GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the Florida Gators head into spring football, the biggest storyline is the quarterback situation.
UF is once again looking for a new starter at the position because suspended quarterback Will Grier will transfer, and Treon Harris will reportedly switch to wide receiver. The Gators have four new quarterbacks on the roster, and many Florida fans are hoping one of them will win the job by the end of spring practice.
Well, don’t hold your breath.
One thing UF coach Jim McElwain loves to do is create competition. Not just within his team, but throughout the entire football program.
“If you don’t like to compete for your job, this place isn’t for you,” a person close to the program recently told SEC Country.
McElwain made it a priority to have competition last year at quarterback, the position he works most closely with. He went through spring and all of fall camp without naming a starter between Harris and Grier, then let them share playing time in the first two games of the 2015 season.
Once Grier became the full-time starter, McElwain seemingly went out of his way in every press conference to say Grier was doing, ‘OK,’ and that Harris remained in the mix.
Even after his 271-yard, four-TD performance in the Ole Miss game, McElwain would not concede that Grier had solidified the starting job.
“I think he played pretty decent,” McElwain said after the 38-10 win. “Treon was ready and he will be ready. He’ll continually prepare.”
When asked about his reluctance to give Grier too much praise, McElwain said, “Call Garrett Grayson, call John Parker (Wilson), call Greg (McElroy), call A.J. (McCarron), call whoever about what I put them though. You’re supposed to do that.”
Interestingly enough, McElwain’s tune totally changed after the Grier suspension. Knowing he only had one viable QB option, from that point on he spoke highly of Harris in every presser. The more he struggled, the more McElwain found ways to praise him and boost his confidence.
That won’t be the case this year, unless McElwain is the unluckiest man in college football and three of his quarterbacks get hurt before or during the season.
There’s not an obvious choice for Florida’s next starter, a guy you can point to and say definitively that he’ll win the job. Luke Del Rio, the presumed favorite, has played three college games, graduate transfer Austin Appleby had an up-and-down career at Purdue, and early enrollees Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask could still be in high school right now.
That being said, all four have upside and each will get an opportunity to compete for the No. 1 spot, though it will likely come down to Appleby and Del Rio. To keep them on their toes and engaged, don’t expect McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to name a starter this spring, even if they already have their minds made up.
This quarterback competition will continue into the fall, and that’s just the way McElwain wants it.