GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Luke Del Rio wasn’t able to be on the field with his Florida teammates Saturday at Tennessee, but he made his presence felt in the locker room after the humbling defeat.
Coach Jim McElwain revealed Monday that the injured quarterback spoke up and addressed the team following that 38-28 loss in Knoxville, Tenn., after the Vols had scored 38 straight points to stun the Gators.
“The reason we had him dressed at the last game, I really felt that he did a great job with Austin (Appleby) on the sideline. I think he was really good for our team,” McElwain said. “He said a few words afterward in the locker room as well, I think, that really resonated with some guys. And, you know, he’s a valuable piece of this.”
Appleby, a fifth-year senior in his first year at Florida as a graduate transfer from Purdue, started at quarterback in place of Del Rio, who had sustained a knee injury the previous week against North Texas.
While the redshirt sophomore dressed for the game Saturday, he did not go through pregame warm-ups with his teammates. And McElwain said Monday that Del Rio is “highly doubtful” to play this weekend at Vanderbilt.
Although Appleby said he’d like to “at least put some pressure” on the coaches to potentially have to make a tough lineup decision when Del Rio is ready to return to action, he also emphasized that the two quarterbacks have a very good relationship and support one another.
As for Del Rio helping him during the game at Tennessee, Appleby said the roles were just reversed from the first three games.
“Our conversations are great on the sideline,” he said. “He’s looking for things. He’s giving me tips and letting me know what he sees out there — you know, talking about, ‘Hey, we got a chance to go deep on a corner,’ or ‘Hey, they’re starting to blitz you.’ Or whatever it may be. That conversation is the same thing that I (gave) to him the first three weeks. That’s what a guy that’s in your position that can see some things that maybe not other guys can see and have a perspective that is similar to yours; it’s awesome to have.”
Meanwhile, a couple other players said the team appreciated Del Rio’s message after the loss.
“It was big. He’s our leader as a quarterback, even though he didn’t play,” redshirt senior safety Marcus Maye said. “His message was just, ‘Everybody stick together. We’re still good. We’re still, as a team, we’re confident.’ Stuff like that. So, it was a good message.”
Said junior left tackle David Sharpe: “It was cool. He definitely stood up and told us some great things.”