Spring preview: Quarterbacks

When the Gators hit the practice field for the first time on Monday afternoon, the battle for the starting quarterback job begins.

It’ll be the first time Florida coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier get a chance to work with Will Grier and Treon Harris on the field. They’ve spent many hours watching film from last season’s games and practices, trying to get an idea of what they’re working with at the position.

But until they get on the field with them on Monday, it’s hard for the coaching staff to get a good idea of what they have. The new staff has put a big emphasis on the quarterback learning and adapting on the fly. They can talk about it and go over things in the film room, but until they get to work on Monday, it’s all talk.

The fight for the starting job will get underway, but don’t expect any announcement to be made soon. McElwain said there’s no timetable for when a decision will be made, but it would be a surprise if it happened before fall camp.

Harris’ advantage is experience. He has been through half of Florida’s schedule last season, starting the final six games and helping the Gators to a 4-2 record to close the 2014 season. Harris went through the responsibilities it takes to be a quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.

The issue was his performance. Harris completed 49.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,140 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He also added 332 yards and three touchdowns rushing. As a freshman, he missed too many open throws, especially down the field.

It’s easier to pick Harris apart simply because we haven’t seen Grier in game situations. He took a redshirt last season and focused on adding weight. He ran most of the scout team quarterback last season, but he’ll have a chance to fight for the starting job this spring.

In the open practices last year, Grier showed a big arm. He threw well on the run and looked like a solid athlete, capable of picking up yards with his legs. The issue was accuracy, which isn’t much of a surprise with a young quarterback.

Fixing the accuracy issues could be what ultimately decides who wins the job. For quarterbacks trying to become more accurate, having the combination of McElwain and Nussmeier coaching them will be a big deal. The two coaches feature long track records for quarterback development, so it makes sense for them to be able to find a capable quarterback with two high school All-Americans on the roster.

Behind Grier and Harris, it’s only walk-on Jacob Guy and Skyler Mornhinweg, who has three games of starting experience under his belt. Mornhinweg started the final three games in 2013, all losses, and completed 69.8 percent of his passes but averaging just 114.7 yards per game. The play calling was limited because his arm wasn’t strong enough to get the ball down the field.

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