Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said that in another year, quarterback Christian Ponder "might be where Tebow is."
As in, Florida's Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
"He can run the ball and throw it, and he's very intelligent and is making some good strides," Bowden said of Ponder. "It looks like he's about a year behind, though, in production."
A light year, maybe.
That's not a knock on Ponder, it's just a fact -- Tebow was in a league of his own last season and single-handedly revolutionized the quarterback position. There simply is no comparison for a quarterback who set the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season by a quarterback. Tebow was the only player in FBS history to rush AND pass for at least one touchdown in 14 straight games. And he was doing it against SEC opponents.
If there is a quarterback out there who is mentally and physically tougher than Tebow, he would have won the Heisman last year.
Comparing what Tebow did in his first season as starter and what Ponder is doing in his is unfair.
As a sophomore in 2007, in his first season taking over the offense from Chris Leak, Tebow ran for 23 touchdowns and threw for 32 more, with just six interceptions. As a redshirt sophomore, in his first season taking over for Drew Weatherford, Ponder has scored four rushing touchdowns and thrown 12, along with 11 interceptions.
There is no question he has shown some promise this season, but like many first-year quarterbacks, Ponder has been inconsistent. He was down against Boston College (three interceptions, completed less than 50 percent of his passes), and up against Maryland (no interceptions, only five incompletions).
Where Tebow and Ponder are similar is their ability to run. Ponder has 106 carries for 390 yards and four touchdowns. This season, Tebow has 121 carries for 427 yards and 11 touchdowns. He hasn't had the numbers he did a season ago because the Gators haven't needed him to. There are more playmakers to take some pressure off Tebow. Florida State, on the other hand, is too dependent upon its running game.
The two Atlantic Division opponents who took away the Noles' running game -- Boston College and Wake Forest -- won.
Ponder, who has already graduated, has a very bright future at Florida State and will only get better with experience. He has already proven capable of running the Noles' offense effectively, and will be more productive as he recognizes coverages quicker.
Even though it will be hard not to compare the two quarterbacks on the field in Tallahassee on Saturday, the best measure of Ponder's growth will come next year. Not against Tebow, but against his own performances from this season.