If you take a dart and throw it at a map of the Southeastern Conference, there’s a good chance you’ll land on a program breaking in a new quarterback.
Only three schools return signal callers who started at least 12 games last season.
Luke Del Rio at Florida will be among the fresh faces taking center stage on Saturday’s in the SEC.
The journeyman redshirt sophomore’s goal of being a starter has taken him 40 times more miles than yards he’s passed for in college football. Stops in Alabama and Oregon State have matured him in to the leader in Gainesville and he’s the son of Oakland Raiders Head Coach, Jack Del Rio.
“(Del Rio) seems to be a settling in there as the voice in the huddle which is a good thing, as we continue to move forward that leadership,” said Gators’ Head Coach Jim McElwain.
Del Rio’s inside track to the starting job was paved in Tuscaloosa nearly eight years ago. There he learned in a McElwain led summer camp as an eighth grader, before later walking on for the Crimson Tide when Doug Nussmeier (Gators’ Offensive Coordinator) ran their attack.
That comfortability with the one another and the offensive scheme allowed Del Rio to flourish in training camp.
“Nuss (Nussmeier) and I talk about quite a bit, you kind of forget this is his first go around, said McElwain. It’s almost like we asked him to do things a little bit like a veteran about how he approaches it and the decisions he makes.”
Del Rio was able to look on and learn last season as a transfer. Yet admittedly felt helpless as the Gators struggled to the finish.
“Anytime you finish 0-3 it’s the worst taste in your mouth that’s tough to swallow, said Del Rio. I would say now more so than in camp or summer were focused on this year and just going 1-0 every week.”
Gator fans will also demand a better offensive showing than the 83rd ranked unit of a season ago. And, McElwain and Nussmeier believe the journeyman quarterback will finally bring their offensive scheme to fruition.
They’re right in the fact Del Rio is a veteran, but only in new beginnings. Saturday against 35 -point underdog UMass will mark his first collegiate start.
McElwain is hoping it’s a fresh start from last season’s Will Grier and Treon Harris debacle.
One way for Gator fans to forget about that? Seeing Del Rio throw darts.