Florida held its first open practice in a couple weeks tonight, with two very interesting takeaways.
The real head-turner was that Treon Harris took first team reps at QB, but on second thought, it shouldn’t have really come as a complete shock. Will Grier may have outplayed Harris to this point, but I’ll go back to the point I’ve made a few times before: Jim McElwain is worried that Grier is in danger of getting a big head given his background (successful high school career, being Nash Grier’s brother, etc.) and thus doesn’t want to give him any time to possibly get complacent.
I personally don’t see why either of those things should impact a decision on naming a starter, but he is a freshman, and well… I get it. I do. Because according to what several people are telling me, plus the bit of practice film I’ve seen, that’s the only reason naming the starter is taking this long. Remember, McElwain also spoke very highly of Jacob Guy at one point, and now he’s nowhere to be found on the depth chart, which only furthers the idea that he wants Grier to always think he has competition so he’ll continue to work his hardest. And that’s not to say he won’t, but it’s an understandable concern for a first year head coach to have.
But anyway, back to Harris. He did fine, for the most part. His day was highlighted by a touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway, though the secondary did something they rarely do on that play- they busted coverage and left him wide open. Harris also badly under threw Callaway on another play. He did play much better than any other time I’ve seen him throughout fall practice, which is encouraging, as it makes for an interesting competition rather than the one sided contest the QB battle has been for most of the spring and fall. Harris also commandeered the Gators in other ways, including breaking the team down to start practice, and seemed to be a natural leader throughout the night.
However, Grier did have a nice night splitting reps with Harris, including this short pass to Ahmad Fulwood that he caught right in stride:
#Gators QB Will Grier connects with Ahmad Fulwood https://t.co/dPFATrrDEv
— Landon Watnick (@LandonWatnick) August 26, 2015
The likely road this battle is going to take? Gator fans may not like it, but here it is: Grier and Harris are probably going to continue to split reps and remain in battle with each other until either Grier- who, yes, is in the lead by all accounts so far- pulls so far ahead there’s no purpose in even declaring it an open competition or Mac waits until after the New Mexico State game to declare his QB. (More on that later in the week.)
The other notable part of practice was that McElwain inserted several freshmen into the first string units, including Martez Ivey, Jordan Scarlett and Cece Jefferson. And they more than held their own throughout the evening, especially in 11 on 11 drills. Cece Jefferson looks like a natural who could contribute right away, even though there’s less of a need for him to than there is for Ivey and Scarlett given the weakness on the offensive line and the lack of depth behind Kelvin Taylor. Of the three, Ivey probably has the best chance to start, and bolstered that possibility with his performance tonight.
Other news and notes:
-McElwain said that Will Grier will go back to being the #1 QB, and that Harris getting first team reps was just a rotation.
– McElwain stated that the status of Luke Del Rio remains up in the air. “It’s in the NCAA’s hands.” Personally, I think his 2015 eligibility is a long shot.
-The tight end position will likely be played by C’yontai Lewis and Jake McGee, who have really distanced themselves from Moral Stephens and Camrin Knight.
-Keanu Neal remains day to day (foot).
-Brandon Powell continues to impress. His role gradually expands, and he handles it very well, per McElwain.
-Mason Halter and Frederick Johnson shifted around a bit on the offensive line, but McElwain is pleased with the way they’ve played their various positions.