Florida’s starting quarterback next season won’t be five-star prospect Jacob Eason, who’s going to Georgia, or suspended wunderkind Will Grier, who is transferring from the program.
It probably won’t be Treon Harris, either.
The early favorite? A walk-on with a notable last name.
Florida figures to have another quarterback competition in 2016, and Alabama and Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio appears to be the frontrunner for the job.
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Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, sat out this season because of NCAA transfer rules and will be a redshirt junior in 2016. The 6-1, 215-pound quarterback impressed coaches during the offseason and again this fall running the scout team.
“He’s been having some really good practices,” UF first-year coach Jim McElwain said. “I think you guys were probably updated even through kind of the summer of when he came here he was a little bit of a sparkplug out there.”
McElwain recruited Del Rio when he was at Colorado State, but the quarterback opted to walk on at Alabama after developing a close relationship with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
When Nussmeier left for Michigan, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State to play for coordinator John Garrett.
Now, both Nussmeier (offensive coordinator) and Garrett (quality control coach) are at Florida.
“He’s a guy who kind of knows how to go about it,” McElwain said, complimenting Del Rio’s work ethic and knowledge of the playbook. “He’ll be a guy obviously heavily in the mix. We’re sure excited he’s here.”
While McElwain is certainly complimentary of Del Rio, it’s still mostly a mystery if the quarterback is actually an SEC-caliber talent or if he can jump-start Florida’s anemic passing attack.
He’s not on scholarship. He has transferred twice and has played in just a trio of games, going 8 of 18 for 141 yards in 2014.
“That doesn’t really matter,” McElwain said of Del Rio’s scholarship status. “We’re excited he’s here.”
Incoming freshmen quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, both early enrollees, could also compete for the job next season. However, most recruiting experts view the two signal-callers as likely redshirt candidates.
It remains to be seen where Harris fits in the mix, but the former Miami Booker T. Washington standout could potentially be starting his final game at quarterback for the Gators in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan.
Harris has struggled in McElwain’s pro-style system, completing just 49 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and five interceptions since taking over for Grier, who was suspended on Oct. 12 for violating the NCAA’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
At the time of Grier’s suspension, the Gators ranked 42nd nationally in passing offense.
They finished the season ranked 77th in passing and lost three times in their last six games.
“We’re limited [offensively] a little bit,” McElwain said. “And yet, I feel really good about our future on that side of the ball. We got some things happening.”