There have been several reasons in delaying the first of true freshman quarterback Treon Harris’ starts on the season and it has nothing to do with his ability or his confident.
Set back quite a bit because of an off-the-field accusation that he ended up being cleared of, Harris missed a full game and likely the first of which would have seen him play a great deal. Then upon his return, the Missouri game got out of hand so quickly, that it delayed his chance to get on the field in a big manner yet again.
Not only that, but some of the better play makers on offense are still having a hard time lining up for plays. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper explained before the Missouri game that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was often times having to line guys up on offense before the snap. With everything that would be going through Harris’ mind when on the field there wasn’t going to be enough time for him to get them in line and effectively run the offense.
But, we are at the point where that stuff doesn’t matter.
Driskel hasn’t played well at all. He’s been the quarterback for about five full games worth of action throwing for just a 53% completion rate and 928 yards, six touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Costly mistakes have hurt the Gators a great deal.
It hasn’t all been on Driskel
Receivers have dropped close to 30 passes in six games. That just shouldn’t happen at this level of football. That is something that will make Harris look bad as well if and when it happens.
But, Harris seems to have a kind of aura about him. The fact that he won at the highest level of high school football and won 30 straight games including a national championship while at Booker T. Washington in Miami should not be overlooked. Winning like that was something Driskel never accomplished in high school while playing at a smaller level school and by far the best player on the field every night. Harris did it when players on both sides were big time and could make plays for and against.
Playing in a total of about four full quarters of action this year, Harris is 12-18 for 263 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Most of his time was in mop up duty with the game already out of hand one way or the other, with the real exception of the Tennessee contest where the Gators were scoreless for three quarters and he came in to lead the team for two scores and the win.
It is that kind of play that the Gators offensive staff wants to corral and unleash for the rest of the regular season.
Maybe the difference in the two is more than just numbers and statistics. There are a lot of things that we have seen in a short time from Harris that we don’t see enough of from Driskel and his nearly two full years of experience as the quarterback at Florida.
Touch on the ball is one of them. We all have seen too many times when the ball comes in too hard from Driskel on a short pass to his receivers. Thirty drops is incredible, but how many would have been caught had the ball been thrown with more touch. That isn’t an excuse for the receivers… it’s just a truth that an easier throw will be caught more than when it isn’t thrown with some touch.
There are certainly reasons why the staff hasn’t moved on from Driskel earlier. He’s been here for three plus years and been through many wars on the field already. He has had his moments on the field where he has carried the team and made a big difference.
The problem has been that he isn’t only inconsistent, he doesn’t do it often enough to make up for the inconsistencies at all. Now it has gotten to the point, through injury or not, that his bad play is absolutely hurting the team. Before, it was all about managing the offense and not having to lean on the quarterback to make plays. But defenses have shut down the running game enough and kept the passing game from being a deep threat at all… something has to give.
With Harris we have simply seen more of an ability to make plays. It has been limited with the small amount on the field and in fact, his total knowledge of the offense is limited given the fact that he arrived in June.
As the starter moving forward, he will be asked to do more and more. The bye week certainly will help a lot, but he will still be extremely limited in the amount of things that they throw at him in a given game. And of course they have to game plan the fact that some of the receivers are not exactly ready to line up and change play calls while on the field as well.
The checks to a different play when the defense is lined up in something the offense doesn’t like will have to be held to a minimum and be limited in scope.
But play making is what you get in return. The Florida offense has been a victim of trying to be a team that lives on long drives and not making mistakes. While they have toned down the penalties to a great deal, the turnovers have been murderous.
How do you fix that? Go big.
One 40-yard play means you don’t have to earn four ten yard first down plays, which could be 8-10 plays alone. Two 40-yard plays means you are probably dancing in the end zone. The alternative is trying to get there in 12-13 plays. Mistakes are bound to happen in the last case.
The thing that has been missing has been a quarterback with the ability to anticipate things on the field. That is something that can’t be taught in a certain amount of time, it has to be nurtured over time. This is an ability that Harris has shown a great deal of in the short time he has played.
The offense he was supposed to grow into this season was a juiced up Wildcat, a read option quarterback that would throw the ball to keep teams on their toes. That offense is no longer an option, so to speak.
That was the plan with a junior starter at quarterback who has looked so much better in practice than he has performed on the field of play.
They shouldn’t be too scared to let him do some things. Harris has been pretty careful. One interception thrown deep on third and long was as good as a punt. Not only that, but the game was already decided when the throw happened. He did fumble the ball early in the Missouri game, that can’t become common place.
He’s been solid for a guy that isn’t really a running back and often times scrambling on running plays. With 15 rushes for 56 yards and a touchdown, he only has one negative run in the 15. He finds a way to get extra yards when running the ball.
The negative would be that he is 190 pounds, a full 40 pounds lighter than Driskel running the ball.
Anything that happens now with Harris has to be treated like an unknown. Expecting too much from the young man and chastising him for not meeting expectations is probably not a fair scenario at this point.
The Gators have shown that they are limited personnel wise on offense, he would be the major change to try and better utilize the personnel, but that doesn’t mean he can make them be what they aren’t.
I fully expect to see more big plays than we have seen because of a guy that can anticipate plays. I also expect quite a bit of the negative as well, because so much will be put upon him now.
I hope I am wrong on the latter, but more so I hope that of it happens, fans understand what this young man is about to go through, something that was never expected of him in year one.