Just days after head coach Jim McElwain said at a media availability that he expected redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier to rejoin the Florida Gators on Jan. 5, 2016, ahead of spring practice, Grier will instead transfer from the program.
According to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman, Grier “met with the [coaching] staff last week” about his decision. OnlyGators.com confirmed Grier’s departure via team sources, and the team announced the move later Saturday.
“Will came to me about exploring his options to transfer. We will support him and help him in [any way] we can. This has been very difficult on him and obviously he is looking for a fresh start. We will always be there for him as will all Gators,” McElwain said in a statement.
On Monday, McElwain expanded on Grier’s decision to transfer.
“We have a guy in Will Grier that’s asked to transfer. He came in Friday after his finals and we talked. There’s times in everybody’s life where sometimes a change of scenery could be helpful. Let’s not forget all the things he’s been through,” the coach said. “It was hard. It was something, I’m sure, that [their family] talked about. That’s kind of it. I’m all about helping, whatever we can do. In this case, we’re going to be there to help him as he goes from there. … We’ll move forward.”
McElwain later refuted the prospect that it was the coach who forced Grier out of the program, noting that the player “came in and asked for a release.” He did, however, infer that there are transfer restrictions on Grier, namely he cannot transfer to any other SEC program or likely teams that Florida will face over the remainder of his college career.
“We anticipated him being here. Obviously, the choice was made to go somewhere else. I’m not real fired up about seeing him in the SEC,” McElwain said. “We signed a bunch of … every school that he brought up. We’re here to support him.”
Grier is the third quarterback rated four stars or higher to transfer from the Gators over the last four seasons, joining Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech) and Jacoby Brissett (NC State).
However, unlike Driskel and Brissett, Grier looked to have finally emerged as a legitimate, game-changing starting for Florida. He led the Gators to a come-from-behind 28-27 win over Tennessee only to turn around the next week and help Florida rout then-No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10. UF was undefeated in the five games Grier started, outscoring opponents 101-49.
Prior to the LSU contest, Grier was suspended for 365 days by the NCAA for violating the organization’s policy on banned substances. The player admitted to taking an over-the-counter supplement that apparently contained the banned substance for which he was suspended; nearly two months later, Grier lost an appeal to the NCAA seeking to limit the length of his suspension to the end of the 2015 season.
He was not set to be eligible until Florida’s seventh game of the 2016 season, and his suspension will remain in place at whatever institution to which he chooses to transfer. Of course, Grier will also have to sit out his remaining six-game suspension following his NCAA transfer year.
The Gators offense struggled following Grier’s departure with sophomore Treon Harris failing to even lead Florida to an offensive touchdown in its rivalry game against Florida State.
Harris, redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio and a pair of early enrollees in four-star Feleipe Franks and two-star Kyle Trask will all vie for the starting job this offseason.