During Florida’s home victory over Vanderbilt, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was forced to leave the game late in the first half with an apparent shoulder injury. Visibly upset about the injury as he walked off the field, Del Rio’s biggest fear may have just been realized.
Speaking to the media after the win, Florida head coach Jim McElwain announced Del Rio will be scheduled for surgery on Monday. The surgery is expected to sideline Del Rio for the remainder of the 2017 college football season.
Del Rio appeared to land on the same shoulder he had surgically repaired last year when he was brought down by a Vanderbilt defender.
Del Rio had just been handed the starting job for the Gators following last week’s road win at Kentucky, but now the job will be handed right back to Feleipe Franks. Franks lost the starting job to Del Rio but came in off the sideline to help lead Florida to a win against Vanderbilt.
Before the headlines in Gainesville took a rough turn for the worst off the field, Florida head coach Jim McElwain created some news with addressing the offense. This week, Luke Del Rio will be the starting quarterback for the Gators.
This comes as little surprise for a team that has been struggling on offense for the majority of the season. Despite a miracle finish against Tennessee two weeks ago, Feleipe Franks struggled on the road against Kentucky, forcing McElwain to make a switch to get Del Rio back in the fold on the field. As a result, whether coincidence or not, Del Rio led the Gators to avoid the school’s first loss to Kentucky in over three decades.
First up for Del Rio as the Florida starter will be Vanderbilt, who comes off a drubbing at the hands of Alabama. Before the Crimson Tide came to Nashville, the Commodores were hailed as having one of the top defenses in the SEC outside of Tuscaloosa. This will be no easy task for Del Rio and the Gators against Vanderbilt because they still do not have the kind of offense that can overpower their opponent the way Alabama can.
Florida has a long way to go, but we’ll see if Del Rio can keep any momentum on their side for more than one week.
It goes without saying that coaches will say what coaches say. Suggesting their team is on a mission to score a big win in front of fans clad in the school colors should not be taken for anything more than simply aiming to get a rise out of the fans. Mission accomplished for Florida head coach Jim McElwain, but possible bulletin board material for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Speaking before Florida students over the weekend, McElwain laid it out there by saying his Gators were looking to do one thing against Michigan; win with authority.
“We’re heading to Dallas here in a couple weeks to go beat the heck out of Michigan, and then come back to you guys,” McElwain said, according to SEC Country.
The Gators are opening the college football season next week in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten. Florida will be a bit undermanned with the recent suspension of seven players, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Michigan also won the most recent meeting between the two schools, with Harbaugh’s Wolverines dominating McElwain’s Gators in the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago (41-7).
Michigan will be looking to reestablish its identity with a good amount of roster turnover this season, but the depth hit from the recent suspensions in Gainesville may help give Michigan an edge. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing how Harbaugh potentially responds once this claim from McElwain makes its way to Ann Arbor.
Florida’s secondary continues to face some depth concerns ahead of the 2017 season. The depth chart lost Chris Williamson, multiple reports confirmed today, who is opting to transfer to a new school.
The former four-star defensive back was recently guided through a position change to pad the depth at the safety position this spring. Williamson has spent the past two seasons in Gainesville and has appeared in 14 games with one start. He came to Florida as part of the first recruiting class signed by Gators head coach Jim McElwain in 2015, and he is now the fifth player from that class to transfer, according to Inside the Gators.
From Inside the Gators;
Williamson is the fifth player from Jim McElwain’s inaugural recruiting class at Florida in 2015 to transfer from the program, joining running back Jordan Cronkrite (USF), offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe (USC) and tight end/linebacker Camrin Knight (Georgia State).
The news of Williamson’s intent to transfer comes on the same day Florida revealed it will be without safety Marcell Harris for the 2017 season. Harris suffered a torn Achilles tendon that will force the fifth-year senior to miss the entire 2017 season.
Williamson will have to sit out the 2017 college football season if he transfers to another FBS program, according to NCAA transfer rules. He will be eligible to play immediately this fall if he transfers to a program at the FCS level or below.
The 2017 season has already ended for Florida’s Marcell Harris. Florida announced today Harris has suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a team activity on Wednesday.
“As a coach this is one of the hardest things you are faced with,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said in a released statement. “Here is a kid who has made great personal growth during his time here and has really matured both on and off the field. It is tough to see a player invest so much in himself and his teammates and have this happen, but I do know that we will support him every step of the way as he works through this injury.”
Harris was Florida’s leading tackler in 2016, so his loss is clearly a tough blow to the Gators defense this fall. The fifth-year senior will now see his college football playing career come to an end, unless the NCAA issues a medical waiver to gain a sixth year of eligibility. That may not end up coming in to play, as Harris can take the time to recover from this injury and begin training for the NFL Draft next spring.
Harris recorded a team-leading 73 tackles for Florida in 2016, with 43 solo tackles. Harris picked off two passes and recovered a fumble for Florida in 2016. That fumble recovery also resulted in a touchdown off a fumbled punt against Florida State.