Florida quarterback Treon Harris completed just a single pass beyond the line of scrimmage in his first career start.
The Gators trounced Georgia 38-20 behind a smashmouth rushing attack, but now they’re ready to see if Harris is done crawling and can walk on his own this weekend at Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m., SEC Network).
“I don’t know that there’s even been a first step,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said.
“I don’t know that there was ever a step necessarily gained other than the fact that Treon almost made some plays out of [rhythm] and he was still smart with the football when he was throwing it. Maybe that’s the step we’re at, but I think we’re really in our infancy of knowing [what Harris can do].”
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Harris – a former Miami Booker T. Washington star who led the Tornadoes to consecutive state titles – threw just six passes against UGA (3 of 6 for 27 yards), with just a single attempt after halftime.
The freshman didn’t complain at the lack of opportunities. Still, Florida knows it has to give Harris a chance to develop as a passer down the stretch.
“He’s a team guy. He wants to win,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Nobody was happier than Treon Harris was after that game. We’ll need to continue to develop that moving forward. I feel very comfortable where we are and moving forward throwing the football. It just never presented itself on Saturday.”
But situations may change moving forward. Harris, who everyone around the program says is “calm, cool and collected,” has expanded his knowledge of the offense.
He’s displayed playmaking potential in practice and maturity beyond his age.
“He doesn’t get flustered by a lot. I saw that throughout the preparation,” Muschamp said. “I saw it on Friday in our walk-through, Saturday morning in the hotel talking to him. If he was nervous he does a good job of faking that he’s not. I can assure you of that.”
But Roper isn’t sure how the freshman will produce in a game on a play-by-play basis.
“He’s ready for me to call more plays than we called,” Roper said. “Whether we’re successful with them or not is a whole different discussion. He has been repping a lot more plays and it doesn’t matter [whether it’s] drop-back, moving pocket or play-action, he has repped a lot of our offense. Knowing what the play is and then applying it successfully against the defense are two different things.”
Florida, confident after its 418 yard rushing performance, suddenly discovered an offensive identity.
The Gators face two of the conference’s worst run defenses the next two weeks (Vanderbilt, South Carolina), but they can’t count on a no-pass strategy the rest of the season.
At some point, Harris will be asked to make a play with his arm.
“We’re definitely going to have to open up [the passing game] a little bit more down the road,” senior right tackle Chaz Green said. “[The run game] is something we’re probably going to stick to as far as we can, but we’re going to have to work on a passing game.”
On the year, Harris is 15 of 24 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and three turnovers.
“There’s no doubt Treon is going to have to be a playmaker in the passing game,” Roper said. “We’re going to ask him to do more. He’s going to have to make plays in the passing game, but we all learn on Saturday.”