Gators’ camp preview: Quarterback

First-year Florida coach Jim McElwain wouldn’t be in Gainesville if the offense didn’t need to be fixed.

That’s especially the case at quarterback.

Over the five seasons since Tim Tebow graduated, Florida quarterbacks have completed just 59.3 percent (963-1,624) of their passes while throwing for 67 touchdowns and 53 interceptions. In two of the last five seasons, Florida quarterbacks have had the same number of touchdowns as interceptions.

Without the questions under center in recent years for the Gators, the previous coaching staff could still be in place in Gainesville. Since they’re gone and Jim McElwain is running the program, he understands the importance of the position.

That’s the reason the new staff will takes its time with naming a starter at quarterback. They were able to see Will Grier and Treon Harris during spring practice, but McElwain wants to use as much time as possible to evaluate who is the better fit for the Florida offense. There’s a lot that goes into the position on the field. Even more important is how the quarterback can impact the offense.

“When we get out there in August, I think that will really tell which one of those guys has elevated not only their play but more so how the people respond to them when they’re moving the team on the field, in drills and that kind of stuff,” McElwain said at SEC Media Days. “As a quarterback that is huge. You can have a ton of talent and this and that, but if the guys around you aren’t willing to have your back, well then it ain’t going to work real good.”

Grier took a redshirt last season to add weight and get accustomed to college. The Florida roster currently lists him at 201 pounds, but Justin Parker of the Lake Norman Citizen spent time with Grier last week while he was home in North Carolina and reported that Grier is up to 215 pounds. He looked mobile during open portions of the spring and was also accurate with his passes from the pocket.

There’s no way to know how Grier would handle live game action, but Harris did get a chance to show that last season. He started Florida’s final six games and ended the year throwing for 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. As a freshman, he was mobile and used as a runner, totaling 332 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

The issue for Harris was his accuracy. Jeff Driskel completed 53.8 percent of his passes but was replaced by Harris for the Georgia game. Over the course of the year, Harris completed just 49.5 percent of his passes. That number will need to get significantly higher if he wants to be Florida’s starting quarterback this fall.

The wildcard at the position is Luke Del Rio. Florida is still waiting to find out if he’ll be able to play this fall after transferring from Oregon State. Del Rio walked on at Alabama during the 2013 season and played under current Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. However, he transferred to Oregon State for the 2014 season and served as the backup quarterback, playing in three games.

The Gators also added post-graduate transfer Josh Grady to the roster. The former Vanderbilt quarterback/wide receiver is immediately eligible and should be able to provide depth at the quarterback position. With only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, the Gators need bodies at the position and Grady can help with that.

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