I guess we will start with the starting quarterback position and more so about when Luke Del Rio returns healthy enough to play. While that looks to be next week against LSU, Florida head coach Jim McElwain is going to take Del Rio to Vanderbilt this weekend with Austin Appleby being the planned starter. From the sound if it, Del Rio could be healthy enough to play if needed.
Although it doesn’t appear most Gator fans are absolutely adamant about one guy over the other at this point, most are probably on one side or the other as to who they would prefer.
That in itself to me is pretty amazing, not because there shouldn’t be a question, just that both have played at a level that there could be some argument.
Even though it seemed clear most of the spring and really the entire fall that Del Rio was going to be named the starter, Appleby certainly thinks he deserves a shot to be that guy even after Del Rio returns.
“I don't count my reps I make my reps count,” he said about the thought of a rekindled competition between the two. “I don't control those things. What I control is my preparation this week, the way I practice, the way I affect my teammates in a positive way. Go out there and be the most prepared quarterback in the country and try to help the Gators win a game on Saturday. What happens after that is not in my hand at all. I would like to at least put some pressure on and be the quarterback for this team. I think I am. I didn't come here not to be. But again, that's a question for Coach Mac and hopefully my play takes care of itself.”
“I didn’t come here not to be” says everything you know about the will and determination of Appleby. The graduate transfer from Purdue that started 11 games for the Boilermakers in his time there came to Florida to earn the starting spot. He has some big time tools that we saw on display Saturday. He has a nice catchable deep ball that he hit on four different occasions in the contest. Just a couple of years ago we would have taken four deep balls in five contests.
What Del Rio brings maybe a little more than Appleby is just the knowledge of the offense and probably a better awareness of how to get out of trouble when there is some. Appleby was under constant pressure Saturday, which wasn’t his fault mind you, but there were times when the best decision wasn’t made given that pressure. Once was with the interception he threw and McElwain said that he was schooled to keep that ball to the outside receiver and not throw to the middle of the field.
Given the circumstance, I don’t blame Appleby. Florida was going backwards at the time and someone needed to make a play. He tried.
There were also some issues with time management and allowing the play clock to run down. In the first quarter, Florida had to call two time outs to get situated on offense. These are things that happen with a new quarterback, especially in a loud place on the road.
“Early in the game we had to burn a couple timeouts just because one time I think the headset came out and we couldn't get the play in at all, which it happens at a place like that, and then there were some other things,” Appleby said. “But I think all in all we did a really good job handling the noise. Now we've got to do a better job sustaining drives and making those key plays when we need them.”
Appleby led the offense to 300 yards in the first half against Tennessee. On the day he was 23-39 for 296 yards and three touchdowns with the one interception. Anyone spotting the Gators that kind of game from a backup quarterback would call for the win. It was certainly a good outing overall for the young man.
Both Appleby and Del Rio are the consummate professionals when it comes to the competition. Del Rio was on the sideline Saturday and helping Appleby any way he could, while Appleby has done the same in the three previous contests. They are solid teammates with one goal in mind.
“We've got a great relationship,” Appleby said of him and Del Rio. “He and I support each other as good as any quarterback that I've ever been with. He's a great teammate. He wants to win. I've said it before and I'm sure he's said it: it doesn't matter who's in there. We want to win and we're going to support each other because we see the big picture. If there is division in the quarterback room there is going to be division in the locker room, and there's not that here. We want to win a championship.
“Our conversations are great on the sideline. He's looking for things. He's giving me tips and letting me know what he sees out there, 'hey, we got a chance to go deep on the corner,' or 'hey, they're starting to blitz or whatever it may be.' The conversation is the same thing that I give to him the first three weeks. That's what a guy that's in your position that can see some things that maybe not other guys can see and have a perspective similar to yours; it's awesome to have. He's great.”
Del Rio has a 140.4 quarterback efficiency rating, while Appleby has 137.01. In that aspect the competition was close. Those that want Appleby will point to his ability to go deep and willingness to do so, and against tougher competition. Those that think Del Rio should be the guy point out the critical mistakes he avoids when being flushed from the pocket and his ability to avoid the rush and get rid of the ball.
I don’t know where you stand. I think the staff will go back to Del Rio when he is ready. I am glad it is their choice.
THE YOUNG GUYS…
Making the situation even more unique is the fact that there are two freshmen quarterbacks on campus that both arrived in spring and both are capable in terms of their athletic ability to do what the staff wants them to do.
By most accounts this past spring and into the fall, Kyle Trask, the former high school backup who came to camp and won a scholarship offer from the staff, has been the guy that has looked the better of the two freshmen.
His counterpart and teammate (we can’t forget that) is Feleipe Franks who the Gators won over from his LSU commitment and was much more coveted on the recruiting trail, he of the 4-star and Army All-American status.
Every word we have heard is that the two have a great relationship, much like the two older guys. We heard excessively before the season that Franks wanted to or at least was very willing to redshirt this season in order to mature.
The funny thing is the staff isn’t thinking that way.
There was quite a bit of a commotion on our site last week when I told the people of our community here at Fightin’ Gators that it was Franks that was getting the second team snaps during the week. It wasn’t anything that was common knowledge and given some of the thought processes above, it was quite surprising.
Heck, I admitted when I wrote it that I was surprised, but truth be told, I wasn’t shocked.
They say the backup quarterback is the most popular guy on the team for the fans, but in this case it seems it is the backup to the backup… or something like that.
On the message boards and in chat some people were raising a real stink over the situation. And this really perplexed me.
You see, Feleipe Franks continues to take the second team snaps this week. He evidently has earned that spot to the guys that watch him every day in practice for a couple of hours. You know the guys that get paid the big bucks to do this sort of thing.
The fans have seen a spring game both were involved in and know some now meaningless statistics from high school.
We all have our favorites and yet we all want every Gator to succeed. In the end, this is why I find it perplexing that so many are beside themselves that Franks is the guy that would replace the guy that would replace the guy… for now.
To Discuss: What are your thoughts on the battle between the two older guys and the two younger guys at quarterback?null