GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An emotional boost could be coming for the Florida football team from injured quarterback Luke Del Rio.
UF coach Jim McElwain said Monday the LSU game has been Del Rio’s target date for his return, and the QB’s mindset is that he’ll be back in the starting lineup Saturday.
He missed the last two weeks with a sprained left knee and the Gators went 1-1 without him. The offense has scored just 20 points in the last six quarters and Austin Appleby only threw for 144 yards against Vanderbilt, which came into the game with the worst passing defense in the SEC.
Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone is close with Del Rio and expects him to play against the Tigers.
“I think so,” Anzalone said. “Being one of my really good friends, it’s good for me. I’m happy about it. I know he is and it just sucks to see someone go down like that. I think a lot of guys will be happy about it.”
That includes Appleby, who still will prepare like the starter this week and fight to keep the job. At the same time, he’s not bummed about Del Rio regaining his health.
“I’m excited for him. He’s my teammate,” Appleby said. “I’m a Luke Del Rio fan. It’s not me versus Luke. He’s a guy that I think can help us win a championship just like I think I’m a guy that can help us win a championship.
“We are all one team. We’re trying to go somewhere special and it’s going to take all of us. His impact in our locker room, his impact on the field is huge.”
Despite his absence under center, Del Rio dressed for Tennessee and Vanderbilt and was engaged during both games. Gators wide receiver Brandon Powell is looking forward to his return.
“He’s been out for the last two games, but he’s been in Appleby’s ear, telling him what’s going on on the field,” Powell said. “Even on the sidelines, he’ll come over, talk to the receivers, cheer us up, tell us what coverages they’re playing.
“You can tell he’s ready to get back out there. We’ll see this week how he is in practice. I’m just ready to have Luke back on the field.”