As fall camp moved into two-a-days the Florida Gators quarterback battle is far from over according to Head Coach Jim McElwain. Redshirt freshman Will Grier and sophomore Treon Harris continue to split reps with the first team offense as McElwain and Offensive Coordinator Doug Nussmeier search for one of them to take job and leadership of the offense.
“Those guys have shared the reps,” McElwain said of his two quarterbacks. “I haven’t seen, I guess if you’re asking is there a separation yet, I haven’t really seen it.”
That’s the problem the two signal callers face; trying to find their own edge, a way to show the coaching staff that they have something different to offer the offense, something their counterpart can’t do as well.
On one hand, Harris has the experience edge. He was the one who trotted out in front of more than 100,000 Tennessee Volunteer fans and led two scoring drives in hostile territory to lead the Gators to their 10th win in a row over their SEC East rival. Harris continued on and eventually won the starting quarterback job in 2014 but fell behind Grier during spring camp.
Grier — in the very limited reps that the media has seen in the spring and fall — appears to be the sharper quarterback, however. Grier looks more natural and comfortable taking the ball from under center and he’s been more accurate in practice, but we don’t know how he will react when the non-contact quarterback jersey comes off and the bullets really start flying.
“I think the younger quarterbacks, the best teaching tool is to be live during blitz,” McElwain said. “It’s kind of like touching on a hot stove.”
McElwain went on to say, “That’s kind of how I work,” when asked if he had plans to make quarterbacks live during fall camp but until that happens, the staff is using new technology to try and find separation between the quarterbacks. The quarterback race may come down to a photo finish and if that’s the case, McElwain has a plan in order.
On Saturday Harris had a GoPro camera strapped to his helmet and Grier donned the small, versatile camera on Monday. The headband attachment allows the camera to sit just above the eyes of the quarterback, allowing the coaching staff to go back and see exactly what each quarterback was looking at on specific plays.
“It’s great to see and then you’re able to pull it, stack it behind the play and see exactly where their eyes are,” McElwain said.
In a race that is close, and with a coach that is supremely focused on the finer details and minutia of the game, the GoPro has been an invaluable teaching tool for him, even more so than the players themselves.
“It’s more of a confirmation for the student than it is necessarily,” he said. “It’s a teaching tool for the educator, it’s a confirmation for the student as you’re looking at the reps.”
The competition is too close to call now but McElwain doesn’t seem to be the kind of coach that wants this battle to wage on longer than necessary. However, he is walking a fine line due to Florida’s lack of depth at the position.
“I think a lot of teams kind of go through it when obviously there isn’t a specific returning starter,” he said. “For us, it’s just those guys keep rolling and keep leading the football team.”
Leading the team will get a kick in the pants on Tuesday as the team will again be back for two practices and the intensity and pressure situations will kick up a notch.
“We’ve only had 2-minute [drills] one time, we’ll have that actually three total times [Tuesday] between the two practices,” said McElwain. “Those are kind of those critical situations that we really need to see guys kind of step up in.”
You can bet that the GoPro’s will be back on for those critical drills as the Gators’ coaching staff uses technology to find separation at quarterback.