GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Jim McElwain, hired to fix the team’s five-year stretch of lackluster offense, heads into training camp without a starting quarterback.READ MORE: Charges Expected Monday Against Miami Beach Officers Following Rough Arrest
At least he has options. But it’s unclear whether any of them can be the kind of difference-maker the Gators have lacked since former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left campus in 2010.
This much is certain: McElwain knows what he’s looking for from sophomore Tim Tebow or redshirt freshman Will Grier.
“Being a winner is huge, OK,” McElwain said Wednesday at the team’s annual media day. “That’s huge. That means the people around you have played better and elevated their play based on you being on the field. Some of the times, some of the greatest quarterbacks out there maybe didn’t have the greatest arm. They maybe didn’t have the greatest feet. But for whatever reason, the team moved successfully down the field.”
Harris started the final six games last season, completing 49.5 percent of his passes for 1,019 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He was thrust onto the field after starter Jeff Driskel self-destructed with a flurry of turnovers early in the season.
The 5-foot-11 Harris wasn’t a huge upgrade, but he showed flashes here and there.
He’s eager to prove he’s capable of more.
“Last year when I first got here, everything was fast,” Harris said. “It’s slowed down. I’m understanding more football, how to read defenses and how to take control in a football game.”
Grier missed the entire season with herniated disks in his back, an injury sustained while lifting weights.
Grier said he added about 15 pounds in the offseason and feels “healthy, ready to go.”READ MORE: Florida, Norwegian Cruise Line Fight Over Site of 'Vaccine Passport' Challenge
“I just made it important to me to put on some weight and get stronger and be able to take some hits and stuff like that,” Grier said. “It’s just a great opportunity. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this team win and perform as best as I can.”
Newcomer Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, might be the wild card in the quarterback race. According to teammates, Del Rio looked good in summer workouts.
But Del Rio still must get an NCAA waiver to be eligible to play this season. Del Rio was a walk-on at Alabama and received a waiver to play right away after transferring to Oregon State before last season.
He chose Florida knowing there was an opportunity under McElwain and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Others clearly saw that, too.
Former Vanderbilt receiver and high school quarterback Josh Grady arrived on campus this summer and is eligible to play right away under the NCAA’s graduate transfer rules. Former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson also visited Gainesville before deciding to transfer to rival Florida State.
So it’s clear McElwain is trying to upgrade the position.
But for now, he’ll likely have to decide between Harris and Grier. It could come down to which one is less afraid to fail — and maybe able to get Florida out of the depths of offensive ineptitude.
“You think about some of the great players of our time in any sport, well, you know what, they’ve gone through some failure. But they’ve faced the adversity, learned from it and gotten better,” McElwain said. “So putting yourself out there is a huge deal, especially at that position, because you’re going to take all the criticism and you’re going to get all the praise.
“Well, you better be able to handle it. That’s all part of it. I think that’s a big piece of the courage, toughness, being able to stand in and take a shot, not blink. Those are all things that I think being successful at that position are all about, not just being able to throw a 95-mile-an-hour fastball.”MORE NEWS: Dolphin TE Mike Gesicki, 2 Others, Go On COVID-19 Reserve List
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