University of Florida

Florida Gators’ QB candidates neck and neck

Former Booker T. Washington star Treon Harris brings a running element to Florida’s offense, but he struggled with his accuracy in the passing game last season and in practices this summer.
Former Booker T. Washington star Treon Harris brings a running element to Florida’s offense, but he struggled with his accuracy in the passing game last season and in practices this summer. AP

Florida’s quarterback competition remains undecided, but coach Jim McElwain insists he’s “comfortable” with both Will Grier and Treon Harris leading the Gators.

UF’s passing game remains a work in progress, as both Grier and Harris have slowly made strides in the new offensive scheme this summer.

McElwain hopes the race crystallizes soon, but the longtime quarterback guru won’t rush into any decision.

“They’ve been splitting the reps with all the different groups. I think both of them have had good days. They’ve had an off day here and there,” McElwain said. “I like where they’re at, both of them.

“I feel comfortable with both of them, and we’ll see after this. I haven’t put a deadline [on a decision date]. I want to see them take ownership.”

Grier, a 6-2, 215-pound redshirt freshman, entered fall camp with a slight edge in the competition after Harris, a former star at Miami Booker T. Washington, missed time during the spring because of a death in the family.

The two have split reps in fall camp, but Grier has consistently stood out as the superior option in the open portions of practice. He started Friday’s scrimmage with the first unit and marched the team down the field for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Harris, who is 5-10, has continued to exhibit his raw and electric athleticism but also his limitations as a pocket passer.

The sophomore completed just 49 percent of his passes last season, and his accuracy concerns have persisted in camp as UF transitions to a more pro-style system.

Although all eyes are on the dueling duo, Grier said he and Harris are “just competing,” and whatever the coaching staff decides, they’ll both “continue to do the best we can to make the team better.”

“We don’t feel pressure [of the battle],” he said. “We’re aware. We’re two very focused people.

“We’re trying to make this team better, trying to get better. Pretty strong leadership and control what we can control. It’s all we can do.”

Grier openly aims to be the starter. Still, he won’t win the race by simply asking for the job.

“I’d love to tell you what I think they’re going to do, but that’s out of my control. That’s not my decision,” he said. “I think both me and Treon are really good players. We can both run this offense really well, and that’s something that’s beyond our control and something that we’re both not worried about.”

Throughout camp, McElwain has remained evasive in his praise or criticism for both quarterbacks.

Although he’s offered some subtle hints on the competition’s outcome, he’s mainly evaluated the pair as a unit.

Using his favorite basketball axioms, McElwain said UF’s aerial attack is “starting to make some free throws and make some open layups. Probably not great on three-pointers yet, but right now at least we’re stroking the ball pretty decent.”

As both Grier and Harris slowly establish continuity with an offensive line starting from scratch and a relatively unknown group of receivers, McElwain wants to see both quarterbacks improve their downfield passing and avoid turnovers.

“We’ve got to take better care of the ball,” he said. “That’s something that we’ve been focusing on.

“I’m not saying we’re perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the point of emphasis that we’re putting on them, I think the guys are understanding. It’s not OK to just, ‘Oh, my bad.’ No. You don’t get any do-overs in life.

“And that’s been kind of what we’re trying to stress to them. You know, we’ve got to do it right the first time. I think they’re starting to get that message.”

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