Florida needs a quarterback to step up and lead the offense in a big way in 2016. The position has been a bit of a sore spot for the Gators since the days of (brace yourself) Tim Tebow. Will Grier appeared to be a bright spot last season before getting suspended for a full calendar year left the offense in the hands of Treon Harris the rest of the way. As the spring gets underway, there is a glimmer of hope for the key position in 2016.
Luke Del Rio is getting some high praise from Gators head coach Jim McElwain and his teammates this spring as he looks to make a case for the starting job for 2016.
“I think one of the things that I love about him is he’s kind of a gym rat type of guy,” McElwain said, according to The Florida Times-Union. “You can tell he obviously grew up around the game. He’s a guy who enjoys watching film. He enjoys, around the guys. He’s does a great job as a leader. I think there’s a lot of intangibles there.”
He certainly did grow up around the game. Del Rio is the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. Jack Del Rio has been a coach at the NFL level since 1997, which followed a 12-year career as a player in the league. So yes, Luke Del Rio did indeed grow up around the game. His college journey, though, has been a bit rocky up to this point. Del Rio started his collegiate career at Alabama in 2013 as a walk-on. After redshirting his 2013 season, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State but he once again pursued a transfer after playing just three games with the Beavers. That led him back to the SEC at Florida in 2015.
“He looked natural and very comfortable,” linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “He’s not a guy that’s really going to panic. He’s real laid back, and he’s dropping back in the pocket real smooth with everything that he does. His reads are perfect. He does a lot of things to separate himself from other guys on the team.”
We will see if Del Rio can continue to impress as the spring plays out and see if that leads to any momentum to earning the starting quarterback job in the fall later on.
Well this is certainly an interesting development.
At his press conference prior to the start of spring practice, head coach Jim McElwain acknowledged that a pair of his players, wide receiver Antonio Callaway and quarterback Treon Harris, haven’t been a part of the Florida football team since January. Moreover, neither will participate at all during the 15 spring practice sessions.
McElwain didn’t divulge whether the pair were suspended, although he did say they continue going their schoolwork. “That’s the last we’ll talk about it,” the coach added.
Last season in his first year with the Gators, Calloway led the team in receiving yards (678) and tie for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (four). His 19.4 yards per catch led the squad, and 35 receptions were good for third.
At the end of the regular season, he was named to the All-SEC Freshman team.
Harris started the 2015 season opener, but gave way to Will Grier — with a suspension thrown in for good measure — until Grier was himself suspended in October for the remainder of the season. Harris then started the last eight games of the year, with the Gators going 4-4 in that span. Including in that stretch were three losses to close out the year by an average of nearly 25 points per game.
In early February, it was reported that the program was considering moving Harris to wide receiver.
With Grier transferring and Harris’ status up in the air, it appears a former Alabama and Oregon State quarterback has the (very) early edge in what will be a wide-open competition that will likely stretch into summer camp.
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.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Florida quarterback Will Grier was still awaiting a decision from the NCAA on his appeal of a one-year suspension. The wait is over for Grier, although it’s doubtful this is the outcome for which he was hoping.
While there’s nothing official yet from the school, the player or the NCAA, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Grier’s appeal has been shot down by The Association. Grier had been seeking to reduce a 12-month suspension for using a performance-enhancing drug to the remainder of the 2015 season.
As the appeal has apparently been denied, Grier will now be forced to serve a suspension for the first six games of the 2016 season on top of the at least eight games — six regular season, SEC championship, bowl — he’ll miss in 2015. That appeal denial came after Grier, his lawyer and UF’s University Athletic Association stated their case during a conference call with the NCAA this past Monday.
Grier has repeatedly claimed that he took an over-the-counter supplement and was unaware the substance he took was on the banned list issued by the NCAA. He has, though, acknowledged that he didn’t consult with UF’s training staff prior to ingesting it.
After Treon Harris started and won the first two games of the 2015 season, Grier started and won the next four. Harris has been the starter since Grier’s suspension, and the Gators have gone 3-1 in becoming both the SEC East champs and the No. 8 team in the country in the latest College Football Playoff rankings.
Grier will be a redshirt sophomore (probably) in returning for his truncated 2016 season. Oregon State transfer and former Alabama quarterback Luke Del Rio will also join the mix next year.