With Will Grier suspended for the/a year, many Gators fans I'm sure are bemoaning that this season is now over, that our (faint) national championship chances went from slim to nil, that we probably won't even get to the SEC Championship and we should probably start booking our trip to Louisiana for the Camping World Independence Bowl (it's an actual thing).
I, however, choose to focus on the positives. It's the eternal optimist in me.
Entering the season, and even through part of the second game, Will Grier and Treon Harris were neck-and-neck for the starting quarterback job. Yes, Grier won it outright, but this could be a "1" and "1a) situation. Moreover, we never got to see what Harris could do if he played all 60 minutes in a McElwain-Nussmeier offense. Harris played well in relief last season, so we know we have a capable quarterback, and he now has a chance to prove that he should have been the starter beyond game 1.
The Gators' defense is (knock on wood) playing really, really well. They rank 16th in the country in yards allowed per game (296), 12th in rushing yards allowed per game (99.2) and 11th in points allowed per game (14.3). They limited Kentucky (averaging 26.0 ppg, at least before tonight's game) to nine points, Ole Miss (46.8 ppg) to 10 and Missouri (18.3 ppg) to three. If the defense continues to play this way, Harris could go the Trent Dilfer route and "manage the game," doing just enough on offense to allow the D to do the rest.
STEP UP: ALL IN
“In a game like this, I think everybody needs to step up,’’ said tight end Jake McGee. Besides the one qualification that everybody needs to step up not just for the game, but for the whole season, his point is valid - besides the obvious person who needs to step up in Harris, the rest of the team should use Grier's suspension as motivation to play harder than they have all season. Theoretically, since Grier was the starter and Harris the backup, talent-wise the Gators are not as strong now at the QB position, which means everyone else needs to play even harder. Receivers running crisper routes, catching everything that comes into their area code; running backs hitting the hole with a vengeance; offensive lineman blocking like they were named Pouncey; the defense playing, well like it's been playing.
The Gators, although they are ranked No. 8, are playing at LSU, sixth-ranked team in the nation, without their starting QB. No one is expecting them to win this game. Which means they can go out, have fun, and see what happens. I, for one, am excited to see how this team responds.
The only worry I have, well one worry I have, is the backup situation and how that might affect the offense the Gators will run with Treon Harris. Vanderbilt transfer and back up wide receiver Josh Grady is now the backup quarterback. By my research, the last time Grady attempted a pass was 2013, at Vanderbilt. Since then he has served primarily as a receiver. My guess is the drop-off between Harris and Grady is much more significant to that of Grier and Harris. By all accounts, Harris is a better runner than Grier, while Grier is the better passer (although both have shown they are quite skilled at the other's supposed strength). But how much do you risk running Harris around the field, bootlegs, quarterback keepers, etc., when an injury to him puts the team in the hands of a complete unknown? Just a small, tiny, minor worry. Thinking positive thoughts, thinking positive thoughts...