University of Florida

Battle for Florida Gators’ backup QB spot going down to wire

With the season-opener looming, the Florida Gators haven’t settled on a backup quarterback.

The fierce competition between true freshmen Treon Harris, a former star at Miami Booker T. Washington, and Will Grier is “very close,” according to coach Will Muschamp.

“Right now there’s really no separation at quarterback behind Jeff [Driskel],” he said. “We’ll continue to work throughout the week. We don’t have a definite timetable on that right now.”

Ideally, the staff hopes someone surges ahead soon.

Harris and Grier have shared reps with the second-team offense throughout training camp, as both players have flashed their arm talent and mobility. The promising freshmen have produced plenty of mistakes, too, namely struggling with consistency and eliminating negative plays.

“It’s been fun to watch,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said.

But he said the competition remains too close to call.

“I think that there’s been a lot of positives, but I feel like sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back,” Muschamp said. “We’ve tried to narrow down the package with all of those guys, not do as much as we’re doing with Jeff.

“But we also can’t inhibit our offense to continue to move forward, because we’re already making some progress at other positions. Not that we’re not making progress there, but sometimes you’ve got to simplify some things to get the execution where you want it.”

Muschamp aims to name a backup before the Aug. 30 opener against Idaho. The preliminary plan is to play the No. 2 quarterback immediately, so whoever wins the job can get their feet wet in case Driskel gets injured. The other would redshirt.

But the plan has yet to come to fruition.

“It’s obviously getting close to decision-making time, but I also think it’s a fluid thing that can change at any time just because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Roper said. “Obviously, we got to start on who’s going to spend the time getting the two reps as much as possible. But you never know how it’s going to be fluid throughout the year.”

Grier — a spring enrollee — has demonstrated a better command of the offense and has superior arm strength and size, but the 6-2, 190-pounder has struggled with accuracy, ball security and decisiveness in the pocket.

Harris — a two-time state champion with the Tornadoes — had a terrific set of practices last week, opening teammates’ eyes and wowing those in attendance with his quick release and dual-threat skills. It was a drastic turnaround from the first week of camp when Harris labored with the speed of the college game.

“I feel like a lot of quarterbacks coming in, a lot of them don’t have that ‘it’ factor, and I feel like Treon has it,” sixth-year senior Andre Debose said. “He’s a great player. I feel like he has that poise. He doesn’t get too rattled when he makes bad plays, and you need that at the quarterback position. He’s looking real good.”

With Harris’ recent improvement, his ability as a special-package runner and Roper’s tendency to utilize a Wildcat quarterback, there’s a popular notion the undersized (5-11, 178 pounds) talent is now the odds-on favorite to win the job.

Not necessarily, Muschamp said.

“Harris [can really run], but Will is a good athlete, too,” he said. “He can do some things with his legs. We’re factoring all of those things in as far as some of the things we want to do moving forward offensively schematically.”

Camp ends Wednesday, as the Gators begin preparations for the Vandals starting Thursday. The two freshmen have just a few more opportunities to impact a potential decision before the depth chart is released next week.

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