All eyes on the quarterbacks

Jim McElwain and his staff take over an offense with two talented quarterbacks, but that doesn’t ease all of his fears.

The quarterback battle in Gainesville begins with the first spring practice on Monday between Will Grier and Treon Harris. Both quarterbacks, former high school All-Americans in their second year of college football, battled for the backup job behind Jeff Driskel last fall before Harris won it and Grier redshirted.

Harris started the final six games of the season and went 4-2 as the starter. However, there’s a lot of room for Harris to improve. He completed just 49.5 percent of his 111 pass attempts. The previous staff wanted him to be focus on avoiding turnovers, which he was able to do, but he showed weaknesses throwing over the middle of the field and with accuracy down the field.

Grier showcased a big arm in open practices last year, but he needed to add weight. The redshirt helped that happen, and he also has the athleticism to use his feet and throw on the run.

But there are still a lot of challenges Grier and Harris will face for the first time in McElwain’s system.

“You want me to tell you what I’m really nervous about? I have nightmares about the inability to get out of a huddle, OK, because some of these guys have never huddled. Taking a snap from center, that’s a novel concept,” McElwain said, after Kurt Roper’s offense was exclusively from the shotgun and didn’t huddle last year. “I just hope we complete one. That’s what I’m excited about that first day of practice.”

The battle for the starting job begins on Monday, but it would be a surprise if it also ended this spring. McElwain didn’t seem to have a strong opinion one way or another on when they would announce who the starter is under center, but there’s no benefit to the Florida staff if they announce a starter this spring.

The best way to figure out who the starter should be is to load them up with reps with first team and second team players.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what those guys can do and seeing the competition as we move forward,” McElwain said. “They’ll get an opportunity will all groups. That’s just the way we practice. The thing I know from playing the position and having coached it a long time, sometimes guys become crutch heavy if they’re just practicing with the same group of guys. You never know who’s gonna be in the game.

“You’ve got to develop a trust with everybody; all of the receivers, all of the running backs, all of the tight ends. So those guys take a lot of reps with a lot of different groups moving forward, should be a lot of fun.”

The characteristics McElwain wants under center are simple.

"I think a guy who learns how to throw it to our jersey, our colored jersey is probably the most important thing,” McElwain said. “Understand the importance of taking care of the football and affecting the people around him in a positive way is really what we're looking for."

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