When Roper was at Duke, Thad Lewis was his quarterback from 2006-09. One of Lewis’ best attributes was his ability to block out the off-field distractions and pressures, focusing on what happens on the field. It’s a similar quality he sees in Florida quarterback Treon Harris.
Even though he’s only a freshman, coaches and teammates rave about how calm Harris is. Whether it’s in the huddle or preparing for games during the week, Harris doesn’t let the moment become too much for him to handle.
“I think he enjoys playing so much that he doesn’t feel maybe the outside pressures or things like that," Kurt Roper said. "That’s kind of the way I see it. It’s really interesting. I think he’s a guy that obviously understands the role, but I think he just goes and plays and doesn’t let the other things influence him. It’s kind of interesting to see.
It’s especially important for a team when playing on the road. Harris’ first start came in one of the most unique atmospheres in the country -- the Florida-Georgia game, where the stadium was split in half between Georgia and Florida fans. He threw only three passes, and only one of them was completed to a receiver, but Harris got the offense in the right looks and handled the nerves that came with his first start in a rivalry game.
The road game at Vanderbilt was the least intimidating atmosphere the Gators will see away from The Swamp this season, but the freshman still handled it well and had a big passing day, throwing for 215 yards and rushing for two touchdowns.
As he returns to Gainesville to make the first home start of his Florida career, Roper thinks the Saturday’s big day against the Commodores boosted Harris’ confidence.
“Any time you have success of the field, it’s going to help him feel better about what he’s doing,” Roper said. “Our conversations have been strictly about just his knowledge growing within the offense. On Monday, he was talking about how he is feeling much more comfortable, things are slowing down a little bit for him."
The Florida offensive line has improved in pass protection this season, but with Harris under center, they don’t have to be perfect. The freshman has an advanced ability to feel the pass rush, avoid it and keep a play alive. On Saturday, there were multiple plays where Harris saw the pass rush coming through the middle of the line, but instead of tucking the ball and running, he delivered a well thrown ball while knowing he was about to take a hit.
His decision making and knowing how to handle the pressure is one of the freshman’s best attributes.
“He just feels it and sees,” Roper said. “It was the conversation we were having the other day. He does a great job of not seeing the rush, but seeing downfield and buying a little time.
“There’s obviously some things we have to work out. He hasn’t arrived by any stretch of the imagination, but he does have a calm demeanor, he does a good job with his vision and buying a little time and moving in the pocket and just making plays.”