Gators name Luke Del Rio starting QB for season opener

After attending three colleges in three years, quarterback Luke Del Rio is finally getting a chance to be the guy.

Florida coach Jim McElwain named Del Rio his starter for the Sept. 3 season opener against UMass on Thursday, giving the college journeyman the nod over Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby.

"Luke is going to work as the starter the rest of camp and start in the season opener barring any unforeseen development," McElwain said. "Our other quarterbacks remain in the plans and are ready to move forward and help the Gators any way they can."

Del Rio will be the team's ninth starting quarterback since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left school in 2010, following John Brantley, Jeff Driskel, Jacoby Brissett, Trey Burton, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris and Will Grier. Now, the Gators are counting on Del Rio to revive an offense that had been mostly stagnant since Tebow's tenure.

Florida hasn't had a quarterback throw more than 12 touchdown passes in any of the last six seasons. Maybe Del Rio will reverse the trend.

A third-year sophomore and the son of Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, Luke Del Rio started his college career as a walk-on at Alabama in 2013. He never played a down and left the Tide after one year in hopes of finding a better opportunity. He landed at Oregon State and then transferred again after coach Mike Riley resigned to take the head coaching job at Nebraska.

Del Rio said earlier this month that new Beavers coach Gary Andersen told him he wouldn't play at Oregon State.

"It was Tuesday about 6:50 in the morning when they told me, and I still had to go to practice because it was during spring drills," Del Rio recalled. "It hurt. It hurt a lot. I asked them, 'So do you want me to transfer?' That's when they said, 'Look, we're not telling you to do anything. We're just telling you that you'll never play here.'"

Del Rio ended up at Florida, where he sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules. He opened spring practice as the front-runner for the starting job, especially since Harris was suspended for a violation of the school's student code of conduct and Grier was long gone after testing positive last season for performance-enhancing drugs.

Harris and Grier have since transferred, leaving Del Rio, Appleby and freshmen Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks as the only quarterbacks on Florida's roster.

Although Del Rio has thrown just 18 passes at the collegiate level, he seemingly solidified the starting job with a solid spring game. He completed 10 of 11 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns in, leading the Blue team to a 44-6 rout of the Orange.

He will be in a bigger spotlight against the Minutemen.

The real question: Can he get Florida's offense back to its pass-efficient ways? None of the previous eight QBs did enough to move the Gators out of the depths of the Southeastern Conference's offensive rankings.

Florida ranked 100th in the nation in scoring in 2015, averaging 23.2 points a game and turning in as many sub-par outings as substantial performances. There were plenty of other paltry numbers, too: Florida was 112th in total offense, 86th in passing and 113th in rushing. Florida managed to win the dysfunctional Eastern Division thanks mostly to a dynamic defense.


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