With so much misinformation and so many opinions tossed around Monday during and after the announcement that Florida Gators redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier would be suspended one calendar year for testing positive for a substance on the NCAA’s banned substance policy, OnlyGators.com thought it best to take a closer look at each part of this story in order to provide you with the most accurate information possible.
Grier, who was on pace for the Gators’ best quarterbacking season since Tim Tebow in 2009, will end his 2015 season with 1,204 yards and 12 total touchdowns to three interceptions. He amassed a 5-0 record as a starter but played in six games for Florida and completed 65.8 percent of his passes.
What is Grier suspended for? Grier tested positive for a substance on the NCAA’s banned list. It is not known what banned substance he took, though multiple reports note that it was a performance-enhancing drug. A source confirmed as much to OnlyGators.com later Monday afternoon. The school will not release the substance for which Grier tested positive, noting that it is up to the family to allow the school to provide such information.
Did he take it on purpose? Grier and Florida claim the player was taking an over-the-counter supplement that, unknown to Grier, contained the banned substance. However, Grier also admitted that he did not run the supplement and its contents by the Gators’ medical staff, which is a common practice for players when taking anything from aspirin to cough medicine to dietary supplements.
How long will Grier be out? According to NCAA bylaws, Grier’s suspension will last one calendar year (365 days) from the first day of his suspension (Oct. 12, 2015). As such, he will miss the remainder of the 2015 campaign and be suspended for the first six games of the 2016 season.
What class will Grier be when he returns? Contrary to some misinformation on Monday, Grier will be a redshirt sophomore when he returns to the field in 2016. NCAA bylaws note that he will miss a calendar year and lose a season of eligibility but were not particularly clearly written. The year of eligibility Grier will lose is the same year he will sit out; in other words, he cannot take a redshirt in order to recover the time he has lost as a college football player. Grier took a redshirt as a true freshman in 2014.
Can the Gators appeal the punishment? Yes. And they will. But Florida will not appeal the suspension as a whole, especially not after Grier admitted to taking an over-the-counter supplement he did not clear with the medical staff. Instead, the Gators will appeal on the length of the suspension, asking the NCAA for leniency. Florida hopes the NCAA will consider reinstating Grier ahead of the start of the 2016 season; its argument will likely be that Grier unwittingly took the banned substance and made a mistake rather than acting purposely against NCAA rules. The Gators could also contest the actual banned substance on the list if trainers believe it is foolish for it to be on the list in the first place. UF could also make arguments about the process used to collect, transport and test the samples in hopes of finding either a loophole or situation in which the NCAA made a mistake.
Despite all the different avenues the team could go down, an overturn on appeal or reduction of Grier’s suspension is unlikely.
How does this affect Florida in 2015? While some believe the drop-off between Grier and sophomore QB Treon Harris is minor, that is not the contention here at OnlyGators.com. Harris, who will be the Gators’ starter for the remainder of the season, is simply unable to make the myriad throws Grier can, especially on the boundaries and in tight windows. Though Harris is certainly better with his legs and has proven he can be an effective player, Grier’s steady development was an important part of Florida’s 2015 season, and that is halted – for all intents and purposes – despite his play earning him the starting job after the second week of the campaign.
Who will serve as Harris’ backup? Redshirt senior transfer Josh Grady will move into second-string duties with Harris starting and Grier sidelined. Grady for his career is 4-of-8 for 30 yards with two interceptions. Simply put, Harris better not go down or the Gators’ season is really over.
What does this mean for the team in 2016? Unless Grier’s year-long suspension gets reduced, one would expect Harris to return as the starter at Florida in 2016. That would make him potentially a starter for 18-20 games in his career by the time Grier returns during the middle of the season. It may be difficult for Grier to take back the job from Harris, especially if the latter is playing well during that campaign, meaning 2016 could be a wasted season for him as a backup. The Gators have three-star QB Kyle Trask (Manvel, TX) committed for 2016 after losing out on many of their top targets during the cycle. Grier’s extended absence could lead to Florida pressing harder for a flip or second signal caller in the 2016 class. Addition: Walk-on quarterback Luke Del Rio will finish his NCAA-mandated transfer season and be eligible to play for the Gators in 2016 as a redshirt junior, possibly serving as a backup for Harris at least until Grier is cleared to play.
What about 2017? Harris will be a senior, Grier a redshirt junior and four-star prospect Jake Allen (Fort Lauderdale, FL) a true freshman. Will Grier stick around if Harris wins the job, potentially making him wait two-and-a-half seasons to start for Florida again in 2018? Would Harris transfer if Grier beats him out, despite being the Gators’ primary starter for most of two seasons? Things could get really tricky for Florida in two years, as Grier’s suspension eating into the 2016 campaign will everyone guessing as to what happens to the team.