I'm relatively certain that both Florida sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow and Tennessee freshman cornerback Eric Berry are working the Mystery Method on us. The amount of hype that Tebow received last year is simply astounding. Rivaling that attention this year, I believe, is that focusing on RTT No. 1 Eric Berry.
Recruiting high school players into college is a funny business. With middle of the road recruits, you generally have more hope than hype. And with the hype guys, the coaches generally embark on a de-recruiting campaign as soon as the VHTs step onto campus because their substantial egos are in the way of progress. We've all heard coaches utter ego malleations such as "[VHT] is showing talent and potential, but he's got a lot to learn before he's ready to play in the SEC."
Not so with Eric Berry, at least so far. Go google-hunting for a negative quote about Berry. Shoot, try to find even a "hold your horses" kind of quote. Nonexistent. No, it appears that the coaches feel that Berry is not only primed to seize control of a starting position at right corner in the first game against Cal, it seems that they think he's mentally ready as well. His maturity renders star-stripping unnecessary.
Now, on to the question of whether Berry can be this year's Tim Tebow. During the recruiting process, Tennessee coaches told Berry that they were developing a limited quarterback package just for him, sort of like how Arkansas uses the Wildcat package for Heisman contender Darren McFadden. My immediate thought? Eric Locke.
You remember. Locke was going to rock our world. He was going to play immediately, block every punt, and even line up to take a direct snap as quarterback. He Who Would Wow the World. (Brian, the score is one-to-one in the alliteration wars!) But what actually happened? During an offensive drive, when coaches would trot Locke in to play QB, 100,000 Tennessee fans (the rest were in the bathroom) would point and shout in frenzied anticipation, "Locke's in! Locke's in!" Unfortunately, so would the defense, and when the ball was snapped, Locke would first get nowhere and then get back to the bench.
Of course, the same thing almost certainly happened last season when Florida inserted Tim Tebow into the lineup for certain plays, with one notable exception: it worked.
Announcer: Here comes Tebow.
Every member of opposing team and scores of thousands of their fans: He's going to run left! He's going to run left!
Announcer: Tebow runs left. First down for baby rhino.
I haven't mapped this out or anything, but my general impression is that Tebow ran left effectively for the first handful of his plays, at which time he started to fake to the left and instead threw over the defense, which was cheating up in anticipation of being gored. He basically had a handful of plays that all looked the same but ended differently. Simple, yet extraordinarily effective because of Tebow's talent. And his rhino-ness.
Can't Tennessee do essentially the same thing with Eric Berry? Design one play for him behind center that we know will work regardless of whether the world knows with absolute certainty that it's coming. Do it several times and then, against a key opponent, throw in a wrinkle. Change the ending. We have a senior quarterback this year just like Florida did last year, so a bruised ego for the starter shouldn't be a concern.
Announcer: Here comes Berry.
The world: He's going to sweep left! He's going to sweep left!
Announcer: Berry sweeps left. Touchdown, baby cheetah.
Tennessee fans: [unadulterated joy]