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Florida vs. New Mexico State: Grading the play of Will Grier and Treon Harris

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Throw-for-throw and play-for-play, Will Grier had a slight edge on Treon Harris in the Gators' season opener.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris were both excellent in the Gators' 61-13 win over New Mexico State last Saturday, and currently rank among the nation's best quarterbacks as a result.

But one closer look has already revealed some things both passers can improve on — and a play-by-play accounting of their efforts both shows what their success was dependent on, and that there might be more separation between the two than stats (or Jim McElwain) suggest.

Longtime Alligator Army readers may remember that I went through Tyler Murphy's performance against Georgia in 2013 and evaluated his decisions and throws, coming to the conclusion that he had a terrible day throwing the ball against the Bulldogs.

I decided to do the same thing for Grier and Harris on plays that weren't just handoffs against the Aggies from last weekend, with substantial help from the playcut videos compiled by and provided to Alligator Army by the invaluable libgator.

I've embedded the videos above each play table so you can follow along, though the best way to do that is probably popping out the video into a different window and letting it play beside the table.

Will Grier Play Table vs. New Mexico State

Time Situation Result (Target) Good Decision? Throw Grade Notes
12:36, 2Q 1st & 10, 50 Incompletion (Showers) Yes F Miscommunication on route? Throw low and behind Showers. (F is partly because it was first throw of game.)
11:35, 2Q 1st & 10, NMSU 35 Completion, 22 yards (Goolsby) Yes A Grier looks off safety, delivers strike to sideline over defender.
11:05, 2Q 1st & 10, NMSU 13 Completion, 13 yards, TD (Lewis) Yes A Grier makes one read, but throws to where only Lewis can catch.
8:26, 2Q 1st & 10, UF 19 Sacked, fumble, TO No N/A Grier looks at blitzer before snap, fails to change protection. Failed attempt to climb pocket results in strip.
5:44, 2Q 2nd & 7, UF 29 Run (scramble), 38-yard gain Yes N/A Grier has McGee open over middle split-second after decision to scramble, but evades three tackles on weaving run.
5:04, 2Q 1st & 10, NMSU 33 Completion, six yards (Hargreaves) Yes B Designed quick screen. Throw is quick and hard, but behind Hargreaves.
3:50, 2Q 3rd & 4, NMSU 27 Completion, 23 yards (Callaway) Yes A Grier makes single read, finds Callaway in Cover 2 hole near sideline, throws laser. Best throw of the night.
3:24, 2Q 1st & Goal, NMSU 4 Run (read option keeper), four-yard gain, TD Yes N/A DE bites hard on fake, Grier walks in.
1:36, 2Q 1st & 10, UF 39 Incompletion (Fulwood) Yes A Grier fires strike to Fulwood between two defenders, but drop spoils potential TD pass.
1:30, 2Q 2nd & 10, UF 39 Completion, two-yard loss (Taylor) Yes B Designed screen. Grier holds rushers, throws off back foot on target. Badly missed block by Dillard scuttles play.
0:55, 2Q 3rd & 12, UF 37 Completion, 13-yard gain (Powell) Yes B Grier brilliantly handles high, hard snap, resets fluidly. Waits, finds Powell with slightly high throw short of sticks. Powell moves get conversion.
0:41, 2Q 1st & 10, midfield Completion, nine-yard gain (Robinson) Yes C One read. Throw to Robinson is high, helps prevent run after catch.
0:34, 2Q 2nd & 1, NMSU 41 Completion, nine-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B Same one read. Better throw: To numbers, away from defender, toward sideline.
0:30, 2Q 1st & 10, NMSU 32 Completion, 32-yard gain, TD (Lewis) Yes A Grier sees Lewis wide open immediately thanks to blitz and blown coverage, delivers no-doubt TD pass in stride as soon as he sets.
13:03, 3Q 1st & 10, NMSU 42 Completion, five-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B Designed screen. Quick throw by Grier after another high snap.
12:33, 3Q 2nd & 5, NMSU 37 Completion, two-yard gain (Goolsby) Yes B One-read throw to flat. Robinson was open on a hitch past the sticks to Grier's right, but design appears to be direct to flat.
11:49, 3Q 3rd & 3, NMSU 35 Completion, 11-yard gain (McGee) Yes A One-read again, but Grier throws underneath to McGee rather than to Powell, who is immediately behind him. (Route combo oddly stacked.) Very good throw to correct side of McGee, allows for extra yardage.
11:31, 3Q 1st & 10, NMSU 24 Completion, two-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B "Pass" falling away on jet sweep.
10:55, 3Q 2nd & 8, NMSU 22 Completion, four-yard gain (Robinson) Yes A Designed screen, but a remarkably quick throw off a high snap.
10:17, 2Q 3rd & 4, NMSU 18 Run (scramble), two-yard gain No N/A On a rare play on which he was asked to scan the field, Grier feels a rush that isn't quite there and scrambles seconds before Goolsby comes wide open on a shallow cross. A decent throw would have gotten the first down; instead, Grier stumbles on his run.
9:08, 3Q 1st & 10, NMSU 31 Completion, no gain (Callaway) Yes C Designed screen, but Grier looks right and freezes defenders. Throw forces Callaway to come back and jump.
8:08, 3Q 3rd & 8, NMSU 29 Completion, 17-yard gain (Bailey) Yes C Grier seems to lock on to Bailey, who comes open and is hit quickly, but the throw is well behind him, forcing him to make a spectacular catch. An excellent throw that hits Bailey in stride could produce a touchdown.

Treon Harris Play Table vs. New Mexico State

Time Situation Result (Target) Good Decision? Throw Grade Notes
14:21, 1Q 2nd & 4, UF 29 Run (scramble), six-yard gain Yes N/A Harris could have hit an open Lewis with a good pass, but opts not to, instead shaking a defender and getting a first down.
13:51, 1Q 1st & 10, UF 35 Bobbled snap, 10-yard loss N/A N/A High snap is obviously Cameron Dillard's fault, but Harris's leap for it sends it skyward, and he fails to pull it down cleanly.
13:12, 1Q 2nd & 23, UF 22 Completion, three-yard gain (Callaway) Yes B Designed screen to near side. About as good a throw as a short bubble screen gets, but there's a ceiling on how good those throws get.
12:30, 1Q 3rd & 20, UF 25 Run (scramble), nine-yard gain Yes N/A Really hard to say this is best decision for certain, as most receivers remain offscreen on broadcast. Could've hit Taylor on run for similar gain; difficult throw to open man near sticks also possible.
8:31, 1Q 1st & 10, NMSU 37 Completion, 37-yard gain, TD (Powell) Yes C Powell is clearly designed receiver, and best option, but throw looks worse and worse on replay: Floated, forces Powell to break route, come back. Even a B throw produces easy TD.
3:12, 1Q 2nd & 7, UF 14 Completion, 11-yard gain (Showers) Yes A Maybe Harris's best play of the night: Reads flat route, works upfield, fires necessary strike for first.
2:36, 1Q 1st & 10, UF 25 Completion, 13-yard gain (Goolsby) Yes A Good decision, but not best: Harris seems to throw to Goolsby by design on PA naked bootleg, but has McGee open for first down and big play. Still, throw is excellent, allowing Goolsby to run.
1:09, 1Q 2nd & 12, UF 36 Completion, five-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B Designed screen. Throw is quick, but forces Robinson back a step.
0:22, 1Q 3rd & 8, UF 41 Completion, 43-yard gain (Taylor) Yes A Another great play: Harris makes two reads, evades pressure, scrambles to draw defender, floats perfect touch pass to Taylor for long catch-and-run.
15:00, 2Q 1st & 10, NMSU 17 Completion, seven-yard gain (McGee) Yes C Designed throwback cross. Fluttering throw forces McGee to retreat, costs first down and/or TD.
4:30, 3Q 2nd & 7, NMSU 49 Completion, 11-yard gain (Worton) Yes B Designed screen. Throw isn't as quick as possible thanks to mishandled snap, but leads Worton.
4:16, 3Q 1st & 10, NMSU 38 Incompletion (Showers) Yes C Fine decision, especially given significant pressure on PA naked bootleg, but floated throw just sails leaping defender, gives Showers tough play.
3:22, 3Q 3rd & 8, NMSU 36 Completion, 13-yard gain (Showers) Yes A Another example of good read not being best read: Harris finds Showers beyond sticks with good, hard throw on third down, but Grady runs route to outside rather than middle of field, and is more open in same vicinity.
1:58, 3Q 2nd & 6, NMSU 19 Incompletion, (McGee) No D Harris once again feels pressure on PA naked bootleg, but panics and makes bad leaping throw short to McGee with Showers wide open for potential TD pass.
1:54, 3Q 3rd & 6, NMSU 19 Incompletion, (McGee) Yes F Harris correctly spots McGee as only open man, but throws well behind him even before break in route, and defender nearly picks it. Better DB pick-sixes.
15:00, 4Q 1st & 10, UF 35 Run (scramble), four-yard gain No N/A Another naked bootleg, and Harris fails to see open Showers with room to run (thanks to pressure). Scramble is adequate.
13:47, 4Q 1st & 10, UF 48 Incompletion (Lewis) No D Harris squeezed in pocket and steps up rather than (correctly) escaping, though he picks right target. Throw altered by QB hit, flutters.
12:51, 4Q 3rd & 4, NMSU 46 Completion, six-yard gain (Worton) Yes A Excellent pump-fake to first read helps clear middle, then Harris makes very good throw to where only Worton could make play.
12:10, 4Q 1st & 10, NMSU 40 Incompletion (Goolsby) Yes C Essentially the same play as Grier's wheel route throw to Goolsby, but Harris throws inaccurately to sideline; a B throw is a long catch, A nets TD.
10:34, 4Q 4th & 3, NMSU 33 Completion, 25-yard gain (Grady) Yes A Harris once again shows poise on the run, this time rolling left instead of right, and buys enough time for Grady to leak into open space. Perfect floated throw.
8:06, 4Q 1st & 10, UF 44 Completion, nine-yard gain (Herndon) Yes B Designed pass to flat. Throw doesn't lead Herndon, but that actually helps: He stops and then jukes a first tackler instead of turning upfield into him.
6:47, 4Q 1st & 10, NMSU 35 Completion, 26-yard gain (Bailey) Yes B Harris waits patiently for Bailey to come open, hits him with strong, but not roped, pass.
5:49, 4Q 2nd & Goal, NMSU 9 Run (scramble), three-yard gain Yes N/A Bad snap seems to scuttle designed off-tackle run. Harris does very well to nimbly get around end for three yards.
5:14, 4Q 3rd & Goal, NMSU 7 Run (scramble), one-yard gain No N/A Harris reads just two routes, neither open, but misses open Fulwood and Worton underneath to his right. Opting to run, he gets basically nothing up the middle.
4:33, 4Q 4th & Goal, NMSU 6 Completion, six-yard gain, TD (Worton) Yes B Fine anticipation throw maximizes devastating stutter move from Worton. Throw is a bit floated.

Conclusions and Data

What I saw on replay backed up what I heard from a lot of people who watched the game on television instead of in person, where angles can be deceiving: Grier was significantly sharper and made better throws than Harris in the aggregate. But it also reveals a lot more simplicity for both players (Florida relied heavily on one-read throws and screens), and a dramatic difference in the types of plays called for both — Harris ran more naked bootlegs off play action than I've seen in a long, long time.

By my estimation, for the game, Grier's Good Decision Rate was a stellar 90.9 percent (20 good decisions in 22 combined run/pass plays), just slightly better than Harris's 83.3 percent (20 good decisions in 24 opportunities). But Grier's Total Throw Grade is more demonstrably better than Harris's: Grier earned seven As, seven Bs, three Cs, and one F to Harris's six As, six Bs, four Cs, two Ds, and one F, and comes away with a 3.05 grade (essentially just better than a B) to Harris's 2.74.

And if I were adjusting throw grades for difficulty, something I didn't really do in this iteration of this analysis, I'd rate Grier higher and Harris lower: Four of Grier's A throws were on routes down the field, and two could've been touchdowns, while Harris earned a C for his first touchdown throw and another C on a deep throw that could have produced points. The sentiment that Grier's arm allows him to make throws that Harris simply cannot match has lingered among fans during Florida's quarterback competition, and last Saturday only reinforced it.

I plan to do this analysis at least for the East Carolina game, and hopefully for the rest of the season, time permitting. But this is labor-intensive work, so I want to be sure you all enjoy this enough to both learn from and share it. (And, frankly, getting the correct time stamps for the throws was a pain. Y'all could do without those in the future, right?)