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ALL ABOUT FLORIDA, BUT ...

Tim Tebow's declaration won't stop talk that he's adjusting his game to prepare for the NFL.

When Florida quarterback Tim Tebow passed up a chance to play in the NFL to return for his senior season, the prevailing theory was he wasn't just returning for a shot at a second Heisman Trophy and a third national championship.

He needed more time to prepare himself for the next level.

Despite all the honors and collegiate accomplishments, Tebow still carries the stigma that he's not NFL quarterback material.

He doesn't fit the prototype of an NFL quarterback. He's not a traditional pocket passer. He runs over opponents like a fullback. And some scouts aren't sold on his arm strength and accuracy.

"He is unique in that he has the greatest impact on any sport, but when you look at him, no one knows for sure if he's capable of playing at as high a level at the next level as he has played at this level," former NFL quarterback and longtime CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson said.

"Nobody knows for sure, and if they say they know, they are bluffing. That's what makes him unique. There's never been anyone like this in my memory where he so dominated his sport yet you don't know what happens next."

Tebow begins his final college season tonight against Charleston Southern carrying that uncertainty. Yet he insists his only goal is to be the best quarterback he can be - right now.

The NFL, he says, can wait.

But in December, when Florida hired former NFL quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler, whose resume includes working with Tom Brady, Brian Griese and Chad Henne while at Michigan, speculation began immediately that Florida would use this season to help Tebow hone his NFL skills.

It has been referred to as the remaking of Tim Tebow.

Tebow prefers to view it as a natural progression in his development.

"I think as far as us working, trying to get better, tweaking things and trying to improve things, absolutely we're doing that," Tebow said. "We've done that every year. But this year, as much or more than any other year, are we trying to get better and improve on my weaknesses and my strengths? Are we changing, improving and working on things? Yes, we are.

"But is it for the NFL? No."

With Loeffler, Tebow has focused on taking snaps under center and a hurry-up offense similar to the one Florida coach Urban Meyer loves about Oklahoma. But Meyer, Loeffler and Tebow insist there will be no wholesale changes to Tebow's game.

The extensive work he has put in to improve his overall game won't be used at the expense of the team. In fact, Loeffler said one of the first things Meyer said when he was hired is, "Just don't screw him up."

"It better not be overhauling," Meyer said. "The guy has a 60-plus percentage completion rating. Absolutely not (remaking him), it's enhancing him. Tim's a fundamental nut and so is his quarterback coach.

"He's done a great job, but it's not going to be all of a sudden, my gosh look at this guy. He'll still be Tim Tebow."

Subtle reworking

Still, Tebow has been working on improving his game, from his mechanics to his throwing motion.

He has a more compact, quicker release and is keeping his front side tighter. And he's trying to be more fundamentally sound with his foot and body position while throwing.

"Those are the things I've really focused on," he said.

According to his teammates, the changes are evident.

"He's throwing the ball much better, just his all-around game is great," Tebow's backup, John Brantley, said. "He works hard at everything, but he's improved greatly with his mechanics and throwing."

So what does that mean for the Gators and the offense fans will see?

"The people that are really into the technical end of it, they might see some things differently," Loeffler, 34, said. "I don't know if the average fan would see any differences whatsoever."

That's because there are only minor changes to the offense.

"I think maybe 10 percent will be different," Tebow said. "I think it will be the same base spread offense, and we'll have a lot of the same philosophies and a lot of the same teaching tools. I think there will be some different things as far as short yardage, some play-action, some under center handing it to the tailback. But that's minimal."

Is change necessary?

Opinions vary on Tebow's prospects for NFL success.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said: "I don't think he can be a full-time quarterback. I don't think he can be the quarterback of the future for you. But I think he could go in the third round, maybe the second.''

On the other hand, Gil Brandt, former longtime Cowboys vice president of player personnel and current senior draft analyst for ESPN.com, has Tebow as a top 10 pick.

Which is why Loeffler characterizes the transformation of the 6-3, 245-pound Tebow as routine.

"It doesn't matter if he was Joe Montana. It's the same approach that we would have," said Loeffler, who joined the Gators after one season as quarterbacks coach of the Detroit Lions. "The nature of the position is you've never arrived. You're never there.

"The Tom Bradys of the world, they're constantly working at fundamentals, footwork, technique, body position, weight transfer. We're just doing what we do."

His throwing motion might be slightly altered and his mechanics refined, but Tebow said ultimately he'll still be what has made him successful.

"We're working on things and trying to improve things, and if some of those things help me for the next level, then that's great," he said. "But people ask, 'Are you working to get ready for the NFL?' And my answer is absolutely no.

"I'm working to be the best quarterback, leader and best teammate I can be for the Florida Gators. And I'm working to be the best winner I can be for the Florida Gators. That's what I'm worried about. And if that helps me for the next level or hurts me, either way that's what I'm going to try to be."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3389.

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