Harris hoping to earn starting role

Treon Harris stood on the sideline of Neyland Stadium last fall watching his team’s offense struggle.

After winning the backup job in fall practice, Harris always knew there was a chance he would be thrown into an important game and counted on to play. That didn’t make it any less shocking when Will Muschamp yelled for the freshman to start warming up.

In front of a sellout crowd of 102,445 fans creating the Tennessee checkerboard pattern in the stands, Harris took the field with the Gators trailing 9-0 and sparked 10 unanswered points, helping Florida escape with its 10th straight win over the Volunteers.

“It shocked me when Coach Muschamp just yelled at me and told me to get ready," Treon Harris said. "I knew what I had to do, but I had just never stepped on the field in front of a crowd like that. Music, fans rocking on third down. I couldn’t hear myself talk. That was my first time ever hearing a third down like that. I heard the third down off the sideline but I still could hear myself talk. But when you get on the field, you don’t hear nothing.”

Harris ended up starting the final six games, and though he benefitted from the experience, he showed flaws that need to be improved if he wants to beat Will Grier for the starting job this offseason. As a freshman, he completed just 49.5 percent of his passes and missed multiple open throws down the field.

He battled a thumb injury -- suffered in the South Carolina loss -- that limited how well he could grip and throw the ball. Despite the obvious issues, Harris thinks his time as the starting quarterback last season will give him an advantage going into this off-season’s battle.

"Yes pretty much,” Harris said. “I got the speed. I played in a big crowd and tough situations. I got in the game and did what I had to do."

The freshman learned a lot on the field last season. The speed of the game was the biggest hurdle, but that just took a few weeks in fall camp for him to get used to. On the field, the toughest thing was reading safeties after the snap, something he never had to do in high school.

This spring has bigger challenges. The sophomore has to learn a brand new offense for the second time in eight months. Harris referred to Jim McElwain’s offense as “the same exact thing as a spread” with going under center more being the only difference.

It puts an emphasis on getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand as fast as possible.

“Everything’s quick,” Harris said. “You’ve got to get the ball out quick. I feel like I’m getting there but I still have to work. My release is coming out quick, just have to work on my steps, my drops.”

The challenges of playing as a freshman weren’t the only things Harris dealt with last season. Days after the comeback win at Tennessee, Harris was accused of sexual assault and was suspended from the team. He was reinstated later that week after the accuser withdrew the complaint.

“It was a tough situation for everybody,” Harris said. “I just stayed focus, stayed poised and let God handle everything. Me and my coaches, they trusted me, I trusted in them and I just kept my head up and kept everything going right.”

Harris now heads into the spring with an offense he believes is full of playmakers, claiming everyone will see more of them in the fall. The depth isn’t where Florida needs it to be, but the sophomore isn’t concerned about that.

The depth will improve this offseason when the freshmen get to campus. Harris knows wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett, both signees in the 2015 recruiting class, and thinks they can play right away.

“I think they can make a big impact coming in,” Harris said. “We’re short at running back, we have a couple of receivers but everybody’s going to have to come in and compete, but I’m pretty sure those two guys will come in and give a big impact on the team.”

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