GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Luke Del Rio entered spring football with the edge in Florida’s quarterback competition, and he strengthened that lead Friday in the Orange & Blue Debut.
Del Rio was sharp from the start, opening the game with a scoring drive and finishing with 176 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-11 passing.
“Luke I felt did a good job at letting the game come to him, and it’s amazing what happens when you throw it to the open guy,” UF coach Jim McElwain said of Del Rio, who didn’t throw any interceptions. “He got a pretty good stat line, I don’t know what it was, but I think he did a pretty decent job of that.”
The future of the UF offense? Luke Del Rio hits CJ Worton for 46 yard gain. Then hits DeAndre Goolsby for 16 yard TD pic.twitter.com/kpPeWnScLV
— Nikko Tan (@TheNikkoTan) April 9, 2016
Del Rio struggled with turnovers in a few practices during the spring, but he’s gotten better at locating his open receivers and it showed in Friday’s game.
“I thought early in spring he was trying to press and do things that are out of probably character on how he has to play to be successful,” McElwain said. “I thought today he really did a good job of sliding in the pocket, taking his eyes where it needed to based on the pressure. And, you know what, I thought it was pretty good.”
After working with McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on his issues, Del Rio said he began to feel more comfortable in the pocket and learned to play within the system.
“I struggled in a few practices,” Del Rio said. “I wasn’t doing my job. I wasn’t going through my reads correctly, timing was off, feet were off. Just kind of talked with coach Nuss and coach Mac. They just told me to go back to the basics and that’s what I did.
“I was pressing a little bit, not letting the offense work for me. They do a great job of installing the plays and putting guys open for us. I just kind of let the O-line do what they do, let the wide receivers do what they do and I just went through the progressions. It’s easier that way. Coaches are right, run the offense and it works.”
Running back Mark Thompson said Del Rio’s knowledge of the system is his greatest attribute.
“He knows the ins and outs of the offense,” Thompson said. “He’s been around the system a very long time. He knows his checkdowns, his reads. He knows where the pressure is coming from.
“He has the ability to step up from the pocket. He has a great touch. He’s just an all-around good quarterback, and he can get mobile. Don’t think he’s just a pocket passer. He’ll take off.”
McElwain said Del Rio leads the QB race with his performance in the spring game. But the redshirt sophomore won’t be resting easy this offseason, and he’ll start doing player-run workouts next week.
“I approach it the same as when the first practice started,” Del Rio said. “It’s an open competition. Whether coach Mac says I have a slight lead or not, that doesn’t change how I work, how I study, how I prepare. So through these next summer workouts it will be big to get better as an offense, not just me.
“Everybody wants competition, because you play so much better. You don’t get comfortable. You know that the guy right next to you is doing everything he can to get the job, as well. I think it’s really good for the team, especially quarterback because they touch the ball every play. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”