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Florida vs. New Mexico State, Theater of Operations: Analyzing Will Grier, Treon Harris

Florida's quarterbacks both left room for improvement despite exceptional 2015 debuts.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

From a statistical overview of Will Grier's and Treon Harris's performances Saturday night, we know their numbers from Florida's win against New Mexico State looked pretty good. We often correlate stats with success, which has some merit when combined with large sample sizes, but we should also realize that even though a good decision was made, it doesn't always mean the best decision was made.

Here we'll go through four plays from last weekend; two each from Harris and two plays from Grier. What we're going to try to focus on aren't giving these guys pats on the back, but noticing what they could have done better, even on plays that had great success. After all, no Gators fan wants Harris or Grier to be as good as they were last weekend.

They want them to be even better.

Harris's vision outside of the pocket

Harris plays like a true dual-threat QB, meaning if his first read isn't there, he's very likely to bail out of the pocket to buy himself some more time. That's not a knock at all, as long as your system supports it -- and Florida's does. However, when he gets out of the pocket, I would argue Harris is too locked in on the easy decisions.

The play above is a rollout off play action, which is designed to make the linebackers choose between guarding their player or shifting to stop Harris' threat to run. As you would expect, it causes some chaos. Harris' pass ends up going for 13 yards, thanks to a great run after the catch by Goolsby.

But if you watch the Vine again you'll notice I highlighted Jake McGee. That pass should have gone to him for a much easier first down, and if you pay attention to the blockers down field, you can imagine how that automatic first down had a chance to be a touchdown had the ball been thrown to McGee.

On Saturday, Harris had a tendency to drop his eyes to the closest target when he got out of the pocket. And that enabled him to make safe plays, but not always the best plays. Sometimes the good plays can be better; sometimes, they may need to be.

Harris flutters a deep ball for a score

This one is pretty obvious. You love the result, but this touchdown should have been much easier than it was; Brandon Powell's Superman dive to the pylon was cool, but a better throw by Harris allows him to walk in.

The play uses deep crossing routes to get Powell open. Back in the pocket, Harris does a great job of selling the play fake, stepping up into his throw and timing the route. But the touch on the throw is almost too fine, and Harris underthrowing the ball nearly allows a great play slip through the Gators' hands: Powell has to change direction and slow up to get under the throw, and that allows the defender he burned to attempt a tackle.

Harris has decent arm strength. It's not, like, Cardale Jones good, but he can put some zip on intermediate passes (10-20 yards). Those throws beyond 20 yards continue to trouble him, though, and while those are always the toughest to improve upon, it stood out on a night when he and Grier were nearly flawless.

Will Grier misses a blitz at the line

I thought Grier had a great debut as a Gator. For the first time in a very long time, I watched a Florida quarterback command the field from the pocket and show he isn't afraid to fit a throw in a tight window, as long as it was the pass that should be made. That's not to say he's the savior of Florida football; he has a long way to go.

One of the ways Grier can improve his game is in the pre-snap read.


This note is brought to you by Robert Judin, who texted a few screen shots to me from the game tape before I got my hands on it.

The freeze frame above is the play which Grier fumbled and lost possession. Notice the overload on the low side of the line. The first thing a quarterback should do pre-snap is locate the safeties. With both the strong and free safety covering deep with one outside corner in off coverage, Grier should know this a Cover 3 zone (meaning the deep part of the field is covered in thirds).

The second order of business is to identify the MIKE linebacker to better understand alignment; on this play, he's right behind the defensive line, most likely guarding the running back whether he is handed the ball or runs out. This also means that the weak side linebacker is well out of his typical alignment.

Finally, Grier has to identify the shift -- which is what he fails to do here. If you look at the angle at which the weak side linebacker and the slot corner are lined up, you can tell they're not worried about the inside receiver. That's something Grier should've seen, and likely audibled or checked protection to counter.


Here's the play when the ball was snapped. The linebackers are frozen, not even covering anyone, and the safeties are so afraid of Florida's speed that they're already back pedaling. A checkdown to either of the two inside receivers would've had a major pay off, and maybe even produced a first down. I don't know how much control or audible customization Grier has, but over time, if he can gain that trust, those are the kind of "plays that could've happened" that make good offenses unstoppable. There's no need to take a sack here.

Grier fires down the field

It was noted by Charles UF in the comment section of my first film breakdown of the game that the highlight I chose to show McElwain emphasizing tight ends on offense was, in fact, a minor misread by Grier, even if it showed a good pitch and catch. And, after checking the tape, he was right!

I've already broken down what the play meant from an offensive standpoint, but now we can also see what it should have been. A quarterback isn't going to make the best play every time, and Grier doesn't make a bad one here, but going over missed opportunities at least puts what could have been in the mind of the passer.

There's not much to over analyze here. The free safety falls for the play action, the corners are only looking to the outside, and a post to the middle by C'yontai Lewis leaves the strong safety out of place and flat footed. Grier was looking to that side of the field to time the pass with Goolsby, and to his defense, Lewis wasn't that open until the ball was out of Grier's hands.

However, knowing the play as a whole is always important. He had plenty of time in the pocket to let that play develop more, and if he waited a second longer, both Lewis and Goolsby would've still been open and in even better position. That play could've been a score by either receiver.

Those are my insights on Grier and Harris for this week. I'm sure they went over these plays (and other key plays) extensively with their coaches and know what they need to do to be even better versus East Carolina and into SEC play.