Treon Harris has already led the Gators into some of the most hostile atmospheres in college football during his young college career.
Last year, he entered in the fourth quarter at Tennessee and helped lead a comeback that included 10 unanswered points as the Gators escaped Knoxville with a 10-9 win. He helped the Gators to a blowout win over Georgia last season despite throwing just six passes for 27 yards. In the final game of the regular season, Harris led the Gators into Florida State but didn’t play well as the Gators lost.
Harris had easily his best game against a major opponent last week at LSU. With only a week to prepare, Harris went 17-32 through the air for 271 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Coming from where he’s from, he’s always had to play in big games so I feel like atmospheres like that don’t really have much effect on him,” Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson said. “That’s the type of person he is. Other things don’t really affect him. He’s just really ready to go play ball.”
That’s why the Will Grier suspension wasn’t a distraction for the team. The Florida players, including Harris, were upset for Grier but knew they had to move on and begin preparation for LSU. With two weeks under his belt to take all of the first team reps, Harris should be more comfortable when the leading the Florida offense this week in Jacksonville.
"You look at the historical background of Treon himself, he won a few ball games in high school,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “That was a pretty darn successful program he came from. The stage is not too big for him. That’s the least of the worries. I’m just glad he’s our quarterback and looking forward to seeing how he progresses this week."
Florida offensive players knew Harris would be able to handle the road environment, and he showed that in the huddle at Tiger Stadium. He was the same as every day in practice, the calm and collected quarterback his teammates have loved since he showed up on campus.
He also brings something different to the table that Grier didn’t. Harris can keep more plays alive with his legs and is more elusive in the open field.
“I just like that he can extend plays with his feet,” Florida receiver Brandon Powell said of Harris. “He can run the ball and that forces defenses, some people have to change their defense and that opens things up for other players. He does a lot in this offense that helps us out.”
There are still limitations to what Harris can do, and those showed up at LSU. He’s listed at 5-11 on the Florida roster, which isn’t ideal for a quarterback to drop back in the pocket and see the entire field. There are times when he struggles to see the middle of the field over the offensive line.
McElwain said on Monday that it isn’t a concern for the coaching staff but added that Harris does have to move around the pocket and create throwing lanes.
“The guy has got great understanding of how to go and he can beat you with his feet,” McElwain said. “What that does is create pass-rush lane issues for the other team, so that it knows that they they've got to control that to not allow him to go use his feet as a check down. I thought his pocket presence was pretty good (at LSU).
“Sometimes you need to maybe shift and find angles to get the ball through when maybe you're a little vertically challenged, but there's been a lot of really good quarterbacks that are shorter than I am and they've figured it out. We don't look at it as any kind of negative."