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Can Treon Harris Lead Florida to SEC East Title?

John Korduner/Icon Sportswire

By most accounts, Florida’s 5-0 start was a surprise. The Gators entered their first season under head coach Jim McElwain and had several questions on offense, including an inexperienced line.

But McElwain made an immediate improvement through his first five games, having nearly matched Will Muschamp’s win total from the previous season. One of the key factors to Florida’s turnaround was the emergence of quarterback Will Grier.

Grier threw for 1,204 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions on 106-of-161 passing, while also rushing for 116 yards and two scores on 36 attempts. The redshirt freshman was the perfect fit for McElwain’s offense and provided consistent play at the quarterback position.

However, his run was short-lived after it was announced last week that Grier would be suspended for 12 months for violating the NCAA’s policy for performance enhancing drugs. The suspension took place just five days before Florida’s game at LSU — a matchup of two undefeated teams.

In Grier’s absence, former starter Treon Harris stepped back into the fold. Harris played well, throwing for 271 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-32 passing, despite the Gators suffering their first loss.

But it did breathe a sigh of relief into a program that faced a potential scare in Grier’s absence. Still, the question remains of whether Harris can lead Florida to an SEC East division title.

Was his performance a fluke or a sign of things to come in McElwain’s offense? It’s hard to measure Harris’ potential success as Florida’s quarterback.

He’s a talented player who relies more on natural ability than polished passing and seemed incapable of taking a snap under center in 2014. But, there’s no denying that his dual-threat ability helped lead Florida to several victories in a lackluster season that led to Muschamp’s dismissal.

Without Harris, the Gators likely would have lost to Tennessee in 2014 — the ugliest SEC game in recent memory. The freshman replaced struggling former starter Jeff Driskel and led Florida to 10 unanswered points after facing a 9-0 deficit.

Harris also knew when to take a back seat to the running game. Against Georgia, Florida ran the football 60 times, while the freshman threw just six passes.

To Muschamp’s credit, it was a proper usage of an inexperienced quarterback who was facing an overmatched opponent. Florida managed to capture a 38-20 win which was crucial in its inevitable bowl berth.

It’s not fair to judge Harris based on his lone season as the Gators’ starting quarterback. All freshmen struggle to some extent and should see improvement in their second season.

Harris has seen limited reps behind Grier, but has already improved his completion percentage from 49.5 to 61. Florida has enough talent to take pressure away from its quarterback and beat teams in multiple ways.

The Gators will also benefit from having favorable matchups in their remaining schedule. Aside from Georgia, Florida should be heavily favored in each of its remaining SEC East matchups.

Saturday
Oct. 24
Open Date
Saturday
Oct. 31
Bulldogs Georgia Bulldogs 
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL
3:30pm ET
CBS
Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 7
Commodores Vanderbilt Commodores (HC)
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 14
Gamecocks at South Carolina Gamecocks 
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 21
Owls Florida Atlantic Owls 
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
TBA Buy
Tickets
Saturday
Nov. 28
Seminoles Florida State Seminoles 
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
TBA Buy
Tickets

Realistically, the matchup against Georgia could be the deciding factor in the East. Both teams have a bye week before facing each other on Oct. 31.

Harris’ performance will affect Florida’s chances but won’t be the only deciding factor. He’s proven he’s capable of winning games and should help the Gators continue their strong start through season’s end.

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