With Grier suspended, No. 8 Florida will learn about Harris
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Jim McElwain has insisted for months that he has two quarterbacks capable of producing in the Southeastern Conference.
The eighth-ranked Gators will find out soon if McElwain was being completely truthful.
Starter Will Grier was suspended one year Monday for violating the NCAA's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Grier, who gained 20 pounds in his first 18 months on campus, failed a drug test in the last two weeks.
Grier said he took an over-the-counter supplement, but did not specify which one. Grier delivered a heartfelt apology to teammates before doing the same publicly.
''I did not check with the medical staff before taking it,'' Grier said. ''I really hope that people can learn from this, learn from my mistake. I'm really, really sorry to everyone. Just really sorry.''
The school said it will appeal. The Gators (6-0, 4-0 SEC) are not facing a forfeiture of wins, and Grier won't lose any eligibility. He will return as a third-year sophomore next October.
''When you have an opportunity to sit down and visit with him and see the remorse and the sorrow, that's hard,'' McElwain said. ''That's really hard. As a coach, but more so as a human, to see someone go through that, it's not easy. But he knows we're here for him.
''It's a loss. But we also have other guys, and we've got to move forward. Hopefully guys will learn from this and see, as he said, it's an opportunity through his choices. Hopefully some guys will learn from it.''
It means the Tigers will face a backup quarterback for the fourth consecutive game.
Perry Orth began the season as South Carolina's third-string QB, but got the start against LSU last week because of injuries to Connor Mitch and backup Lorenzo Nunez. The previous week, Eastern Michigan's Brogan Roback replaced injured starter Reginald Bell before facing the Tigers. And Syracuse started fourth-stringer Zack Mahoney against LSU late last month.
Harris, meanwhile, played nine games as a freshman last season, completing 45 percent of his passes for 1,019 yards, with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
''I got a pretty good idea we'll show up,'' McElwain said.
According to NCAA rules, Grier will remain suspended during the appeals process. He can practice with the team while he's ineligible, but won't be allowed to travel.
McElwain said Grier made an avoidable mistake.
''You and I can both go get it,'' McElwain said. ''Anyone in this room can. Anybody in this country can. The mistake is, and the lesson for whoever out there, make sure - just like we educate our guys now - you check with your medical staff before you put anything in your body.''
McElwain also did not identify what Grier took.
''Doesn't matter. Cough medicine,'' McElwain said. ''You have to know what you're putting in your body. Will admitted he didn't do it. I think that speaks for him. He's not putting it on anybody else. He's a stand-up guy. That's how he played the game and plays the game. He'll be back.''
The suspension provided Florida's surprising season with a startling twist.
Grier and the Gators have been one of the most remarkable teams in the country in their first year under McElwain, the former Colorado State coach and Alabama assistant. The Gators already have matched last year's regular-season win total and have a commanding lead in the league's Eastern Division race.
Harris will be tasked with helping them stay there.
Harris started the opener and split snaps with Grier in the second week against East Carolina. He has not thrown a pass since. He did attempt a 2-point conversion against Mississippi and was in for two running plays at Missouri last week. He is 19-for-27 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
''We have two really good quarterbacks and have a package for another one,'' McElwain said. ''This is not an excuse. It happened. Things happen in life, and if you want to use it as an excuse, so be it. But that's not what we're going to do.
''We're going to have a great week of practice, we're going to play our tails off against one of the best teams in the country on their turf.''