ATHENS – When Florida lost starting quarterback to suspension a few weeks ago, the reaction in most of college football was: Uh-oh for Florida. At Georgia, however, it was more like:
The next guy up is Treon Harris? Oh, that guy.
It was Harris who was at the helm last year when Florida ran over Georgia, literally and figuratively, in a 38-20 rout that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Harris himself wasn’t the reason it was a rout: He only completed three passes and accounted for just 31 of his team’s 445 rushing yards.
But Harris guided the offense that day. Throw in the fact that he’s a running quarterback, which Georgia struggled with two games ago, and it’s fair for the Bulldogs to be leery.
“Just a great athletic quarterback who’s an outstanding passer,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “And he’s 1-0 against the Dawgs as well.”
Richt also pointed out that Harris, now a sophomore, accounted for 90 percent of Florida’s offense in its 35-28 loss at LSU two weeks ago. In that game Harris showed his dual-threat abilities, going 13-for-19 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 55 yards, not including sacks.
It was the first start of the season for Harris, who lost the job in the preseason to Grier, who was then suspended for a year for taking a banned substance. Last year he started the final six games of the season, winning four games, throwing for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think people don’t take his arm (seriously enough),” Georgia outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “He has a pretty good arm, he can make the throws out there. He’s a great athlete. He’s a dual-threat athlete that we’ve gotta make sure we have eyelids on at all times.”
The upshot for the Bulldogs is they have some experienced against a dual-threat quarterback. The downside is it didn’t go well.
Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs racked up 118 yards and two touchdowns, and passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns, leading his team to a 38-31 over Georgia on Oct. 10.
There are “some similarities” between Dobbs and Harris, according to Bellamy, who summed up the mantra about defending those kind of guys.
“Those dual-threat quarterbacks, we’ve gotta keep them in the pocket,” Bellamy said.
The more Georgia can keep Harris in the pocket, the better chance it would seem to have to win the game. He does have a good arm, but he’s also just 5-foot-11, so he’d be better off throwing on the run. As Florida receiver Brandon Powell said this week, when asked what he most likes about Harris: “I just like that he can extend plays with his feet. Some people have to change their defenses, and that opens things up for other players.”
Not keeping Harris in the pocket creates headaches for everyone else. The secondary has to stay on their man in case Harris throws it at the last second. The cornerbacks and outside linebackers have to contain the edge – a huge problem last year for Georgia against Florida’s running backs. The defensive line and inside linebackers have to be ready for the scramble up the gut, or the designed keeper.
“When you’re playing a running quarterback it’s important always to have someone’s eyes on him,” Georgia inside linebacker Jake Ganus said. “And just know your responsibilities. If you’re not responsible for the quarterback then do your responsibility. But if you are then be locked down on him because if you aren’t he could squirt out.”