Tebow struggles to impress NFL executives

That was the signal for players on the South team, including legendary Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, to make their way to the team's red-and-black chartered bus.

Tebow was surrounded by autograph seekers near the 15-yard line. He couldn't make a jump pass from there, but he appeared sincere when he leaned over and put his arm around a little kid wearing a No. 15 Florida jersey.

"I will get you another time because we have to go now," Tebow said.

Since arriving here Saturday, Tebow has added a rock-star feel to the 60th annual Senior Bowl, which will be played at 4 p.m. Saturday.

He has signed autographs relentlessly and without hesitation.

That's also been his approach to trying to prove to the assembled NFL intelligentsia that he has pro-level skills.

They had all heard of him, his two national championships and his Heisman Trophy as perhaps one of the greatest college players ever. He did anything necessary to win games at Florida.

His legacy at Florida will last in the form of a plaque of his "The Promise" speech that coach Urban Meyer had placed outside the front entrance to the football facility at Florida Field.

But in the NFL, where passing and accuracy are premium skills, experts believe Tebow will have issues.

They say his elongated delivery will tip off his passes and give cat-quick defensive backs an extra millisecond or two to jump routes and intercept his passes. His accuracy has been subpar through three practices. On Monday, you could hear scouts lined along the field moan and groan in disgust as he sailed wild passes high, wide and low.

Some observers, however, think he can succeed.

"I wouldn't bet against him," said the NFL Network's Mike Mayock, who usually doesn't filter his assessments of prospects. "I said the same thing about Vince Young a couple of years ago. He wasn't my kind of quarterback, but I wouldn't bet against him because he was such a winner. It's the same thing with Tebow."

Young was drafted by Tennessee with the third overall pick of the 2006 draft. After a solid rookie season, Young was benched in 2008. He reclaimed his starting job last season and posted an 8-2 record, which included five-game winning streak.

Some are even willing to look away from the fact that Tebow has had trouble executing the simplest of plays. After spending most of his career taking shotgun snaps, he has repeatedly dropped the snap from center in practices here.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was impressed that Tebow practiced despite having strep throat and a temperature of 105 degrees on Monday.

"As far as the intangibles go, he's like a Matt Ryan," Mayock said. "He's not anywhere near as polished mechanically as Matt Ryan, but I wouldn't bet against him. That doesn't mean he's a first-round draft pick."

Tebow is taking the attention and scrutiny in stride.

"I've been pretty used to dealing with a lot of criticism since the eighth or ninth grade," Tebow said. "I can handle it. I'm a pretty self-motivated person."

After practice on Tuesday, Tebow was swarmed again.

His agent, Jimmy Sexton, helped lead him through the matrix of reporters, fans, scouts, coaches and little kids selling candy on the field of Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Sexton took him to the sideline where he did a quick photo shoot.

The sound of the horn rings out, and the throng of folks slide with Tebow and his handlers toward the buses. He's signing autographs for and walking with those fortunate to get close enough.

Tebow is being coached by the Miami Dolphins staff. Tuesday's second day of practice went a little smoother.

There were fewer dropped center exchanges, and he threw some nice deep passes. He wasn't as crisp or on target with his short and intermediate throws.

On Wednesday, Tebow threw behind the tight end on a 20-yard seam route, but came back to deliver a nice ball on a 25-yard out route to The Citadel's Andre Roberts.

"He got the ball out of his hand with a little more urgency," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "That just tell you he competes and that this thing is actually getting slower for him."

The Dolphins’ coaches are impressed with how Tebow processes information.

"That tells you how smart of a player that he is," Sparano said. "[The game] will slow down for him a bunch, which means that’s he is going to play faster."

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, who lost some 17,000 season-ticket holders last season and had nine of 10 home games (including exhibition games) blacked out locally, has recognized Tebow's star power. He has said the team will consider drafting him. Florida governor Charlie Crist has publicly lobbied for Tebow to land with the Jaguars.

Jacksonville has an established quarterback in David Garrard, but could probably add some Wildcat shotgun formation plays to get Tebow on the field while he develops and fixes his throwing motion.

"He's a great young man," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "He came down here to work his skill-set in front of the league. It's a great time for him to showcase his abilities."

In previous years, some of the top quarterback prospects have stayed away from the Senior Bowl. Some have questioned Tebow for playing because he would be under such a microscope.

"One, I love playing football, and two, I love competing," Tebow said. "Those are two important things. I'm not worried about coming out here and failing in anyway because I'm just being myself. That's all there is to it."

He has won over some NFL executives with his eagerness to participate here. Sexton said Wednesday that he wasn't ready to announce if Tebow would take part in the passing drills at the NFL scouting combine in February.

"All the credit in the world goes to Tim Tebow for his competitiveness," Dimitroff said. "To come down here and do everything that he needed to do to show the National Football League that he is a viable candidate in this league. It's definitely a feather in his cap."

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was Tebow's offensive coordinator for part of his career at Florida, and he expects to see Tebow play quarterback in the NFL.

"Tim has proved a lot of people wrong over his career," Mullen said. "I think he's ready to do it again in the NFL."

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