Well, there is. Jim McElwain has finally gone and said it: both Will Grier and Treon Harris will play in the Gators’ season opener against New Mexico State.
By all accounts, Grier got off to a fantastic start in the QB battle. He outplayed Harris in the spring, and Harris missed some time in spring practice with a family emergency. Grier also got off to a strong start in fall camp, looking fantastic in the first couple weeks of practice while Harris struggled.
But Harris has played better lately, looking exceptional at times. He’s throwing the ball with confidence now, something he didn’t do early in fall camp. In fact, Harris was downright inaccurate early on, chunking balls into the ground and overthrowing receivers by several feet. He’s eliminated those mistakes now, and his incompletions really only come from good plays by defensive backs or occasional drops from receivers. Throughout this past week, he’s seldom made throws that any coach would call “bad”. He’d dug himself a hole behind Grier, and is in fact still in the process of climbing out of it, but he’s looked good enough for McElwain to declare that both QB’s would play against the Aggies.
The last time Florida held a quarterback audition in the first game of the season was 2012, against Bowling Green. Will Muschamp and Brent Pease were deciding between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. Neither was very good and the Gators struggled mightily in a 27-14 win, but Driskel got the nod. I know that this is what a lot of Gator fans are thinking about, and using this as a reason to doubt the wisdom of waging a QB battle in a real live game.
If this bugs you, it shouldn’t for two reasons. One, New Mexico State flat out sucks. The Gators could beat the Aggies with their second team. And two, McElwain knows more about quarterbacks than most people who will criticize this move. Yes, Grier still appears to be ahead of Harris right now, but now it’s not by so much that McElwain shouldn’t at least give Harris a shot to run the new offense in a live game before he rules him out. When you’re picking your QB, you’re doing so with the hope that he’ll be your QB for as long as he wears your team’s jersey, i.e. you hope you’ll never have to make a switch. So since McElwain is making a decision he hopes will be permanent, it’s only fair to make 100% sure he’s picked the better QB before pulling the trigger and being stuck with it, for better or worse.
I’ll say it again: I still think Grier eventually beats out Harris. It’s true that Harris has stepped up and played better lately, but Grier has consistently been very, very good throughout spring and fall practice. He hasn’t really had any true “bad” practices, and has only made a handful of bad decisions and throws since McElwain took over. And the consistent solid performances he’s turned in should be enough that, unless he absolutely flops against New Mexico State, he’ll get the nod as the starter.
I like Harris a lot, but I want Grier to be my team’s quarterback. And I remain fairly confident that at the end of the day, he will be.