University of Florida

Florida Gators’ starting QB job still unsettled as offensive line struggles

Florida quarterback Will Grier watches a play on the scoreboard in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. Florida won the game 14-9.
Florida quarterback Will Grier watches a play on the scoreboard in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. Florida won the game 14-9. AP

Will Grier played every snap in Florida’s effectively ugly 14-9 win over Kentucky, but the redshirt freshman hasn’t cemented the Gators’ starting quarterback job.

“Obviously Will went the whole game and don’t ready anything into that as far has how it goes this week,” UF coach Jim McElwain said Monday. “We’ll decide as we move forward. I wouldn’t look into that more than we were kind of in the flow there a bit.”

Although UF’s offense sputtered to a halt after halftime (four punts and an interception), sophomore quarterback Treon Harris remained on the bench.

McElwain admitted Harris probably should’ve played a couple series, yet the rhythm of the game didn’t dictate a change.

“We had some opportunities where maybe we should’ve put him [in] but that’s the way it goes,” he said.

But while Grier had his issues Saturday — he completed just 59 percent of his passes for 125 yards and threw a bad pick in the end zone — Florida’s coach remains more concerned with the 10 players around his quarterback.

He should be.

The Gators’ inexperienced offensive line struggled against an unheralded Wildcats defense, a particularly ominous sign with talented fronts looming on the schedule, starting with Tennessee on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).

“We’re going to start to play some real D-linemen — glass-eaters and fire-breathers,” McElwain said.

Grier was hit on at least 15 of 34 dropbacks against UK. He was sacked twice, and all 10 of his runs were scrambles.

At times, the redshirt freshman escaped pressure and made a productive play using his mobility, but McElwain was frustrated by the instances Grier didn’t trust his protection and simply bolted upfield before the play developed.

“He made some big plays with his feet, using his feet as a check-down,” McElwain said, calling Grier’s overall performance just OK.

“Sometimes what happens to you is you’re like, ‘Hey, this is cool, man, I’ll just drop back, look for a hole and run.’ [But] you leave some plays on the field.”

Meanwhile, the communication between Florida’s tailbacks and young offensive line has been poor, too, as the Gators averaged 3.2 yards a carry against Kentucky’s defense, which is ranked 111th nationally. Florida ranks 81st nationally in rushing and has tallied just two runs of 20-plus yards this season.

“We all want to make everything out of everything and I know it makes news,” McElwain said. “I’m concerned about wins and how we’re going to get them. Obviously you would love to have a 10-yard average when you run the ball.

“I think where I’m more concerned is our explosive runs. They haven’t been there. We’ve gotta somehow create that with a little bit of movement, snap up front, and then we’ve gotta hit that crease when we have it.”

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