Florida will start sophomore Treon Harris over redshirt freshman Will Grier in its 2015 season opener against New Mexico State, Gators coach Jim McElwain announced on Wednesday.
"Treon is going to start the football game and Will is going to play a lot, too," McElwain said. "Both of them deserving of it. Both of them had a really good spring and fall. We're excited about seeing those guys play."
Harris and Grier have been locked in a competition to be Florida's starting quarterback since the spring, with neither player seeming to take a definitive upper hand over the months of practice. Conventional wisdom has held that Grier has held slim leads more than once, however, with a first one opening up after Harris missed time this spring after the death of a relative and another seemingly opening up early this fall, as Grier impressed in the snippets of practice open to media.
But Harris has experience, having started the final six games of Florida's 2014 season in relief of the ineffective Jeff Driskel, and he had a significant hand in five of the Gators' seven wins a year ago, notably leading Florida's only scoring drives in a road comeback at Tennessee and accounting for 264 yards of total offense and two touchdowns in a dominant road victory over Vanderbilt. Grier redshirted in 2014 by design after Harris won Florida's backup quarterback job in fall camp, but also dealt with significant back spasms that kept him out of practice for stretches.
As previously announced, both quarterbacks will play for Florida against the Aggies, likely in a rotation by multiple series patterened after the one used by Alabama in 2011, the only previous year in Jim McElwain's career as an FBS offensive coordinator or head coach in which his team did not have a defined starting quarterback for its season opener.
There are likely still more factors left to weigh in determining Florida's permanent starting quarterback, largest among them both players' performances in that opening game. But if history is any guide, Harris — who follows AJ McCarron in getting the start for a McElwain team with a QB question to answer — would seem to have a slight upper hand at this second. After all: Logic suggests that a team would be unlikely to start the lesser of two quarterbacks in a guaranteed game scheduled partly to produce a lopsided result that allows for younger players to see the field without an outcome hanging in the balance.