First-year coach Jim McElwain confirmed on Thursday that both Will Grier and Treon Harris would play when the Gators open the season against New Mexico State on September 5. The quarterback battle has been ongoing since spring practice opened, and the Florida coach has maintained that there is no separation between the two.
Taking the competition through the season opener gives McElwain a chance to see how both players handle the bright lights that come with leading the team in an actual game.
“What you hope to do is go out there with a good performance and get a lot of guys reps,” McElwain said. “We’ve got to go out and figure out how we’re going to win a football game against a team that’s going to come in and be real hungry to show us who they are. At the same time, that’s kind of a goal every week, to play as many guys at as many positions as we can, especially early in the year to see the response when they’re in live action.”
The only time during this race that McElwain has admitted one side was ahead came in the spring. Harris missed a week of practice because of a death in the family, and McElwain said Grier had a lead at the time simply because he had more practices under his belt.
This fall, the competition is still too close to call without a clear timeline of when it will end.
“There isn’t a timetable,” McElwain said. “The timetable is figure out a way to win the football game with whoever is moving the team at that position and getting the right parts at the other positions as well. By no means am I displeased with what they're doing, but we still need to see in live action how the people around them, how they elevate the play of the people around them."
The only other quarterback that could get in the race is Luke Del Rio, who continues to wait for word on the NCAA about his appeal for immediate eligibility. Del Rio took some first team reps during Tuesday’s open portions of practice, but he missed the first week of camp after having an appendectomy. Vanderbilt transfer Josh Grady has also worked at quarterback but is starting to spend more time at receiver in recent weeks.
INJURY REPORT: Freshman left tackle Martez Ivey will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday to clean up a preexisting leg injury.
Florida receiver Valdez Showers is back with the team after an undisclosed injury held him out earlier in the week.
Safety Keanu Neal continues to receive treatment for a leg injury suffered in Friday’s scrimmage. He wasn’t at practice on Tuesday, and McElwain said that’s by design. When a player needs treatment like Neal does, the Florida coach prefers to keep him at the team facility to get treatment during practice.