Here are my early thoughts on the recent news about quarterback Will Grier’s suspension. I have this feeling inside that there are still some questions to be asked concerning this situation and time has always been the best story teller.
Regardless, this is a very unfortunate situation, but not as disastrous one for the Florida Gators as the story will be told. At the end of the day Grier has to know better and will get his opportunity again in the future. The most difficult part will be getting the team to move past it, and I think that has already begun. The team meeting and the press conference says a lot about how Head Coach Jim McElwain is running this program and what he demands from his players.
Already this year McElwain has lost a quarterback to a UAA suspension and an NCAA suspension, which has to be frustrating for him and the staff, especially after the progress that has been made since the Kentucky game. This staff and team can be comforted by Treon Harris’ past experience. This will help this team during preparation this week. For Treon, This is an opportunity to show his growth and maturation over the last month as a backup and coming off of a suspension.
Fortunately enough for Florida, Treon is a quality backup that can still move the ball, maybe not at the rate Grier does, but I think Florida can still go into this game confident that they can win. Treon has played in front of big crowds before, so I don’t expect him to be moved by the moment overall. The challenge will be can he lead the team through adversity that will come during the game? Even with Grier out, there is still no guarantee that Brandon Harris is the better quarterback in the game, he is still unproven as a passer and has not played a defense like Florida’s.
I trust that McElwain will handle this situation just fine and, thus far this year, he has found a way to create rallying points for this team, and this week should not present any issues as far as focus. McElwain has stated that the university will appeal the suspension, but that seems to be in terms of length rather than completely reversing the decision.
It is too early to write Florida off in any capacity. They have a firm grip on the SEC East. The week off will be needed to grow the offense around Treon and his skill set, as well as step away from a very emotional month for the team. It will be a chance to heal and just breathe. The last two weeks have been full of praise for this team, now many throw them back under the bus, expecting a freefall without Grier.
Looking at the schedule beyond this week. Georgia’s loss of running back Nick Chubb is more devastating than the loss of Grier, in my opinion, the makeup of this Florida team does not change much. The same cannot be said about Georgia, they has such a dependency on Chubb and I am not completely sold Sony Michel can present the same issues for defenses being the primary ball carrier. He still has to prove he can carry the load. Their backup Keith Marshall is not the backup Sony is. Sony Michel is not prepared to beat a defense like Florida.
Florida will be favored to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores and Florida Atlantic Owls. With a potential SEC East title on the line heading up to South Carolina, I expect them to be fully focused. Closing the year against Florida State will be a challenge as always, but I am still confident that a lot will be riding on that game and Florida will be prepared to play. As you can see I am confident in this team. Not so much because of Treon, but I really trust that this staff can actually coach, not just x’s and o’s but the mental side of the game that goes under appreciated at times.
Today seemed like another chapter to the book that has been written since the end of 2009, more controversy, more issues, more problems around the Florida football program, but I believe that book was closed months ago. This is a situation that Florida can overcome, they are in the midst of a run that not many expected and their goals are still ahead of them and still very much attainable. Regardless of how you look at this situation, Will made a dumb mistake and has to deal with it. McElwain and the Gators cannot lose this weekend’s game today. I expect Florida to do what they have been doing all year, circle the wagons, grow closer together and play with a lot of heart and effort.