Austin Appleby

Florida athletics

Luke Del Rio named Florida’s starting QB

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To the surprise of absolutely no one, the son of a former USC legend will be under center when Florida opens the 2016 season.

Exiting spring practice, all signs pointed to Luke Del Rio being tapped as the Gators’ starting quarterback.  Following a competition that extended on into summer camp, those signs came to fruition Thursday, with Jim McElwain announcing that Del Rio will start the opener Sept. 3 against UMass in The Swamp.

Del Rio had been part of what turned into a two-man competition with Austin Appleby, a transfer from Purdue.

“Luke is going to work as the starter the rest of camp and start in the season opener barring any unforeseen development,” the UF head coach said according to the school’s official website. “Our other quarterbacks remain in the plans and are ready to move forward and help the Gators any way they can.”

Del Rio, the son of former USC great and current NFL head coach Jack Del Riotransferred to Oregon State from Alabama in January of 2014.  He was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, and served as Sean Mannion’s primary backup last season as he completed 8-of-18 passes for 141 yards.

In May of 2015, he transferred from OSU to Florida.  He sat out the 2015 season, and now has two years of eligibility remaining to use in Gainesville.

Report says Florida moving QB Treon Harris to wide receiver

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
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When he was called upon to manage the offense following the suspension of Will Grier last season, Treon Harris struggled. That is why it appears he could be heading to a position change starting this spring.

Gridiron Now reporter Mike Huguenin reports Harris will begin transitioning to wide receiver for the Gators once spring practices open in Gainesville. Harris is more of a dual-threat passer, which does not typically fit in well with the style of offense trying to be run under head coach Jim McElwain. McElwain prefers to run with a pro-style offense. Given the remaining candidates for the starting quarterback job, it appears to be pro-style or bust for the Gators.

Harris completed just 50.9 percent of his pass attempts for 1,676 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions. He completed just 17 of his 45 pass attempts between the SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama and bowl loss to Michigan. Harris was also ineffective in a regular season finale against Florida State, in which the Gators scored just two points, and he completed just eight of 17 passes for 122 yards against FAU.

With Harris now supposedly moving to receiver, that leaves McElwain’s quarterback competition down to Luke Del Rio (perhaps the leader in the clubhouse after impressing the staff as a practice squad player), Purdue transfer Austin Appleby and freshman Feleipe Franks.

Pair of pick sixes helps Herd thunder past Purdue

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Say this for Austin Appleby: outside those times he was intercepted, the Purdue quarterback played a pretty good game. Problem is, he was intercepted four times and two of them went back for touchdowns, providing the margin necessary for Marshall to register a come-from-behind 41-31 victory on Sunday afternoon.

After accepting the opening kickoff, Purdue’s very first snap from scrimmage was an Appleby pass immediately snared by Tiquan Lang and returned 30 yards for a touchdown. Appleby settled down from there – for the most part – over the course of the first half, tossing a nine-yard touchdown to Danny Anthrop (while in the process of stiff-arming a Marshall defender) and plunging in for a one-yard score, allowing the Boilermakers to take a 21-17 lead to the locker room.

Marshall’s Michael Birdsong put the Herd back on top to open the second half, firing a one-yard scoring strike to Ryan Yuracheck as the punctuator to a nine-play, 71-yard drive. Purdue regained the lead midway through the third on a 36-yard Markell Jones jaunt and held that edge until the game’s final three minutes. Trailing 31-27, Birdsong led Marshall on an efficient 11-play, 84-yard march, handling most of the drive himself before handing to Devon Johnson for a twisting six-yard score to give Marshall a 34-31 edge with 2:50 to go.

On the ensuing drive, Appleby led Purdue to its own 40 before a downfield toss was intercepted by Lang, again, who raced the rock 55 yards for the clinching score with 1:20 remaining. Appleby was intercepted again for good measure just five plays later, ending any delusion of a comeback with 27 ticks remaining.

For the day, Appleby was 31-of-48 for 270 yards (plus 12 rushing) for those two touchdowns to go with his four interceptions. The Boilermakers moved the ball more effectively than Marshall, edging the Thundering Herd on the ground (D.J. Knox and Jones combined for 174 yards and two scores on 34 attempts) and through the air while maintaing a 28-20 edge in first downs and a 10-4 advantage in third down conversions. The Purdue defense even forced three turnovers of its own. But it’s hard to win, especially on the road, while handing the opponent 17 points in the forms of two pick sixes and a missed field goal.

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For Doc Holliday and company, Sunday’s win was a grand way to begin the post-Rakeem Cato era. Birdsong connected on 23-of-36 throws for 234 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Johnson added 11 carries for 89 yards and a score. Before a sellout crowd of 38,000-plus, the Herd recorded their 20th win in 22 tries dating back to November of 2013 – and first ever over a Big Ten opponent.

The loss sends Purdue careening on an opposite trajectory. The program has now lost 21 of 25 games under head coach Darrell Hazell. Sunday’s loss was also Purdue’s sixth straight road non-conference setback, a streak dating back to 2007.

Purdue leading Marshall after high-scoring first half

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The first play of Purdue’s 2015 season could not have gone any worse. The rest of the first half could not have gone much better.

Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby was intercepted by Marshall defensive back Tiquan Lang on the first play from scrimmage Sunday afternoon in Huntington, who returned it 30 yards for an easy Thundering Herd touchdown. The Boilermarkers controlled the rest of the half, though, and head to the break with a 21-17 lead.

The Boilers recovered well from the first-snap catastrophe, immediately driving 75 yards in 11 plays to tie the game on a four-yard D.J. Knox run. Marshall scored the next 10 points, registering a 20-yard touchdown pass from Michael Birdsong to running back Devon Johnson and a 42-yard Nick Johnson field goal.

Appleby answered with a pair of unanswered touchdowns to close the half, first hitting Danny Anthrop for a nine-yard score with 38 ticks left in the first quarter, then putting his club on top with a one-yard sneak at the 7:35 mark of the second quarter.

All three of Purdue’s scoring marches covered at least 72 yards.

Appleby has completed 19-of-27 passes for 174 yards with a touchdown and a pick, and Knox added 51 yards on 10 carries. Birdsong completed nine of his 14 throws for 80 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson led the Herd in rushing with seven carries for 36 yards. Marshall outrushed Purdue in the opening half 80-61.

Marshall will receive to open the second half.