It isn’t enough for Florida fans to know they’re getting a new quarterback – and just as importantly that Treon Harris is shifting out of the position to receiver. They want to know who’s going to win a four-man quarterback competition that realistically could rage on for months. Don’t blame the Internet for this need for always-on, instant information.
Gator Nation needs to know what’s going on with this quarterback competition, and coach Jim McElwain delivered some much-needed information Tuesday.
“Yeah, [Luke Del Rio] has been here, obviously, and been learning,” McElwain said. “He and Austin [Appleby] have done an outstanding job together with those two young guys, Feleipe [Franks] and Kyle [Trask]. I’m excited to see routes on air.
“Obviously, we haven’t been able to do that. You can have a ball out there, you just watch them condition. I’m just looking for routes on air now. It should be a lot of fun.”
Del Rio, son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, arrived in Gainesville last summer and looked good in team workouts then. The most important aspect: Del Rio’s been around this team, this offense for an entire year. Fellow transfer quarterback Appleby (from Purdue) and incoming freshmen Trask and Franks are relative newcomers.
Appleby carries with him the experience that only 485 pass attempts at the college level can bring (Del Rio threw just 18 passes at Oregon State, and that was back in 2014), and Franks possesses more upside than possibly the entire group combined. Trask, who entered his college career with a better-than-70-percent completion rate in high school, is a big, strong-armed passer with incredible accuracy, but he doesn’t bring with him the pedigree Franks does.
Even with Appleby’s experience, Franks’ potential and Trask’s golden arm, don’t discount the very early lead McElwain’s comments seem to have thrust upon Del Rio. In a four-man race with limited reps, an early advantage sometimes is all it takes.
Del Rio was with the Gators on their incredible run last season. Not only did he see the insane highs, but he also experienced Florida’s crash back to earth. There’s value there. Another aspect to explain his lead in this competition: Del Rio ran the practice squad last year, and faced an incredibly stingy defense.
Florida allowed 182.1 yards per game through the air (fourth in the SEC) and 18.3 points. Del Rio faced that Goliath-like foe day in and day out. Sure, he was running another team’s offense – a playbook that changed every week (another testament to his level of experience) – but Del Rio surely gained mountains of useful tidbits on what to do against an elite defense, and he never had to leave campus.
While plenty of reasons exist to discount McElwain’s comments Tuesday, starting with the small-sample-size argument, plus a number of reasons to think the gap between Del Rio and the other three aerial aspirants is closer than revealed, imagine how much more comfortable, and able, Del Rio feels and looks just because he was around the program last season.
Confidence is king.