Suspension of Will Grier means Florida coach Jim McElwain gets a pass ... for now
The suspension of quarterback Will Grier means that Florida coach Jim McElwain has essentially been playing on house money for the last half of the season.
Gators fans have certainly become frustrated by their team’s complete offensive impotence in Grier’s absence, especially in recent weeks as the level of competition has increased. But they also understand that McElwain, the newly-minted SEC Coach of the Year, can’t be held responsible for Grier’s foolish decision to use the performance-enhancing drugs that resulted in his year-long suspension by the NCAA in October.
With depth an issue at both quarterback and along a suspect offensive line, McElwain has had no other viable alternative than to stick with the struggling Treon Harris at quarterback and somehow hope that same offensive line that played better than expected at the season’s start can somehow regain its form in time for the upcoming Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl game against Michigan on Jan. 1.
It’s a lot to ask, but McElwain doesn’t have much choice at this point. And Florida fans eager to close the season on a positive note know as much.
But next year will be a different story.
Upgrading the quarterback position is clearly a top priority for McElwain and his staff, and they’ve wasted little time in moving forward in doing just that. Florida already has commitments from top-100 quarterback prospects Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask and is still in the running for Jacob Eason, the five-star prospect from Lake Stevens, Wash.
Eason, who is regarded as the nation’s top pro-style quarterback, had committed to Georgia before coach Mark Richt’s recent firing possibly opened the door for the Gators.
Another quarterback prospect, Maryland commit Dwayne Haskins, also recently visited Gainesville.
No matter how it turns out, it’s a sure bet that Harris’ days as McElwain’s starting quarterback are numbered, meaning that one of the new incoming players or Oregon State and Alabama transfer Luke Del Rio will likely be starting on Opening Day in 2016 when Florida hosts Massachusetts on Sept. 3.
Quickly developing whoever gets the starting nod will be imperative. Grier’s suspension runs through October, but it wouldn’t be wise to count on him because his future at Florida is in question.
Things should naturally improve up front next year, even though none of McElwain’s current offensive line commitments rate higher than three stars, according to ESPN. Former five-star recruit Martez Ivey was pressed into service as a true freshman tackle this fall, but will be asked to be a leader of the unit next year. Several others who enjoyed the benefit of a redshirt year will be asked to contribute right away as well.
The honeymoon, however, will be over in 2016, meaning the onus falls squarely on McElwain once the curtain has been closed on this season.