Harris made 15 starts at quarterback for Florida as a freshman and sophomore, all but one of those starts coming after being elevated to the role by Jeff Driskel's ineffectiveness in 2014 and Will Grier's season-long suspension in 2015. Harris also started Florida's 2015 opener against New Mexico State, but was marginally outshined in that game by Grier, and would not start again until Grier had been disqualified.
Harris carried a pedigree as a fine athlete and a work in progress as a quarterback into his Florida career, but he was celebrated as a late addition to the Gators' 2014 signing class after then-offensive coordinator Kurt Roper helped sway him from Florida State's fold to the bunch of recruits who would sign with Florida. In fall practices in 2014, Harris erased a lead the early-enrolled Grier had held in the race to be Driskel's backup, eventually doing enough to convince Will Muschamp and Roper to use Harris as Driskel's primary backup, and holding Grier out for what would become a redshirt season.
Harris's up-and-down career would begin in his first game action, in which he threw two long touchdown passes on his only attempts against Eastern Michigan. On one day in September 2014, he was being celebrated for a cameo role as rescuer in Florida's 10-9 win over Tennessee; two days later, he was suspended from the team and school after a sexual assault complaint against him was filed. That complaint would be withdrawn by week's end, but Harris became the subject of intense scrutiny then, and it would only increase as the year wore on.
While Harris did help Florida beat Georgia and get to bowl eligibility in 2014, he did so largely with his feet, in an offense that was pared down dramatically. He would finish the 2014 season having completed fewer than half of his passes and thrown for just over 1,000 yards on the season, despite appearing in nine games, and threw for more than 200 yards just once.
In December 2014, Harris was also cited for driving without a license while driving a car in which teammates J.C. Jackson and Jalen Tabor were passengers and marijuana was found. While he started in Florida's Birmingham Bowl victory over East Carolina, Harris was thought — for reasons of both performance and comportment — to be anything but a lock to maintain his spot as Florida's starter under Jim McElwain.
And, in fact, that logic bore out, despite Harris getting the first three drives of the Gators' blowout win over New Mexico State last September. Grier established himself as Florida's starter by the Gators' third game, then cemented himself in the role by leading a stirring comeback against Tennessee — a game that Harris missed for a reported violation of Florida's drug use policy — and a blowout of Mississippi.
By the time Grier was suspended, Harris was thought of as an obvious downgrade at quarterback. And though he performed gamely against LSU in his first start, and helped the Gators trample Georgia once again, Harris was woeful as Florida's true starter in 2015, never completing more than 60 percent of his passes in a game after being thrust into the role and throwing for better than 170 yards just twice despite being in McElwain's more pass-happy offense.
Few thought Harris would be a factor in Florida's quarterback competition in 2016 even before news of yet another suspension — this time tied to an alleged violation of Florida's student conduct code that also involved freshman playmaker Antonio Callaway — broke in March. But an oft-rumored position change to wide receiver that fans had clamored for for Harris didn't get confirmed until just last week, and it was unlikely that he was going to contribute meaningfully to the Gators in 2016, especially given that he remains suspended by the school.
A transfer gives Harris a chance to make a clean break from two years of tumult, both for his team and for himself, and could afford him a chance to make a second go of playing quarterback at the collegiate level. As he goes, so goes one of the last vestiges of the Muschamp era, and the most meaningful bridge spanning Florida's most recent previous head coach and its current one.
I wish Harris good fortune on the road he will embark upon from this point. And I think his decision to leave is mutually beneficial for him and the Gators.