Heisman Trophy winner and national champion Tim Tebow returns to Florida on Sunday, when he takes his first snap as the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins at SunLife Stadium.
The way the winless Fins are playing, the beloved former University of Florida star who hails from the Jacksonville area may have a home-crowd advantage.
Denver coach John Fox benched veteran Kyle Orton and put Tebow in for the second half against San Diego two weeks ago. On the strength of that showing, Tebow moved into the starting position during the Broncos' off week.
Asked how he expects the former Gator star to respond Sunday, Fox said, Were gonna find out. He has that kind of leadership ability and you saw that in the second half of the San Diego game. He did spark our team and were hoping for more of the same moving forward.
Tebow, a bruising runner, could find the going tough against the Dolphins, whose rushing defense ranks a respectable 12th in the NFL, giving up just 107 yards per game.
Miami is more vulnerable through the air, surrendering 284 yards passing per game -- ranking 29th in the league. But Tebow, never considered a traditional thrower, will be hampered by the recent trade of Denver's best receiver, Brandon Lloyd.
Tebow's QBR (a complex NFL formula that determines a quarterback's overall effectiveness) is 55.9 on a 100-point scale. The league average is 50, and Tebow scores five points higher than Orton. His 48.9 percent career completion rate is hardly stellar, but his QBR is 20 percent higher than it was last year.
NFL prognosticators figure Tebow will need lots of support from his running backs -- former Georgia Bulldog Knowshon Moreno and ex-Miami Hurricane Willis McGahee -- to step up the ground game.
In any event, Tebow, always a versatile playmaker and spirited competitor, figures to liven up Denver's all-around game.
"He brings energy and excitement," ESPN analyst and retired quarterback Kordell Stewart said this week.
As for Tebow himself and the Broncos' switch from Orton, the 24-year-old devout Christian simply said, "I'm here to do whatever the coaches want me to do."
The hapless Dolphins, meanwhile, are in disarray. Quarterback Matt Moore is Miami's 16th starting quarterback since Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino retired. The journeyman Moore, picked up from the Carolina Panthers, threw three interceptions in a 24-6 loss to the New York Jets last week and finished with a dismal 13.8 QBR.
At 0-5, Miami is in the running for the first selection in the next NFL draft, and all eyes are on Andrew Luck -- Stanford University's prolific QB who is on everyone's short list for the Heisman and scores of other NCAA accolades.
If Tebow, the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft, brings his winning A-Game to SunLife on Sunday, he could help move the Dolphins one step closer to landing a collegiate champion of their own.
And in one more programming note, Sunday is a big day for yet another collegiate product of the Sunshine State.
Christian Ponder, the rookie quarterback from FSU, makes his first start for the Minnesota Vikings in place of Donovan McNabb. Ponder's assignment: Beat the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.