ORLANDO — Shooters shoot and that’s exactly what Jim McElwain wants Florida Gators starting quarterback Treon Harris to do on Friday in the Citrus Bowl.
“He’s got to cut the ball loose you know, and when the guys there, throw it to him,” McElwain said on Tuesday.
Harris was the Gators opening day starter before former Florida quarterback Will Grier took over that role. Harris played sparingly against ECU and over the next month as Florida started the season 6-0 behind Grier. Harris was given the starting quarterback role back as Florida took their perfect record into Death Valley.
Against a tough Tiger defense Harris set a career mark for passing yards (271) and threw two touchdowns to no interceptions in a losing effort. His 53.1% completion percentage (17-of-32) is his second most efficient this season and the fourth highest mark in his career. Harris’ performance, even in a loss, was encouraging and his play over the next month was good enough to get Florida to 10-1, but an 8-of-17 passing performance against FAU was less than inspiring.
That led Harris into a difficult stretch against Florida State and Alabama where he completed just 28-of-52 pass attempts in two blowout losses. The fan base has soured on the quarterback, but Florida’s offense as a whole has not played up to expectations.
“It really kind of works a little bit like that and yet it isn’t all him. That’s one thing I want everybody to kind of understand,” McElwain said. “I think as you look, as their [Michigan] quarterback developed, their team around him has gotten a lot better and that’s something you always consistently got to look to do.”
His teammates, specifically senior offensive lineman Trip Thurman, have been supportive of Harris. Thurman was very critical of Florida’s offense as a whole following the SEC Championship game, calling the performance “embarrassing.” He hasn’t, however, pointed the finger solely at his quarterback.
“It’s tough on a guy like that, putting the onus on him with the thing with Will,” said Thurman. “We need to prove stuff to other people because a lot of people don’t expect us to win this game, which is unfortunate because we’re SEC East champs and we play in the best conference in the nation.”
The Citrus Bowl could very well be Treon Harris’ last as the quarterback of the Florida Gators. Like Bubba Watson on the first tee it’s time for Harris to grip it and rip it.