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Florida vs. Kentucky: Grading Will Grier's play in his first full game

Will Grier had a chance to seal himself as Florida's starter at Kentucky. Instead, he was "just okay," and showed much room to improve.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, for the first time in the 2015 season, Florida faced an SEC defense, and had Will Grier take every snap as its quarterback. Florida scored 14 points, not 61 or 31 — and Grier's not among the nation's top 20 passers anymore.

To be fair, Grier didn't fall that far: He now ranks 39th, just one spot ahead of Louisiana Tech's Jeff Driskel. But his performance against Kentucky was uneven, and inspired Jim McElwain to dub it "just okay" on Monday.

After grading Grier on plays that weren't just handoffs against the Wildcats, using the playcut video compiled by and provided to Alligator Army by the invaluable libgator, I mostly agree with McElwain's assessment.

As always, I've embedded the video above Grier's play table so you can follow along. And the best way to do that remains popping out the video into a different window and letting it play beside the table.

Will Grier Play Table vs. Kentucky

Situation Result (Target) Good Decision? Throw Grade Notes
1st & 10, UF 23 Run (scramble), five-yard gain Yes N/A Grier has his primary read (Callaway) open on a five-yard out, and McGee open behind him in a tighter window, but appears to not trust his arm to make the throw, and pulls it down. Fine decision for result, less so for process.
3rd & 3, UF 30 Incompletion (McGee) Yes D McGee is wide open at the sticks, and any throw at his body gets a first down; a good throw to his inside shoulder could create a big catch-and-run. Grier throws the ball up and away from his body, and nearly has it picked as a result.
4th & Goal, UK 1 Run (scramble), one-yard gain, TD Yes N/A Grier has no one open, and matador blocking by Knight produces instant pressure in the backfield. But Grier escapes by giving ground, rolls right, and pumps to freeze Kentucky DB Chris Westry, giving him just enough room to dive around the edge for a touchdown.
1st & 10, UF 16 Sack, four-yard loss No N/A Virtually the same play as Florida's first snap, except Bailey runs something more like a banana route instead of an out. But Grier doesn't trust the route, and instead of throwing to where Bailey will turn and be open, he tries to run through a hole, is blocked by his own man, and gets tackled.
2nd & 14, UF 12 Incompletion (Showers) Yes D Exactly one play later, Grier finally trusts his route, throwing to Showers as he comes out of his break, but he badly underthrows, skipping the ball off the turf.
3rd & 14, UF 12 Run (scramble), eight-yard gain N/A N/A Can't see receivers downfield on this play, so impossible to fully assess decision-making. Clearly, though, tucking to run on third and 14 is unlikely to produce a first down.
1st & 10, UF 16 Completion, 34-yard gain (Callaway) Yes A Unsurprisingly, Florida's longest play of the night came on Grier's best play. Grier waits just long enough for Callaway to get behind deep drops from LBs, rifles a pass to where only Callaway could catch it. Brilliant one-handed catch by Callaway in stride makes play look even better, but it required an excellent throw by Grier.
1st & 10, 50 Run (scramble), six-yard gain Yes N/A Grier has McGee for a short gain if he can set and throw, but a missed block by Fred Johnson forces him to run. Nice job to escape pocket and make a man miss.
1st & 10, UK 36 Run (scramble), 13-yard gain No N/A Flip side of decision-making grading from first play: Grier makes a heck of a play to get 13 yards by squeezing through a hole and making a man miss, but he senses more pressure than there really is and misses a wide-open Goolsby on a potential TD pass.
1st & 10, UK 23 Completion, nine-yard gain (Powell) Yes B Grier handles high snap and throws to Powell on designed screen. Nothing special here, and Powell's run after catch gets most of the yardage.
2nd & 1, UK 14 Completion, three-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B Another designed screen, another high snap. Grier throws to Robinson well, but better coverage (and some typical D-Rob dancing) limits this play.
1st & 15, UK 19 Completion, five-yard gain (McGee) Yes B Grier works to second read (rare!) and fires low and inside to McGee, forcing tough catch but placing ball away from defender. Good decision, but best decision was working to third read, a wide-open Fulwood, for potential TD.
2nd & 10, UK 14 Incompletion (McGee) Yes C Designed TE throwback cross, with McGee dive-blocking to set it up, but block is so good that Kentucky LB Denzil Ware gets tangled up, and stays with McGee to snuff out play. Grier's throw to a spot where only McGee could make a play on it.
3rd & 10, UK 14 Incompletion (Powell) Yes B Grier's primary read is to Powell on far side, so he misses McGee in one-on-one with position over the middle, but he throws a really good fade. Kentucky DB makes an excellent play to break it up; without that play, this is a TD.
2nd & 10, UF 43 Completion, nine-yard gain (Fulwood) Yes B Fulwood has a man between him and the ball. So where does Grier throw the ball? Low, hard, and away from Fulwood, creating uncontested catch opportunity.
1st & 10, UK 46 Run (scramble), seven-yard gain Yes N/A Kentucky brings pressure on LB blitz, and line has the wrong protection, but Grier has three open men in space vacated by LB, and could have thrown to a fourth (Robinson) on shallow cross. (Play is mesh concept.) Instead, Grier makes two men miss on a scramble.
3rd & 8, UK 44 Completion, seven-yard gain (McGee) Yes A Slow-developing play plus total blown protection means pressure gets to Grier despite him working back in pocket — yet he makes an incredible leaping throw (to an open Callaway; McGee interceptis it, basically) after juking Kentucky defender into failed waist tackle. Fantastic velocity and ball placement, given context of throw.
1st & 10, UK 31 Completion, 18-yard gain (McGee) Yes B Another really good throw to where only McGee (Grier's primary read) can catch it. An A-level throw might have allowed McGee to catch in stride and score a TD.
1st & 10, UK 13 Completion, 10-yard gain (Powell) Yes B Designed screen with fake double screen. Grier sells the fake screen beautifully, then fires high to Powell to get the ball over a DE. A catch on which Powell doesn't jump maybe produces a touchdown, but Grier is avoiding a deflection.
2nd & 10, UK 28 Incompletion (Powell) Yes B Grier hits Powell (primary read) in the hands with room to run. Powell can't catch the ball.
3rd & 15, UK 33 Sack, four-yard loss No N/A Slow-developing play produces no open men by the time a delayed LB blitz arrives. Grier tries stepping up in the pocket when he should have tried to escape it to outside, where there's copious room to run. Doesn't work.
1st & 10, UK 31 Run (scramble), five-yard gain (fumble, recovered) Yes N/A Grier makes a good decision to run instead of trying to force a pass to McGee in a tight window, but is tackled from behind and fumbles; lucky to recover after ball falls at his feet. (Jesse Palmer calls Grier's ball security "very poor" on replay, but it's actually relatively good on this play; Ware just gets a hand where it will cause a fumble.)
1st & 10, UK 20 Run (scramble), eight-yard gain Yes N/A Grier's primary read is Robinson, but he runs his route a little deep, and Grier sees Robinson's man cheat to him, so he runs to the space vacated by the cheat.
2nd & 12, UK 12 Completion, seven-yard gain (Robinson) Yes B Designed screen. Good throw. Nothing more to say.
1st & Goal, UK 5 Interception (McGee) Yes C McGee is open when Grier throws the ball, and Grier actually throws it fairly well; Kentucky LB J.D. Harmon makes an impressive leaping catch to intercept. But a better throw to corner of end zone is likely a TD; Harmon's in the exact right position to make a play on the ball and Grier doesn't do enough on the throw to account for him.
1st & 10, UK 31 Run (scramble), five-yard gain (fumble, recovered) Yes N/A Grier makes a good decision to run instead of trying to force a pass to McGee in a tight window, but is tackled from behind and fumbles; lucky to recover after ball falls at his feet. (Jesse Palmer calls Grier's ball security "very poor" on replay, but it's actually relatively good on this play; Ware just gets a hand where it will cause a fumble.)
1st & 10, UF 25 Completion, three-yard gain (Showers) No C Grier has a totally clean pocket for once, and both Showers and Taylor are open, Showers on a cross and Taylor on a wheel. But instead of waiting a second for Taylor to clear LB or leading Taylor, Grier, moves, re-sets, and sidearms a low pass to Showers.
3rd & 6, UF 29 Run (scramble), four-yard gain No N/A Grier's primary read is Powell, who's wide open just short of the sticks with a little wiggle room. Goolsby is wide open on the back side of the play. Grier's pocket is clean. So, of course, he hesitates, even after setting to throw, and then runs, stumbling after breaking a DL's tackle and falling short of the marker. An exasperating decision.
2nd  & 6, UF 28 Completion, seven-yard gain (Fulwood) Yes B Two snaps after deciding to run after staring at an open man, Grier trusts his read and fires to Fulwood as he turns out of his break. Easy money, though Fulwood falls while making the catch on a good throw.
1st & 10, UF 35 Incompletion (Robinson) No D Another bad decision, though this is more about design failure than a misread. Primary receiver is Robinson on a PA naked bootleg, but CB is baiting the throw. Correct play is either extending the play, a run, or a throwaway, but Grier throws anyway; he's saved by a bad throw that skips in front of breaking CB.
3rd & 8, UF 37 Incompletion (Callaway) Yes B The best incompletion of the night. Grier escapes pressure with no one open on his primary read side of field by spinning out of a sack, then somehow sees and hits Callaway with a throw on the run while rolling to his left. The throw isn't perfect, and is just slightly behind Callaway, which leads to a difficult catch that he can't complete, but the play as a whole is a fantastic show of what Grier can do.
1st & 10, UF 12 Run (scramble), 12-yard run Yes N/A Patience pays off on this run. It's a play-action naked bootleg, and a Kentucky LB sits in the passing lane to primary read Robinson. So Grier tucks, turns on the jets, and flies by that LB on the inside, then spins out of a tackle for more yardage
2nd & 5, UF 36 Completion, seven-yard gain (Robinson) Yes N/A Designed screen. Grier throws quickly, Robinson chooses inside wrongly and then dances after reaching the first-down marker to turn a 15-yard gain into a seven-yard gain.
1st & 10, UF 43 Incompletion (Powell) Yes C My guess is that this play, on which Grier floats a pass to Powell in the flat and it literally hits him in the butt, is Powell's fault more than Grier's. But Grier's throw isn't great, and could've been deflected to a defender.
3rd & 10, UF 43 Completion, seven-yard gain (Taylor) Yes B Designed halfback screen. Good pass by Grier gives Taylor chance to make a play, but badly missed block by Thurman scuttles play.

Conclusions and Data

Despite a feeling that Grier spent his night against Kentucky running from even the slightest pressure and leaving a lot of big plays on the table, a play-by-play analysis suggests that feeling's a bit overstated: Grier was often making good decisions when running, and his misses on big plays had more to do with misreads than panic.

Will Grier Throw Grades

A B C D F Composite Throw Grade
New Mexico State 7 7 3 0 1 3.05
East Carolina 3 8 3 3 2 2.37
Kentucky 2 12 5 3 0 2.59
Season to Date 12 27 11 6 3 2.66

Treon Harris Throw Grades

A B C D F Composite Throw Grade
New Mexico State 6 6 4 2 1 2.74
East Carolina 1 3 1 2 0 2.43
Season to Date 7 9 5 4 1 2.65

Grier's work as a passer against Kentucky was mediocre to good, neither great nor abysmal: Despite a good play by Kentucky on a decent throw that turned into an interception, Grier didn't earn an F grade on any throw against the Wildcats, and racked up a slew of B throws. However, his most Cs of the year to date and two Ds dragged down his composite grade.

Grier's edge on Harris as a passer is essentially nonexistent in the aggregate, but a similar Composite Throw Grade over more throws is likely evidence of better passing, and it should be noted that Grier threw better against Kentucky than Harris did against East Carolina.

Will Grier Good Decision Rate

Yes No Composite Good Decision Rate
New Mexico State 20 2 90.9%
East Carolina 17 4 81.0%
Kentucky 28 6 82.4%
Season to Date 65 12 84.4%

Treon Harris Good Decision Rate

Yes No Composite Good Decision Rate
New Mexico State 20 4 83.3%
East Carolina 11 2 84.6%
Season to Date 31 6 83.8%

But Grier did make as many bad decisions flying solo as he and Harris combined to make in each of Florida's first two games  and on exactly as many opportunities as Grier and Harris had against East Carolina  suggesting that sticking with one quarterback as a means of reducing the pressure on a starter who no longer needed to look over his shoulder didn't do much to elicit a better performance.

Grier's opportunity to play smoothly through a whole game did nothing to separate him from Harris, who's had less variance in his results.