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History Rhymes In Florida's Quarterback Battle

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Is something feeling familiar? It should.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Something Vernon Hargreaves III said during SEC Media Days about his team's quarterbacking battle between Treon Harris and Will Grier stuck out to me:

"I feel like Treon is more athletic," Hargreaves said Monday at SEC Media Days. "More of just a natural football player where Will is definitely your quarterback. Your normal quarterback who is strong armed and can throw it anywhere across the field.

"I don't know how it is going to happen. I don't know how it is going to go down. I don't know if athleticism is going to happen or is Will being more of a quarterback gonna prevail? We'll find out."

It felt strangely familiar, and it's probably because UF just went through this three years ago. Here are some quotes from when Will Muschamp named Jeff Driskel the starter over Jacoby Brissett early in the 2012 season:

"As we move into next week we’re going to start Jeff Driskel versus [Texas] A&M," he announced. "I met with Jeff and Jacoby [Brissett] [Monday] morning. It’s nothing Jacoby did not do. I just felt like Jeff with his legs give us some different variables in our offense that can help us going forward." ...

"I certainly think [Driskel’s mobility] played a big part [in the decision]," Muschamp admitted. "The quarterback run game creates issues for a defense. Right now, in our development of our offense, that’s certainly something that is going to benefit us."

Driskel was more athletic, while Brissett was more your quarterback who is strong armed and can throw it anywhere across the field.

For the 2012 season, Muschamp's choice proved a good one. Lacking much in the way of offensive playmakers outside of RB Mike Gillislee and TE Jordan Reed, Driskel's ability to run gave the offense an extra bit of oomph it otherwise wouldn't have had. Not only did his legs pay off in carrying the ball—highlighted by Driskel's quarterback school record 177 rushing yards gainst Vanderbilt—but they allowed him to get out of trouble caused by an offensive line that couldn't pass block for beans. Going with Driskel seemed further validated when the offense didn't look great with Brissett in towards the end of the year while Driskel was out hurt, as Brissett's ability to pass was of limited use without many good options to throw to. The Gators won 11 games and went to the Sugar Bowl. The choice to go with Driskel worked out.

The choice also had long term consequences. Brissett transferred to NC State after the season, and in 2014, Muschamp's decision looked rather shaky. Driskel didn't look great with the job to himself at the beginning of 2013 before injury knocked him out for the year, and he ended up benched for the true freshman Harris in 2014. Brissett, meanwhile, threw for 2,606 yards and 23 TDs with only 5 INTs as the starter for the Wolfpack.

Jim McElwain faces a similar kind of decision this year. Harris has limited upside as a passer, as he's well under 6 feet, doesn't have a strong arm, and wasn't particularly accurate in his play last year. However, he can do great things off of quarterback keepers and can avoid pressure. That could come in handy with an inexperienced offensive line that will start at least one or two freshman all season. Grier meanwhile is tall, has a strong arm, and is more of a prototypical passer.

The situation isn't a perfect parallel. Unlike either Driskel or Brissett heading into 2012, Grier hasn't taken a collegiate snap thanks to redshirting. His high school tape also suggests he has some scrambling ability beyond what the lead footed Brissett (who took 29 sacks last year) can do. The array of skill players for 2015 aren't great either, but it's still a notably better group than 2012 had thanks to guys like Demarcus Robinson, Brandon Powell, and Jake McGee.

As has been said, history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. It would not be surprising in this day and age if whoever loses the battle between Harris and Grier transfers away like Brissett did. Like Muschamp, McElwain will probably have to stick with the guy who wins the job this fall for several years, as his quarterback of the future isn't coming until 2017 and Luke Del Rio probably won't walk into campus and turn into a star.

From the outside for now, it appears that Grier has the higher ceiling long term, but Harris may have more to offer this particular team in this particular year. Choosing between those options is not an easy task, but it's a decision McElwain has to make just like his predecessor did.