Florida Football: Jim McElwain should let QB competition continue into season


With the season opener coming up, Jim McElwain still hasn’t named a starting quarterback but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When Florida Athletic Director, Jeremy Foley, hired Jim McElwain to replace the fired Will Muschamp it was clear the direction the Gators were going to take in the coming seasons. Since the time McElwain has taken over the first question on everyone’s mind was how was he going to fix the offense and who was going to lead it?

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After a spring practice battle that featured the returning Treon Harris redshirt freshman Will Grier, the question of who was going to lead the offense didn’t really become any clearer. Grier might have outperformed Harris, but it wasn’t by enough for McElwain to name him starter going into fall camp.

Now that fall camp has come and gone and it’s game week for the Gators, the question of who will start the first game versus New Mexico St. still looms large. While Gator fans would love for a starter to be named, McElwain doesn’t need to name a starter just yet.

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Neither one of the quarterbacks have separated themselves from the other, McElwain has said. While reports have been Grier has looked better than Harris, McElwain won’t commit to naming him the starter.

McElwain is no stranger to letting quarterbacks battle it out going into the first game of the season and letting a leader emerge from there. In 2011 as offensive coordinator at Alabama, McElwain used the quarterback rotation of AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims in the opener vs Kent State.

McCarron did enough in that game as he passed for 226 yards and one touchdown and that led they way for him to be named sole starter the next week as Alabama traveled to Penn State. McCarron never looked back and led Alabama to a National Championship that same season.

It is important for McElwain to evaluate each quarterback, not only in practice, but in live game situations. Gators fans know all too well with the last few seasons of Jeff Driskel that great practices doesn’t always equate to good play on game day.

While Grier may have a slight lead on Harris according to reports, Harris is the only one of the two that has game experience. After starting six games last season, Harris has shown great ability with his legs and throwing the deep pass. He struggled with the short to intermediate throws and couldn’t really count on his arm to consistently move the chains.

Harris may not be the prototypical quarterback for McElwain’s traditional style, but there are reasons McElwain may opt to go with Harris.

Florida brings in an offensive line that is one of the least experienced in the nation. With only David Sharpe and Trip Thurman returning with the only real game experience, Harris’ mobility may force McElwain to go with him and help a struggling offensive line. There are many young offensive linemen that are going to play for the Gators and playing Harris can benefit them to the point of not having to hold blocks as long as they would for a drop back style QB.

The problem with that could be that McElwain has to taylor an offense to Harris skill set for the best chance to win this season and risk the offense not evolving into what McElwain’s traditional offense. That’s where Will Grier steps in.

Grier has all the arm talent in the world for what McElwain really wants to do on offense. His arm strength allows him to make every throw to stretch the field vertically and horizontally. In other words, when Grier is behind center, the offensive playbook gets expanded. When the playbook is open, wide receivers are more involved as Grier is the quarterback that is going to go through his progressions before trying to leave the pocket. Harris is more of a one read and get out of the pocket type of QB.

“I like where they’re at, both of them,” McElwain tells GatorZone.com. “I feel comfortable with both of them , and we’ll see after this. I haven’t put a deadline… I want to see them take ownership.”

If this is really the way McElwain feels about the quarterbacks, and this isn’t just coach speak, then there’s no problem with playing both quarterbacks in the first game.

Maybe one plays better in game situations.

Maybe the rest of the offense reacts better to one or the other.

Maybe the Gators have two good quarterbacks.

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