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Monday, October 20, 2008
Updated: October 21, 2:59 PM ET
Reigning winner Tebow picks McCoy as Heisman front-runner

Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has picked a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and it's not last year's winner.

Each week, ESPN.com asks one of its Heisman Watch voters to explain his/her picks. Mark Schlabach explains why his current ballot includes three Big 12 QBs and two SEC players. Heisman Watch

Tebow, who could become the first player since Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1975 to win consecutive Heismans, said Monday that Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is his top choice right now.

"Being smart and just looking at guys who are having a good year, he obviously is someone to look at and would probably be my top guy I'd vote for right now," Tebow said. "He's playing extremely well and doing a great job leading his team and handles it with a lot of class, too."

As a previous winner, Tebow has a Heisman vote, and he used No. 5 Florida's off week to catch up on some of the hopefuls for college football's most prestigious award.

McCoy stood out.

The fellow junior completed 29-of-32 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores in the Longhorns' 56-31 victory against Missouri on Saturday. Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 a week earlier and took over the top spot in The Associated Press poll.

Through seven games, McCoy has completed 81 percent of his passes for 1,894 yards and 19 touchdowns. He has just three interceptions and leads the team with 371 yards rushing and six scores.

Throw in McCoy's strong religious beliefs and it's no wonder Tebow, the son of a missionary who makes frequent mission trips to the Philippines, would be a fan.

"I think he's done a great job just handling everything," Tebow said. "His interviews after the game I watched, too. Just getting to know him a little bit, I was very proud because I think he represents college football really well and handled his faith extremely well, too. He is never ashamed of that, which I respect as well, so I think he is doing a great job with everything that he is going through."

Tebow threw 32 touchdown passes last season, ran for 23 scores -- he was the first player in NCAA history to have at least 20 touchdowns passing and rushing in the same season -- and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman.

Many expected him to put up similar numbers this season, but he's well off the pace after the Gators (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) endured an up-and-down start on offense. Tebow has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,235 yards, with 10 touchdowns and one interception. He also has 179 yards rushing and three scores.

He might have put himself back in the Heisman mix with a 51-21 victory against LSU on Oct. 11. He was 14-of-21 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score.

"Tim hit some plays," coach Urban Meyer said. "I think they had an edge about them because they did not play well early in the year. Statistically, they were all right. But we didn't feel like the offense that everyone expected, including our players. Tim played very well."

A week later, Tebow appeared on ESPN's College GameDay and said he was likely to vote for Missouri's Chase Daniel. But after consecutive losses, including a head-to-head meeting with McCoy, Daniel has slipped from atop Tebow's list.

"I haven't seen everybody, but I don't think there is anybody above [McCoy] right now," Tebow said. "I'd have to look to see if there is anybody else right now, but I haven't seen anybody that's above him that's for sure."

Certainly not the 2007 Heisman winner.

"Ah, no," Tebow said. "He's OK."

Tebow knows there's plenty of time for things to change, too. After all, Boston College's Matt Ryan and Oregon's Dennis Dixon were Heisman front-runners around this time last year, and neither ended up making the trip to New York for the presentation.

Tebow made a late surge and became the third player in school history to win the Heisman. Now, he has a vote.

"I think it's cool," he said. "You have a responsibility. To have a vote for the Heisman is a pretty cool deal and something you should do wisely and have a well-educated vote."