Ten days ago, Treon Harris went from star to suspect.
Now, Florida’s freshman quarterback stands as the supposed savior for embattled coach Will Muschamp.
The Gators, facing a must-win game against Missouri, will employ a two-quarterback system Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN2), with Harris sharing snaps with beleaguered starter Jeff Driskel.
“We’re going to see who has the hot hand, and who’s helping our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win,” Muschamp said. “We’ll make a decision as we go through the game. Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play.”
After leading Florida to a come-from-behind win over Tennessee on Oct. 4, Harris was scheduled to play extensively against LSU, but the dual-threat quarterback missed a week of practice amid a sexual-assault investigation.
Harris, who led Miami Booker T. Washington to consecutive Class 4A state titles, was suspended for five days until the alleged victim withdrew her complaint Oct. 10. The freshman quarterback was quickly reinstated, but not in time to help UF against LSU. Driskel struggled through another three-turnover performance in a gut-wrenching 30-27 loss.
Harris, unsurprisingly, was inconsistent in his return to practice after the tumultuous week. Still, the Gators are readying the freshman as fast as they can.
“Treon is a really good football player and has a lot in front of him,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “He doesn’t understand what we’re doing quite as well, but he finds a way to make plays. Hopefully that continues. It’s not always consistent, and you want more consistency, but he seems to be a playmaker.”
Though Harris is green and his playbook knowledge isn’t where it needs to be, Florida has plenty of confidence in a kid who has played less than two quarters of college football this year.
“He has the ‘it’ factor,” sophomore safety Keanu Neal said. “You saw it in the Tennessee game. He’s just comfortable in the pocket. He didn’t panic when things went wrong. He almost threw an interception and he didn’t panic and stayed in and did a great job.”
Harris is 4 of 6 for 165 yards and two touchdowns in minimal action, but his biggest impact has been the emotional lift he has provided his teammates.
His energy and excitement are palpable.
“Treon brings his smarts, football IQ, agility, his arm,” senior tight end Tevin Westbrook said. “He’s a great quarterback. I’m glad to have him on the team.”
Florida’s season — and Muschamp’s job — hang by a thread, and Harris is seen as the spark to turn around the team.
Time will tell whether the expectations are too high.
“It’s kind of speculation,” senior center Max Garcia said. “I think that’s what it really comes down to. You see him making a lot of plays in practice, so you want to see how that transitions to the field. ... I think that, as a team, we really want to see what he can do. I love what he brings to the game, how fast he is and his arm. I’m just really excited to see him out there.”
So is the rest of Gator Nation.