Luke Del Rio has been the leader in the club house since the start of 2016 spring practice where he was able to show command of the Florida offense and deliver day in and day out whether media was present or not. Because of that he has been the go-to for questions about how practices are going.
He sounds like a coach when talking about how thing are going.
"Really good, really good,” Del Rio said about how things have gone so far this fall camp. “I think guys have done a really good job of taking it one day at a time because camp can be really long. I think the biggest thing is to take it one day at a time and we’ve done a good job of that."
There certainly is no reason that head coach Jim McElwain should just hand the starting job to Del Rio, especially when Appleby comes in as the most experienced in terms of actually playing big time football with his 16 or so starts at Purdue before transferring to Florida.
Del Rio says the competition between the two has been stiff, but fun as well.
"Really good,” he said about the competition. “I think Austin and I have played really well. We’re doing our best at making it a tough decision. It’s a friendly competition it isn’t like we have any animosity toward each other We definitely want the best player to be the starter. The fact that we agree on those things… it makes it fun to be around each other."
Both guys worked hard over the summer to get better and to make sure the others around them were better.
"We really harped a lot on the passing game and the timing with the receivers and just how they are going to run their routes and where they want it,” Del Rio said. “The summer is where you kind of form the chemistry and camp is where you get used to what your offense is going to be and honing in on what the team is good at."
McElwain is likely just a couple of weeks away from naming a starter as the gators move closer to the home opener on September 3. Del Rio believes he has performed well so far this fall
“I think I’ve had a pretty good camp,” Del Rio said. “I think it’s the best camp I’ve had in my college career. It’s my fourth camp. It makes me feel old. I thought I’ve done a good job of moving on from bad reps or (not having a good) practice and not letting it carry over to the next practice. You get reps and you gain more confidence with every rep you get. You can gain confidence from bad reps, too. I know that doesn’t work, maybe I should try something else. I think that had been a big thing that I’ve tried to focus on.”
For Florida football, there has been more bad quarterback play than good quarterback play over the last several years. A healthy quarterback competition and competent play at the position is something that the fans have been dreaming of for a while. Del Rio gets it.
“I kind of understand where the fans are coming from,” Del Rio said about recent quarterback play. “I've been around football for a long time, so you can tell when fans get frustrated. But every situation that they've had has been unique, I think. It's not like every quarterback has done well or hasn't done well for the same reason. Like I said before, it's a unique situation. I think whether it's me or Austin, they're getting a good quarterback."
There is a competition and Del Rio knows his upper hand comes in the form of knowing the offense better than the other guys.
"I can’t think of just one thing, but the first thing that comes to mind is the experience in the offense,” he said. “This will be my third year in the offense including Alabama. Austin’s done a great job of learning the system and the freshmen have done a really good job this camp at putting in the work off the field. Not necessarily with Coach Nuss, but by themselves picking up the nuances of the offense."
He’s confident in his ability to run the offense if called upon.
“I feel confident in my ability,” Del Rio said. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could play, and start. I didn’t come here to sit on the bench. I’m confident in my ability to lead this team, but it’s up to the coaches who starts.”
So who is it going to be?
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. “We’re doing our best that we can to compete every day and taking it one day at a time. Whenever he names the starter, that will be the moment. But he hasn’t given me or Austin a timetable.”