No decision on how to split QB reps

Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has experience playing two quarterbacks. After the first day of practice this week, the coaches haven’t decided how to split reps on the field Saturday against Missouri.

Last season at Duke, Anthony Boone was the starting quarterback but suffered an injury early in the season, forcing Brandon Connette on the field. When Boone came back and took his starting job back, Roper and the offensive staff continued to use Connette whenever they needed a spark.

The situation could be the same this weekend as Florida prepares to face Missouri.

Jeff Driskel will start at quarterback, but Treon Harris will also play. The freshman quarterback provided that spark when the Gators needed it in Knoxville on October 4.

There are things Harris can’t do on the field that Driskel does. Roper recalled Driskel putting his head down and pushing through LSU’s middle linebacker to pick up extra yardage. That power running isn’t what Harris will provide. Driskel continues to get a majority of the practice reps this week, but the Florida offensive coordinator said they’re still throwing Harris in with the first team offense during practice.

The hope is that one of the quarterbacks gets the hot hand against Missouri, and the offense can ride them throughout the game Saturday. But at this point of the week, no decision has been made about playing time other than Driskel serving as the starter.

“Hopefully we do get a hot hand and do well the whole game,” Roper said. “I'd like to get a hot hand for sure."

Driskel’s recent struggles have been well documented. In his last three games, the fourth-year quarterback is 34-76 (44.7 percent) for 335 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions. Those numbers aren’t pretty, but the Florida coaches do value his ability to get the offense lined up right and adjust the protection as needed.

“Jeff’s experience and understanding, there’s of direction going on that people don’t see and a lot of communication going on that people don’t see going on, a lot of issues with protections that people don’t see,” Roper said. “Jeff obviously helps several guys be able to (get lined up). It could be an issue, and if it is, we’ve got to address it.”

That’s not the case with Harris. It’s not the freshman’s fault, but he has only been on campus since July. His knowledge of the offense and what has to take place before the snap isn’t where Driskel’s is. But it’s what Harris can do after the snap that has earned him playing time this weekend against Missouri.

“Right now with Treon, the thought process has to be to just let him go play,” Roper said. “You got to try to not create too many burdens right now as he’s progressing through, not that he can’t understand what we’re doing. He does a good job, but you always grow in an offense the longer you play.”

Harris returned to the team on Friday after a sexual battery accusation against him was withdrawn, but he didn’t get back to work with the team on the practice field until Monday. Roper said it wasn’t the freshman’s best day and the rust was easy to see. Despite that, they’ll continue to push through it and prepare him for action on Saturday.

The good news for the Florida staff is that Harris loves being at practice and in the film room, so he should get back in rhythm quickly.

“It wasn’t his best day of practice that he’s had,” Roper said. “But he enjoys working, enjoys being on the practice field. He’s a guy that I enjoy coaching because he goes out there to get better every day and works hard with great effort. We’ve got to make up some ground, obviously, but I think we’ve got time to do that.”

The hope from Roper is that Harris’ physical tools will take over and overcome the issues he has pre-snap.

“I think Treon is a really good football player and has a lot in front of him,” Roper said. “He doesn't understand what we're doing quite as well because of his time that he's been here. The best way that I can say it is that he finds a way to make plays. Hopefully that continues. It's not always consistent, and you always want to be more consistent, but he seems to be a playmaker.”

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