Will Grier has found a way to win each of his three starts this season.
But the redshirt freshman still hasn’t won the full-time starting quarterback job.
“We’ll see,” Gators (4-0, 2-0 SEC) coach Jim McElwain said Monday when asked if the quarterback rotation will continue. “We’ll see how it goes this week in practice. I thought Will did some real good things in the game but there’s some things he’s got to get better at, too.”
Even though Grier completed 11 of 18 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns over the final two drives to rally the Gators from a 27-14 deficit to a 28-27 win over Tennessee on Saturday, it still wasn’t enough to win the job.
“Those two drives at the end are what he’s supposed to do,” said McElwain, whose team entered the AP poll at No. 25 this week as it prepares to host No. 3 Mississippi (4-0, 2-0) on Saturday night (7 p.m. ESPN). “That’s what you do when you play the position. We practice it that way and he executed it. There were a lot of drives there that weren’t executed, so we’ve got a long ways to go.”
McElwain is likely alluding to Grier’s performance over the first three quarters against the Volunteers. He entered the fourth quarter with an unimpressive stat line — 12-of-24 for 142 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
With Treon Harris serving a one-game suspension against Tennessee, Florida was forced to stick with Grier for the entire game despite the slow start. But Harris — and cornerback Jalen Tabor — will return from suspension for Saturday game, providing another option at quarterback.
“We’re excited about both Treon and Jalen being back this week and being part of the team,” McElwain said. “You know, we’ll go with it from there.”
Grier’s teammates were impressed by his fourth quarter performance.
“Will is always in the huddle, encouraging everybody, ‘Come on,’” Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell said. “We was down by, what, 17? He was still in it, trying to motivate everybody. That’s what motivated us to keep fighting and come out with the W.”
It wasn’t just the final two drives that impressed teammates, Grier’s ability to convert on fourth down also opened eyes. He was 5-of-5 for 123 yards on fourth down against Tennessee.
But McElwain would rather Grier make those plays over the first three downs.
“If we can go ahead and make them on third downs, that’d be good,” he said. “That’s part of growing up.
Inconsistent play is also part of the growing up.
McElwain has pointed to Grier’s knack for leaving the pocket too early multiple times this season, but he saw progress in that area against the Volunteers.
The question is: Can Grier string together four quality quarters?
“Part of a young quarterback’s maturation is settling into the game,” McElwain said. “I thought there were times he moved better in the pocket and didn’t just give up, and yet there were a couple of those ‘Oh my, what are you doing?’ moments where he just threw it up. He’ll learn. He’ll see it on film.”