University of Florida

Will Grier hasn’t clinched UF starting job despite heroics against Tennessee

Florida quarterback Will Grier throws a pass against Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 in Gainesville, Fla.
Florida quarterback Will Grier throws a pass against Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 in Gainesville, Fla. AP

Will Grier engineered the second-largest fourth-quarter rally in Florida Gators history, but the redshirt freshman quarterback still isn’t the Gators’ unquestioned starter.

At least not officially.

Although Grier spearheaded UF’s 28-27 comeback win against Tennessee with some fourth-quarter heroics (11 of 18 for 141 yards and two touchdowns), coach Jim McElwain refused to tab Grier as the team’s No. 1 quarterback Monday, keeping the possibly of playing sophomore Treon Harris on Saturday against No. 3 Ole Miss.

“We’ll see,” McElwain said, perhaps dealing in a bit of gamesmanship. “We’ll see how it goes this week in practice. I thought Will did some real good things in the game but there’s some things he’s got to get better at, too.”

Harris, who returns from a one-game suspension, hasn’t taken a snap in two weeks. The former Booker T. Washington standout started No. 25 Florida’s opener against New Mexico State, but the sophomore’s series have steadily declined since.

Had Harris been available Saturday, he might’ve played, considering Grier was inconsistent for most of the first three quarters.

Instead, Grier appeared to seize the job with two clutch drives late, going 5 of 5 on fourth down and throwing the winning pass to freshman receiver Antonio Callaway to erase a 13-point deficit.

Not so fast, per McElwain.

“Those two drives at the end are what he’s supposed to do,” McElwain said. “That’s what you do when you play the position. We practice it that way and he executed it. There were a lot of drives there that weren’t executed, so we’ve got a long ways to go. And he knows it too. He sees it on film and realizes how he can get better.

“There’s a certain expectation level that you need to have as a player. And there’s a lot of plays you want back. There’s a lot of great plays he made, but that’s part of the maturation process at being a quarterback.”

Before settling down in the fourth quarter, Grier, who finished 23 of 42 for 283 yards, struggled with pocket awareness and wildness. He tossed a bad interception on a go-route and was sacked three times overall.

Grier will more than likely remain under center against the Rebels, but McElwain is seeking steady improvement from the redshirt freshman.

“He played OK,” McElwain said. “He did some good things and some things he needs to get better at. … That’s part of a young quarterback’s maturation is settling into the game. I thought there were times he moved better in the pocket and didn’t just give up, and yet there were a couple of those ‘Oh my, what are you doing?’ moments where he just threw it up. He’ll learn. He’ll see it on film.”

THIS AND THAT

Callaway, a Booker T. Washington alum, was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance against Tennessee. He reeled in the 63-yard winning touchdown pass, finishing the game with five catches for 112 yards. Callaway became just the second freshman receiver in UF history to record a 100-yard receiving game. … Florida’s Oct. 10 trip to Missouri is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on SEC Network. The Gators have dropped two straight to the Tigers, including a 42-13 shellacking on homecoming last season. … McElwain said Florida had about 30 missed tackles against Tennessee.

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