GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain announced this week that suspended quarterback Will Grier will rejoin the team Jan. 5.
Grier hasn’t practiced with the Gators since he was suspended by the NCAA for a calendar year on Oct. 12 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The redshirt freshman wasn’t on the sidelines for Florida’s final three home games and can’t be on the travel roster, including the upcoming trip to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Grier has also spent time away from the UF campus over the past two months as he completed his classes online and worked on his NCAA appeal, which he lost on Nov. 20. With the way Florida’s offense went downhill in his absence, Grier probably avoided being around disappointed Florida students, fans and, most of all, teammates.
“It’s tough on everybody,” McElwain said of Grier. “The poor guy, walking on campus ain’t easy. I just feel sick about it. It’s not easy, and yet, when you learn things when they don’t go well they really make you stronger.”
Grier will be back in Gainesville on a full-time basis in three weeks. However, his role is far from being defined for next year.
When Grier returns to practice in the spring, his involvement will be interesting to monitor. Surely he won’t work much, if at all, with the first-team offense because he’ll miss the first six games of 2016.
If Treon Harris is not part of the future at QB, which seems to be a forgone conclusion at this point, McElwain will spend the spring getting transfer Luke Del Rio up to speed and also working true freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask into the rotation. The importance of preparing Del Rio and developing Franks and Trask will certainly take away from Grier’s reps.
That should continue into training camp, with Del Rio and the freshmen having to get ready for the season. Their needs could relegate Grier to the scout team until he nears the end of his suspension.
But if Del Rio or one of the freshmen plays well at quarterback, it’s unlikely that McElwain would unseat the starter in the middle of the season for someone who’s missed a year of game action. It’s hard to envision Grier as a backup with the way he played this fall, but conceivably, he might not have a real chance to win his job back until 2017, when he would be a redshirt junior.
That is, of course, assuming Del Rio or a freshman produces with Grier gone. If the QB play doesn’t improve with them under center, all bets are off come October.
Regardless, don’t expect Grier to considering transferring prior to next season. He would have to sit out a year and then serve the rest of his NCAA suspension in 2017.
After meeting with Grier late last week, McElwain said his once-promising passer is not looking to transfer.
“Look, you can sit and cry over it or you can move forward and make the best of it,” McElwain said. “That’s one thing I think he’s doing.”