The answer to the question of whether Will Muschamp will bench Jeff Driskel for backup Treon Harris is, for now, a no. But should Muschamp bench Driskel? Let's dive into it before coming up with an answer.
Here are three quarterback lines. Would you bench any of these guys for a true freshman backup?
Quarterbacks B and C have a much lower yards per attempt rate than A does. C at least has five TDs to no INTs though. B has the second-highest touchdown rate when you account for number of attempts, and his INT rate is basically the same as A's is. None of these guys jump out as world-beaters, but if you had to pick the worst of the bunch, it's probably B. He has the lowest completion percentage, has the worst yards per attempt, isn't a significant upgrade over either of the others in not throwing picks, and has the lowest passing efficiency.
I'll give you two names for now. Quarterback B is Jeff Driskel through his three games in 2014. Quarterback A is Ingle Martin in his four games of action in 2003.
Ingle who? Ingle Martin, the guy who started the first four games of the 2003 Florida campaign before losing his job to Chris Leak. He split time with Leak in all four games, but he didn't appear again for the Gators after that fourth start. He is the most recent starting signal caller at Florida to get benched for good in favor of a true freshman backup.
Martin's four games included two cupcakes and games against eventual 11-2 Miami (FL) and eventual 10-3 Tennessee. Half of his action was against tough teams, versus just one third for Driskel this year. Still, his line is better than Driskel's has been so far. Given that Driskel has underperformed what the last guy who got benched for a true freshman did, you can say that Driskel should get the same treatment.
That is, assuming you have someone like Chris Leak to come in. I'm not even referring to the record setting, championship-winning Leak, but rather the true freshman Leak that the 2003 team had as an option. Rivals rated him the No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 26 overall player. Scout pegged him as the No. 3 quarterback and No. 6 overall player. He played well enough in fall practice to force Martin to share snaps from the first game. It was obvious, even back then, that he had the potential for doing great things.
Treon Harris came in as Rivals' No. 3 dual-threat quarterback and No. 69 overall player. As for Scout, he was the No. 12 quarterback and No. 127 overall player. He's actually outranked on both fronts by Will Grier, the other true freshman quarterback in Gainesville who Harris beat out for the backup job. In any event, neither Harris nor Grier is as highly rated coming out of high school as Leak was. Likewise, neither's play in fall practice demanded that he be played like Leak's did in 2003.
Here is where Quarterback C comes in. He is John Brantley in 2010, and those are the stats from his first three games (to match Driskel's first three). He gets a little bit of a boost for those games coming against two cupcakes and eventual 6-7 Tennessee, but his passing line against that year's Alabama team (16-for-31, 202 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INT) was better than Driskel's against this year's Alabama team (9-for-28, 93 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT).
Brantley never got completely benched that year, but he split increasingly more snaps with true freshman Trey Burton and redshirt freshman Jordan Reed as the year went along. Turns out Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio really couldn't figure out how to make an offense without a mobile quarterback, and the concrete-footed Brantley just couldn't provide that aspect of the attack. For as much as he struggled, Brantley still was the best passer of the bunch. The less said about Burton's throwing attempts the better, and Reed only ever looked good against that year's dreadful Vanderbilt team (a game in which Brantley's line was still better).
Statistically speaking, Brantley's early performances in 2010 were not as good as Martin's were in 2003. Still, he never did get the hook entirely like Martin did, and the times he did get taken out had more to do with coaching deficiencies than his own play. Had Meyer and Addazio put together a real offense for a drop back passer and Brantley still performed as he did, he probably never would have sat. Burton couldn't throw at all, Reed wasn't as good a passer as Brantley was, and the only other scholarship quarterback was true freshman Tyler Murphy (who now, as a fifth-year senior, still isn't a good passer).
So far we've seen two pass attempts by Harris. They looked good, but they were also against Eastern Michigan's backup defense. It's impossible to judge him based on that. In fall practice, Harris looked terrible for the first week before storming back in the second and taking the reserve job from Grier. Then again, there is a belief among some close program watchers that Harris got the backup job because he's merely adequate at the moment. Giving him the No. 2 spot allows Grier, who played against a lower grade of competition in high school, to take a much needed redshirt year to get used to college speed. The feeling among them is that Grier still is the long term solution with Harris being the fill-in guy for now.
Whether that theory is true or not, I don't know. Either way, I never saw a report from open fall practices that said that either Harris or Grier consistently outplayed or even matched Driskel. I'm of the opinion that Harris should get some non-garbage time snaps if Driskel continues to struggle, but I don't have any reason to believe that he'll be any better than Driskel has been. There simply isn't a Chris Leak waiting in the wings right now.
In terms of conventional measures, Driskel has underperformed both of the last two Florida quarterbacks to lose meaningful snaps to freshmen. By that measure, a change might be warranted. That said, he doesn't have someone pushing him as hard as Martin did when he lost the job for good. It's possible that Harris, who isn't even six feet tall, follows the path of Brantley's 2010 backups and doesn't even finish his college career as a quarterback.
It would be easier to call for a Driskel benching if there was a more compelling second option to turn to. Eventually, he will ride the pine if he doesn't improve because Florida will keep losing games. The answer to whether he should get benched now comes from if you have more belief in him or a true freshman with no real game experience who only looked good in at most half of the practices the public has been able to see. How do you answer the question?