Florida Gators practice update: Four injuries, three suspensions … and two quarterbacks?

By Adam Silverstein
August 22, 2015

Will the Florida Gators starting quarterback be decided before the team’s season opener against New Mexico State on Sept. 5? Only head coach Jim McElwain knows for sure, but he certainly made it seem Friday like he would feel perfectly comfortable if the gig was still up for grabs in two weeks.

“We’ll be OK if we go into [the first game] and let them kind of play and kind of go from there and see who plays under the lights the best, you know, might be a two[-quarterback situation],” he said.

That’s certainly not what Gators fans, who have been waiting five seasons to find someone they can truly believe in behind center, want to hear. Then again, what’s another week if the result is figuring out which is the right guy, especially if McElwain is legitimate in saying he sees little daylight between the two?

“Both quarterbacks moved the ones real well. I thought Treon [Harris] probably moved the twos, when he was with them, probably a little more efficiently. Will [Grier] probably had a better situational part of the scrum with both units,” McElwain began. “So those two guys are progressing, and you know, no clear separation yet. And that’s OK, that’s alright. They’re competing, they’re working and getting an opportunity to work with some different units.”

So how would rotating two quarterbacks in the opener work? McElwain did not provide that answer either, saying that throughout his career he’s pulled off such scenarios every series, couple of series, quarter, etc.

While everything is still pointing to Grier, the redshirt freshmen, ultimately editing the sophomore Harris, it is looking more likely that a starter won’t be known until game week, perhaps late Saturday night.

Four new (seemingly not serious) injuries

McElwain opened his Friday media gathering following the team’s second scrimmage with injury updates (well, kind of), two of which are certainly concerning for Florida as it looks to be at full strength entering its opener.

Junior safety Keanu Neal, a hard-hitter and returning stalwart at the position, “had a leg deal,” McElwain said, noting later that he does not believe it is a serious injury. “It’s not – they didn’t cart him off or anything. I’m just one of those guys, if you can’t go 100 percent … you know what I’m saying? I’ll tell you if the guy’s hurt. He didn’t finish the scrimmage. It was something in his leg. We’ll see. Our trainers and medical staff do a great job. They’ll get him ready. I’ll let you know as we go. I think Monday or Tuesday or whatever, I’ll have a better idea.”

Perhaps Neal can clarify the situation himself? “I’m good,” he wrote Friday night on Twitter.

Moving on then, McElwain also mentioned that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee was held out of action with a tender foot, freshman defensive back Kylan Johnson (leg) “went down” and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Kavaris Harkless, who is expected to be in the rotation up front, “went down with an ankle.” McElwain singled out Johnson as a player who was coming along and “having a great camp.”

As to the outstanding injuries, McElwain did not mention sophomore wide receiver C.J. Worton (leg), but redshirt sophomore Alvin Bailey mentioned that his position-mate was back on the field.

Redshirt freshman OL Travaris Dorsey will return to practice at the “beginning of next week,” and Florida is also expecting redshirt senior WR Valdez Showers (no injury previously announced) and redshirt junior WR Raphael Andrades (injury previously unspecified) back in action as well. In regards to what’s wrong with Showers and Andrades, McElwain provided: “They’re battling some strings there in the back in their leg.”

Of course, the Gators need as many healthy bodies as possible for the opener, considering two projected starters on defense and a 2014 starter on offense are set to miss the game while serving in-house suspensions.

Dealing with (on-field) discipline

McElwain noted Friday that he kicked a defensive lineman out of practice for committing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. “That’s how it works – he’s gone,” McElwain said matter-of-factly. “If that’s the way you’re going to act, go sit on the bench and somebody else can play. I was very upset about that, obviously.”

He later continued: “We don’t put up with it. There’s no excuse – absolutely zero. To me, it’s one of the most selfish acts somebody can do because it’s them and it’s usually because you’re weren’t going as hard as the other guy so now you’re going to be Mr. Tough Guy or whatever. And then because of your actions, you hurt the team. I just don’t see any place for that. I don’t get it. There’s no place on a football team for a selfish player. It’s that simple. We just don’t put up with it.”

McElwain refused to single out the player, of course, but noted that “he knows who he is, believe me.”
Using the opportunity to send a bigger message, McElwain addressed what many have noticed over the last handful of years: The Gators have been an undisciplined team on the field.

“Those are the unforced errors that have been the Achilles heel for a long time around here. I’m just tired of it,” he began, later adding, “That’s just what we believe in and how we’re going to run the program. We’ve got some behavior that we probably need to keep working on. What are we? The most penalized team in the last five years, six years, whatever it is? I don’t know where we sit. It’s ridiculous.”

The good news, at least according to McElwain, is those incidents have “been few and bar between” this offseason. He referred to Friday’s incident as a “teachable moment” that good teams have along the way to becoming “a disciplined outfit.”

Bits and notes

» Though the quarterbacks seem to be improving, they do not appear to be getting much help from the wide receivers. McElwain mentioned again Friday that there were “a couple drops early” in the scrimmage, which “just can’t happen.” He continued: “It has to be determined [who we can rely on]. Consistency and performance is really what it’s all about. Really, at the end of the day, these guys have the talent to do it. … We’ve got some guys there who can play, no doubt.” McElwain expects to use 6-8 wideouts per game, and he also praised the tight ends once again, noting he’s “excited about the development” in that position group.

» McElwain on freshman WR Antonio Callaway: “[He] is doing a great job, I’ll say that. He’s a guy that has come in and picked it up quickly. Still makes some rookie mistakes, like a lot of guys do, but as I’ve told him, he’s not a rookie anymore. He’s been through camp now. That’s just an example of a guy who came in with a mindset that, ‘You know what? I’m going to go out and be good.’”

» Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Caleb Brantley referred to himself as a starter in a Facebook message posted Friday night. It was phrased as if he had received the news that he had earned that role ahead of the first game.

» The roster is finally coming together, it appears. McElwain said the Gators “need to have a really good week” next week so the coaching staff can “start to pare down” a bit who is going to be on each unit. “Really looking forward to now putting all the pieces together a little bit and getting ready to play an opponent.” Whether Florida will release a depth chart more than a day ahead of the game remains to be seen, but expect a lot of “ORs” if they do.

» The Gators’ upcoming practice plan includes work on Saturday, a walk-through Sunday, a day off Monday and practice from Tuesday through the next weekend. Florida may be able to enter the indoor practice facility as early as this Saturday, but should be in there by Tuesday at the latest.

» There were two turnovers by the offense during the scrimmage, but McElwain attributed them to great secondary play. “They broke on the ball. I think we held it a little long, not quite crisp getting out of a route,” he said. “We didn’t put it on the ground with fumbles, which was good.” The Gators also threw three touchdown passes, though McElwain cautioned that a media member “could have thrown” those balls across the goal line. “You could have thrown it to the guy,” he said. “It wasn’t anything spectacular.”

» McElwain confirmed that a petition was signed to get redshirt sophomore walk-on transfer QB Luke Del Rio eligible for 2015. Though Florida has filed the necessary paperwork, it is unlikely that Del Rio gets that exemption after transferring from Alabama to Oregon State and now to UF in the last three years.

» Here’s how the Gators managed their coaches on the field and in the booth for the scrimmage. Barring a change, this is how it will be for games.

Field: Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, co-coordinator Randy Shannon, defensive line coach Chris Rumph, running backs coach Tim Skipper, offensive line coach Mike Summers

Booth: Defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan, tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Greg Nord, wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon II


  1. kaput says:

    Aren’t most all of the “inside reports” pointing to Grier being the guy? It seems everything that I’ve read – minus the drivel from the Sun, of course – has been very clear that he’s outplaying Harris.

  2. scroud says:

    I personally have no issue having two QBs. I remember when Driskel was sucking all those games. We should have put in Brisset, and then we lost him to transfer. Plus, when Driskel had to come in his freshman year, he was not ready because he was taking it easy thinking he wouldn’t play. With the high prevalance of injuries, it’s good to have two QBs and I would like to see both get playing time.

  3. Iamtheeggman says:

    “While everything is still pointing to Grier,” is a curious statement. I have no idea why anyone would say that. The only thing pointing to Grier is all the pundits and fans who have declared him the starter before fall practice even began. The reason for that has nothing to do with Grier’s performance, and everything to do with the fact that the returning starter, Harris, didn’t set the world on fire last year. It’s always the popular opinion that the player who hasn’t played is better than the one who has if the starter isn’t great.
    What is ignored or conveniently forgotten is that this bandwagon on Grier was being jumped on last year. Grier was the clear number two quarterback going into fall practice last year, yer Harris whipped his ass and was the guy who played. If you look in your history books, you won’t find a President Dewey, with the same ‘inevitability”…
    “indications were that the complete returns would disclose that Dewey won the presidency by an overwhelming majority of the electoral vote”.
    “Truman, as it turned out, won the electoral vote by a 303–189–39 majority over Dewey”
    I know everyone is hoping Grier wins, but he might lose out to the better man, it’s already happened once, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if it happens again.

    • People I’ve spoken with, those that have attended full-length practices and have seen both guys, believe Grier will be the choice. I’m not making assumptions. I’m making informed statements.

      • Iamtheeggman says:

        We’ll see, but I have a suspicion that the people you are talking to are looking with prejudiced eyes that zero in on things Grier does well and then zero in on the flaws of Harris. Think about it, didn’t those same people tell how great Driskel looked last year during this time? I’m sure you learned in college to know where the source comes from and if there is any reason to believe that their findings or reporting may be biased. It’s like expecting FoxNews to be a good source when reading about a Democratic President. Greir may win the job, but I’m skeptical of anyone who says he looks better since it’s been an almost unanimous campaign to name him the starter since the bowl game last year. Is there any writer or fan that hasn’t been hoping Grier would become the starter at UF? One thing is known, this is Mcelwain’s first big decision. Choosing a staff was huge, but, contrary to what some people think, assistant coaches are a dime a dozen, that’s the reason they are vagabonds, the vast majority changes schools like cell phones. Shannon a long time Hurricane is a t Florida, UF’s defensive line coach last year is a t FSU, etc. etc. this choice of quarterback is so critical that it may be the one that determines if McElwain is fired quickly, like Zook and Muschamp, or stays as long as he wants, like Spurrier and Meyer. No one expects Kyle Trask to come in as a true freshman and rescue Florida next year, and the only other quarterback commit, Jake Allen, doesn’t come in until 2017rand he’d be expected to also rescue Florida as a true freshman. That would be McElwain’s third year, and UF fires coaches before their fourth year is over.

        • Why even visit this site if you don’t believe what I have to say? My sources are not biased simply because I’m hearing different things than you want to believe or fit your opinion model. How about you refrain from insulting the person that works hard to put this stuff up for you.

          • Iamtheeggman says:

            I didn’t doubt what you had to say. I just told you that you should have a critical view of who is telling you information. IF folks go into watching Grier with the idea in their mind that he should be the starter, it colors their perception. As far as I know, I haven’t heard of one pundit or fan that doesn’t think, or fervently want Grier to win the job from UF’s incumbent starter. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. I think the only reason for it is because the returning starter wasn’t great last year. If the roles were reversed, if Grier had beaten out Harris last year and had a less than stellar performance, I think you’d see fans clamoring to have Harris named the starting quarterback. It’s just human nature, and there’s no need to get offended.

    • HoneyBee says:

      My thoughts exactly. What makes this qb battle different from last year? I think Grier will get the nod but, defenses are going to read him all day long. With the inconsistencies with the WRs and the 1 demential offense Grier brings, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris will have to “save the day” again. Just my thoughts…

    • Tractorr says:

      The reason I always heard that Harris was played over Grier was that Harris had the more game ready physique. What did Grier weigh last year something like 180 lbs. At 6’3″ he was a pretty skinny guy for a football player. Hopefully who ever gets the start gets it because of where they are right now and not expectations of where they might get.

      • Grier did not have the experience against top-level competition that Harris did at the high school level. If they put Grier in there last year, it could have been traumatic. But yes, he was also undersized.

  4. John King says:

    When will the 2014 foortball schedule be replaced by the new 2015 one? Thanks,

  5. Matt says:

    I thought I had read somewhere that Grier had but on some crazy amount of muscle weight this off season? Something like 40lbs???