Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain announced Wednesday that sophomore quarterback Treon Harris will start the team’s season opener on Saturday over redshirt freshman Will Grier, though all McElwain claimed to have done was decided who will take the first snap against the New Mexico State Aggies.
“Will obviously will play,” McElwain clarified. “As we said, someone starts, someone comes in. Both of them, I feel, [are] deserving of it. Both of them had a really good spring and fall, and we’re excited about seeing them both of those guys play. Treon will go out and take the first snap.”
McElwain cautioned that both Harris and Grier will have their first eight plays scripted and then get 3-4 series to show what they can do, though he did not note how that process would go.
“It was really close. From a coaching standpoint, you kind of feel good about that because you got two real good quarterbacks that are going to be able to go in and play the game. In this business, you’d rather have it that way than the other way,” he explained. “We just felt that [Treon]’s going to go start and Will’s going to play and we’ll play it out from there.”
McElwain then took a second opportunity to clarify that while Harris will be on the field first, Grier will not only see plenty of action but is still a candidate to win the job outright.
“I wouldn’t read that much into it. Treon’s going to start the football game and Will’s going to play in that game a lot, too,” he said. “It’s a painting in progress, and we’ve got to figure out what the backdrop is going to be.”
Neither Harris nor Grier is frustrated with the process, according to McElwain, who said the two are “good friends that coach each other on the field” and aligned in pushing Florida in the same direction. “I look at it as a true partnership of guys working together to help this team win ballgames,” he added.
McElwain also noted that Wednesday’s announcement should be of no surprise to Harris or Grier, saying, “We don’t have any secrets in this family. We talk about all this stuff together.” While he expects Grier to be disappointed that he won’t be on the field first, he noted again that “it’s a long season and, like I said, somebody had to take the first snap. Treon’s taking the first snap.”
Harris started the final six games for the Gators during his freshman season in 2014, totaling 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions along with 338 rushing yards and three more scores on the ground. Florida went 4-2 in those contests.
Considering the Aggies finished with the 118th ranked scoring defense in 2014, the efforts by Harris and Grier would likely have to fall at opposite ends of the spectrum for the Gators’ quarterback battle to be decided Saturday.
Florida and New Mexico State will kick things off at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will air live nationally on the SEC Network.