Treon Harris named Florida’s backup quarterback, but Will Muschamp says battle will continue

By Adam Silverstein
August 26, 2014

With just four days until the season opener and plenty of roster issues yet to be completely ironed out, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp released a depth chart for the first time in nine months on Tuesday, announcing before it was published that freshman quarterback Treon Harris would be the second-string signal caller during his team’s season-opening game against the Idaho Vandals.

It will be Harris, who enrolled this summer, and not classmate Will Grier, who joined the program four months earlier for spring practice, taking snaps behind redshirt junior starter Jeff Driskel on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Yet while that was Muschamp’s decision on Tuesday, he made sure to point out on multiple occasions during his weekly press conference that it will not necessarily carry over for the duration of the 2014 campaign.

“The backup quarterback will be Treon Harris going into this game. There was really no separation from the backup standpoint. We met through the weekend and talked moving forward. I felt like Treon has some things he can provide for us offensively. That’s nothing that’s been made for the long-term,” he said.

“Going into the first game, we plan on playing Treon. That could change in game two, could change in game three. It’s a long season.”

Unfortunately, it may not be that easy for Muschamp and the Gators.

The coach has stated all offseason that he plans to play his backup quarterback in the season opener, and he reiterated that plan on Tuesday.

Harris will likely get a series or two of his own in the second quarter, and he could even be used sporadically throughout the rest of the contest with his own package of short-yardage and Wildcat-style direct snap plays.

“He presents some things and may take some hits off Jeff,” Muschamp said of Harris. “It’s a long season. That’s something that certainly Treon has done before. But he’s also a very accomplished passer, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him as far as continuing to do a lot of the similar things we’re going to do with Jeff.”

It has long been believed that offensive coordinator Kurt Roper had such a package of plays in mind when recruiting Harris, one that would give him ability to play early while Tyler Murphy backed up Driskel and Grier took a redshirt as originally planned.

Murphy’s transfer altered those plans. In order for Harris to earn that same opportunity, he needed to either pull even with or go out and beat Grier in the head-to-head competition for the No. 2 job.

After a slow start to fall camp, most of which can likely be attributed by his adjusting to the collegiate game, Harris has now done just that.

Ideally, Florida will still be able to redshirt one of its freshman signal callers at year’s end, but the plan as it exists right now – for Harris to play during the opener with Muschamp claiming the backup job not set – is murky at best.

Once Harris steps foot on the field, barring an unfortunate injury during the first third of the season, his redshirt will be burned.

If Grier were to theoretically unseat him in week two, week three or later in the season – and was then called on to replace Driskel for one reason or another – UF would then have burned the redshirts of both its freshmen quarterbacks. That is not an ideal situation for the Gators by any means.

That is why, despite Muschamp asserting that Harris is only the second-string quarterback for week one and not necessarily the rest of the season, it will be exceedingly more difficult with each passing week for Grier to unseat him.

“I think that Will and Treon are both very talented players [but] there’s some things that we felt like [Harris] could provide for us offensively, maybe in some short-yardage situations, some red zone,” Muschamp noted.

“He’s done a nice job with some command things. There wasn’t really enough separation as far as that position was concerned, but he deserved the opportunity and we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

So how exactly did Harris beat out Grier, and what does it say about Grier that he had more time in the offense but ultimately lost the competition?

Unlike Grier, who dominated small private schools during Division II and Division III high school competition in North Carolina, Harris spent his formative years playing at Florida’s Class 4A level with Booker T. Washington High School, leading his team to back-to-back state titles before enrolling at UF.

His teammates have noticed the experience and noted the resulting benefit.

“[Harris] has just showed some emerging leadership signs, which is probably why Muschamp gave him the backup job,” explained redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor. “He has great elusive ability and can throw in the pocket and on the run. He makes quick decisions, which are very effective in this offense.”

Ultimately, Harris is better prepared for the difficulty of college football has been tested more throughout his career than Grier has to this point.

There is no discounting Grier’s high school success, but the change in level of competition has certainly been more drastic for him, which is one reason why he and ex-offensive coordinator Brent Pease thought it would be best for Grier to take a redshirt year when he first committed to the program.

If Harris can hold onto the backup job and the Gators’ quarterbacks stay healthy this season, Grier may get that redshirt after all.

No matter how the rest of the season unfolds for the freshmen, Harris and Grier will have a mentor in Driskel who is well-versed with quarterback competitions and handling the situation the right way.

Muschamp said he spoke to Driskel for a while Monday about helping “these guys through a very tough time.” Driskel appears gung-ho to offer advice based on his experience competing with Jacoby Brissett for two seasons.

“They’re going to keep competing. They’re going to keep battling. I’ve told all the other guys that this isn’t a permanent thing. It’s week-to-week. Just stay involved and keep getting better and don’t hang your head,” he said.

“When you’re a freshman, you can’t worry about that. You got to worry about getting better yourself. It’s tough to do. You start thinking about the future, which you shouldn’t be doing as a freshman. It’s just human nature.

“Young quarterbacks and young players in general have to worry about themselves and not the depth chart as much.”


  1. Michael Jones says:

    I am always concerned when a coach has an alleged “special package” for a QB. “Special package” usually means less plays than what are in the playbook. A “special package” is limited, and it doesn’t take very long for SEC def coordinators to figure out exactly what is coming when the “special package” QB (wink wink. . he’s running the ball) comes into the game.

    I saw that with Burton in the pussy cat format and I’m hoping like heck that they don’t make this kid a sitting duck too.

    To make it more confusing, probably at this stage of their careers neither Harris nor Grier can either pass OR run better than Driskel, so why have the drop off at all of having a so-called “special package?” The pussy cat formation with Burton was a backwards-moving offense-killer for us. I hope that they don’t set-up this kid for failure in the same way.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Tebow had a special package his freshman year, spelling Leak. Wouldn’t have won at Tennessee that year without him, and wouldn’t have won a title that year without it either.

      • Michael Jones says:

        That’ll be great if Treon Harris is as good as Tim Tebow and Kurt Roper is as good as Dan Mullen. But for the most part, “special packages” are gimmicky and have short (if any) success duration once the surprise factor is over because defenses figure them out pretty quickly.

        For that matter, a “special package” QB and a 2nd string QB are two different things. A 2nd string QB is the guy who can come in for the starter and run the teams’ offense. A special package QB only runs a limited number of plays designed for his special skill set.

        I’m not saying that 1 guy can’t be both, just saying that they are 2 different things, and sometimes they are 2 different players.

  2. Daniel M. says:

    Wow! The Google survey is showing up on YOUR site Adam? Been seeing this [elsewhere] for a while, ALWAYS answer questions incorrectly.

    • Yes. Instead of charging you all for site access, I have decided to include Google Consumer Surveys on any posts that take me longer than 45 minutes to write.

      There may be a way in the near future to bypass the surveys by contributing to the site, as hundreds have done already.

      • Daniel M. says:

        I’d be happy to contribute to your site (as I have already done multiple times) instead of being profiled by Google. I know you are resisting charging people but you deserve to be compensated for the incredible effort you put forth. I have no idea how much revenue this site creates from advertising but I hope you are being rewarded handsomely.

        Please institute a pay system that I and many others will gladly pay for. And during this conversation I tried to click the “show some love” link to make another contribution to your stellar website. It doesn’t work, again. A rare moment when I’m actually frustrated that I can’t give somebody money.

        • The only reason that button would not work is if you either try to click it within the first 10 seconds of the page loading OR you have a ad blocker on…which is another thing that drains revenue from the site.

          I understand the concern with Google, but they’re profiling you all over the web and the survey is the least of your worries in that regard.

          Please check your e-mail for an answer to the other question.

          • Ken (CA) says:

            Nice that you recognize how dangerous google is. Without getting political in this chat, they really dangerous with the information they collect and their affiliations and who they choose to give information to. It is impossible to totally avoid google in the web due to their influence, but I try to avoid using anything google at all. GMail, searches, anything when I can. I don’t like MSFT much more, but I prefer to search through Bing rather than Google, even though they don’t search as well (as no one does, no one else has someone like Ray Kurzweil doing their AI)

      • Ken (CA) says:

        Glad you ended it the way you did Adam, I was gonna say as a member, it would be really nice to not get the surveys, autoplay ads, etc. One of key features often of privilege paying for sites is they skip most ads. That would be a nice perq (and yes all, it is perq, not perk, as it is short for perquisite)

        • The ads on the sidebar will 100% be gone for paying contributors. That’s not a problem. Count on it.

          Special coding needs to be done for some other things.

          • Ken (CA) says:

            lol you are up late tonight on the right coast to respond that fast, but that is nice to know (and now that have paying folks, may want to shift the login up toward the top rather than near the bottom so can quickly be sure logged in as user)

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I don’t often agree with GB complaints, but he is right on this one. There is nothing wrong with a “specialty” package to accommodate special skills, as was shown by Tebow. Gives him time to learn the whole system while playing to his strengths and helping the team.

  3. Michael J. says:

    No surprises on the depth chat except for Burton being the starter at tight end. I hope Harris gets to play early, as I’ve said before, I don’t think Driskel will remain the starter for very long after the Gators start playing good teams. What I’m interested in seeing, since the competition is so bad in the first couple of games, is whether UF has become a more disciplined team this year. We’ll know that by the amount of penalties called on UF. If it is low, UF may have a chance against Alabama. Alabama has quite a few question marks, and I think they are ranked very high based on past years, not the actual team fielded this year. If UF can get away from making so many stupid penalties this year, I’ll be encouraged. Especially on offense, since that’s what Roper was brought in to do, namely make Florida an efficient offense. Duke was a very poised offense that got flagged rarely, I hope we see that happen Saturday night. I do know it was very irritating to hear Muschamp’s reply to someone’s question about being heavily penalized last year. His response? He didn’t address the problem, he just said UF getting a lot of penalties was nothing new, that it had happened before he got to Gainesville. It’s things like that that continue make me doubt that he’s suited to be a head coach.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      I think you are way off on that comment. 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.

      • Michael Jones says:

        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.

  4. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    I coached at 4A Booker T. Washington with Coach ICE and his sons who are a fixture in both the Program, School,and Community. Coach Harris aka Coach ICE who is now is at the UM program as a Recruiting Consultant. I”be seem Harris play in person and on both sidelines,and stands. I can Vouche he has great instincts, has leadership qualities, and has played against tougher and better prepared competition for next level Football than Grier…. I like Both Young Men and we are ALL Gators… But, I strongly suspected due to Grier Size and level of competition in next level a Redshift for Grier would be better…..

    P.S No matter the Backup at this moment and in every type of weather we are ALL Gators!!!! GO GATORS

    • Michael Jones says:

      When Grier committed we were all excited. Then when Pease was fired we all held our breaths and crossed our fingers that Grier would continue to honor his commitment and he did. Now Harris is the new kid on the block and we have all become experts on the level of competition Grier–our one time but short lived golden boy–faced in H.S. and how all of the sudden he is not as good a choice as Harris. Makes me laugh.

      But that’s the nature of Gator fans and QB’s. We’re quick to love and quick to kick to the curb.

      We’ll see how it all plays out. I’m sure Grier’s head must be spinning. I’m guessing that all through the recruiting process he was told “You’re our guy!” And then, later, Harris was probably told the same thing. Gives me a whole new slant on kids who transfer. You will never hear me refer to them again as disloyal. The institutions clearly have no loyalty to the kids and the promises they make during the recruiting process, so why should the kids have any loyalty to the institution? It’s every man for himself, baby. . dog eat dog.

      I suspect that we were able to land 2 pretty talented young QB’s in both Grier and Harris and that none of us have any clue as to which one is better. Like I said, we’ll see how it all plays out at the end. Hopefully they will both have great careers.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        Maybe Harris is just flat out performing better than Grier, side by side in practice.

        It speaks volumes when a HC like Will who is the most loyal of all coaches I’ve seen at Florida, give Harris, the late comer, the nod over Grier the “program first” early enrollee. Sometimes you’re just better than the guy next to you.

        Other times, you’re just quicker on your feet behind a line that was as strong as a wet paper bag at holding back a D line, as was the case when Driskel “beat out” Brissett.

        • Michael Jones says:

          Yeah, that could have happened. A unicorn could have run across the practice field too. Except for the coaches say there has been no separation between Grier and Harris and nobody has reported seeing a unicorn running across the practice field.

          The “Muschamp is the most loyal” line is more classic GB fabrication. You seem to be one who is happy to supply facts that don’t exist to support your argument (see, e.g., your total fabrication of Driskel’s turnover totals). Go back to your happy place.

  5. aziatic41 says:

    -Michael Jones

    Treon Harris is a quarterback not just an athlete. Muschamp is basically saying that he will let Treon play to give the offense more wrinkles and defenses more to prepare for. Anything to move the football. The difference between Treon and Burton is that Treon can throw. If you have Treon, Taylor, and Jones all in the backfield at once, and then the defense automatically think its a run, you’ll all of sudden have a great opportunity to execute an explosive passing play down field. That is what Roper’s main plan is by playing Treon. Create some stress points for the opponents.

    • Michael Jones says:

      I get all that. It all sounds great. But Burton could throw too. He completed 64.7% of his passes and had a 103.8 passer rating, but the dummies never let him throw the ball out of the pussy cat.

      Look, I’m not wanting to be the voice of dissension here. I hope it all works out great for everybody.

      • Michael Jones says:

        And, I have to ad that Burton was a pretty accomplished H.S. QB too.

        I don’t know how everybody on this site suddenly became a Treon Harris expert. Maybe he’s a QB, maybe he’s an athlete. Same is true for Grier. He might be a QB, or he might be an athlete. We don’t know yet and we won’t know until they’ve produced a body of work at the Div. I level.

        There is so much that none of us know about this subject yet we talk as if we’re experts on Harris and Grier, like we’ve all seen in person every game these two kids played in H.S. Give me a break.

  6. Rakkasan says:

    I remember Meyer saying something about players coming from big time high school programs having a leg up on players from smaller schools. Of course Tebow was the exception.