Let’s talk about Luke Del Rio, who apparently — at least according to the HBC — is the presumptive favorite to be Florida’s starter at quarterback this season.
“Del Rio seems to the be the starter,” Spurrier said on Friday. “He is the starter now. We’ll see how it all works out.”
Sure, Spurrier did walk that comment back on Monday, but if you read between the lines and apply some logic to his first statement, it’s safe to make an assumption that the Gators are moving ahead with one starter in mind. Spurrier said Del Rio is the starter “right now”, and conventional football wisdom would suggest that he’ll be the starter when the Gators open up against UMass at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Sept. 3.
The quarterback position is one that requires consistency, and considering the calendar just flipped to August, there’s very little time left to create that consistency before the season begins. A switch under center at this point of the offseason would be foolish. Chemistry and game plans are already coming into place, so again, the less changes the better for an offense. If you’re a head coach who doesn’t really know your starter on August 1st, you’ve got bigger issues than that.
Those are the factors that would lead one to believe that if Spurrier — who’s now an ambassador and consultant for the Gators athletic department — tipped the hand towards Del Rio as the starter now, he’ll likely be the starter come Week 1.
This is despite no confirmation on the matter from head coach Jim McElwain, who’s playing things a bit closer to the vest than Spurrier (most of us do). This is also despite the fact that Florida seemingly has a very good crop at quarterback, thus making a choice likely difficult. Del Rio will have to officially beat out Purdue grad transfer Austin Appleby, four-star freshman and Army All-American Feleipe Franks and former three-star Kyle Trask.
“There’s still competition going on, and I didn’t know that. I think he’s at the top of the quarterback chart right now, but they’re still competing from what I understand, Spurrier said on Monday per Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports. “That certainly is not my position (to say).”
Nothing is official yet, but let’s just assume the Gators have their guy, because they likely do. What exactly does Del Rio bring to the table?
Sure, his father is long-time NFL coach Jack Del Rio, so one would assume that comes along with some added advantages in the football IQ and knowledge department. Even if he wasn’t paying attention, Luke grew up around football at a very high level.
Also consider the road that led Del Rio to this point. He’s a former three-star recruit, ranked as the No. 33 pro-style quarterback in the 2013 class, according to the industry generated 247Sports Composite rankings. He had offers from Oregon State, Colorado State, Oklahoma State and UCLA, but chose to walk-on with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
This is a kid who turned down scholarship opportunities for only the chance to make it in Nick Saban’s shark tank. Top recruits regularly transfer away from Alabama because the competition for playing time is so fierce, and that’s a known fact. Del Rio knowingly chose that competition over the cushy scholarship gig. He chose the championship caliber program and the road less traveled — a much tougher road, mind you.
That should tell you a bit about his personality, and that’s the type of “winner’s mentality” you want to see in a quarterback.
The 2014 season saw him as a backup at Oregon State and he did register a stat line. He went 8-for-18 as a backup for the Beavers, throwing for 141 yards with a long of 52. After a year sitting out as a transfer at Florida, we got a better glimpse of what Del Rio can do as a quarterback in the Gators’ spring game.
According to reports, he completed 10-of-11 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns (no interceptions). Film of the event really shows the watchful eye all it needs to know, though. He looked confident and calm in the pocket, displaying some good touch and accuracy. Sure, it’s a glorified practice, but as far as first impressions on the 2016 season are concerned, Del Rio made a good one.
“Early in the spring, he was trying to press and I thought was somewhat out of character of how he has to play to be successful,” McElwain said after the game of Del Rio, per Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk. “[He] did a good job of sliding in the pocket and taking his eyes where he needed to with the pressure. I thought he was pretty good.”
So yeah, it’s not official just yet, but for all intents and purposes the Gators have a “pretty good” quarterback leading the way heading into 2016-17.