Sunday September 26, 2010 02:29
Tebow who? Gators freshman scores 6 TDs to break Timâ€™s record, says Tebow copied him
From the moment he stepped onto the field as a freshman, Tim Tebow put the University of Florida’s football program on his shoulders and led the Gators to two national championships. In his four years, Tebow accounted for so much of UF’s offense that he surpassed University of Georgia great Herschel Walker as the Southeastern Conference’s all-time rushing touchdown leader and he became the Gators’ all-time leader in total offense.
So it’s understandable that Gator fans wondered who would fill Tebow’s shoes. It took the program 10 years to find a quarterback like Tebow, who became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, in order to return Florida to the national-title contending team it was under Heisman winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel in the mid 1990s.
But the wait for Tebow’s replacement may be over for Gator fans after freshman quarterback Trey Burton (pictured above at age 14 with Tebow) had a six-touchdown performance to break Tebow’s five-touchdown school record on Saturday night against Kentucky.
Burton, who is half black and half white, is named after his grandfather, Larry Burton Jr., who was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1975 after an All-America career at receiver for Purdue University. His grandfather also won a national title in the 200 meters.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Burton’s intelligence and athleticism has enabled him to play multiple positions: quarterback, fullback, tight end and receiver. But UF coach Urban Meyer, who became the second-fastest coach since 1945 to win his 100th game with the 48-14 win over Kentucky on Saturday, said Burton will soon settle into one position. I’m betting it’s quarterback.
For now, John Brantley, whose uncle is a UF legend and whose father played quarterback, is the Gators’ starting quarterback. Yet against Kentucky, Brantley was used to direct Florida’s offense down the field. Once down in the red zone, Burton took over in the wildcat formation Tebow made popular while sharing time with former Gators quarterback Chris Leak.
Burton scored four touchdowns from the wildcat, another on a bootleg and hauled in a touchdown pass from Brantley, who surpassed 200 yards for the first time in his career but threw an interception to end a 156-pass streak without a pick.
In the way Burton plowed through and outran defenders, Burton appeared to be as strong as Tebow, but much quicker and faster. When Burton wasn’t on the field, he took whiffs from an inhaler and had some tube inserted under his jersey while he rested on the bench and drank Gatorade, which was invented by recently deceased UF professor Robert Cade.
I watched the Florida-Kentucky game from a Jacksonville sports bar since local cable operators foolishly broadcasted out-of-state games instead of the Gators’ SEC game between two unbeaten teams. The bar erupted when Burton faked a handoff to a running back, rolled out to the right and outran a defender to the end zone for touchdown No. 6, the game’s final score.
When asked after the game why Burton was switched from wearing jersey No. 13 to No. 8, Meyer joked that it was because Burton was supposed to score eight touchdowns. Actually, Burton was switched to No. 8 because he and linebacker Dee Finley both wore No. 13 and it was confusing for game officials when they shared the field on special teams. Now Burton and cornerback Jeremy Brown, whose 52-yard interception return gave the Gators a 21-0 lead over Kentucky, both wear No. 8 because they’re never on the field at the same time.
After Burton’s record night, he deserves to have his own number, like maybe Tebow’s No. 15 since it’s available. And it’s only fair since Burton said Tebow got the credit for the ritual of putting Biblical scriptures on his eye black. But Burton said he started wearing bible verses before Tebow while a freshman at Venice High School, but Tebow got the attention because he was a bigger star and played college football for the nationally-ranked Gators on national TV.
Now the national spotlight is on Burton, who has wanted to play for the Gators since watching Wuerffel lead the program to its first national title in 1996. After ESPN showed highlights from Burton’s six-touchdown performance that set a new UF freshman record and team record, an ESPN commentator said “Tebow will probably be forgotten by Monday down there in Gainesville.”
It will take more than one great game for Burton to make Gators fans forget Tim Tebow, but the freshman is running in the right direction.
By Teneshia LaFaye
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