Florida quarterback Will Grier transferring from the school leaves Florida with only one quarterback projected to be on its 2016 roster who has made a start in a collegiate game. And given that that quarterback is Treon Harris, who struggled mightily in November and December as the backup thrust into action by Grier's suspension, it's far from a lock that the incumbent will hold on to the job.
Harris will have the advantage of experience on Luke Del Rio, who transferred to Florida from Oregon State in 2015 after transferring from Alabama to Oregon State in 2014. Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, completed eight of 18 passes for the Beavers in relief of Sean Mannion in 2014, and was a walk-on who never saw the field at Alabama.
Putting more than marginal faith in his ability to win Florida's starting job is likely putting faith in the unknown or in oddly rosy reports about Del Rio from the summer of 2015, but Del Rio has as much time in the offense that Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier run as Harris does, and will have more than the two freshmen who will also gun to be Florida's starter.
Those freshmen — four-star passer Feleipe Franks of Wakulla High in Florida's Panhandle and three-star signal caller Kyle Trask of Manvel, Texas — have both been announced as early enrollees by Florida, and should arrive on campus in the first two weeks of January.
This would give either or both extra time to do the work of learning Florida's offense and reshaping their bodies into ones that can absorb punishment from more than high schoolers. But given that both Franks and Trask are considered more raw than polished at this point in time, it's a tall ask to expect either one to transform into a surefire starter in the eight months between their enrollment and Florida's first game of the 2016 season.
Trask, in particular, would seem distinctly unlikely to end up as Florida's 2016 starter: His best path (and Florida's best one for him) would almost certainly be taking a redshirt year and moving him to a role as the successor to whomever does end up leading the Gators in the near future.
And so the Gators might well introduce a fifth variable to the equation. Florida trawled the transfer market for a graduate transfer quarterback in 2015, Everett Golson and Greyson Lambert, and The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley told ESPN Radio's Paul Finebaum earlier this week that Florida is keen to pursue another graduate transfer at quarterback in 2015.
The biggest name to already commit to a transfer is former Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, who will attend Boston College in 2016, but the Gators could target Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight, and would present a compelling case to any other quarterback looking to get into the mix at an SEC school.
Don't expect Florida to get very far with Texas A&M transfers Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray, the two highest-profile transfers available (other than Grier), though: Given Florida's two-QB 2016 recruiting class and the fact that both former Aggies would have to sit a year in Gainesville, neither one makes sense.
Whatever does happen, though, this is clear: Florida's quarterback competition for 2016 just went from an audition for a short stint at the helm prior to Grier's reinstatement to a full-fledged derby to find the Gators' permanent starter.