Competition is good for a football team. It creates an atmosphere with elevated intensity and will bring the best, or worst out of people. The cream always rises to the top.
However, there is one position on the field where only one person will play and the Florida Gators quarterback competition continues on through the spring and into the offseason.
There is only one ball and only one person can be the starting quarterback. That kind of competition is different than say at wide receiver or on the defensive line. There is a certain mystique and prestige that comes with being named the starting quarterback.
The stakes are higher, high enough to create a wedge in the team — something Florida went through when Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett were battling for the job.
This year is different.
Finishing up his media responsibility, Will Grier stood up, noticed a throng of reporters still huddled around Treon Harris — his competition. Grier took a few steps towards the door and waited. Harris finished his interview, walked over to Grier and the duo left, together.
“Me and Will are brothers,” Harris said. “We’re here for each other.”
Harris missed some time this spring to be home with his family following the tragic murder of his cousin. During that time Grier was able to get all of the first team reps and started to pull away from Harris in the quarterback battle. When a competition is close, every rep is meaningful and Harris feels like he’s falling behind slightly.
“Kind of sort of, yea. But we’re all on the same page,” he said when asked. “I just have to catch up on my foot steps and everything like that.”
Grier and Harris split the first team reps in the Orange and Blue Debut but it was Grier that got the first snap of the game — just as he had been getting every day in practice.
For Harris, he has a goal. He’s chasing Grier and can see what he needs to do in order to catch him. As the frontrunner, Grier can’t afford to look back as he enters unchartered waters trying to be the guy for the Gators.
“Regarding [the quarterback battle], it’s not up to me. I go out and play as hard as I can, try to lead the team and get better in this offense and do the best I can, try and develop,” said Grier. “Like I said, we do have a long way to go, so there’s a lot of room for improvement, a lot of things we’ve got to work on as a whole.”
The team will now enter the deep part of the off season. They’ll only be able to have contact with the training and strength staffs, which puts emphasis on a leader among the team stepping up to lead workouts and get in extra practice so that these next few months aren’t wasted.
Can a redshirt freshman take the lead of a team?
“Yeah absolutely. I think age isn’t a factor. I try to lead by example, but not only that, I think as a quarterback it comes with the position,” Grier said. “I try my best to lead these guys in the right way and improve as much as possible.”
Part of that leadership and Grier’s age was on display on Saturday — and not in a good way. Grier isn’t used to failure. The talented passer threw for 77 touchdowns as a senior in high school. So when there were drops, Grier had trouble holding in his disappointment.
“I thought Will let a few of the drives bother him,” Jim McElwain said. “He’s gotta learn ‘Hey, clap it off and win the next play’.”
He may have shown his age on the field in a fleeting moment of aggravation but Grier showed his leadership by waiting for his friend, his competition and his teammate after the game on Saturday.
Only one of them will win the job, but both quarterbacks are saying and doing all of the right things off the field.