Those rumors only escalated when head coach Jim McElwain stated he would meet with Grier last Friday to discuss that future.
While coach Mac downplayed the meeting as merely getting together to go over the offseason program, nervous fans felt there might be more to that story than what they were being told.
Today those message board rumors, barroom fodder, and seemingly every Gator fans worst nightmare has been confirmed by Scout.com’s Bob Redmon: Grier has requested a transfer.
Shortly after the story broke on Scout and Twitter, it was further confirmed by Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times.
And shortly after that the Gators issued a statement from Coach Mac as reported by Nick De La Torre of Gatorcountry.com.
“Will came to me about exploring his options to transfer. We will support him and help him in anyway we can. This has been very difficult on him and obviously he is looking for a fresh start. We will always be there for him as will all Gators.”
The redshirt freshman and former Parade national player of the year had shown much promise through the first six games of this season ( 106-161, 65.8%, 1204 yards, 10 td’s, 3 int’s) before being suspended by the NCAA for a full calendar year for use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s).
The Grier family hired a top notch attorney firm to handle an appeal hoping to shorten the length of the suspension which keeps him sidelined until game 7 of next season.
That appeal was not successful and in the aftermath the rumors began to swirl that he might not return to Gainesville.
Now that we know that Grier does in fact intend to transfer from UF Gator fans are left with three main questions: why transfer, what does this mean for Grier, and what does it mean for the Gators?
There have been all kinds of rumors swirling about from hints of substance abuse problems and a rehab stay to a rift between staff and the Grier family due to the staff feeling misled and the family feeling unsupported by the school.
While I can neither confirm or deny the substance abuse rumors, I do believe there may be some smoke there.
On the supposed rift, I believe there is even more smoke.
Will’s dad Chad Grier is a high school football coach and former college quarterback who has put things out there on social media which were less than flattering to UF staff.
There has been an undercurrent of rumors that the Grier camp has had issues with this staff since before the season in how they handled the QB competition, issues which became magnified in the wake of this suspension.
Rayford Gibson, a contributor to @OurTwoBits which is a well known website catering to Gator athletics, summed it up.
As such, the decision could very well be mutual.
Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell stated as much.
Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reiterated the feeling that this was a mutual decision.
Personally I believe he’s simply looking for a new start. Maybe he feels like the suspension will hang over him throughout his career and moving on is best for himself and the team.
One former Gator and SEC network analyst thinks as much.
Regardless, what does the future hold for Grier?
The six game suspension must be served regardless of where he chooses to go.
If he transfers to another FBS program he will sit one year due to NCAA transfer rules. He would then sit another six games as the suspension can’t be served concurrent with the transfer season.
If he transfers to a JUCO he would be able to play next season rather than sit out but he would still be required to serve the six game suspension as soon as he rejoins an NCAA school.
If he transfers to an FCS school he would be in the same shoes as he is at Florida. He would not have to sit out the season but he would have to sit for the first six games.
It will be interesting to see which route he takes.
What does the Grier transfer mean for the Gators?
Not nearly as much as many fans think.
With Grier having to sit out the first half of the season, the Gators would have to get one of four players ready to play: Treon Harris, who started in Grier’s absence this season but is the least likely at this point, transfer Luke Del Rio who sat out this season due to transfer rules, or one of the two true freshmen Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask.
Having Grier back midseason would not have helped much as he was likely to get little more than scout team reps in practice as they would need to get the young guys every rep possible, meaning it’s likely he would be little more than a backup the rest of the season.
In Del Rio, the staff has a guy that has some maturity and is more physically gifted than Harris and is the odds on favorite at this point to be the opening day starter.
In Franks, the staff has their quarterback of the future.
Forget about the staff’s last minute pursuit of Jacob Eason, that fell into their lap and you pursue a recruit like that when the opportunity presents itself.
Make no mistake, Franks is the guy Mac and Nuss want to run their offense.
He has the physical size and skills needed to operate in the pocket. Franks is upwards of 6-6 and 220 with a rocket arm.
He reportedly threw the ball 80 yards in an informal competition between Elite 11 quarterbacks at the Opening farther than any of the quarterbacks in attendance.
Additionally, Franks is raw. He’s had little in the way of direct quarterback tutoring unlike many of his counterparts at the Elite 11 competition.
He’s almost a blank slate so to speak.
He’s also a good learner. If you watched his junior film and his senior film you see a big jump in accuracy, touch, and delivery. You can tell he soaked up the tutoring he received at the opening and put it in use his senior season.
While raw, he’s much further along now than he was his junior year and can be expected to put up a good fight for the opening day starting spot, especially with him coming in as an early enrollee able to go through spring practice.
So fans can come down from the ledge.
Grier will certainly be missed, but his transfer could actually be good for the program long term.
Expectedly, in the wake of the news of Grier’s transfer, Twitter exploded.
Perhaps even more interesting has been the response from Gator commits to the news. Several have taken to Twitter to push Maryland QB commit Dwayne Haskins, who has flirted with the Gators throughout this recruiting cycle, to take another look at UF.
Gator CB commit Chauncey Gardner to Haskins.
Gator WR commit Dre Massey
Gator RB commit Mark Thompson