In his first time meeting with the Florida Gators media, new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier laid it out plain and simple. He strongly believes that in order for the Gators to be successful they will need to find a quarterback — and quick.
“I think at every level of football, you look at teams that have good quarterbacks. They’re successful teams,” he said. “It’s hard to find teams that don’t have a good quarterback that are successful.”
That’s been an issue for the Gators the past four years. They’ve had good guys playing quarterback, but not great players, not consistent guys who can lead their team to victories against the toughest competition on Saturday. Since Tim Tebow left, the Gators quarterbacks have thrown just 67 touchdowns (13.4 a season) and 53 interceptions.
“I think you look around the country and you can look at every program and there’s peaks and valleys,” Nussmeier said. “For whatever reason, I don’t have the background here to make an educated statement on why those reasons are. It would be foolish for me to say it’s because of this, this and this. I don’t know the answer to that question. Now as to live in the present and look toward the future.”
Nussmeier spent last season in Ann Arbor, Michigan, working with quarterback Devin Gardner. Michigan struggled on both sides of the ball but Gardner’s inconsistent play was a driving force behind the Wolverine’s putrid offense — Michigan was dead last in total offense and 13th in scoring offense. It only reaffirmed Nussmeier’s belief that you need a good quarterback to be successful.
He’ll have young talent to work with. Both Treon Harris and Will Grier racked up accolades in high school. Harris played in nine games as a freshman, completing just 55-of-111 pass attempts (49.5%) for 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He added 75 carries for 332 yards and three scores.
Grier, the talented passer from North Carolina, spent the year on the sideline redshirting. That was always the plan for him and it is what he and his family expected when he enrolled early at Florida.
With the transfer of Jeff Driskel, that leaves two quarterbacks left to battle it out for the starting job. The coaching staff has made it clear to every player that they’re all starting out with a clean slate.
“What you’ve done before doesn’t matter,” said Nussmeier. “It’s living in today and where we’re going in the future is what’s important to me.”
Both Grier and Harris are competitors. They both want to play now. Harris got a good taste of what it’s like to take on the grind of the SEC schedule but Grier has been chomping at the bit for his opportunity. Despite Harris’ experience this past season, Nussmeier knows it takes time for young quarterbacks to develop.
“Obviously, any time you have young quarterbacks, it’s difficult because it takes time. Everybody wants instant results,” he said. “But the good thing is you get to build them from phase one. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to coach these guys, and the situation here.”
Harris and Grier will strap it up when spring practice starts and the spotlight will be on them. The future of the Gators and just how quickly Jim McElwain can turn the program around will start with the quarterback. McElwain and Nussmeier have two talented players but only one of them can start. It’s up to Nussmeier to identify which quarterback can win games for the Gators next season and McElwain is confident that he’s entrusted the right man with that responsibility.
“He was a guy who’s been successful. He has a great background and is great with people and has developed quarterbacks,” McElwain said of Nussmeier. “I think that’s an important thing to understand there, is the development of the position. That’s kind of where that is.”