Decision looming for QB 2

The days are dwindling down. For Florida Gator football fans, the start of the season may still seem too long away but for the Florida Gator coaching staff, the kickoff to the 2014 season is just around the corner and there are big decisions to make.

Question marks surround the Gators but there is no question about who’s the quarterback. That is Jeff Driskel’s job. The success of the team rides greatly on the fourth year junior’s shoulders and as Driskel goes, so will the offense.

There is, however, a question mark at quarterback. Florida learned a valuable lesson in 2013 and they won’t enter another season without having backup quarterbacks ready to go in case of emergency.

“As far as our roster is concerned, we needed to find a backup quarterback,” Will Muschamp said at Florida media day. “That is someone that will play in the fist ball game at some point. That’s going to be important for us to develop at that position.”

The first ball game is just over two weeks away and, for now, the backup quarterback job is still wide open.

“We still are a work in progress behind Jeff. We need to continue to have — those guys were live yesterday,” Muschamp said on Monday. “They went against live rush so we‘ve got to do a better job getting rid of the football and taking care of the football. The ball security at that position was not good.”

Behind Driskel there are three quarterbacks all competing to earn the job of understudy. Skyler Mornhinweg was forced into action last season and is the only quarterback behind Driskel with real game experience. Will Grier enrolled early and used the 15 spring practices to get a leg up and learn the playbook before the rest of the freshmen class enrolled. Finally, there is Treon Harris; Harris won his final 26 high school games at Booker T. Washington, including two state championships and a national championship.

Will Grier is competing for the backup job behind Jeff Driskel. / Photo by David Bowie
Will Grier is competing for the backup job behind Jeff Driskel. / Photo by David Bowie

Grier was a long-time Florida commit and the presumed future quarterback at Florida. Treon Harris spent most of his senior season committed to Florida State before a flip on national signing day brought him to Gainesville. Grier’s experience in the spring aided him this fall, giving him a head start on Harris and a distinct advantage on the field. Grier was more comfortable and confident in the offense and it showed.

Harris struggled at first. The new offense, tempo and just the general speed of the college game caused him to think too much and slowed him down. Tuesday, Harris looked more poised and completed some big throws, one of his closest friends on the team — Quinton Dunbar — says the game is finally starting to slow down for the freshman passer.

“He feels like he finally learned the offense now so he’s able to play a little faster.”
That’s’ good. Harris needs to acclimate as quickly as possible because time is running out. Florida will need one of the two freshmen to step up and play like veterans this season. Roper sees some good, similar qualities in both.

“I see talent. I see guys that are working hard that want to be good, that right now are confused because it is a bunch on their plate, it is a different game. It’s a brand new language. We do have a lot of routes, so it takes a little bit of time to pick up. But I see talented players.”

According to Roper, both quarterbacks are commanding the offense when they get opportunities to and, right now, the biggest separation between the two is size and speed.

“Will’s got a pretty good command of the offense, managing the line of scrimmage and getting everybody on the same page,” Roper said. “I think Treon is being pretty decisive right now. Where there are different is in size, and there is a difference in top-end speed.”

They came in at different times and both had the typical head spinning transition that most freshmen go through. But a decision is coming, sooner than they even realize.

“We’ll have to make decisions here pretty soon through the week and into next week and start trying to get more reps that way,” Roper said. “I still think we’re in a competitive situation.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC