Those pining for freshman quarterback Treon Harris to replace embattled redshirt junior Jeff Driskel as the starter will have a bit longer to wait as Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper indicated Tuesday that the veteran will get the nod as the team’s primary signal caller on Saturday.
“Jeff’s going to start,” Roper said, “but this week obviously is an important week to see how each guy prepares and does all those things. Hopefully, we do get a ‘hot hand’ and do well the whole game. I’d like to get a ‘hot hand’ for sure.”
Though Driskel appears to be in line to take most of the snaps against the Missouri Tigers, Harris will undoubtedly have a role to play as head coach Will Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida would be using both quarterbacks in the game.
How exactly the Gators will utilize the two signal callers remains to be seen.
According to Roper, what truly sets Driskel apart from Harris at this time is his experience as a game manager. Driskel understands the entire playbook, communicates the plays well and helps a number of Florida players get lined up properly – all things Harris simply does not know how to do at the same level at this time.
“Jeff’s experience and understanding and all those kinds of things, there’s direction going on that people don’t see and a lot of communication going on that people don’t see going on, a lot of issues with protections that people don’t see,” Roper explained. “Jeff obviously helps several guys be able to do that. And so it could be an issue [without him in the game], and if it is, we’ve got to address it.”
Where Harris can be effective is as a playmaker, a guy who comes in to execute plays he has practiced over and over again during his limited snaps with the first team offense.
“Right now with Treon, the thought process has to be to just let him go play. You got to try to not create too many burdens right now as he’s progressing through, not that he can’t understand what we’re doing. He does a good job, but you always grow in an offense the longer you play,” Roper said.
To that end, Harris did not have his best practice when he returned to the fields on Monday. He “did some good things, did some bad things” but kept a positive mindset the whole time and is prepared to move forward after his tough ordeal last week.
“He goes and works. He enjoys working, enjoys being on the practice field. He’s a guy that I enjoy coaching because he goes out there to get better every day and works hard and [gives] great effort. We’ve got to make up some ground, obviously, but I think we’ve got time to do that,” Roper said.
“The thing that I can say right now [that is] best about him is he’s still in his first year just being here. He obviously has the ability, but it’s not an easy thing to do to play quarterback at any time, much less as a true freshman. I think he’s working hard at it. I think he does have ability, and he’s shown the ability to make some plays.”
Harris will have the opportunity to expand his playbook and gain additional experience with the first-team offense as the week progresses. Driskel got most of those reps on Monday and Tuesday, but Harris should increase his workload over the next few days.
Roper does not yet know how he will use Harris in Saturday’s game, but his goal is to prepare the youngster for both a supporting role and potentially the full-time responsibility should Driskel falter early in the contest. The challenge for Roper is finding “what [Harris] is capable of being successful with and try[ing] to put him in those situations as much” as possible.
All that truly matters by Saturday is that the Gators’ offense is more efficient and effective than it has been over the last few weeks. Whether it is Driskel or Harris at the helm is of little relevance as long as the end result is what Florida is hoping to achieve.
“The goal is to score points, to win games,” declared Roper. “Decisions [are] being made to find a way to put points on the board.”