I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Losing Will Grier hurts. I know that as well as you. And so I completely understand the frustration that’s been circulating throughout Gator Nation since the news broke that Grier was suspended for the rest of the season.
But as bad as it is, Florida is not really in that much worse of a situation than they were in before the bombshell dropped. Think about it.
Losing Will Grier does not in any way impact the Gators’ nasty defense, which is allowing under 300 yards of total offense per game, and has allowed just 13 points in the last 8 quarters of game action- and seven of those points were an Ole Miss touchdown that came with four minutes to go and a 38-3 lead. You know, we’re talking about the defense that sacked Drew Lock three times, picked him off twice and didn’t allow Missouri to get inside the Florida 25 at all following its first drive of the game. Grier doesn’t play defense, meaning they’re free to just keep doing their thing as they otherwise would.
Losing Grier does not in any way impact the suddenly phenomenal offensive line that Jim McElwain and Mike Summers have built. You know, the offensive line that went from having six scholarship players in the spring to opening enough holes for Kelvin Taylor to rush for 284 yards in the last three games combined, and the line that’s kept Grier on his feet much more often than we all thought they would. Grier isn’t on the offensive line, meaning the offensive line has no reason not to continue to improve and dominate some really good opposing defenses.
And while losing Grier would result in a slight drop off at the QB position, Florida has a more than able backup in Treon Harris. OK, so he has the tendency to float the ball a little bit, and his split second decision making isn’t quite as good as Grier’s, but… he’s still a pretty solid quarterback, one that singlehandedly saved Florida from an embarrassing loss to Tennessee last year, and one who managed the game and played mistake free football in a huge upset over rival Georgia.
Which brings us to the premise of this article.
Here’s the deal for the Gators. Excluding Kentucky (which I’ll get to in a minute) the scenario for the SEC East is this: beat Georgia, and win any one of the three remaining SEC games (against LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt) and the Gators represent the SEC East in Atlanta. Now, Kentucky is only one game back, but this scenario goes into effect regarding the Widcats as well should they lose any of their five remaining SEC games (against Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt).
Basically, what I’m saying is that it would take some serious self destruction by the Gators to not win the SEC East. I’ll remind you that Florida currently has a two game lead in the SEC East (one over second place Kentucky, who they’ve already beaten for the head to head tiebreaker) midway through the season. You don’t built a two game lead midway through the season with just a QB, but rather with an array of more than adequate pieces around a QB. Treon Harris may not bring the same skill set to the table that Grier brings, but you can beat Georgia with Treon Harris as your QB if your running game (read: your offensive line) and your defense collectively play the way they were recruited to play. All Harris has to do is not make mistakes.
This isn’t to say that Florida has to hide Harris entirely, because he does have a solid arm and real mobility, but whatever workload he’s given cannot result in turning the ball over or him doing something that’s similarly detrimental, like running around and taking an 18 yard sack when he could have just thrown the ball away. And this also isn’t to say that Florida has to regress to “Muschamp football,” as it’s less than kindly referred to as, meaning just run and play defense. It’s a mere reminder that a stout offensive line with able running backs behind it- which Florida has in Kelvin Taylor and Jordan Cronkrite (Jordan Scarlett appears to be headed for a redshirt)- plus a ferocious, opportunistic defense, which Florida also has, can win a big game by itself as long as the quarterback doesn’t make things harder for them. Again, “not making things harder for them” can mean making things much easier by playing a tremendous game as much as it can mean a performance that mirrors Harris’s ultra-conservative 3-6 day against Georgia last year.
But anyway, the larger point is that Florida is a football team, one that consists of dozens of different players with different roles, and one that’s lost one player at a very important role but with a more than able backup capable of filling his role in a different yet similarly effective manner. And most importantly, it’s a Florida football team that has a trip to the SEC Championship Game well within reach.
So enough of the past, what Grier did, and what could have and should have been. The reality we’ve been faced with is the reality we’ve got to go forward with; let’s just focus on the that.
Now, we see what Florida is made of. This is a team game. A team sport. Over 50 players and a dozen coaches are responsible for performing their various duties in order to do all in their power to make the school they play for the best that it can possibly be. Losing one player, no matter how valuable he is, should not get in the way of that. The great teams find ways to overcome adversity like this. Will 2015 Florida be remembered as a great team capable of overcoming said adversity? Or will 2015 Florida merely be remembered as a solid one that got hot and then folded when things got tough?
The task falls on the current Gator player and coaches to come together, regroup, and go out and fight with the same mentality that they did while Grier was eligible. In all kinds of weather, they need to all stick together… for an SEC East Championship.
And maybe even more.