Will Grier’s brief Gator career a glimpse of what could have been, and what still could be under McElwain

Flashback to October 12, 2015.

The mood was somber, dark, and gloomy, almost like that of a funeral. Florida’s newly emerging star quarterback, Will Grier, was about ready to address a group of reporters regarding the recently surfaced rumors that he had taken performance enhancing drugs- just 40 short hours after guiding the Gators to a 21-3 win over the two time defending SEC East Champ Missouri Tigers. Fans listened in and watched helplessly, knowing that nothing Grier or McElwain could say would make things any better.

Grier took the microphone, and said: “I took something, that, um, had something in it. And I did not check with the medical staff… I’m really sorry. To everybody. I’m just really sorry.” And with those words, Grier had completed his last official act as a Florida Gator.

The script for Grier’s career at Florida reads like a Hollywood script with a bad ending ten minutes into the movie. After five years of ineptitude at the quarterback position, Grier came in, eventually overtook Treon Harris for the starting job- and shined. Cue the 4th and 14 miracle to Antonio Callaway to beat Tennessee, where his career began in earnest. Florida was left for dead in that game, and Grier’s 4th and 14 bullet to Callaway that turned into the game winning touchdown will forever live on as one of the great moments in Gator history. Grier was hailed as a hero for throwing that pass, and the hype only heightened from there.

One week later against 3rd ranked Mississippi, Grier lit up the Rebels on a night unlike any other in recent history, throwing four touchdown passes in a 38-10 blowout that was worse than the score indicated. Following that win, the hype began to boil over in a manner I hadn’t seen since the Tim Tebow days. Grier’s name was placed in the same sentence as those of Tebow, Rex Grossman, Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier. There was Heisman talk. Above all, there was hope- both for the rest of the season and for future years. And while Grier didn’t play great against Missouri the following week, he played well enough for the hype to continue, as made the plays he had to make in a convincing win.

Then came October 12, the day Grier was suspended for one full year by the NCAA for failing a drug test. This wasn’t the Will Grier people were used to. There were apologies, tears and a sense of regret from the energetic kid with a confident smile. We all know what happened next- Florida’s offense went downhill, and the regular season ended with an embarrassing loss to FSU thanks to Treon Harris making every mistake imaginable. And then the story concluded in the last way any of us thought- Florida announced that he would transfer.

Gone were the hopes and dreams for the future of the Florida Gators, along with the guy who’d elicited them in the first place. The four games Grier started for Florida would be the only ones, and a career that looked like it could someday become a great one was over before it really began. And so when looking back at the small sample size of hope he provided, it’s easy to think about what could have been.

Now, the details of the whole mess are still somewhat unclear. How much of his success was due to the drugs he took is impossible to really know, and so it’s hard to wonder how good he would have been if he’d never taken them and thus exactly how bright the future with a PED-less Grier would have been. As we approach the year 2016, though, the topic is getting wrung dry. Debates about whether or not Grier lied, what he took, who’s decision it was for him to transfer and whether or not UF placed restrictions on him continue to rage on and on. But let me ask you this: what we do know is that Grier is gone now, and never coming back. So, who really cares? And if you do, then why?

The most likely answer is something along the lines of, “Grier was a budding star at a position Florida hasn’t had much success with since Tim Tebow left, and now we don’t have him.” And OK, I totally understand that. But this sentiment is better utilized as the answer to an entirely different question.

During the Muschamp years, Florida went through quarterbacks like Tennessee goes through coaches. None were particularly effective, regardless of who the offensive coordinator was or what tweaks to the offense were made. Enter McElwain, who coached Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron to national championships and Garrett Grayson into becoming a third round pick. The first quarterback he worked with (once he finally decided to stick with him) guided Florida to a 6-0 start with everything in front of them. Did Grier play perfectly? No, but McElwain was able to minimize his weaknesses and utilize his strengths, turning him into a legitimate SEC caliber quarterback.

The bottom line is this. The job McElwain did developing Grier correlated with the impressive track record of developing quarterbacks Gator fans were giddy about when he came to Florida. To lose the first quarterback McElwain got to work with, especially when he’d taken steps toward greatness, hurts more than most Gator fans probably want to admit. But losing Grier is far from the end of the world.

OK, yes, it’s going to be frustrating next year to watch Feleipe Franks, Austin Appleby or Luke Del Rio go through the growing pains every new quarterback goes through when Grier could have already gone through them last year and then be lighting teams up this year. I get that. But if McElwain could turn Greg McElroy into a national champion and SEC Championship Game MVP, he can certainly wring some production out of Franks, Appleby or Del Rio. And with playmakers such as Antonio Callaway, DeAndre Goolsby, Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite around them, I’m confident that they can not only be developed into stars down the road, but be able to have success and win games immediately.

So while it may be easy to look back at the short time we had with Will Grier and think about what could have been, it’s best not to. Should’ve/would’ve/could’ve does no good. Instead, it’s important that we use the short time we had with him as our sample size for what Florida football looks like under McElwain with an actual quarterback. And we have to remind ourselves that while Grier certainly fit the label of “a good quarterback,” there are many others like him with similar ceilings and who won’t take PEDs.

The job now falls on Jim McElwain to get them, as he did with Franks, and coach them, as he did with Grier. And if he continues to do both the way we all know he can, Florida football should be set for years to come.

10 thoughts on “Will Grier’s brief Gator career a glimpse of what could have been, and what still could be under McElwain

  1. How about reality? Not this fantasy you dream about. The laser to calloway only happened because Tennessee found a way to lose the game and turn a simple pattern into a long touchdown pass. If Grier had been miserable the whole game, outside of two drives in the fourth quarter, Uf would not have had to get lucky on fourth down as often as they did and again have Tennessee hand them the game. After the first quarter against Missouri, Grier sucked the rest of the game. Grier also sucked the second half of the Ole Miss game. Enough of the might have, could haves, etc. and the other incessant nonsense that, you would hope by now, that some Gator fans continue to grovel in. Grier was NEVER a great quarterback, and I guess gator fans are ignorant what a great quarterback looks like with the duds put on the field the last six years. It’s like a drowning man grasping straws, the result remains the same. UF finished 112th in total offense. That’s no better than anytime the past six years. The coaches, players, and schemes keep changing, but to no avail. As an opposing coach said about Florida last year, which was spot on, UF didn’t beat teams, they beat themselves. He said the key was to not give UF any cheap scores and not give them a short field. The teams that beat UF took that to heart. That’s the reason the last three teams obliterated UF. The Pillsbury Dough Boy, McElwain, was smart enough to take advantage of other teams giving him a game, but when he actually had to earn it on his own, UF came up woefully short. Don’t expect it to change next year. There’s film on McElwain and Nussmeier at UF, and I don’t think the adjective “imaginative” applies to the offense they are running. It’s not the quarterback, silly rabbit!

  2. Don’t be silly. They could only be so imaginative with a freshman then Harris. They are a good coaching tandem. Ate they going to reinvent the wheel ? Of course not. But they are good schemers.

    Let’s look at McElwain’s previous major gig. Alabama. Alabama had now more or less become Wide Receiver U because JM changed the perception on offense. Lane Kiffin is able to trot out his offense because Saban gave JM the autonomy to change the perception of Bama. Nussmeier continued that. Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and now Calvin Ridley…that all goes back to JM

    1. What a lot of hogwash. Alabama didn’t change because of McElwain. That has been proven since he left. Nussmeier? This is the second straight year his offense has sucked.To tout someone’s success at Alabama is idiotic, at best, because it doesn’t matter who the assistants are, nothing changes as long as Saban is the head coach.McElwain has time to prove himself, but the fact is that UF’s offense was just as bad as it ever was the previous five years since the departure of Tebow. The nales of the players and coaches change, andd a new scheme is trooted out as well, but the bottom line is that UF still sucks on offense. People blamed Mushamp, but we saw Meyer’s offense suck in his last year at UF and McElwain’s stunk his first year. Instead of fantasy, as dished out by the writer, let’s see something real, like finishing in the upper half of college offense, instead of reserving a place in triple digits.

      1. You understand Saban sought out McElwain because of his schemes, right ?

        And I am guessing you didn’t see the 2009 SECCG.

        Meyers offense sucked because he wanted out and was checked out.

        How about this – look at what Driskel and Brisset did when the got out of Muschamp’s system of shackles. They actually looked competent.

        Muschamp recruited a lot of good d players but he recruited next to no offensive linemen and, no qbs and practically no wrs.

        He always screamed the SEC is a line of scrimmage league yet he really only seemed to pay attention to one side.

        Do coaches reap the benefits of coaching under Saban ? Of course, he is the best in the business. But he’s also at a level where part of what makes him great is identifying good assistants. He sought out JM because he liked his offense. And JM has proven he knows what it takes to team build.

        Now is Florida going to contend for the CFP next year ? Of course not. They got by on smoke and mirrors and a semicompetent qb for half the year.

        But he also hasn’t even had a full recruiting cycle yet either.

        Now he has addressed one of Muschamp’s deficiencies – he has stockpiled qbs.

        Let’s see where things are in 2017.

        And one last thing. Let’s not forget part of what drove Meyer away and sent the team into the toilet – Cam Newton was forced out because a Gator family grandkids wanted to pretend to be a qb and the money players forced the situation. Thus Newton goes to Auburn after JC and the Gators are stuck with the wet tissue.

  3. And one last thing. JM didn’t change Alabama and that had been proven since he left ? Quite the opposite champ. Saban had notoriously been a Big Ten ground and pound 3 yards and a clue of dust style coach. He recognized maybe things needed to change. He sent Applewhite packing brought in JM and then all of a sudden there were 5 wr empty sets and hurry up offenses. THAT is why “nothing has changed sine he left” – because Saban now seeks out coordinators who run multiples and who can scheme with the players recruited.

    It started with JM and that is just a fact since, you know, those things actually happened.

    1. I can see that you are convinced that McElwain made a difference at Alabama, and you’re sticking to it, but the fact is that UF’s offense was just as bad under McElwain and Mussmeier, regardless of the excuses made. He’s done nothing, so far, at UF to show he’s going to make UF’s offense better. Until that happens, I intend to base my conclusion on something real, not fantasy like the claptrap about Grier. Guess what? Muschamp was also SEC Coach of the Year and finished with a better record and a top ten final ranking. UF finished 10-4, finished 25th, and was obliterated the last three games, including, arguably, the worst loss ever suffered at home to FSU in the programs history. Even Muschamp, with Skyler Mornhinweg at quarterback, was able to score a touchdown against FSU. McElwain couldn’t even cross the goal line.

      1. You can buy that should you choose. Excuses or not those are real things that have a real impact.

        Returning 1 player with starting experience and trotting out an Oline full of freshmen is an actual issue, especially in the power 5 and especially in a league known for its D freaks.

        And having 2 qbs, one a true Soph and the other a RS Freshman is a problem as well.

        Every expert in the country shares that opinion and its not just a Florida fanboy dream. But hey, some non fans discount it so it must be.

        1. UF has sucked on offense for six years straight. After every one, I hear “excuses” and why it’s going to change “next year.” What’s going to be the excuse next year? I guess the fact that UF sucks on offense because they don’t have good players or coaches is something that will remain a mystery to those in a perpetual state of denial.

          1. You’re right. Instead after losses we should just vandalize our own players’ cars or send death threats to an alleged rape victim. That’s what good fans do, right?

      2. Material like this would go over great at tomahawknation.com. Honestly, why spend so much time and effort on a rival blog/comments section?
        People like you are why the rest of the nation thinks Florida State is a clown college (well, that and the fact that there’s an ACTUAL clown college there). Congrats on perpetuating the FSUTwitter stereotype.

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