The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to come together and evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but starters return at 12 of the 14 conference schools. The turnaround should be immediate. However, Florida has a tough quarterback situation heading into Jim McElwain’s third season.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous installments:
Key returners: Luke Del Rio (junior)
Key departures: Austin Appleby (graduation)
Key additions: Feleipe Franks (redshirt), Jake Allen (true freshman)
Returning production: 114-201 for 1,358 yards, 8 TDs, 8 INTs
Departing production: 127-209 for 1,447 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs
Florida fans felt good coming into the season about new starting quarterback Luke Del Rio. He was meant to replace Treon Harris and be a player who could successfully and immediately execute Jim McElwain’s offensive philosophy. It didn’t hurt that he’s the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio.
The first two games were good. He was especially impressive in a dominant 45-7 win over Kentucky, throwing for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns. After that, his production fell incredibly.
Del Rio threw for just 186 yards and an interception before hurting his knee against North Texas. The injury caused him to miss the next two games. When he came back, Del Rio completed 52 percent of his passes and averaged just 5.96 yards per pass attempt. He also managed to throw for just 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions before getting hurt again.
Injuries certainly derailed his season, but his performance was underwhelming when he played. After Del Rio went out for good, Purdue transfer Austin Appleby took over and was more impressive. Appleby completed just under 61 percent of his passes for the season and 7 yards per attempt, even though he started games exclusively against Power 5 teams. Unfortunately, Appleby graduated.
Florida pursued junior college transfer Jarrett Stidham hard, but he eventually picked Auburn. However, that does seem to imply that the Gators could be in the market for another quarterback if the right situation arose.
Del Rio will have every chance to keep the starting job, but Florida needs to do better. There’s a decent chance McElwain opens up the competition and gives 4-star redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks a crack at the position.
Reviews out of practice have been decidedly mixed, but Franks has the stature (6-6) and arm to develop into a star. He was rated the No. 54 overall prospect and No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2015 en route to being named an Army All-American. He had a plethora of offers, including from LSU, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State and Texas.
But while Franks has promise, he also has never played in a game. It’s not an encouraging situation to be picking between a former walk-on and a freshman with inconsistent accuracy. Granted, if Franks wins the job, Del Rio will be an excellent backup. That’s about as nice as I can make it sound.
For an offensive mind, McElwain has yet to develop a quarterback while at Florida. Perhaps Franks can buck the trend. And regardless, the defense still should be good enough to compete. But until then, the Gators’ situation remains decidedly subpar.