When he was called upon to manage the offense following the suspension of Will Grier last season, Treon Harris struggled. That is why it appears he could be heading to a position change starting this spring.
Gridiron Now reporter Mike Huguenin reports Harris will begin transitioning to wide receiver for the Gators once spring practices open in Gainesville. Harris is more of a dual-threat passer, which does not typically fit in well with the style of offense trying to be run under head coach Jim McElwain. McElwain prefers to run with a pro-style offense. Given the remaining candidates for the starting quarterback job, it appears to be pro-style or bust for the Gators.
Harris completed just 50.9 percent of his pass attempts for 1,676 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions. He completed just 17 of his 45 pass attempts between the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama and bowl loss to Michigan. Harris was also ineffective in a regular season finale against Florida State, in which the Gators scored just two points, and he completed just eight of 17 passes for 122 yards against FAU.
With Harris now supposedly moving to receiver, that leaves McElwain’s quarterback competition down to Luke Del Rio (perhaps the leader in the clubhouse after impressing the staff as a practice squad player), Purdue transfer Austin Appleby and freshman Feleipe Franks.
With Florida scrambling to improve the quarterback position in 2016 following the transfer of Will Grier and the continued struggles of Treon Harris, the next best option may be a player coming to The Swamp from the Big Ten. Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby, who made the decision to transfer in December, will reportedly join the Gators in 2016.
“I am forever grateful for the opportunities I had as a Boilermaker,” Appleby wrote in a statement he released on his Twitter account. “I extend the highest regards to everyone who has helped to make my time at Purdue so impacting, especially my teammates.
“… And yet, it is time for me to turn the page and begin a new chapter in my life. I have made a decision to continue my college career at the University of Florida. I am very excited about this opportunity and all the great things that are in store for Gator Nation!”
Appleby will arrive at Florida and step right into the competition for the starting job in Gainesville. As a graduate transfer, Appleby will be eligible to play right away in 2016, and that should be good news for Florida. The Gators will have a defense ready to compete in the SEC East, but the quarterback position is in need of an upgrade, either with Appleby or Harris showing improvement.
Appleby lost the starting job at Purdue after struggling in the first few games of the 2015 season. In five games, Appleby completed 57.5 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns with eight interceptions. Appleby was supplanted as Purdue’s quarterback by freshman David Blough, who was expected to be the starter in 2016 as well.
Florida quarterback Will Grier announced plans to transfer out of Gainesville yesterday, leaving the future of Florida’s quarterback position looking a bit thinner. Because he was already serving a one-year suspension, the Gators had no other choice but to ride with Treon Harris for the second half of the 2015 season, but will Harris be the guy in 2016?
Harris will get a chance to end the season on a high note against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. A good performance in the bowl game with the extra time to prepare a solid Michigan defense could lead to some momentum heading into the spring practice season. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it is overrated, however in this case it would seem to be a positive if Harris can end the season on an upswing after ending the season two losses to Florida State and Alabama as well as some ugly wins against Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt.
In Florida’s Class of 2016, as currently lined up, the Gators have a commitment from four-star pro-style quarterback Feleipe Franks from Crawfordville, Florida. The second-best pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals could get an early shot at competing for the starting job under center with Harris. Harris, of course, will have the benefit of having playing experience at Florida over the past two seasons, including one year under McElwain, but Franks will be the quarterback hand-picked by McElwain and will offer more the style of passer McElwain will prefer to build his offense around, instead of Harris as a dual-threat. An early enrollee, Franks will get a chance to work with the team this spring and make his case for the starting job leading up to the season opener in 2016 against UMass.
If Franks still needs some time to develop and get comfortable in the offense, one other possible contender for the starting job could be Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio who joined the Gators last summer. Previously a walk-on at Alabama in 2013, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State in the spring of 2014. Del Rio then transferred to Florida in the spring of 2015 and was forced to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. That makes him eligible to compete for a job in 2016.
One of the biggest areas of need for improvement on Florida’s roster is at quarterback. Offense has been lagging for Florida in recent years, and McElwain is tasked with improving that while keeping the defense solid. Whoever becomes the Gators starter in 2016, if he can provide a lift on offense and make the Gators at least formidable on offense, Florida could be the top team in the SEC East once again in 2016.
Florida’s surprising 2015 season took a hard left turn today with the suspension of starting quarterback Will Grier for the remainder of the season. Grier has been suspended for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug, forcing Grier to sit out until the middle of October of 2016 unless he wins an appeal. The suspension is a devastating one for Florida’s revived offense at a horrible time with LSU on deck this week. The 6-0 Gators will not be losing any credit for the work done to this point though, as there will be no reason to vacate any victories accumulated so far.
While the exact timing of the drug test for Grier is unknown, or unconfirmed, all accounts seem to suggest action was taken swiftly with regard to Grier’s playing status. That means Florida is not believed to have played Grier while knowing or risking the chance he was actually an ineligible player. Had Florida done that, any game in which Grier merely stepped on the field would be tossed from the win column for the Gators. Grier has played in all six games so far, so that would have dropped the Gators from 6-0 down to 0-0. Remember that vacated wins do not equal losses, so Ole Miss and Tennessee and other victims of Florida to this point would still carry those losses they took.
The lack of vacated wins also keeps Florida in the bowl picture, regardless of what happens the rest of this season. The Gators are already bowl-eligible with the NCAA minimum six games won. Had the Gators lost all six wins, Florida would have had to run the table in the second half of the season just to qualify for postseason consideration (again).
Treon Harris will now be taking over as Florida’s starting quarterback. Head coach Jim McElwain has said all the right things so far and says Harris will be ready to take advantage of this situation even if due to unfortunate circumstances. Florida takes on LSU in Baton Rouge this weekend.
Well here is a curveball for the undefeated Florida Gators. Quarterback Will Grier will reportedly be suspended by the program for the rest of the season for a violation of NCAA rules. Mike Huguenin of GridironNow.com was first to report the news of the suspension, via Twitter. GatorBait.com had a second report with the same news.
Florida is expected to hold a press conference later this afternoon to address this news. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, via Twitter, Grier tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The NCAA penalty for using performance enhancing drugs leaves no wiggle room. Student-athletes lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense and must be held out of competition for a full season. A second offense involving PEDs makes a player permanently ineligible. It is expected the one-year suspension for Grier would carry over to approximately October 12, 2016, but that will have to still be confirmed.
Grier has played in all six games for Florida so far, completing 65.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His play has helepd Florida jump out to a clean 6-0 record with some key games to be played. Florida visits LSU this weekend and a big SEC East contest with Georgia is coming up next week. With Grier out of the mix, Florida will now put its hopes in the hands of sophomore Treon Harris. Harris has appeared in four games this season and he saw action in nine games a year ago in replacing Jeff Driskel.
We will update this story once more information is confirmed and announced.
UPDATE (2:39 p.m.): Grier has addressed the media regarding his suspension, saying the failed drug test was the a product of an over the counter supplement he purchased. He will appeal the NCAA suspension, but if that appeal is rejected he will indeed be out of action for the rest of this season and the first six games of 2016. He would also return as a junior after losing eligibility. Head coach Jim McElwain said he learned of the failed drug test on Sunday, despite some message board chatter cropping up earlier this weekend.
UPDATE (2:54 p.m.): The supplement that led to the suspension was Ligandrol, a banned substance. It is not classified as a steroid but is a performance-enhancer.