By: Kevin Camps
The Florida Gators offense has obviously regressed and has struggled to produce even a morsel of anything positive in the passing game. The main priority for Florida is getting the signal caller right. Florida has one of the elite defenses in all of college football, but we may not have seen the fullness of what they can do because of the ineffectiveness of the offense. The reason why many people were wearing blinders when the offense was on the field was because of the less than stellar quarterback play. Many circumstances can play into that, but no matter how you slice it, the production was not there. Unfortunately for Florida this has not been a one-season problem, this has been a six-year problem.
In the span of five offensive plays in the third quarter Saturday, we saw the entire Florida offense and passing game summed up. After an Alabama field goal to go up 15-7 Florida started the drive on its own 25. The first play was a drop by DeAndre Goolsby, a drop by Robinson on a pass slightly behind him, a false start by Robinson and a clear miss fire by Harris to an open Callaway. The cherry on top was the next drive after an Alabama touchdown, after a Taylor run of two yards; Harris’ throw gets picked off.
Make no mistake about it; the biggest question moving forward will be who is under center for the Gators. Barring more unforeseen or undesired circumstances, I would be very surprised if Treon Harris is the starter at any point next season. Considering how things have played out the last two seasons with Jeff Driskel and Will Grier, there is the possibility of that happening. Florida may not know whom the starter is moving forward, but they do know the production has to be better. The front-runner as of now would be former Alabama and Oregon State quarterback Luke Del Rio. He has history with the staff and is a better-fit skill wise for the way McElwain and Nussmeier want to attack defenses. The Gators also have commitments from quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, and they are pursuing a third commitment from elite quarterback Jacob Eason.
Going into spring it will be interesting to see how McElwain approaches the quarterback position. Will he give Harris a chance to win the spot; how much will he involve Grier knowing he will not play the first half of the season? Will he go all in with Del Rio or will he quickly try to coach up one of the freshman? I think this makes for fascinating spring practice. The one caveat to this entire discussion is if Jacob Eason were to commit and enroll early as well. If the quarterback roster situation were to remain as it is now with Harris, Del Rio and the commits, that is a far better situation than what you have now.
Even for the Treon apologist, it has become hard to justify him being ahead of anyone in the quarterback competition moving forward. It got so bad that there are those out there that were calling for Joshua Grady, who transferred from Vanderbilt. There was actually the thought that we should roll out the walk on quarterback Jacob Guy. If we as Florida fans have learned anything, every third string quarterback is not Cardale Jones; most fall in the Skyler Mornhinweg category. I do believe that Treon was put in a very tough situation and we could debate about implementing things offensively that benefit his skill set, but that is another discussion for another day.
In reality, pulling Treon was never really an option. If you watched Baylor after the Seth Russell injury, Jarret Stidham was not bad, but the production dropped off, by the time it got to the fourth string quarterback Baylor was scoring 17 points against Texas and failed to score in the first half. Baylor actually went five regulation quarters without a point between the TCU and Texas games. Yes, Baylor. The quarterback position has become so critical; finding the right guy for the system is so vital to having long-term success. Florida has seen pockets of success from the position but nothing over the entire course of a season for multiple seasons.
In fairness to Treon, we knew the moment McElwain was hired that this offense was not a fit for him. We probably should not have set our expectations so high once he became the full time starter. His success at LSU may have been to his own demise. It just wasn’t realistic to think he was going to produce that type of performance week in and week out. It came to a point that we had to understand the situation and hope for the best from Treon.
As far as Harris’ future is concerned, if he wants to play quarterback he may need to consider a transfer to play in an offense that better suits him. If he wants to play for Florida, he needs to consider changing positions. I wanted to see him do very well, or well enough to be in the conversation moving forward. Right now I am not sure that is a possibility, because you know what you are getting and fans tend to lean towards the unknown in this type of situation.
The weapons around Florida may see some changes, but for the most part it will be a lot of faces we saw contribute this year. The offensive line will improve with more experience and the opportunities to play young guys like Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson will go a long way to their development. If Kelvin Taylor were to stay, you will have a productive back coming back with two promising running backs in Scarlett and Cronkrite and will add JUCO running back Mark Thompson and freshman Lamical Perine. Antonio Callaway with Brandon Powell will lead the receiving corps and I expect the third receiver spot to be open with the seemingly upcoming departure of Demarcus Robinson. Callaway has the potential to be one of the more explosive plays in the conference going into next year.
Whoever the quarterback is, they will have parts to work with. This one thing is for sure; the position has to see progress. The talent has to improve, depth has to better and most importantly the production has to increase. The quarterback position at Florida has not been right since 2009. If the Gators want a return trip to Atlanta, the man under center has to be strength and not a liability.