes the season for you.
Q: Do you see yourself and Josh Dobbs as similar quarterbacks?
TT: “We’re both guys that run and throw in spread offenses and use forms of a zone read type of scheme. I think both of us like it, so yeah, we do certain things similar.
Q: What does Tennessee have to do to finally get over that hump against Florida
TT: “That’s going to be a big game; that’s one of the games I’m looking forward to more than most this year, because I think Tennessee probably being the favorite to win the East, regardless of what you want to say, it’s still a mindset. When you lose 11 in a row, which I think it is, when you lose 11 in a row players know that. Florida players know that, Tennessee players know that. So the Tennessee players mindset, for the seniors, guess what, they’ve lost three times. Redshirt seniors they’ve lost four times, so they’ve got to think in their minds this isn’t like last year, this isn’t like the last 11 years, this is this year, and they have to find a new culture, a new rhythm a new way of approaching the game that when it starts going back, we’re not going to fall into the trap of starting to worry that this is what happened last year this is like last year. It has to be that new culture, that new mentality, where that’s the past, this doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter unless you let it matter, so it’s really having that mindset, which comes from Jalen Hurd and Joshua Dobbs and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Those guys have to push that mentality on the younger guys, and if they do, they have the talent to beat anybody. They did last year, too, they just didn’t finish it. But they should have beat Oklahoma, should have beat Alabama and they should have beat Florida last year.
Q: How do you think this Tennessee team would match up with one of your great Florida teams?
TT: “You’ve got to see. Everything that everyone is talking about is speculation and what we base on practice. Guess what, there are a lot of people that play a lot different in games than practice, so we’ll see when the lights come on how they handle pressure and how they handle big-time moments. It’s how they handle third- and fourth downs, and how they handle the highs and the lows, that’s what is going to make a championship team or an eight win team.
Q: How was your baseball tryout?
TT: It was fun, it was a great opportunity, I really enjoyed it and felt it went well, but tonight I’m worried about this game.
Q: What are your thoughts on how Butch Jones has accumulated talent at Tennessee?
TT: There’s a lot of talent. I think this is the most talent that I’ve seen on a Tennessee team since probably the ’06-’07 Tennessee teams, and a lot of good football players. If they can put it together, they will be really good and really tough to beat because they are fast, they are going to have a really aggressive defense with a really good running game and the ability to have big plays down the field. Just that mixture can create — and a lot of their players have played in big games. That can create something special.”
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s SEC Country and lives in Knoxville.