Florida's Harris to split snaps with Driskel at QB
Oct. 13, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida is changing things up at quarterback — at least partially.
Coach Will Muschamp said Monday that freshman Treon Harris will share snaps with fourth-year junior Jeff Driskel, who has eight turnovers in the last three games, against Missouri on Saturday.
"They both will play this week," Muschamp said. "We'll work through the week, see how things go. Right now, Jeff will probably start, but they're both going to play."
The move would have been made a week earlier, but Harris was suspended last Monday while authorities investigated a sexual battery charge against him. The female student withdrew her complaint Friday, and the university and Muschamp fully reinstated him later that day.
Gators safety Keanu Neal said it's a lesson in how quickly a person's life can change and that everyone needs to make smart decisions.
"Huge eye-opener," Neal said. "That could've been any of us. That could've been anyone on the team. Thank God he didn't get in trouble for it, but it's definitely an eye-opener. It makes you think, that's for sure."
Because Harris missed a full week of practice and preparation, he did not play in the 30-27 loss to LSU. He watched from the coaches' box, sitting near offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
Harris has completed 4 of 6 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns this season. He replaced Driskel late in the third quarter at Tennessee two weeks ago and led the Gators (3-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) to 10 points in his first two drives. The Gators held on to win 10-9. The alleged incident involving Harris happened a few hours after Florida landed back in Gainesville.
So the Gators were essentially stuck with Driskel for another week.
He completed 14 of 25 passes for 183 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also fumbled early, which led to LSU's first touchdown. His second interception came on Florida's final play of the game. It was ill-advised pass into double coverage that was tipped, picked off and returned 23 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.
"I want to play better," Driskel said. "Whatever comes after that, whatever happens, happens. That's not my call to make. I want to play better and give our team the best chance to win."
Driskel has completed 55 percent of his passes for 878 yards, with six touchdowns and eight interceptions this season. He's really struggled in four SEC games, completing 49.6 percent of his passes for 630 yards, with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
"You know, believe it or not, I'm not worried about me," Driskel said. "I'm worried about the team. I want the team to play well. If it's going to help the team, I'm all for it. We're confident in Treon. I think the guys are confident in me as well. It's not going to be something that's going to divide the team or anything like that. We've got mature guys that can handle it."
Driskel is a three-year starter for the Gators. Coaches, teammates and fans had high expectations for him before the season, but he's fallen far short so far.
"Just because I haven't made all the plays I would've liked to, doesn't mean I'm not confident," Driskel said. "I'm still confident in my ability, what I can do and what I can do for this team. I don't think my confidence has ever been shaken."
The Gators have a lot of confidence in Harris, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound Miami native who went 40-2 as a three-year starter at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami.
"He's a winner," Muschamp said. "He certainly has a persona about him."
Harris led the Tornadoes to consecutive Class 4A state titles, and the Gators believe he has the 'it' factor.
"You saw it in the Tennessee game: He's just comfortable in the pocket," Neal said. "He didn't really panic when things went wrong. He almost threw an interception and he didn't panic and he stayed in and did a great job in the Tennessee game. It's just having confidence in the pocket and not panicking."