Freshman QB Harris leading Gators’ turnaround

By Adam Silverstein
November 10, 2014

The book is nowhere near closed on Florida Gators freshman quarterback Treon Harris – there are potentially four years to go and dozens of games yet to be played – but the first chapter has indeed been written and it is one that deserves some acclaim.

Since Harris took over as Florida’s starting signal caller, the Gators are 2-0 with consecutive victories against Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in a year. They outscored then-No. 11 Georgia and Vanderbilt by a combined 72-30 and only lost one of eight quarters in those contests.

Perhaps most importantly, Harris has shown rare poise for an 18-year-old behind center of one of the most prominent programs in college football, starting the first game of his career in one of the sport’s biggest rivalry games. It is a quality that has not been overlooked by his teammates.

“Before the Georgia game, I was kind of nervous for him, just because it’s a big game. I went up to him and started talking to him, and he’s like ‘I’m ready,’ and I’m like, ‘OK…’ He obviously was,” said sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III after Saturday’s win.


Head coach Will Muschamp, who either had his job saved or his dismissal staved off due in some part to Harris’s play, concurred with his star defensive player.

“What strikes me is his maturity. He does not get phased. He’s been accurate in practice. That’s nothing that shocks me there. The maturity of carrying it to the game has been outstanding,” he said of Harris.

“He’s got a competitive edge about him; that’s a talent. It’s hard to measure competitive edge until you get in those situations, and he has a competitive edge about him. He’s a winner. He played in one of the highest classifications in the state of Florida in high school football, as good as there is in the country. He produced and was productive and won [in high school]. He’s doing the same things now.”

Granted, the Gators have not asked Harris to do what a quarterback usually does most often – throw the ball. In his two starts, Florida has rushed 110 times (60, 50) and attempted 27 passes (6, 21). Muschamp claims UF planned to call more passing plays against UGA, but the game flow did not make it a necessity; Harris did toss thrice as many passes at VU and was just fine doing so.

The key has been Florida putting Harris in opportune positions when it comes to down and distance. He’s had the chance to make smart decisions with the football and done just that outside of two occasions where he took tackles for loss instead of throwing the ball away.

“[We entered the game knowing] we were going to have to take some shots, which we were prepared for last week it just never presented itself,” explained Muschamp, who said UF hopes to do that 8-10 times each week. “We knew Derek [Mason] would challenge us in the front and make us make some things happen in the throwing game. Again, we feel very comfortable in that.”

Indeed, Harris completed two long balls to his wide receivers – redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar caught a 60-yard pass and sophomore Ahmad Fulwood grabbed a 48-yard toss – and finished 13-of-21 for 215 yards. However, he made his greatest impact on the ground, carrying 10 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yard scamper that iced the game early in the fourth quarter.

“This game was great for him and definitely got him confident now. He had a great week at practice. This is just great for him on the ground and throwing the ball. He threw a couple shots deep and had no hesitation doing it,” junior running back Matt Jones said.

Described as a “special player” by Hargreaves and an “overly coachable” guy by Muschamp on Saturday night, Harris possesses the most important things a quarterback can have throughout a locker room – trust and belief.

Gators coaches trust Harris to make good decisions, and his teammates believe that he will run the offensive effectively and not put Florida in negative situations.

Sometimes, that can be enough to make a major difference.

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

21 Comments

  1. Michael Jones says:

    The kid looks good and I’ll give credit to this coaching staff–that I have been very critical of–for bringing him along nicely so far. They have called a nice mix of passing plays for him and aren’t afraid to let him go deep.

    As advertised, he does seem to make quick decisions and is pretty accurate. I place accuracy WAY above arm strength in a QB. Treon gives his receivers at least the chance to make a play.

    Let’s see what happens this Saturday but it is hard to not get at least a little excited about the possibilities.

  2. joaqui says:

    This goes without saying but no matter what happens with the coaching situation, I believe Harris should be our starter next year. If champ is kept for next year, I hope we do not have another driskel-brisset saga play out with grier. I always thought brisset outplayed driskel, and apparently the whole world did as well except for champ and Pease.

    It’s interesting that he and Powell are performing so well as they were both recruited by roper. I wonder if that says more about roper being able to identify talent or luck.

    • Michael Jones says:

      #1. When did you see Brissett outplay Driskel? He was only on the field a short time while Driskel was injured during his excellent 11-2 season, and there was nothing special about Brissett’s play. This year Brissett has looked great against Old Dominion, Georgia Southern (I know. . a juggernaut), South Florida and Presbyterian, but he was 4 of 18 in a 41-0 blowout by Clemson and has looked pretty average during most of the ACC schedule.

      #2. What do you know about Grier that makes you think he shouldn’t even be allowed to compete for the starting QB position next year? Harris is off to a good start. He may be the better of the 2. But, then again, Grier might be the best QB we’ve ever recruited. Nobody knows yet. Nothing wrong with a little friendly, robust competition.

      Besides, regardless of who wins the starting position next year, if history has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t have too many good back-up QB’s.

      • Joaquin Martinez says:

        1. Are you seriously saying that Driskel was/is better than Brisset? Brisket was never given a fair chance to win the job. Champ stated that he wanted Driskel to start bc of the running ability that he had which Brisset did not poses. Did you watch him play against sf this year? He was the sole reason the team was even in contention against them.

        2. Assuming that Treon continues to improve throughout the year, then why would you not automatically give him the start in the beginning of next year? Im sure that football decisions are made based on what happens on the field and if Treon continues to improve then there is no reason why he would have not earned the starting QB position for next year. Unless you have a great argument as to why a proven (assuming he continues to improve) qb should have to compete for his starting role.

        • Michael Jones says:

          1. I’m saying that neither I, nor you, nor anyone else saw Brissett outplay Driskel WHILE BRISSETT WAS AT U.F. And even now, as much as I know it delights the Driskel bashers to act like we let Johnny Manziel get away in Brissett, we’re not really sure how good Brissett is. Yeah, he had a pretty good game against FSU. Driskel has had some good games too, including one against FSU in Tally that we won. Brissett has also had some bad games once the level of competition picked up.

          2. If Harris is that great, then he’ll have no problem beating out all competition. If Harris is that great, then he also won’t be afraid of any competition. I’m guessing you’re more concerned about it than Harris is. But there is not enough time left in the season for Harris to so solidly entrench himself that he would be immune from competition going into next season. Besides, competition is a good thing, not something to get paranoid or “disrespected” or wherever it is that you are coming from about.

          Relax, man. If Harris is the next great Gator superstar, then it’ll all come out in the wash. But ordain him too soon without even giving consideration to other competitors, and then we might have another situation where Grier is transferring to another school, setting the world on fire, and somebody like you is complaining about how we never gave him a fair chance.

          My personal wish is that they’ll both play a lot, both contribute to winning a lot of games at UF, both have tremendous careers and both be remembered as great Gators for years to come.

  3. Michael J. says:

    It’s no coincidence that UF started playing better on offense when Driskel was benched. For all the talk, UF’s players knew Driskel couldn’t play a lick and it was psychologically crippling. Now you see the receivers catching the ball and the running backs with an extra burst. There’s an old adage that says you have a chance if you have a good quarterback. There’s not enough data to proclaim Harris anything yet, but we do know that Driskel was horrible. We’ll know much more this week. South Carolina is horrible on defense, but they have shown an ability to put up points, and are coming off a bye week. Spurrier knows his defense can’t stop anyone, his only hope if for a shootout, which means Harris will need to come up big if UF struggles on defense.

  4. gatorboi352 says:

    Nothing was more evident of the state of both Driskel and Treon than on back to back plays in the 4th Q on Saturday:

    Jeff came in to attempt his only passing play of the game. He threw a duck right into the ground behind the intended receiver. Treon came in on the next play and ripped off a 33 yard TD run. The Treon era has arrived. Rather, the Jeff Driskel era has ended. It really is time to cut him off; Muschamp just can’t bring himself to do it.

    As long as Jeff remains minimized in the game plan we’ll be alright.

    I’d also like to see Powell and his speed inserted on some punt block duties ala Rainey and Demps. This team will be ready for FSU in 3 weeks, believe me.

  5. Matt says:

    In terms of recruiting QBs, I’ve always been of the belief that you always recruit the 4-star kid from a championship team rather than a 5-star kid from a losing program. A QB can have perfect measurables on paper, and he can even dominate the camp circuit, but that does not necessarily equate to knowing how to win ball games. I think the coaching staff has finally figured this out…

  6. 305Gator says:

    “Head coach Will Muschamp, who either had his job saved or his dismissal staved off due in some part to Harris’s play,”

    I going to take credit for that line of reasoning, I have said the same thing several times here the past few weeks. Except that it’s not “due in some part” , it is due entirely to Harris ability to do what it takes to win whether it is attempting only 6 passes and running or heaving a few bombs. I also believe that Muschamp was reluctant to change QBs and did so only as a last resort because he felt pressured to do so with the mounting losses. The fact that Driskel has a bum ankle after the Mizzou game and could not practice probably had something to do with it too.
    No matter, that is history now and after witnessing Driskel’s latest attempt at a forward pass end up well behind the open receiver and into the ground we can safely assume he won’t be coming back as our QB.
    Harris has all the upside in the world and we can safely say we have a good chance at winning out the rest of our games. Something that would have been unthinkable just 4 weeks ago.
    Go Gators!

    • Steven says:

      So we can safely say that we have a good chance to win the rest of our games? Huh….ok sure
      Not sure you will get even people wearing orange and blue colored glasses to agree with you there.

      • 305Gator says:

        What’s wrong Steven? Can you comprehend what you read? I only said we have a chance to win out, I didn’t say we had a great chance or that we were going to win out period.
        You don’t need orange and blue glasses to believe the Gators have a chance to beat USC, E Michigan and FSU.
        That is as far fetched as picking the Gators over UGA 2 weeks ago.
        So of course we have a chance to win out to think otherwise is asinine.

        • Steven says:

          This is your post right?

          “we can safely say we have a good chance at winning out the rest of our games.”

          Good luck finding many people who believe that.

  7. Bill says:

    Just another example of Muschamp being the last one to see what everyone else already had. Just the kind of guy you want as a coach. Someone who knows less about his personnel than a casual fan

    • G2 says:

      So true, he did the same thing with K Taylor. He didn’t get many reps until someone got hurt midway thru the season. If Driskel didn’t have a complete meltdown at UT who knows if we would have seen Treon but he had no choice. Seems to roll with certain guys no matter what, pig headed to the max.

  8. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Wile very happy that they seem to have righted the ship, it makes me sad to think what the season could have been if Harris had been put in earlier, during the LSU and Mizzou games….

  9. Steven says:

    A bunch of people with short term memory around.
    If we lose Saturday you all will be calling for his head again.

    I for one have been calling for his head since last season. I’m not going to change my tune because we beat a UGA team while throwing 6 times or beat a bad Vandy team. Please remember that the SEC east is garbage this year. Ron Zook would have won this division easily with any of his teams.

    Muschamp is not a good coach or recruiter. This level of play isn’t acceptable at Florida especially in year 4.
    The only way I would be ok with another year is if he wins out.

    The saddest thing is he has lowered expectations so much that some of you are ok with this

    • 305Gator says:

      The main thing holding the team back and responsible for the poor play was the QB. The defense has always been good. So if the team keeps winning with our new QB then I’m OK with Muschamp. I know he is pig headed and seems to make baffling personnel decisions at times but it seems he has the respect of his players.
      I don’t get the “bad recruiter” rap you talk about, the 2015 class seems to be weak but that is a reflection of the terrible season we had last year and the poor play with Driskel in command this year. Hopefully we can close the year on a winning streak and get some of those high ranked kids to come in. Landing the likes of VH3, Tabor, D Rob, Grier and Harris do not speak of poor recruiting.
      And you know what most people out there are saying, we have a chance of winning the rest of our games this season.
      Go Gators!

      • Steven says:

        He hasn’t been able to land elite recruits regularly.
        Look at his classes compared to Meyer’s or Zooks.
        They aren’t in the same league.
        He has let so much local Florida talent go to our rivals and out of state it’s ridiculous.
        It’s easy to bring in a good class at Florida. He can’t continue to recruit like this and expect to win SEC and National championships and he better out talent other teams because he sure isn’t going to out coach them.

        • Dgbkgator says:

          Gators 2012 class ranked by many top 3 key players (Fowler,cox jr, Poole,,Morrison,Bullard ,Matt jones, Humphries) Gators 2013 class top 10 (kelvin Taylor,VH3,Keanu Neal,fullwood Robinson ) 2014 class so far( tabor, duke Dawson, and Harris )look like gems with another top 10 class. The gators class this yr is ranked low because many of their targets are waiting to see if there is a new coach

          He has brought in top players say they havent been coached their full potential say he missed on some play makers but don’t act like the classes aren’t filled with talent. Ermon lane dalvin cook and Campbell were not coming here , our offense stunk plus choosing between driskel and Winston is pretty easy. Meyer recruited two once in a life time players in havin and tebow that does not happen every yr.

        • Michael Jones says:

          Agree 100% with everything you said. The only thing I wonder about is how much getting a little winning streak going and even beating FSU (I know, I know. . . . ) would turn around the recruiting thing. 4-8 lost us a lot of studs last year (did you see Cook against Lousville?. . . tough to watch, man).

          But, you’re right. UF recruits itself. And as Desmond Howard said on Game Day last Saturday, in Florida, you can trip over a 4 star on your way to visit a 5 star. Muschamp has got to close the recruiting gap between us and our rivals.

          Meyer can’t outcoach Dantonio, but OSU ran roughshod over Spartie Saturday night because of the recruiting and talent disparity. Talent tends to trump coaching in college football. Have to be able to recruit with the big boys to win championships, just like you said.

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