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GAINESVILLE -- Quarterback Tim Tebow's most important lessons this spring aren't coming during the Florida Gators' regularly scheduled practice dates. Behind the scenes, Tebow is working with quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler to improve his mechanics and learn the footwork of an NFL passer.
This past weekend, Gator Clause received a rare insider's look at the one-on-one interaction between Tebow and Loeffler. Not only did I get a chance to observe Loeffler working with Tebow on the footwork, arm action and timing for myriad combinations of drop-back, roll-out and play-action passes, I also had the opportunity to compare Tebow's skills to NFL quarterbacks.
Detroit Lions quarterbacks Drew Henson and Drew Stanton flew to Gainesville last Friday to work with Loeffler, who coached them last season in Detroit. The Lions' mini-camp begins next week and Henson and Stanton wanted to polish their skills before battling with each other for a spot on the depth chart. It will be a competitive mini-camp in Allen Park, Mich., considering Daunte Culpepper apparently dropped 30 pounds this offseason to position himself as the team's starter. Of course, things will get even more interesting if the Lions draft former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the No.1-overall pick.
ANYWAY, Tebow practiced with Henson and Stanton on Friday evening inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida receivers Frankie Hammond Jr., Aaron Hernandez and Carl Moore caught the passes. Loeffler walked Henson, Stanton and Tebow through dozens of scenarios from 10-yard outs, to 20-yard comebacks, to 25-yard sideline throws. To an untrained eye, Tebow still has plenty of work to do but his arm strength on Friday appeared on par with the abilities of Henson and Stanton.
The intricate footwork of an NFL quarterback is important and Loeffler stressed the mechanics of the fluid, deliberate and exacting movements needed when taking a snap from under center. From what I observed, Loeffler wasn't concerned with changing Tebow's arm motion. (On deep routes you could tell the difference between Stanton's quick delivery and Tebow's slightly slower arm motion.) Instead of tinkering with Tebow's throws, Loeffler was teaching Tebow how to get into the proper position to complete a perfect pass: simplifying and streamlining the movements, reducing time-consuming and unnecessary body motions, etc...
Loeffler counted out the steps of Tebow's transition of taking the snap to pump faking, to faking a hand off, to dropping back in the pocket. Imagine a dance choreographer walking a dance troupe through the motions of a new routine. "One, TWO ... three, FOUR ... pump fake ... five, SIX ... seven, PASS."
The most important thing to take away from this post is the fact that Tebow is working every day with a quarterbacks coach who is so highly regarded that his former players fly thousands of miles just for a quick tune-up. Henson, who played at Michigan under Loeffler, told me on Friday that Loeffler is the best at what he does. Loeffler also coached Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in college. Tebow is in good hands.