JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – SEC quarterback legend Tim Tebow reflected on why the Georgia-Florida rivalry made him as nervous as any game he ever played in and shared his keys to the game during a Friday interview session.
Tebow, who starred for the Gators from 2006-2009, winning two national championships and the Heisman Trophy, also shared his thoughts on the Bulldogs’ quarterback situation with Justin Fields and Jake Fromm.
The Georgia-Florida game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and pits two top 10 teams against one another, making for an excitement environment that Tebow said is like no other.
“You can say, and be politically correct that every game matters and it’s the next game, it’s just not true, some mean a little bit more, and this is one of them,” Tebow said.
“This is the first time that there’s a regular season that (ESPN) GameDay and SEC Nation have been in the same spot, and I think it’s awesome,” he said. “It shows the bigness of this game …. the atmosphere, how exciting this is. There’s few places like this.”
Tebow, like Fields, came off the bench as a freshman to split repetitions with an established quarterback (Chris Leak), and that’s where the line of questioning began on Friday:
QUESTION: Can you compare what Justin Fields and Jake Fromm are going through to your time splitting reps with Chris Leak your freshman year at Florida?
TIM TEBOW: “It’s hard to a certain extent, because I don’t know what’s being said to them, as far as playing time and reps. It was pretty clear with me and Chris and that really helped. Coach Meyer did a good job where you knew if we are in this third down situation, we’re going to this, if it’s red zone we’re going to this, then there were a few more based on how the game was going that you had to be ready for and figure out, and it’s been interesting to see how (Fields) has been used. It’s probably hard for him to a certain extent to get going. If he’s going to be effective, he’s going to have to threaten a defense, especially Florida’s, because Florida is so aggressive defensively. For him to be able to have running room, he has to threaten them, so he has to show he can make those throws down the field, and I think he can, but you have to tell a defense you can, too, and he hasn’t done that. So I think the next step for Georgia is that they let him throw it once or twice.”
QUESTION: Were you good with being a package quarterback your freshman year, obviously you had NFL aspirations and played in the league, but were you good knowing as a freshman that you’d be the package guy?
TIM TEBOW: “I wanted to do whatever I could to help the team, and I wanted to improve the team and make the team better, and you never knew what was going to happen. There might be some games where you wouldn’t have as much of an impact on a game, but then LSU you score every touchdown, and so you wouldn’t know how that was gong to go. For me it was about earning respect, helping my teammates and then given the opportunity, I wanted to change the game. If that was on a counter play, and a safety gets in my way, I’m trying to impose my will to change the culture of our team. If I had one play, I’m going to make the most of it. If I had 20, I’d make the most of that. My mentality is I’m going to earn every snap I get, and I’m going to earn the next one, and coach is going to have to put me back out here. That was my mentality because of trying to impact the game, and that’s something that Justin should try to have. I feel like he has that confidence to, when he gets a play, listen, if you have one play and it’s a running play, and you make something happen, you know what, Kirby will say go back in there, and as a player you have to have that confidence in you and you have to be able to make the people around you better, and I think that’s the most important trait that a quarterback can have.”
QUESTION: Tim, are there nerves (in this rivalry game) — there are young people on the big stage, two top 10 teams at a neutral site?
TIM TEBOW: “Yeah, 100 percent, this game brings out your nerves. I was probably as nervous in this game as I was in any game. For me it was a little different, growing up here and with everything this meant to me, it was a big one. But it’s big, when you drive over the Hart Bridge and you see all the tailgaters, and all the red and black and all the orange and blue, it does something to you. It kind of makes you get crazy butterflies, and you get anxious and you get nervous and you tighten up. Some players respond and love it, and some players don’t. I loved it, I would get off the bus I could barely contain myself three hours before the game. It’s an unbelievable feeling, and that’s why I love games like this and I love college football, there’s not a lot like it. So do nerves play a role? 100 percent, I think they do in every game, but this magnifies it.
QUESTION: What do you think about Jake Fromm? He’s had some up and down performances, what does he have to do to get back on track?
TIM TEBOW: “I think Jake’s a really good quarterback, I think he’s underrated, I think he had a really tough week against LSU. I don’t think that they necessarily game-planned it well, I think he got a little bit shell-shocked. I think he’ll bounce back from that. He’s handled big moments so I wouldn’t say that the moment of LSU got to him, I’d say that a really good defense that dialed up 11 pressures and hit him in the face quite a bit — those 11 pressures he had a QBR (QB Rating) of 1, and completed two passes, and I think that Florida is going to watch that film, and say, ‘you know what? Out of LSU’s 11 pressures, they worked.’ For a very aggressive Todd Grantham defense, they are going to pressure him a lot, he’s going to have to throw the ball while getting hit and make plays. I think you’re going to see a few wide open receivers for Georgia, and a couple of big plays. And then you’re going to see him getting hit, and there could be turnovers. I think it’s going to be that type of pressure, where it’s Florida’s defense is putting it all out there, because that’s kind of their M.O. right now, and they’ve seen it work for LSU.
QUESTION: Florida and LSU’s offenses are very similar with chunk yardage (runs) and screen passes, can Georgia get caught by that two games in a row and can Florida’s backs carry that load?
TIM TEBOW: “They’ll adjust from seeing that on film, I think you’ll see a different Georgia team, I do think that this is a huge game, especially depending on the weather, for the Florida running backs to — I don’t think you’re going to take over, a game like this is just too physical and balanced — but to be able to control the clock, keep the defense fresh, not put all the pressure on Feleipe (Franks), I think that’s really important especially because Georgia has some pretty good defensive backs and you just don’t want to keep throwing it up there to them, so I think to be able to get it in second-and-6, third-and-manageable is huge. So I do think (Jordan) Scarlett and (Lamical) Perine and (Dameon) Pierce are huge in this game, and then also break tackles. This is a game where you’re not always going to have the perfect play call. Ballers got to ball, you’ve got to break some tackles, and someone’s got to step up and be that dude for Florida in the backfield, and I think that will be big, too.