NCF Nation: Will Grier
January, 20, 2014
By Jeff Barlis | ESPN.com
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Grier knows the deal. He has been hearing from Gator fans for months, knows how excited they are about his future and is flattered by the attention.
Some have even called him a savior.
"Yeah, I see that all the time," Grier said. He's rated the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the nation and is one of the most anticipated recruits in Florida's top-10 class. He gets it.
"When a program is down a little bit, they're looking for anything to put their hope into. It's just something that I hear, and it's great. I thank you for your support, that kind of thing. But I've got a long ways to go. So we'll see."
It's easy to understand the buzz. Grier is 6-foot-2, 186 pounds with a live arm, advanced footwork and a truckload of accolades and accomplishments.
The two-time Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year finished his career at Davidson Day School with 14,565 yards passing, 2,955 yards rushing and 226 touchdowns in three years of varsity play. He made headlines in 2012 when his 837-yard game set a national record for single-game passing yardage.
The success didn't get to Grier, though. He's a calm, mature, level-headed 18-year-old.
Miller Safrit/ESPNWill Grier is rated the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the nation after an outstanding high school career.
He's excited about the future, too. Grier is enrolled in his first college semester, 17 credits. He wants to major in business and minor in communications, but it's more like a dual-major with football. Grier is taking a crash course with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.
The moment UF lost No. 2 quarterback Tyler Murphy to transfer, Grier became most likely to back up Jeff Driskel this fall.
It's a situation his father and high school coach, Chad Grier, hopes will go according to script.
"The perfect scenario would be for [Will] to be able to go play behind an All-American, a Heisman candidate, an NFL prospect," Chad said. "He could learn from a guy that's having success at that level and watch his practice habits and off-field habits and get a feel for playing in the SEC in general.
"On a much smaller scale, when I went to college I was in a similar situation. I played behind a guy who was an NFL prospect and an All-American candidate. It was ideal. He taught me a lot. It was great to have him take me under his wing and get me prepared for what was going to happen. Unfortunately he ended up getting hurt and I had to play as a true freshman."
Will has always had a lot to learn from his dad, the coach and former player. Now that he's preparing to play the same position in college, Will can turn to Chad for even more advice.
Chad started his career at Division I-AA Richmond, backing up Bob Bleier in the mid-80s. Then he transferred to East Carolina, where eventually he was Jeff Blake's backup.
"I was the most popular guy in Greenville," Chad said. "Jeff struggled a little bit [in 1990]. He was hurt a little bit. So, man, every time he threw a bad ball I could hear 'em screaming for me. They'd chant my name. That's because I wasn't the guy. If you're the guy doing well, they're going to love you. If you're the guy not doing well, they're going to love your backup.
"So that may be what [Will is] getting into. I don't know Jeff Driskel from Adam's house cat, but I see a big, good-looking kid that's got a big arm and can run. I think he came with a lot of expectations. And I hope he gets healthy, and I hope he has a tremendous year. But if he doesn't they're going to start calling for Will, and I'd hate for that to happen to Driskel. Because the very same thing, it could be Will one day.
"When you're the backup, you're the next guy. Until you get out there and face live bullets, everybody thinks you're the greatest thing ever."
Undoubtedly, there is pressure on Will Grier. He comes to Florida with high hopes and a good chance that he'll be one injury away from taking over at quarterback.
As a dad, as a coach and as a former player, Chad knows exactly what Will is getting into. He says backup quarterback is the toughest position in football.
"If you're the backup running back, the backup safety, the backup linebacker, backup anything else, you're going to play," Chad said. "You may not be in the program as a starter, but you're going to play. If you're the backup quarterback you have to be ready to play. The next play you might be the guy for the rest of the game, the rest of the year.
"But it's very hard when you're hyper-competitive to prepare yourself for that and be all excited, ready to go, and then game day comes and goes and you never break a sweat."
As an ECU Pirate, that pretty much summed up Chad's career.
"I've got one record that still stands from East Carolina," he said, "and that's the most consecutive quarters wearing a baseball hat."
His own fond memories aside, Chad believes Will has the right mindset for his first year at UF.
"If they want him to redshirt, he'll redshirt," he said. "He's ready to go run the scout team. … He's champing at the bit to get into it."
But one thing Chad can't advise Will on is the hype his son has heard, seen and felt before even taking a snap.
"I've heard it," Will said. "Especially nowadays with social media stuff. But I think overall, they're fans. That's what they're supposed to do. I don't expect anything less. You know, it's something I acknowledge, and I want to show my appreciation for their support and that type of thing. But I just don't get too much into it.
"They'll be excited until I throw my first interception."
Thanks to his dad, whenever that happens Will should be well prepared for what comes next.
November, 12, 2013
By Edward Aschoff | ESPN.com
Want to know the current state of Florida's football program? Take a look at the tape of Florida's home loss to Vanderbilt.
You don't have to look at what's happening on the field. It certainly paints a bleak, unpleasant picture of what this team isn't capable of, but the real eye-opener is in the stands. There were too many empty seats to count and too many boo birds out to ignore.
Even coach Will Muschamp, who keeps his head so buried in football that he usually only notices fans after the final whistle, couldn't help but hear all the chirping after a 34-17 loss to the Commodores.
Right now, it isn't great to be a Florida Gator, and it's clear that if changes aren't made this program could become a laughingstock in the same conference it once sat atop.
What sort of change needs to be made? Ask your typical Gators fan and the hammer drops: The head coach, who is finishing out his third season in Gainesville, needs to go. But after a season in which injuries ravaged this squad, is that really the right move? Is that really an option?
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesWill Muschamp says he'll evaluate his coaching staff in the offseason.
From the sound of things, it doesn't look like athletic director Jeremy Foley is ready to pull the plug on Muschamp, who is 22-13 in three years. For one, losing six starters to season-ending injuries, including quarterback Jeff Driskel, defensive tackle Dominique Easley and running back Matt Jones, is something Muschamp couldn't control. The handful of injuries this team has suffered isn't on him. He'll get a pass for that, so talk of Muschamp leaving now is premature.
The change has to come from Muschamp and in his vision for the future. This is the same coach who guided Florida to 11 wins and a BCS bowl game last year, but it's also the same coach who has two four-game losing streaks in three years, the longest such streaks since 1988.
With the Gators losing at home to Vanderbilt for the first time since 1945 (ending their 24-game winning streak against the Commodores) and in jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game for the first time in 22 years (the second-longest streak in the nation), it's clear Muschamp has to reevaluate everything.
He has to find a quarterback, an offensive identity, a tougher offensive line, some playmakers and some discipline. That comes with recruiting, development and coaching. Right now, all three areas have to improve.
Muschamp said on Saturday and again on Monday that he plans to evaluate his coaching staff in the offseason. Expect changes, but would Muschamp be willing to change his offensive philosophy? The offense hasn't made the appropriate strides since coordinator Brent Pease was hired in 2011. It's stale, and it regressed this year. Yes, injuries have been a major factor, and the offensive line has been atrocious, but adjustments haven't been made at critical moments.
This team lacks elite offensive talent and a clear identity. Would Muschamp be willing to go in a more offensive-friendly direction in order to inject some excitement into this team and fan base? Would he be willing to compromise his defense for more points?
Fans certainly hope so.
Muschamp also has to keep this recruiting class together. This might be the most important area going forward because it's simply mind-boggling that the University of Florida is so devoid of offensive talent, despite being in a state that grows those players like it grows oranges. Yes, Urban Meyer left the offensive cupboard bare when he departed, but Muschamp has had some big misses on that side of the ball. Losing out on receivers Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor in the 2012 class proved to be debilitating. There just isn't a top-flight receiver on Florida's roster, but the Gators have a commitment from the nation's No. 2 receiver, Ermon Lane. Keeping him is a must.
Florida's class ranks 10th nationally. The Gators have 15 pledges, but the trifecta of Lane, running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Will Grier (all ESPN 300 members) must make it to Gainesville. They've all said the right things and insist they're all strongly committed to Florida, but this is recruiting. Muschamp has to make sure those three sign because they could hold his future in their hands.
The injuries will vanish in 2014, but the tension with the fan base won't. You'll be able to cut it with a machete, but it can't leak into the locker room. It's an uncomfortable relationship right now between Muschamp and Gator Nation, and you can bet there will be plenty more empty seats next year until the wins return.
It's hard to keep a powerful program like this down for long, but Florida is in bad shape. Muschamp will likely get one more year to right the ship, but you have to think it's Atlanta or bust for him next year.
He deserves more time, but his clock is certainly ticking.