The coaching staff didn’t have much to go off in forming opinions about the quarterbacks before getting them on the field. They had the final six games from last season, when Treon Harris started and helped the team go 4-2, but there was nothing but practice film on Will Grier.
McElwain and his staff tried to get an understanding for what they were taking over at the position, but none of it mattered until they got on the practice field Monday.
The early returns are positive. The most important things the coaches are looking at this early in practice is how both second-year quarterbacks handle the team, especially at the line of scrimmage. They’ve both been vocal, helping the team get set up at the line, pointing out a few things the defense is doing and getting the ball snapped.
It seems basic, but McElwain likes what he sees.
“I’ve really been happy with how they’ve grasped what we’re asking them to do,” Jim McElwain said. “There’s a lot of things that obviously go along with playing the position. They’ve done a really good job of controlling the line of scrimmage, taking care of the mike points and a lot of the things it takes to run our offense. That part has been really good.”
The next part is one McElwain has harped on since taking over. Known for his track record of developing quarterbacks, he was asked in his introductory press conference about the importance of quarterback play and what that group needs to do. In McElwain’s mind, it’s simple -- throw the ball to the right colored jersey.
That hasn’t always been easy for Florida quarterbacks over the last five seasons, but McElwain is making sure it is priority number one this season.
“The offense has been in blue, so they’ve thrown it to the guys in the blue jerseys,” McElwain said with a grin. “Ball security is something we’ve got to constantly talk about, but they’re grasping what we’re trying to get accomplished. I think it’s been pretty good."
The big adjustment for Grier and Harris has been going under center. While both were in their first year of college football last season, they learned in Kurt Roper’s offense that rarely went under center. Taking a snap from under center might seem easy, but for quarterbacks that didn’t do it last season and barely did it in high school, it can be a challenge.
The offense was under center exclusively during Monday’s practice, and the staff introduced the pistol and shotgun at practice Wednesday. They’ll continue to build the offense as they go, but they’re putting a strong emphasis on both quarterbacks becoming comfortable taking snaps under center.
“We continue to work under because these guys haven't done it a lot, and so learning how to pressure with the bottom hand and riding the center,” McElwain said. “One of the things we've got to do is our center has to anticipate the snap count a little bit. They're a little bit late getting is up. Some things like that, but we'll work it everyday and it will be part of our offense."