GAINESVILLE, Florida — Florida quarterback Will Grier delivered the first and last big plays of the team's spring game Saturday.
Fellow quarterback Treon Harris had a couple in between.
Together, they gave the Gators some hope that coach Jim McElwain's first season in Gainesville could be better than initially expected.
Grier was 7-of-9 passing for 130 yards in the annual Orange & Blue game, leading the first-team offense on three touchdown drives against backups. Harris, who shared snaps with the starters, was 6 of 9 for 94 yards and tossed a 5-yard touchdown to C'yontai Lewis.
Although Grier took the first snap Saturday and has been ahead of Harris since he missed four practices following the shooting death of a 16-year old cousin in Miami, McElwain said the competition will continue into fall camp.
"That'll be a really good competition moving forward," McElwain said.
The Gators are desperate for better quarterback play. It's been less than ideal since Tim Tebow finished his college career in 2009, with John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy and Harris failing to make Florida's offense even functional. As a result, Florida has ranked 83rd or worse in total offense since Tebow's departure.
"Let's face it, there's parts right and we're identifying the parts and we'll put some plans together to help the explosive playmakers to have an opportunity to make those plays," McElwain said. "That's for us to come up with after we go back through and go through every single cut up of every practice."
Here are a few more observations from the spring game:
JOHNSON HURTING: Offensive tackle Rod Johnson's career seems to be in jeopardy. Johnson injured his neck during practice last month, and McElwain said his prognosis "doesn't look great." ''I will never, ever put him out there in harm's way," McElwain said, adding that he expects to know more next week. "Life's too short, man. Ain't gonna do it. Ain't gonna do it to a young guy." Johnson had been expected to be a starter, and his injury added to the team's offensive line woes. Guard/center Trip Thurman missed all of spring with a chronic shoulder injury that has his football future uncertain.
HARRIS VOWS: Amid rumors he might transfer, Harris vowed to be on campus in the fall and competing with Grier. "Yes sir, I will be here this fall competing for the spot," he said. "Like I said earlier, me and Will are brothers. We're here for each other." It showed, too. Grier and Harris talked to reporters a few feet apart, and when Grier finished a few minutes before Harris, he waited in the back of the room for his teammate and they left together.
TIGHT END SHOW: With Florida's starting tight on the sideline, a couple of backups showed the position seems to have the most depth of any on that side of the ball. Sixth-year senior Jake McGee sat out while recovering from a broken leg, but Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby showed they are capable and dependable backups. Lewis caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. Goolsby finished with two receptions for 40 yards.
DOMINANT DEFENSE: Former coach Will Muschamp left plenty of talent on defense, and it was evident Saturday. The starting unit played much of the game and allowed 67 yards, with a long gain of 10 yards.
OTHER INJURIES: Several players sat out the scrimmage, including a few key starters. Linebackers Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis, defensive linemen Thomas Holley and Bryan Cox Jr., and cornerback J.C. Jackson sat out on defense. Johnson, Thurman, McGee and receiver Brandon Powell were sidelined on offense.