In this special edition of the SEC Film Room, we’re taking a look at how Florida’s offensive game plan has changed with Treon Harris now under center replacing the suspended Will Grier for the season.
Harris’ first game as the full-time starter was a loss to LSU, but that loss really wasn’t on him. If Grier would have been at quarterback, would Florida have moved the ball with more sustainable consistency? I think so. But, that doesn’t pin the negative outcome wasn’t on Harris’ shoulders.
So let’s see what changed, what didn’t and what we can expect from Florida with Harris at quarterback for the remainder of the year.
First observation: The wheel route ain’t goin’ nowhere. This point is crucial for Gators fans because it shows McElwain is going to continue to game plan around what he knows will work. With Grier, Florida got more creative when it utilized tight ends in the passing game. It appears that is going to remain a focal point. That’s a great sign.
Another good sign: Harris is still going to attack the field vertically. Florida fans didn’t see much of that last year, and it’s one of the reasons Grier was going to take the reigns as the season progressed. Grier showed a confidence in his arm and in his receivers that hadn’t existed at Florida for quite a while.
During his time as a starter in 2014, Harris was hesitant on throws of more than 15 yards. He didn’t show the correct velocity on passes to make deep shots worth taking. On Saturday, he threw a few bombs that made me think the drop-off from Grier might not be as big as I originally thought.
Stretching the field is a key component for McElwain’s offense. Harris needs to be able to do that.
This is an example of where Harris is still a step behind Grier, and a reason why Grier passed him for the starting job. To this point in his career, Harris had shown a tendency to be a tad late on his throws. In the video above, Harris had DeAndre Goolsby open before he le it go. If he would have thrown the ball sooner and lead Goolsby with an earlier pass, Harris would’ve given Goolsby a chance to make his man miss and rack up added yards after the catch.
That’s an area Grier was starting to really thrive.
Touch passes and accuracy were still a downgrade when subbing in Harris for Grier. Grier gave his receivers an opportunity to make plays after the catch. Harris just seemed to get it there at the moment of contact with a defender.
Lastly, Harris still had a few mental errors when his back was against the wall. In the play above it was second-and-11 with one minute left in the fourth quarter. The Gators were down seven points with 90 yards to score. On the previous play, Harris took a sack against a three-man rush, which was also bad, but this play wasn’t much better.
His team didn’t have any timeouts, so throwing this ball not only resulted in no gain, but it also let the clock continue to run. Greyson Lambert did this same thing against Alabama; he continued to check down on passes that needed to be either at the first-down marker, near the sideline or in the stands. Harris has to know better than to target a route like that in this situation.
The different styles of play between how Grier commanded the pocket versus how Harris did brought its share of growing pains. Quarterback play itself, chemistry between receivers, offensive line reliability and connection with a running back are all factors that come into play when you switch from a pocket passer to a dual-threat quarterback.
But not all change is bad. Here’s an example of where change works.
That was something Florida fans didn’t seem much of from Grier. Grier has escapability, and could pick up a first down with his legs, but Harris looked much more comfortable moving out of the pocket and throwing from the sideline where Grier would rarely bring his body back to a throwing stance once he tucked the ball to move. Grier extended plays with his legs on a broken pocket, but Harris was comfortable extending plays with with his legs and his arm. That can turn out to be a plus with speedy players such as Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway running longer routes and creating separation downfield.
Overall, there are aspects of Harris’ game that need work, but there are also new strengths to the position that can be utilized in the coming weeks.
What’s gone is Grier’s arm strength, his anticipation and his ability to read a defense. Harris brings a more dynamic role which suites a faster style of play. But Florida fans have seen before that you need more than scrambling legs to beat an SEC defense.
The most important take away is this: McElwain called on and trusted Grier to make clutch throws late in the game. Can he do the same with Harris?