Notebook: Young QBs need quicker decisions

When Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper first works with a quarterback, he makes sure they understand one important rule -- throw the football.

Roper doesn’t want his young quarterbacks to overthink things. When they get in his offense and don’t know the ins and outs of the scheme, sometimes they can think too much and play at a slow pace. He wants them to get the football out of their hand, whether it’s right or wrong.

It’s the best way to allow him to teach.

When the ball comes out fast, Roper can teach his quarterbacks the right progressions and decisions to make. They’ll always have to play at a quick tempo and make decisions in a hurry on the field, so if they understand that part of it, the rest can be taught.

“I have a simple rule for young quarterbacks when they come in -- when I call a pass I want you to throw the ball,” Kurt Roper said. “That's hard for young guys to do because they don't know the route concepts, so their inclination is to keep it and run. Well, you're not running past Jon Bullard and Dante Fowler. So simple rule -- when I call a pass, throw it. Make a decision. We'll learn from our mistakes, but be decisive. If a guy can't be decisive, it's hard for him to play."

That’s the process of learning for Will Grier and Treon Harris. It happened for Grier in the spring for the first time and he’s continuing to battle with it this fall. He didn’t play against great competition in North Carolina, which drew some concerns from analysts and those who watched him in high school, and Roper has preached that Grier needs to speed up the clock in his head of when to get the ball out.

It’s the same for Harris. He enrolled in the summer and hasn’t had as much time in the offense as Grier. That’s causing the Booker T. Washington High School product to play slow at times, delaying his decisions and causing issues that could turn into sacks if he was playing in a live game. The decisions for Harris did speed up during Tuesday’s practice, but that needs to continue to happen if he wants to win the backup job.

“(Defensive linemen) are trying to get back there and hurt them,” Roper said. “What ends up happening in high school is there's so much 7-on-7 that's played at a four-second pace, and it really trains bad habits. Nobody is getting hit. Nobody is in front of them. They're blowing a horn at four seconds. That's not real world.

“When you have a guy like (Jadeveon) Clowney rushing you -- that is below three seconds, and then it's 270 pounds of pain. They need to understand if they want to stay healthy, they've got to throw the football.”

The two are battling with Skyler Mornhinweg for the backup quarterback job, and Roper admitted that they’d need to start making decisions on the backup quarterback job heading into next week. It will be the last week before game week preparation begins, and they need to know which players need the increased reps.

Even with all the new information being thrown at the two freshmen, Roper still likes the early impressions of them.

"I see talent,” Roper said. “I see guys that are working hard that want to be good, that right now are confused because it is a bunch on their plate. It is a different game. It’s a brand new language. We do have a lot of routes, so it takes a little bit of time to pick up. But I see talented players."

RUNNING BACK DEPTH: Roper learned in 2006 to never say his teams have enough running back depth. He was coaching running backs at Tennessee that season and had a backfield of LaMarcus Coker, Arian Foster and Montario Hardesty. He spent the preseason trying to manage egos and make sure everyone was happy despite not getting a lot of carries.

Roper later said to the media that he had too many good players at his position, and David Cutcliffe, then the offensive coordinator at Tennessee, got mad about it because he knew what was coming next. The injuries piled up. Hardesty and Coker got hurt weeks into the season, and Foster was the only one remaining.

With that in mind, he won’t compliment all of the quality players he has at the running back position at Florida, but the early numbers are positive.

“We’re fortunate to have the numbers, we’ve got guys that can play really good football at that position but running back is a physical position and a place you do need numbers,” Roper said.

The early reps at camp favored Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor, but both have suffered injuries and missed the last two practices. Freshman Brandon Powell is showcasing game-changing speed that the Gators need at the position.

They aren’t the only three that could see playing time this year. Roper likes Mack Brown’s experience and was very complimentary of Mark Herndon.

“When he's in the game, I've got a lot of confidence that he's going to know what to do,” Roper said. “He's a talented player. This guy could start at a lot of places. He's that good.”

FULWOOD STANDING OUT: A hip injury slowed Ahmad Fulwood during the first week of practice. On Monday and Tuesday practices this week, the sophomore has made multiple impressive catches down the field.

His body control helps him make plays on balls in the air, and after being a possession receiver last year, he could be a playmaker this fall.

“He's a guy that's a big body,” Fulwood said. “He has an advantage over guys and we've got to use that advantage, but he is a talented player.”

MCGEE CATCHING ON: The Gators need Jake McGee to play at tight end this season, but he also has to learn the new offense this fall. Roper downplayed the impact of that being an issue. Just over a week into fall camp, McGee is making plays and has been the most effective tight end on the roster.

“Smart guy,” McGee said. “He’s played a lot of football, so it’s not new to him. All he has to do is be able to understand the language. What he can do is run and catch. He can flat run and catch.

"Experience is a big help, but you've still got to be able to apply it to scheme, and that's where the other guys have the edge. He knows what big-time football is, for sure."

JOYER’S NEW ROLE: Hunter Joyer has been working with the tight ends and fullbacks at the newly created B-position. His hands are surprisingly good for a fullback, meaning the coaches can trust him running routes.

"He's a guy that has really good hands, has a lot of experience,” Roper said. “He doesn't have quite the length, obviously, that the other guys have, but I've got a lot of confidence when Hunter's in the game that he knows what to do and how to do it."

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