Gators will have Harris throw more

Treon Harris handled what he needed to on Saturday in Jacksonville, managing the Florida offense to a 38-20 win over Georgia. As the season goes on, the freshman quarterback will be expected to do more through the air.

The lack of passing numbers against the Bulldogs weren’t Harris’ fault. Both Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper said they had a plan to throw the ball more than the six times Harris did, but they found so much success on the ground that the freshman only needed to put the ball in the air one time in the second half.

The numbers show the truth in it. Florida threw the ball on three of the first six plays and planned to give Harris a chance to throw the ball more. That’s when the big run gains started, and Roper didn’t see any reason to go away from it.

"There was a small sampling of plays,” Roper said. “There weren’t a whole lot of choices that we were going to or even discussing at that point. It was different in that fact. The menu was smaller.”

Harris ended the game 3-6 for 27 passing yards. Those numbers were enough for the game in Jacksonville, but 60 running plays to six passing plays is not a sustainable way for the offense to continue.

The freshman quarterback can handle the offense, knows how to get it lined up and got a better idea of how to run it during the bye week. That’s an important part of running the Florida offense, but it’s still only half of it. Harris has to be prepared to adjust to what the opposing defense throws at him, but the coaches won’t know if he can handle it until he does it in a game.

“Handling (the offense) and knowing what we’re doing, yes he can handle a lot more,” Roper said. “But with all the things a defense can throw at you or if all of a sudden the play is not a good play call into a certain look, does he do a good job taking care of the football and minimizing the negative? All those things are what you learn from a quarterback as you're going forward.

“We’re really in our infancy of knowing.”

They didn’t scale back the plays available to Harris on Saturday against Georgia. The offensive staff simply didn’t call some of the passing plays because of the success on the ground. When they get into a situation where Harris is forced to throw the ball, there’s nothing the staff has seen that makes them believe he’s incapable of doing it.

Harris and running back Matt Jones did botch an exchanged handoff on Saturday, the only Florida turnover on the day. Turnovers from the quarterback position have plagued the offense throughout the season, and they’ll continue to work on it before heading to Vanderbilt this weekend.

"Our focus right now offensively and the discussions we've talked about, if we don't get better at turning the ball over, it doesn't matter what we do,” Roper said. “We want to be a team that is playing smart, taking care of the football and growing. But there's no doubt Treon is going to have to be a playmaker in the passing game. He’s going have to be.

“We're going to ask him to do more. He's going to have to make plays in the passing game, but we’ll all learn on Saturday.”

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