Will Grier exited spring practice as the leader in the clubhouse for the Florida Gators’ starting quarterback job, but first-year coach Jim McElwain said the competition between Grier and sophomore Treon Harris is far from decided.
McElwain won’t “pin down” a specific date in naming a starter. Instead, he’s interested in seeing how both quarterbacks improve over the summer and how the team responds to each during training camp.
“When we get out there in August I think that will really tell which one of those guys has elevated not only their play, but more so how the people respond to them when they’re moving the team on the field, in drills and that kind of stuff,” McElwain said.
“As a quarterback, that is huge. You can have a ton of talent … but if the guys around you aren’t willing to have your back, it ain’t going to work real good.”
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The Gators’ passing attack hasn’t been consistent since Tim Tebow left in 2009. Florida ranked 106th nationally in passing offense last season, averaging a paltry 179.9 yards per game.
Harris was 4-2 as a starter in 2014, piloting Florida to its first bowl victory in four seasons.
Still, the former Miami Booker T. Washington star completed just 49 percent of his passes. Harris mostly made big plays with his feet (332 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns), as he was limited due to his size (5-11, 190 pounds) and a late-season thumb injury.
He did pocket some experience, though, while Grier watched from the sideline. UF’s 6-2 redshirt freshman has a live arm and quick trigger and presents a stark contract in style to Harris as a traditional gunslinger, teammate Vernon Hargreaves III said.
“I feel like Treon is more athletic,” UF’s All-American cornerback said. “He’s more of just a natural football player, where Will is definitely your quarterback. Your normal quarterback who is strong-armed and can throw it anywhere across the field. I don’t know how it’s going to happen. I don’t know if athleticism is going to happen, or is Will being more of a quarterback going to prevail? We’ll find out.”
The Gators kick off camp a month before their Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico State, so McElwain doesn’t have a ton of time determining which style fits his team best.
“It’s one of those things that’s kind of exciting for both guys,” he said. “Really what it comes down to is when we get there in August is which one of those guys affect the play of the other people around them to help them be successful. The biggest thing is who’s going to move the football team up and down the field.”
In 2012, Florida’s QB competition between Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett divided the team, but Hargreaves said that won’t be an issue this fall.
“[Harris and Grier] are good friends, but they both understand what’s at stake and they’re both up to compete,” Hargreaves said. “I think that’s what I like most about both of them. We don’t know who’s going to start. They don’t know who’s going to start. They understand it has to be one.
“There’s only one quarterback. I think that since they understand that, it makes everybody else a little bit easier, knowing they know one of them is going to get picked.”