FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A week ago Florida coach Jim McElwain didn’t have much interest in assessing the play of quarterback Luke Del Rio. He was just happy in the moment that the Gators had gotten a nice win.
On Saturday after a deflating loss at Arkansas, he spoke candidly about the position.
McElwain revealed that he considered pulling Del Rio from No. 10 Florida’s 31-10 loss to the Razorbacks and acknowledged that there are positions that need to be reconsidered.
Most interestingly, he said it isn’t too late in the season to consider playing one of the Gators’ true freshman quarterbacks, Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask.
“No, it isn’t,” McElwain said.
Del Rio has struggled in three games since returning from a knee injury and that continued Saturday. He finished 19-of-37 passing for 229 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions — including a pick-6 that bounced off wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland on his first throw of the game.
He’s now thrown 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions over the three games since his return.
“There’s a lot of positions you’ve got to evaluate moving forward,” McElwain said. “Obviously whenever you lose, that’s part of playing the position of quarterback. Everybody’s ready to put you on your shoulders when you win, and when you don’t play great as a team that’s usually the first place that it’s pointed to. But that’s also part of playing the spot.”
The first interception Saturday was catchable, but Del Rio took the blame saying he could have looked off that throw given the tight coverage around Cleveland. The second one was just a poorly thrown pass that Arkansas picked off in front of the goal line early in the second quarter on a first-down play that started at the Razorbacks’ 38.
It was just a 14-7 game at that point. After that missed opportunity, though, the Gators wouldn’t get that deep in Arkansas territory again until the fourth quarter.
McElwain thought about making a change at quarterback — he didn’t clearly specify at what point of the game — but ultimately stuck with the redshirt sophomore.
“Yeah, we did. And I just didn’t do it, but yeah it crossed our minds,” McElwain said. “… Just the way it was and we were going into two-minute and he had kind of been handling it with the 1s. I just felt that, you know, let him see it through.”
In six games this season, his first as a collegiate starter, Del Rio has completed 114 of 201 passes (56.7 percent) for 1,358 yards, 8 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
Luke Del Rio’s last three games, since returning from a knee injury
|Missouri (W, 40-14)||18||38||236||1||3|
|Georgia (W, 24-10)||15||25||131||1||1|
|at Arkansas (L, 31-10)||19||37||229||0||2|
“I haven’t played well. I need to play better,” Del Rio said after the game. “I haven’t played well. I haven’t taken care of the ball. I need to be more consistent in my decision making and in my accuracy. I’ve thought we had really good game plans in all the games, and guys have done their job. I need to do mine.”
It’s not clear who McElwain would have put in if he had made an in-game switch Saturday.
Veteran backup Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue, made two starts when Del Rio was injured and has completed 61.1 percent of his passes overall for 470 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Neither Franks nor Trask has played yet.
Franks, listed at 6-foot-6, was a high-profile 4-star recruit out of Wakulla High School in Crawfordville, Fla. He was rated the No. 5 overall pro-style quarterback in his class, according to the 247Sports composite, and flipped from an earlier pledge to LSU to sign with the Gators.
Trask, listed at 6-foot-4, was a 2-star or 3-star recruit by the various ratings and was a backup for his high school team in Texas while stuck playing behind D’Eriq King, who would sign with Houston. He wowed Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, though, and landed a spot in Gainesville.
McElwain will have plenty to think about heading into Florida’s final home game next Saturday against South Carolina.
As for Del Rio, he said he is still confident in himself.
“The whole week of prep, that’s kind of where you get your confidence from and I felt good coming into today,” he said. “I just didn’t execute. I need to get better.”