Readers’ Choice IV: Quarterback battle to be focal point of Florida Gators 2015 spring practice

By Adam Silverstein
March 9, 2015

For five days from March 5-9, OnlyGators.com has handed a guest editor role over to you, the loyal reader. This is the fourth of five Readers’ Choice posts covering topics you want to know more about concerning the Florida Gators athletics program.

Submit your requests via e-mail, Twitter or this comment section.

Florida’s quarterbacks will be springing forward in a different way come March 11 as second-year signal callers Treon Harris and Will Grier will once again do battle in spring practice. This time, instead of Harris and Grier fighting to become Jeff Driskel’s backup, they will be vying for the starting quarterback job, one that has yet to be filled by a game-changing player since Tim Tebow graduated in 2009.

Harris won that showdown in 2014, though Grier – who hoped to redshirt his freshman season in order to gain experience and seasoning – ultimately got his wish and was not broken up about the decision, a source told OnlyGators.com last season.


Those that entered the 2014 campaign with a long-lasting distaste for Driskel fawned over Harris when, in the season opener against Eastern Michigan, he threw two passes and completed both for touchdowns – one 78 yards, the other 70 yards. His 1,051.6 quarterback rating was joked about as a king-making performance for Harris, and his calm under pressure after replacing Driskel at Tennessee – completing 2-of-4 passes for 17 yards and leading Florida to a come-from-behind 10-9 win – gave fuel to the growing spark of him stepping in for Driskel for good.

That happened against Missouri, and UF finished the season 4-3 under Harris with the rookie signal caller completing just 48.6 percent of his passes for 835 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions over those last seven games. (Harris also carried the ball 68 times for 307 and three touchdowns in those contests.)

In other words, while Harris was an admirable back-up, he certainly fell short of cementing himself as the starter in 2015, especially under a new head coach in Jim McElwain who expects a lot from his quarterback.

That’s where Grier comes in.

Despite not having any collegiate experience, Grier put together quite the resume in high school, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 14,565 yards, 195 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, never having a year with fewer than 49 scores or more than 11 picks. The knock on Grier is that he was overrated as a prospect with his gaudy numbers supposedly inflated because Davidson Day High School (Davidson, North Carolina) played in Division III during his sophomore season and Division II during his last two years, all three of which resulted in state titles for the private school.

As a means of juxtaposition, Harris also led Booker T. Washington High School (Miami) to consecutive state titles but did so at the highest level of competition in Florida.

Those statistics and accolades aside, Grier holds what could amount to an important advantage over Harris: prototypical size.

Simply put, Grier is larger (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) than Harris (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) and can certainly add 15-20 pounds to his frame. Over the last 12 years – as an assistant head coach, offensive coordinator or head coach – McElwain has never started a quarterback shorter than 6-foot-2 or weighing less than 215 pounds.

Grier has also been clean off the field, while Harris dealt with sexual assault allegations (which were completely withdrawn) and a misdemeanor charge for driving without a license (marijuana was also found in the car) last season.

“We got to understand that there’s certain things that – especially at the quarterback position – we need to do to affect people in a positive way,” McElwain said in late December.

But while the battle between Harris and Grier will undoubtedly be the focal point of Florida’s spring practice, which begins on Wednesday, expecting a resolution by the 2015 Orange & Blue Debut on April 11 is likely foolhardy.

McElwain has no reason to end the competition, and it would likely take a major development – obvious breakthrough by one of the players, injury, etc. – to get him to name a starter for a game more than four months away.

So over the next four weeks, the names Harris and Grier – perhaps even redshirt junior Skyler Mornhinweg, on occasion – will be the subjects of questions and answers, rumors and speculation. And in the end, it will likely all be for naught with the defining parts of spring practice closed and McElwain almost assuredly keeping the all-important decision in-house as long as possible.

Then again, if you recall, he thinks he can win with anyone behind center.

“You got to understand this. I believe I can win with my dog Clarabelle. That’s the attitude. There’s good players here. [Coaching them up is] just our responsibility,” he said at his introductory press conference.

So there you have it, a look at Florida football’s upcoming quarterback battle, per reader request. Be sure to check back soon for the last OnlyGators.com Readers’ Choice installment heading into McElwain’s introductory press conference for spring practice on March 10.

16 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    I expect that they are both good football players and that McElwain will find a way to have both of them contribute to turning our program around.

    As for Grier’s impressive HS career, there have been a lot of great college football players who have hailed from small HS programs, so the “competition level” knock and singling out Grier as being “overrated” before he’s even taken his first collegiate snap is laughable.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      To me, his HS competition level wasn’t the concern so much as his wanting to be red shirted. Who asks to be red shirted?

      “Play time? Nah coach, I’m just happy to be here.”

      Maybe it’s left over Driskel effect but, I’m already questioning Grier’s competitive desire.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Grier was having back problems in camp. There’s a lot of learning to be done at the QB level. A kid willing to accept a redshirt in order to get healthier, stronger and smarter to play the most important position on the team doesn’t necessarily reflect the lack of a competition edge to me. Wisdom, patience and the willingness to sacrifice short term gratification for the long term betterment of the team might be better ways to describe that decision.

        But we’ll see how competitive Grier is. Time will answer all of these questions. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

      • G2 says:

        The guy is a realist, coming in at 178 pounds. Who can compete in the SEC at that size? He still needs another 20 pounds on top of his current weight to take that kind of pounding.

  2. gatorboi352 says:

    “especially under a new head coach in Jim McElwain who expects a lot from his quarterback.”

    *looks back at Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron*

    Hmmm…

  3. ntcrze says:

    Michael Jones “Driskel is an NFL talent. He WILL play at the next level. I think a lot of folks have short changed him here due to his injuries and his OC philosophies so far. I think if the line is halfway decent this season, it could be a very good season, and also think Driskel could shine so much he could be a Heisman candidate. He has that within him, and with Roper calling the plays (if WM allows him total control) I think this is perfect situation now for Driskel, not to mention he has yet another season ahead of him that the schedule will be much more favorable than it is this year.”
    “You are 100% correct, Mr. Ken (CA). Everything you said was dead on. One of the best takes I’ve read in awhile, especially on Driskel.”
    It’s obvious, from the above comments, that your knowledge about a good quarterback is severely lacking. Maybe Grier will be a good quarterback, but his failure to beat out Harris this past year is not an encouraging sign since Harris has not shown himself to be anything special yet. We’ll see, but you lack credibility from your own words that pump up an awful quarterback like Jeff Driskel.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Driskel’s collegiate career isn’t over yet. He had a good 1st year (something his detractors conveniently forget), he has all the physical tools, and he’s had some of the worst coaching in college football. Come back in about 14 months and we’ll discuss whether I was right about him.

      As for Grier, I haven’t evaluated him. How could I? How could you? He hasn’t played a single down yet, lol. I only said that the competition level criticism was not appropriate at this stage of his career.

      As for Harris “beating him out,” Grier had a bad back. Furthermore, Roper came in here and the first thing he did was go all-out to recruit Harris, so I’m not shocked that Roper was enamored with Harris over Grier.

      We’ll see how it all plays out.

      By the way, I’m flattered that you apparently keep a scrapbook of my old postings. You apparently have even less of a life than I do.

      • 305Gator says:

        Michael you hit the nail on the head, his ntcrze fellow has no life. Let me clue you in, ntcrze stands for nutcase, he is a full blown semihole who camps at the Gatorsports recruiting blog and now has found this site.
        Do not pay much attention to his blather.

    • 305Gator says:

      “Maybe Grier will be a good quarterback, but his failure to beat out Harris this past year is not an encouraging sign since Harris has not shown himself to be anything special yet”

      That is your version of the events however the truth is Grier wanted a redshirt season and got one.
      Speaking of lack of credibility you are the poster boy for that since you are a Criminole fan posting on several Gator sites, how pathetic is that? I am surprised you are able to do the math to post here.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      maybe you should re-read that post. There were a lot of caveats in it.

      -If the O-Line played decently – well, by any standards they were pretty terrible
      -If WM allowed Roper complete autonomy – We all know he didn’t, by his own words in some cases
      -Next Year (i.e. the up-coming schedule) will be significantly easier than this year (2014) and he could really shine with another year experience. Absolutely true, although we will never know at this point.

      The Physical tools are all there, everyone says so. Are the mental tools? That I am not so sure of anymore. Whether the injuries and bad offense got in his head or he just has slow ability to read situations, that is for him to figure out.

      He still has very good NFL potential and could have a great final season at a small school and find a place in the NFL

      • ntcrze says:

        I see that you still won’t admit that Driskel is an awful quarterback. If the offensive line was so terrible last year, as you claim, then why was Summers retained and all the praise handed out to him for the offensive line being improved? You have to admit that was the narrative given for him being the only coach retained. As for Roper not being allowed to run the offense, not once did Muschamp say that he didn’t have full control of the offense. If you think Muschamp, who was on a hot seat to begin with, didn’t allow Roper to do whatever he wanted on offense, I think you are wrong. It’s one thing to want to run a up tempo, wide-open offense, it’s quite another if you don’y have the talent to do so. I think we saw what type of offense Roper wanted to run in the opener against Eastern whatever. But even in that game, against a vastly inferior opponent, we still saw some of the same things from Driskel that he’d always done, namely be a bad quarterback. If your quarterback can’t read a defense, which Driskel never could, and he’s prone to screw up, like Driskel always did, how can you have a wide open offense. It wasn’t Muschamp, or any of the offensive coordinators, that was the reason Driskel sucked. Driskel sucked because he was Jeff Driskel and couldn’t play a lick. Why do you think he transferred? It’s not because he can play big boy football, it’s because he needed to go to some directional school to even have a chance to play. Your comments about Driskel being a Heisman candidate were a joke, and you’re not smart enough to accept your losses now, you want to double down on a colossal bust like Driskel. It’s time to say uncle and leave the evaluating of quarterbacks to those who actually know what they are talking about.

        • 305Gator says:

          You are one pathetic loser spending your time trolling several Gator sites. When are you going to grow up and get a life. Why does a semihole clown care that a Gator fan had high expectations of Driskel? That is not your place to come to a Gator site and call the faithful out. Adam already banned another criminloe troll like you, be careful you may be next.

          • ntcrze says:

            It sounds like you are the type of person that doesn’t like to hear the truth, instead you want to live in a fantasy land where the truth is to be avoided if it interferes with your fantasy. There’s a reason UF hasn’t won even a division title in the past five years, and an awful player like Jeff Driskel is one of the reasons for that. Tim Tebow has run out of eligibility, and the fact is that UF’s quarterbacks have been awful since he left. It doesn’t make any difference why, excuses don’t win games. Like Col. Jessup said, it appears you can’t handle the truth, can you?

            • 305Gator says:

              You misunderstand. I don’t care about Driskel. It’s not about the “truth”either. Why do you feel the need to constantly comment about anything Gator? You are a nole troll. Go comment about the criminoles.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        Actually Ken, the O Line played rather respectfully last season, making Driskel’s regression even more puzzling. He was a broken player.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          I don’t disagree that he is “broken”. He is in his head too much now and maybe the change of scenery and lighter level of competition will help get him straight again. I wouldn’t agree that the O-line played “respectable”, however. There were times they played well, but they couldn’t sustain drives all season long due to poor play. The pass protection was very poor and they frequently would break down against the run (see LSU game). They put a great run protection game together against UGA, but there really was no other game they played a complete game, and often not even a complete drive. They were definitely improved, but respectable, I don’t see. I was quite surprised that the one coach they decided to retain was Summers, and I wonder if it was primarily for recruiting purposes knowing how much help the line would need and ho many connections on the trail he had already made, and wonder if he will be retained long term.

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