Taking the Florida Gators’ 2015 Orange & Blue Debut at face value, considering head coach Jim McElwain’s post-game comments and reading between the lines a bit, it is not hard to see that redshirt freshman Will Grier has a leg up on sophomore Treon Harris in the team’s starting quarterback tug-of-war.
Grier, who opened Saturday’s spring game as the starter on the Orange team (which was comprised of first-team offensive players), looked poised in the pocket and decisive with his throws.
In fact, the only criticism McElwain tossed on Grier after the contest was displeasure over the signal caller getting frustrated when three perfectly-thrown balls were dropped by his pass catchers.
“I thought Will let a few of the drops kind of bother him,” McElwain said. “He’s got to learn: clap it off, come back and win the next play.”
Grier took McElwain’s comments to heart, noting that he is aware improvement is needed in that area but that his frustration was more internal, despite him showing it externally.
“When any type of adversity happens – because it does happen – I just need to be the same steady guy all the time. It wasn’t frustration that the receiver dropped the ball necessarily or anything like that. It was more just me wanting to be successful and be perfect in every aspect because I wasn’t perfect by any means today,” he explained. “[I need to] just not show that, not show any emotion and just keep it going.”
Grier’s also had a leg up on Harris in practice even before the latter quarterback was forced to miss four sessions while in Miami mourning the unfortunate death of his 16-year-old cousin. The narrow margin between the two was even tighter before he was unavoidably absent those days.
McElwain noted that Grier and Harris took the same number of snaps with the Orange (first) team on Saturday. Each did attempt nine passes on that squad, but Grier certainly looked like the more polished of the two signal callers, and he was not criticized nearly as much as Harris was after the scrimmage.
“For the most part, the quarterbacks did OK,” McElwain said.
“Treon’s got to understand the sense of urgency the closer you get down in the red zone. He’s slow with his feet. He’s got to get his feet set, ball out. Those are attention-to-detail things that help you be successful to play the position, and yet, he did some good things.”
McElwain later added: “There’s a lot of those details in the pass game that, from that position, need to get better. It showed today. It showed in practice. This was another teachable moment, which is great, because he’s got some great skills and some natural leadership ability, as [does] Will.”
Much was also made of comments McElwain made at halftime of the Gators’ spring game to the SEC Network’s Shannon Spake. McElwain made a similar criticism of Harris, only to note afterward that “Will did a pretty good job” in the area where Harris struggled.
As it stands now, McElwain claims he is nowhere near ready to name a starting quarterback, and it is unlikely that he will until Florida gets at least midway through fall practice when doing so will give that starter the additional snaps he needs to prepare for the 2015 season.
Grier and Harris, who refer to each other as brothers, will just have to keep tugging back and forth until one of them ultimately comes out on top. The key will be the Gators making the loser of that struggle understand that, especially with Florida’s thin and inexperienced offensive line, there could very well be opportunities for both to see the field this year.