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Houston Nutt raked over coals by various newspapers over Vandy loss

Houston Nutt Mississippi v Tulane


Personally I think that Houston Nutt will survive this year and will do better in the next few years since he has done such a good job of keeping some of the best athletes in Mississippi. However, time will tell. It appears he is in for a tough year. After reading these articles I may be wrong about Nutt surviving the year. Notice the way the Vol fans tried to comfort themselves after losing to Florida.

Mike Strange: Vols fans might feel bad, but these folks feel plenty worse

Staff Reports

Sunday, September 18, 2011

There’s no known remedy, at least not one that brings immediate relief.

Post-Florida Syndrome is an affliction that only time can heal. Beating Georgia on Oct. 8 would induce dramatic improvement, but that’s still 19 days out.

Every year, the week before Tennessee plays Florida is an emotional binge. Vol fans know better but they relent and start drinking the orange Kool-Aid. The hangover — PFS — is nasty.

Tennessee lost to the Gators again Saturday, 33-23. Adding injury to insult, the Vols lost one of their best players, too, Justin Hunter.

That’s seven in a row. Seven years of PFS. An epidemic for the books. Even Steve Spurrier never got past five.

It also ranks fourth in terms of Tennessee losing streaks. Alabama holds the trump card, 11 straight from 1971-81. Vanderbilt won nine straight before World War I, from 1901-1913. Ole Miss claimed eight in a row during its heyday, 1959-66.

But enough forlorn history. Today, in a sense of community spirit, I offer a rationalization placebo for PFS.

Here, Tennessee fans, are a bunch of folks that just might feel worse than you do this week.

Ole Miss. The Rebels didn’t just lose to Vanderbilt, they got dominated by the Commodores, 30-7.

That’s two in a row and four out of five. The ‘Dores own Ole Miss. And it’s not before World War I anymore.

“I know we’re better than that,” said Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt.

Maybe not.

Kentucky. The ‘Cats lost the Governor’s Cup to Louisville 24-17 before the home fans in Commonwealth Stadium.

Quarterback Morgan Newton passed for 255 yards, but that’s little consolation. Kentucky allowed six sacks and lost the rushing battle, 181 yards to 35.

“I’d much rather run the ball for 255 yards and throw for 35,” said Kentucky coach Joker Phillips. “Much rather. You have to run the ball to win games.”

Hmm. I wonder if Derek Dooley would rather have run for 288 yards and passed for minus-9 at Florida.

Auburn. A 38-24 loss at Clemson isn’t cause to jump off a bridge. Still, when your defense is ranked 117th out of 120 teams in the nation after giving up 624 yards, that’s depressing.

Besides, Auburn had forgotten what losing feels like. It had been since Nov. 27, 2009. The nation’s longest winning streak is dead at 17 games.

Ohio State. The scandal-plagued Buckeyes got drilled 24-6 by the only team in the nation facing more egregious NCAA allegations, Miami.

The Ohio State University passed for a whopping 35 yards against the ‘Canes, an embarrassing stat to everyone other than possibly the ghost of Woody Hayes.

Cincinnati and Louisville. You won Saturday but learned Pitt and Syracuse are bailing out of the Big East.

Which might be the death knell to your hard-won BCS status. Could it possibly be back to Conference USA? English soccer has a word for it: relegation.

Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor. With the growing likelihood of Texas and Oklahoma headed to the Pac-Whatever, the Big 12 is probably deader than the Big East.

Anybody feeling better yet?

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

Below is how the NEMS Daily Journal Nems360.Com saw it out of Mississippi:

REWIND: Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7
by Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal Nems360.Com
3 hrs 11 mins ago | 351 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vanderbilt defensive tackle T. J. Greenstone (74) brings down Ole Miss quarterback Randall Mackey (1) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 30-7. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Vanderbilt defensive tackle T. J. Greenstone (74) brings down Ole Miss quarterback Randall Mackey (1) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won 30-7. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)



Thumbs Up

Freshman Nick Brassell moved to defense during the week and played as the extra defensive back. He finished with one tackle, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and two pass break-ups.

Running back Brandon Bolden, in his first game back from a hairline ankle fracture, averaged 4.9 yards per attempt with 39 yards on eight carries.

Tyler Campbell dropped three of his six punts inside the 20 and averaged 44.5 yards on six kicks with a long of 62.

Thumbs Down

A 77-yard run allowed by the defense, penalties and poor play along the offensive line, questionable throws by the quarterback.

The Rebels could muster only 234 yards of offense, while allowing Vanderbilt 387 yards total, 281 on the ground.

The Ole Miss offense didn’t score its first touchdown against an FBS team this season until 2 minutes, 15 seconds remained. That’s when Zack Stoudt passed 47 yards to Donte Moncrief, but the game had been in hand for quite some time.

Ole Miss is 1-9 in its last 10 SEC games.

Keys To Victory

Evaluating the keys to victory in Thursday’s GameDay section.

1. Clamp down in the run game: In a carbon copy of the 2010 loss to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss was very good on many plays but bad enough on enough plays to make a huge difference.

Subtract a 26-yard misdirection run and a 77-yard touchdown by Zac Stacy and a 19-yard keeper for a touchdown Larry Smith, and the Commodores averaged 3.4 yards per attempt.

But you can’t subtract those plays, and Vanderbilt rushed for almost 300 yards, 281 total.

2. Take care of the football: In the first two games, Zack Stoudt lost fumbles that led to touchdowns. Troubling as those were, the Rebels would have been ahead of the curve if he’d have done that and no more against Vanderbilt.

The Rebels gained two fumbles and an interception but lost five interceptions – Stoudt was under heat much of the time – to finish minus-2 in turnover ratio.

3. Win third downs: Four-for-14 on third downs is not a winning ratio.

MVP Nick Brassell – The freshman showed up in the big-play categories with a forced fumble, recovered fumble and two pass break-ups. He’ll be in defensive meetings this week and will likely see his playing time increase.

Bottom Line

As bad as it was it wasn’t the largest margin of defeat for a Houston Nutt Ole Miss team. That was last year at Tennessee 52-14.

That being said, this game was worse because of the perception of the Vanderbilt program. It will be a difficult week for Nutt to keep his players focused and get them prepared to face a Georgia team in search of a convincing SEC win for its coach, Mark Richt, who has also come under fire.

Here is another view from the Daily Mississippian:

Disappointment — Ole Miss falls 30-7 to Vanderbilt



Article | September 17, 2011 – 4:12pm| By Austin Miller





NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Outplayed. Outcoached. Outmatched. The Ole Miss football team and coaching staff are looking for answers after a 30-7 loss at Vanderbilt in Saturday afternoon’s Southeastern Conference opener.

“Everything is disappointing,” head coach Houston Nutt said of the game. “I have never felt that way on a sideline. It was just not right. We didn’t have that confidence.”

The offense gained only 234 yards of total offense, while junior quarterback Zack Stoudt threw five interceptions in his first SEC start.

“We were pressing too hard, trying to make too much happen,” Stoudt said.

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt played a scoreless first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, junior running back Zac Stacy moved the Commodores into the red zone with a 26-yard gain on a statue-of-liberty run. Two plays later, senior quarterback Larry Smith scored on a 19-yard touchdown run.

Things went from bad to worse later in the second quarter. Vanderbilt pressured Stoudt and he threw his second interception of the game, which junior cornerback Trey Wilson returned 52 yards for a Vanderbilt touchdown.

Just before the half, a broken play on a backwards pass to Stacy went for 34 yards to move the ball inside the Rebels’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, freshman Jerron Seymour powered his way nine yards through the Ole Miss defense for another score. The first half came to a close on Stoudt’s third interception of the game.

Coming out of halftime, on the third play from scrimmage, junior center A.J. Hawkins snapped the ball over Stoudt’s head and sophomore running back Jeff Scott kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Commodores drove down the field and converted a 3rd-and-long on a 33-yard screen pass to Seymour. The Ole Miss defense stopped the bleeding and got off the field with senior cornerback Marcus Temple’s interception in the end zone for a touchback.

Stacy added to his career-high 167 rushing yards when he ran untouched down the Ole Miss sideline for a 77-yard touchdown run to put Vanderbilt up 30-0. In the closing minutes of the game, Stoudt connected with freshman wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a 47-yard touchdown pass to bring the final score to 30-7.

“I’ve got to let (the players) know I still believe in them,” Nutt said. “I got to do a much better job of getting them ready to go.”

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SEC East Football Preview jh11

I really think that if you took Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, you could not find ANY DIFFERENCE IN TALENT. To put South Carolina in that group in the past would have been silly. However, Steve Spurrier has them at that level now. Bringing in players the level of Marcus Lattimore is the difference. (Harry King thinks Lattimore may be Heisman material.)

I think about Tennessee’s famous November schedule. They have won about 98% of their November games in the last few years because they usually played Memphis, South Carolina, Vandy and Kentucky. Currently they hold the longest winning streak in the  country against Kentucky and everybody knows how pitiful Memphis and Vandy have been in football, but now SOUTH CAROLINA IS TOUGHER THAN THEY USED TO BE AND THERE IS NO FOR SURE WIN BY UT LIKE THEIR USED TO BE IN THE PAST.

Speaking of Tennessee, I did want to note that although I don’t think a team with only 25% of their team being upperclassmen can compete for a SEC East Championship, I do think they will upset some teams and probably make a run next year.


Dr. Bob SEC East Preview

Posted: 8/23/11 05:55 PM ET

I’m excited for the start of another football season and I’ve spent the last month doing a team by team analysis and rating of all 120 Division 1A (aka FBS) teams. My early season ratings have proven more accurate than the Vegas odds makers and last year I pegged Stanford as the 9th best team heading into the season (they were unranked), Oklahoma State rated 19th (also unranked) and had Texas (#5 ranked in the polls) as my 34th rated team. I’ve used my early season ratings to give me an edge over Las Vegas over the years and this year I want to share some conference previews with you. I will also have free analysis of almost every College game in the free analysis section at drbobsports.com.

I’ll start my previews with the SEC East and I’ll post my analysis of the exciting SEC West later this week.

(Projected SEC record 5.5 – 2.5, 1st Place East)
Georgia was much better last season than their 6-7 record suggests and the Bulldogs are my slight favorite to win the SEC East. The Bulldogs out-gained their opponents 6.3 yards per play to 5.5 yppl despite facing a schedule of teams that was 0.6 yppl better than average. Georgia was also +10 in turnover margin and had great special teams play, so going 6-7 while out-scoring your opponents by 10.0 points per game was a complete fluke aided by an 0-4 record on games decided by 7 points or less. Georgia’s offense will be led by sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation while being named 1st Team Freshman All-American.

Murray will have to adjust to life without star WR A.J. Green, who lifted the Georgia passing game from very good to great when he returned to the lineup after missing the first 4 games due to suspension. Murray was very good in the 4 games without Green, averaging 7.1 yards per pass play (against teams that would combine to allow 5.7 yppp to an average quarterback). Murray averaged 8.2 yppp (against teams that would allow 5.8 yppp) in 8 FBS games with Green in the lineup, so he’ll certainly miss his former star receiver.

I expect Murray to be a better quarterback this season but his numbers will probably be less impressive without Green’s dynamic playmaking ability. Georgia could get a boost in the running game with highly touted true freshman RB Isaiah Crowell as the main back thanks to the absence of last year’s top 2 rushers (Washaun Ealey transferred and Caleb King is out for the season with an injury). The Georgia defense hasn’t been too much better than average in recent years but this year’s stop unit has 7 returning starters and two major additions in run-stuffing DT Jonathan Jenkins (a JC transfer) and USC transfer Jarvis Jones. Georgia should improve significantly on the defensive side of the ball and their special teams will be among the best in the nation. The Bulldogs should be improved while being very likely to improve on their record in close games. Georgia will go from a losing team to a team that will be a major player in the hunt for an SEC Championship.

South Carolina
(projected SEC record 5.3 – 2.7, 2rd Place East)
South Carolina looks like the most well-rounded team in the SEC East from the line of scrimmage, but the Gamecocks will have to improve upon their horrible special teams if they want to return to the SEC Championship game. With their second game of the season being at Georgia, who has among the best special teams units in the nation, the Gamecocks will need to get it together soon if they want a leg up in the division race. There are no problems with South Carolina’s offense or defense, as the Gamecocks return the nucleus of last year’s strong attack (6.2 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow just 5.1 yppl to an average team) with QB Stephen Garcia coming back for his 4th year as the starter, sophomore RB Marcus Lattimore back after a very good frosh campaign (1197 yards at 4.8 ypr and 17 TDs) and 1st Team All-American WR Alshon Jeffery also returning after hauling in passes for 1517 yards at 17.2 yards per catch. Garcia can be turnover prone (14 interceptions last season), but South Carolina’s offense should be very good again this season.

South Carolina’s defense should be the unit that makes the difference this season, as the Gamecocks should fix some of the leaks in the secondary that allowed good quarterbacks to expose them last season. Overall, South Carolina was very good defensively in 2010, as the 5.4 yppl that unit allowed against FBS competition came against a schedule of teams that would combine to average 6.1 yppl against an average defense. The Gamecocks should be even better this season defensively with all of their key components back and with the addition of the top rated freshman defensive linemen (DE Jadeveon Clowney) and the return of LB Shaq Wilson, who led the team in tackles in 2009 but played just 1 game last season due to injury. South Carolina should be among the better teams in the nation from the line of scrimmage and they should improve their special teams enough to make a run at defending their SEC East championship. I actually have South Carolina rated as 1 point better than Georgia, but the Gamecocks face a tougher SEC schedule having to play at Georgia and having to visit Arkansas out of the West (Georgia’s tough SEC West opponent is their home game with Auburn, which is not nearly as tough).

(projected SEC record 4.5 – 3.5, 3rd Place East)
I expected Florida to be a very good team last season despite the absence of Tim Tebow, but the quarterback play was the worst in Urban Meyer’s coaching career, including his days at Bowling Green and Utah (even after compensating for level of opposing defenses faced). John Brantley was the top rated quarterback of his high school class and had two years in the system as a backup to Tebow, but Brantley was horrible in his first year as the starter. Brantley did connect on a better than average 61 percent of his passes, but the large majority of those completions were short passes (10.3 yards per completion is very low) and his 5.5 yards per pass play (including sacks) was well below even the lowest expectations (6.2 yppp is average). Overall the Gators averaged just 5.1 yards per play (against teams that would allow 5.1 yppl to an average FBS team) and the poor attack was too much to overcome, even with a very good defense (4.7 yppl allowed to FBS teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average defense) and great special teams.

The Gators start a new regime with former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp as the head coach, highly regarded offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as the OC and former NFL defensive assistant Dan Quinn taking over the defense (although Muschamp will no doubt has a strong influence on that side of the ball). Florida still has elite talent and I expect the offense to be much improved while the defense comes close to last year’s standards despite returning just 4 starters on that side of the ball. I have Florida rated only 2 points worse than South Carolina and just 1 point worse than Georgia, but the Gators have the toughest SEC schedule of those 3 teams and that will make it tough for them to win the East.

(projected SEC record 2.6 – 5.4, 4th Place East)
Tennessee will be better on both sides of the ball in year 2 of coach Derek Dooley’s tenure, but getting back to a bowl game after last year’s 6-7 season will not be easy. The Volunteers’ offense will be led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray, who played the last 8 games as a freshman and averaged an impressive 7.3 yards per pass play while facing teams that would allow 6.3 yppp to an average QB. I expect a slight drop in Bray’s production with the loss of his top 3 receivers, including Denarius Moore, who averaged 20.9 yards per catch, but Brey was much better than Matt Simms last season and overall the Tennessee passing numbers should be better.

The Vols were just mediocre running the ball last season, averaging 4.5 yards per rushing play (against teams that would allow 4.5 yprp to an average team) but I expect a slight improvement in the rushing numbers and the offense will be good if Bray cuts down on his interceptions (10 on just 224 pass attempts). The Tennessee defense allowed 5.7 yards per play (against teams that would average 5.8 yppl against an average defensive team) but that unit should be improved despite having just 5 returning starters. The run defense is still likely to be mediocre, but all 4 defensive backs return and the pass defense should be solid. Tennessee should be a few points better in 2011 than they were in 2010, but they’re another year away from contending for an SEC title and they will likely have to win all 4 of their non-conference games, or pull off an SEC upset, to make it back to a bowl game this season thanks to a brutal SEC schedule (they have to play the SEC West’s 3 toughest teams and two of those are on the road).

(projected SEC record 2.1 – 5.9, 5th Place East)
Kentucky has played in 5 consecutive bowl games, but I think that streak will end this season unless new quarterback Morgan Newton is much better than I expect him to be. Newton averaged just 4.5 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp to an average QB) on 145 pass plays as freshman in 09 and he was 0.4 yppp worse than average as the starter in Kentucky’s bowl game against Pittsburgh last season (4.9 yppp against a Pitt defense that would allow 5.3 yppp to an average QB). Without last year’s top receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews I don’t see Newton being better than average on a compensated yards per pass play basis. The good news is that Newton has thrown only 3 interceptions on 191 career pass plays, as he usually tucks the ball and runs with it rather than forcing throws into traffic.

Last season’s rushing attack was way down even with 4 returning linemen and stars Derrick Locke (887 yards at 5.3 ypr) and Randall Cobb (424 yards at 7.7 ypr) combing for 1311 yards at 5.9 ypr. Overall the Wildcats were only slightly better than average running the ball in 2010 (4.9 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.7 yprp to an average team) and they were 0.4 yprp worse than average without Cobb’s contribution running as a Wildcat quarterback. This season’s top returning back, Raymond Sanders, ran for just 254 yards at 3.7 ypr as a freshman last season and the Wildcats look like a below average rushing team even with 4 returning starters on offensive line. While I think Kentucky’s offense will go from 0.6 yards per play better than average to a bit worse than average, the defense should be much, much better with the loss of only one full-time starter from last year’s team. The Wildcats allowed 5.9 yards per play in 2010 (against teams that would average 5.6 yppl against an average defensive unit) but I project Kentucky at 0.3 yppl better than average this season. Overall, I don’t see Kentucky being much better than an average FBS team, and that’s not nearly good enough to compete in the SEC.

(projected SEC record 1.9 – 6.1, 5th Place East)
New head coach James Franklin insists he’s going to turn Vanderbilt’s football fortunes around and he has plenty of experience to work with (19 returning starters plus both kickers), but the Commodores need to greatly improve their pass attack if they have a chance at respectability this season. Incumbent QB Larry Smith was horrible as a sophomore, rating at 2.2 yards per pass play worse than average (3.7 yppp against teams that would allow 5.9 yppp to an average QB) and he was equally horrible last season (3.9 yppp against teams that would allow 6.1 yppp). Smith runs the ball pretty well (429 yards on 76 runs last season), but he’s simply not accurate enough (47.6 percent career completions) to lead the offense to much success.

There was hope that Jordan Rodgers could take over, but Rodgers hasn’t looked good in scrimmages, completing just 7 of 16 passes for a paltry 43 yards and 2 interceptions in the 1st scrimmage and he also struggled last Saturday in the final scrimmage. It looks like Smith will be back at quarterback and it doesn’t appear as if he’s gotten any better either based on the two scrimmages. Overall Vandy QB’s combined to complete just 23 of 48 for just 264 yards in first scrimmage and were even worse last Saturday. Vanderbilt does have two proven running backs in Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, who combined for 790 yards at 5.5 ypr last season, but the offense will only work if the quarterback play vastly improves. Vanderbilt’s defense should go from slightly worse than average (5.9 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl) to better than average against both the run and the pass with a much more experienced unit (8 returning starters this year and just 4 last year) and a good secondary. Vanderbilt gets Kentucky at home and that’s their chance to get out of the SEC East basement.

I’ll post my analysis of the exciting SEC West Division later this week and will post the other major conferences as the season approaches.


Florida Gators’ Tim Tebow grips religion as firmly as a football

Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tim Tebow had watched and admired Texas quarterback Colt McCoy from afar for quite some time, so when the two finally met last month, Tebow was excited about the opportunity. But their first conversation wasn’t about which country music star each has on his iPod (although that came later) or who plays on the better team. It was about God and the profound faith each publicly professes on a regular basis. “No. 1 what I like about him is his strength to show his faith and not be ashamed of that,” Tebow said. “We’re very similar in that way. And I wanted to compliment him on his beliefs and how he’s not ashamed to show it.”

A few days after that awards show at Lake Buena Vista, Tebow, McCoy and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford were getting ready to step into the auditorium at the Nokia Theatre in New York before the Heisman Trophy ceremony began. McCoy and Bradford were nervous. They hadn’t been there before. Tebow, who won the Heisman last season, calmed them both by telling them to enjoy the moment. And if they should win, he reminded them, remember to give thanks to who deserved most of the credit.

“I just said give credit to God and represent for him,” the Florida quarterback said. “I really tried to (stress) that the whole time. I talked to them two or three times about it.”

And so when Bradford stepped onto the stage to accept his Heisman, one of the first things out of his mouth was giving thanks to God.

For Tebow, the son of Christian missionaries whose father, Bob, runs an orphanage in the Philippines, in good times and bad, no matter where he is or whom he meets, his faith is what guides the way. After the September loss to Ole Miss, Tebow gave the now-famous postgame speech to reporters in which he promised that he and the Gators would outwork every other player and team in the nation.

He ended it in much the same way he does many of his interviews — with “God bless.”

“Tim understands, we’re here for a reason,” said McCoy, the Heisman runnerup. “God has blessed us. He has given us the ability to play, to compete. And we just want to be a light for him out there.”

Holding firm to faith

On the September day the Gators walked off in agony after their loss to then-unranked Ole Miss, all eyes were on Tebow. It was he who had been stopped on a crucial fourth and 1 that ended the comeback hopes.

As he walked off the field, underneath his teary eyes, painted in white on his eye-black patches, was: Phil 4:13.

The Philippians 4:13 verse reads: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

He wears it in every game. It is, in essence, a guideline for his life.

“He doesn’t do it for show or for people to talk about,” sophomore offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey said. “It’s just a way to show what he’s about, what he believes, how he lives. It’s really that simple.”

After that loss, Tebow reminded his teammates that everything happens for a reason. God has planned it that way. Their goal was to find the good in the loss and turn it to their advantage.

Again, his faith never wavered.

“It’s who he is,” senior receiver Louis Murphy said. “You don’t question that. You respect it.”

Which is why Tebow can walk the very fine line of always publicly professing his faith, yet somehow never offending.

“He doesn’t fear anything,” UF coach Urban Meyer said. “A lot of people take their heart out, rip it out of their chest and lay it on the table. I’m not willing to do that, and certainly not my family. But Bob (his father) is that way, and Pam (his mother) and their whole family. They have such a strong faith. In this world of hypocrisy, there’s none (with them).”

Meyer admits he had heard about Tebow’s strong beliefs, and when he first met him, he was skeptical.

“I was like okay, come on, the Philippines, c’mon give me the real gig here,” Meyer said. “You want a hat? What’s the deal? But it’s true. It’s all from the heart. I love that guy. I’ve never met one like him.”

Tebow understands that being the starting quarterback at Florida has given him a platform to tell others about his faith in a unique way. His high profile is what got him into Florida state prisons last summer to talk about Jesus. Talk of his faith is what caused a large group of men to convert.

“For me, I just want to be a good role model, like (former UF quarterback) Danny Wuerffel was for me and several other guys that I looked up to,” Tebow said. “I want to be someone that kids can look up to in today’s society.”

In this era, church attendance in many places has waned. Why has Tebow been able to stand out with his faith without opposition?

“I really think a lot of it is because he’s just a good person,” said Matt Hayes, national college writer for the Sporting News. “There’s so much negative about sports in general these days: from off-field issues, to coaches breaking contracts, to the daily police blotter report. Here you have a guy like Tebow who not only is one of the elite players in the nation, but is genuinely someone who looks for the good in people and wants to help. That’s not to say there aren’t other players who don’t think/feel/act the same way, but Tebow’s success on the field has put him in position to be recognized for what he accomplishes off it.”

And it’s not something Tebow takes lightly.

Just a regular guy

So how does a star player who is so grounded in his faith manage to remain the most popular guy on the team, never isolating himself from others?

By being just one of the guys.

In his rare off-time, Tebow isn’t standing on a corner waving a Bible and a sign condemning nonbelievers to hell. But he is working prison ministries, traveling to foreign countries to give his testimony and volunteering for those less fortunate. He holds Bible studies and participates in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Former roommate Tony Joiner often participated in the Bible study, which he admitted even surprised him. Tebow listens to Kenny Chesney and tells jokes like everyone else.

“He’s just a regular guy,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “To us, that (his religion) is just Tebow. That’s who he is, so it doesn’t seem unusual. And everybody understands that.”

Added Murphy: “I can’t explain it any better than this: He’s a great God man, and everything falls in line for him because of the way he lives.”

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s eye-black patches remind him: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s eye-black patches remind him: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”