With the SEC championship game less than a week away, recruiting fans can look back at the collegiate career of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and wonder “What if?” What if Tebow committed to Alabama instead of Florida?
In the fall of 2005, Tebow starred as a senior quarterback at Nease (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.). He capped off a stellar career by leading the Panthers past Armwood in the Florida 4A state title game, a contest in which Tebow accounted for 390 total yards and six scores.
Tebow gained a staggering 12,960 total yards while at Nease. He was widely regarded as the top quarterback in the country and as such, was heavily courted.
Despite the fact that both of his parents, Bob and Pam, attended Florida, Tebow gave heavy consideration to attending the University of Alabama, where then-head coach Mike Shula was wooing him to Tuscaloosa.
“I didn’t expect it to be that close,” said Nease assistant coach David San Juan, who handles recruiting for the team. “It’s a testament to the type of person Timmy is, and the job coach Shula did recruiting him.”
According to San Juan, Tebow grew up with a Danny Wuerffel poster in his room, but still nearly decided on the Crimson Tide.
“Urban was pretty new at the University of Florida,” he said. “(Tebow) felt a strong allegiance and kinship to coach Shula and several of the other guys on the old Alabama staff.”
The night Tebow chose Florida in a nationally televised press conference was especially intense.
“I was with Timmy when he called coach Shula and coach Meyer. He literally made those calls dressed in his suit, on his way to the announcement at the school,” San Juan said. “He was still pretty upset to have to tell coach Shula that he made that decision.”
Since deciding on the Gators, Tebow has faced Alabama twice. In 2006, he scored his second career touchdown to help Florida beat the Crimson Tide 28-13. The second matchup between Tebow and Alabama was last year’s SEC title game. Tebow had three TDs as the Gators hung on for a 31-20 victory.
While it’s impossible to predict exactly how those games — and seasons — could have played out differently, it’s certainly fair to say that the recent landscape of the SEC would look a lot different if Tebow opted for the crimson and white instead of the orange and blue.
“Just imagine the difference in the course of college football history if he had not made that decision,” said San Juan. “At the end of the day, the only advice you could give him was go with your heart, and his heart was with the University of Florida.”
Presently, there are a number of recruits, both committed and uncommitted, that could affect the shape of the Florida/Alabama rivalry over the next several years. None may leave behind the legacy that Tebow has, but these five recruits will likely stamp their mark on the battle between SEC powers if they end up in either Gainesville or Tuscaloosa.1. Demarcus Milliner, DB, Stanhope Elmore (Millbrook, Ala.), Class of 2010. Committed to Alabama.
Outstanding defensive backs are at a premium in the SEC. With the abundance of the spread offense and speedy receivers, shutdown cornerbacks have immense value. Enter Stanhope Elmore star Demarcus Milliner.
Milliner is the top prospect in Alabama, and teems with potential. Nick Saban secured a verbal commitment from Milliner in June. Barring a major surprise, he’ll be on campus in January.
In last year’s SEC game, Florida scored three of its four touchdowns through the air, as Tebow passed for 216 yards. Introducing an aggressive quarterback with great size into the Alabama secondary would help slow the Gators' air attack. Milliner will have an early impact, and will battle for playing time with current freshman corner Dre Kirkpatrick.2. Jeff Luc, LB, Treasure Coast (Port St. Lucie, Fla.), Class of 2010. Undecided.
While Florida’s spread offense certainly did damage to the Crimson Tide’s defense in last year's meeting, Alabama’s offense, in which the ground attack has a larger role, proved successful against the Gators defense.
Glen Coffee rushed for 112 yards and a TD in that game, while Mark Ingram also punched in a score. This year, the Gators will likely see a heavy dose of Ingram, a Hesiman candidate, mixed with some Trent Richardson.
Therefore, being able to stuff the run is critical against Alabama, and lately, Florida has done a good job of that. Jeff Luc, an imposing 6-foot-1 specimen at the linebacker position, would help the Gators continue their stifling defense.
Luc totaled 119 tackles last year as a junior, including nine sacks. The Gators remain in the hunt for Luc, whose Treasure Coast team is still alive in Florida’s 6A playoffs. Securing Luc would be a major addition to Florida’s run defense in upcoming years.3. Marvin Shinn, WR, Vigor (Prichard, Ala.), Class of 2011. Committed to Alabama.
Part of the reason Alabama has been so successful rushing the football is that opponents have had to guard against vertical threats down field. If Marvin Shinn sticks with his commitment to Alabama (and there’s no reason to think he won’t), they’ll have another top-flight receiver to pick up where Julio Jones leaves off.
Shinn is more of a finesse receiver than a physically dominant wide out; in that regard, he’s more similar stylistically to Georgia’s A.J. Green than Jones.
He followed up his 17-touchdown season as a sophomore with 12 more receiving scores as a junior.
“I think at the next level, he’s going to be a great player. He practices with great enthusiasm and runs great routes. He understands the game of football,” said Vigor head coach Kerry Stevenson.4. Christian LeMay, QB, Butler (Matthews, N.C.), Class of 2011. Undecided.
One recruit that both Florida and Alabama are after is junior quarterback Christian LeMay. LeMay is the signal-caller at the helm of the powerful Butler offense which has averaged over 49 points per game. He’s more of a drop-back passer, and in that regard, would fit better into Saban’s offense.
However, he boasts very good speed at the position and can run when necessary. From that respect, he’d likely be able to adjust to tempo of Florida's offense. Meyer certainly thinks so, and is trying to lure LeMay to Gainesville.
“He wants to be a drop-back passer with the ability to run,” said LeMay’s coach, Mike Newsome.
With his father being a former chaplain for the Gators, LeMay has ties to Florida. Alabama and others won’t go down without a fight, however. If he ends up donning the orange and blue, he could cause headaches for the Crimson Tide’s defense.5. Reggie Ragland, LB, Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.), Class of 2012. Undecided.
Though only a sophomore, Reggie Ragland has received early billing as one of the best players in the class of 2012. The 6-4 linebacker has played since his freshman year, and has all the physical gifts to be an outstanding collegiate player.
Bob Jones head coach Kevin Rose said that Ragland has the talent to play on Sundays one day. His speed and athleticism make him well-suited for the SEC.
Ragland has shown a strong interest in the Crimson Tide. If he lands in Tuscaloosa, he’d be a thorn in Florida’s side on the gridiron. The interesting wrinkle with Ragland is that he’s also a stellar hoops player. He could end up battling the Gators on the hardwood, as well.