UF’s McElwain may use three quarterbacks vs. Michigan

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Florida quarterback's Feleipe Franks (13) and Malik Zaire (8)
Florida quarterback's Feleipe Franks (13) and Malik Zaire (8) work at practice. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

With the opener against Michigan just a little more than a week away, Florida coach Jim McElwain still isn’t ready to name a starting quarterback. But he did reveal Wednesday that there’s a chance all three — Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire — could end up playing against the Wolverines.

“From the quarterback standpoint, you’re going to see a bunch of them in there playing,” he said. “The three guys have done a really good job. I think there’s some things that they all bring to the table that are really good. Now, the key to us is putting them in those positions that play to their strengths.

“Will all play? I don’t know yet. Will a couple of them play? I don’t know yet. I know we will have somebody at the position.”

Later in his news conference, McElwain said, “I think they’re all going to play.”

Franks, Del Rio and Zaire have been sharing reps with the No. 1 offense throughout preseason camp, and it appears they remain pretty much equal in the eyes of the coaching staff.

McElwain said his hesitancy to name a starter should not be viewed as an indication that the quarterbacks are struggling in any way.

“This is not. … don’t read into this that we’re not happy where they’re at,” McElwain said. “It’s the competition has really brought out some good things. It’s going to be developing through that. Ultimately, the guy that the team moves with the best. The guys that create positive plays on third down and get the ball in the end zone. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

McElwain said the QB competition still has to play itself out in practice before he’ll announce who will take the first snap on Sept. 2.

“We’ve got a lot more work against each other,” McElwain said. “We’ll see how some things kind of work out, especially in the option game and some of those type of things. And see kind of where that fits for some of those guys.”

McElwain said it’s not disconcerting that he still doesn’t have a starting quarterback at this late date.

“No, not at all,” he said. “Because I like the way they’re playing.”

McElwain was in a similar situation in his first year at UF, with a two-quarterback competition heading into the 2015 season. He ended up playing both Treon Harris and Will Grier in the first two games before settling on Grier as the starter.

Based on his comments Wednesday, McElwain appears prepared to play three quarterbacks in the opener.

Franks ended the spring as the presumptive starter, but at the time Del Rio was still recovering from surgery on both shoulders and Zaire still had not made a decision on where he was going to transfer.

Del Rio, who started six games last season before going down with the injured shoulders, said sharing reps with two other quarterbacks has been a less than ideal situation.

“It is difficult because everybody kind of gets used to one guy and you’re trying to get in a rhythm,” the redshirt junior said last week. “It’s just part of it. It’s hard and it can be kind of awkward with timing sometimes. You just do what you can and kind of make it work.”

Zaire said the thought of sharing playing time in actual games is not appealing.

“Obviously, it’s not ideal,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in the quarterback room wants that. But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to do what coach wants. I feel like coach should be confident enough to stick with a guy and be able to roll with that guy because that’s best for the team.

“When you have all these quarterbacks, you still have none at the end of the day. There are things we still need to work on. I just leave it up to those coaches to make the great decisions that they do. That’s why they get paid the big bucks. I just play my game and know I’ll be ready when my number’s called.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. the fact that zaire beat out an nfl starter (kizer), only losing his job to injury, bodes well for the talent level. really, the team needs a captain, in the way tebow really was a captain on the field, maybe a different skill set. and gripe about him all you want, del rio fits that bill. so .coach imo mac is right to say all 3 will play, I hope its 3 plus the two hybrid guys at wr that can take snaps at qb…

  2. Folks, I think this is the beginning of the end for Mack. He’s supposed to be a QB whisperer and has had 3 years to find his guy. But to be at a point where Del Rio is a potential starter, tells me that Mack’s rep is way overstated. In year 3, his offense should be hitting on all cylinders.

  3. Michigan will benefit preping for all 3 QBs. I d rather line up and beat them down. That’s what they’re strategy will be. They have done it before. They will believe they can out play us again. Harbough knows how to attack our weakness. Just like Bama did. Against the run right at you teams, we didn’t fair very well. Tennessee 2nd half, Arkansas, FSU, Bama. Mac’s teams haven’t proven themselves tough in the trenches. I am hoping they make a leap Fwd in this area. Go Gators!

  4. A question: If the guys are basically equal, might the staff consider the benefit of developing one or both of the returning guys for the next season or two through game experience? Seems to me, unless Zaire is head and shoulders better, that would be a logical consideration.