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Seeking the perfect form
CRITICISM LINGERS FOR HEISMAN-WINNER TEBOW: LATE HEROICS ABSENT
BIGGER TROPHY SOUGHT: Tim Tebow considers last season an overall failure despite being awardede the Heisman Trophy because UF did not achieve success as a team. KELLY KLINE / AP

Tim Tebow is not perfect.

Sure, Florida's quarterback won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, but not once last season did he lead a game-winning, fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Tebow had three chances to be the hero -- against Auburn, LSU and Michigan -- and he stumbled every time.

So, technically, Tebow was perfect with the game on the line. He was a perfect failure. Harsh, but true: Tebow couldn't win the close game. That's the criticism facing the junior from Jacksonville entering the 2008 season.

This preseason, Tebow blamed his play under pressure on a lack of knowledge for the game. He said he worked the entire offseason to improve his decision-making abilities during the two-minute drill.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

"That's what separates you from average to good and good to great," Tebow said. "So, that has been my No. 1 focus this year."

Tebow points to NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the gold standards for excellence under pressure. According to Tebow, decision-making is the only thing that separates Brady and Manning from other talented quarterbacks.

"They're not more blessed as far as athletic ability," Tebow said.

"They just make better decisions on the field. They're more knowledgeable about the game."

It's elementary, but some of the best decisions Brady and Manning make on a game-to-game basis are when they choose not to run the football. Tebow's biggest weakness last season was his inability to find an open receiver. Instead of reading the field and finding an open receiver, Tebow often would scramble for a first down.

All those improvised scrambles helped Tebow win the Heisman. He led the Gators in rushing (895 yards) and rushing attempts (210), but all those decisions to morph into a fullback might have hurt the team more than anything.

Tebow's run-first mentality was useless late in the fourth quarters of games when there was only enough time on the clock to win as a traditional quarterback. Tebow's maturity in the pocket must improve this season, UF offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said.

"We need to make plays with how fast he can make decisions," he said.

"We need to get the ball out of his hands so he doesn't need to make plays unless he has to."

Mullen, who doubles as the team's quarterbacks coach, has stressed speed and better decision-making this offseason. In addition to forcing Tebow to remain in the pocket longer, which would allow Tebow to find an open receiver, Mullen and Florida coach Urban Meyer also implemented a permanent no-huddle offense during spring practice.

FALTERING LATE

The no-huddle format should get the offense more plays, but it also could boost Tebow's confidence and poise in the fourth quarter.

Tebow was voted college football's best player last season. He accounted for a school-record 55 touchdowns and the Gators led the Southeastern Conference in scoring, but consider this statistic before enshrining Tebow as the greatest Gator: With five minutes or less in games against Auburn, LSU and Michigan last season, Tebow combined to complete just 4 of 12 passes for a total of 5 yards.

However, SEC East rival Tennessee played for the conference championship, and Georgia, another SEC East rival, played in the Sugar Bowl.

Also, SEC West power LSU -- a permanent fixture on the Gators' annual schedule -- won the national championship. The trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony was a nice consolation prize, but despite that, Tebow refers to the 2007 season as a disappointment.

CHAMPIONSHIP DREAMS

"Part of being a great leader is finding a way to get your team to a championship game," Tebow said.

Tebow will have more help this season to reach Atlanta, site of the SEC championship game. The Gators' offense is crowded with dynamic playmakers and returns four starting offensive linemen.

Florida's defense, which offered Tebow little help late in games last season, returns seven starters. According to defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, the defense performed better in the month leading up to the home opener against Hawaii than it did all last year.

Visit Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this season and you will notice Tebow's jersey hanging from the upper-deck fac¸ade, a tribute to his Heisman Trophy campaign. Now all he needs to do is win a national championship as a starter.

It would be the perfect ending to a perfect college football career.

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