Q&A with Florida Gators QB Luke Del Rio

Luke Del Rio met with the media Wednesday for the first time since transferring to Florida last offseason.

Quarterback Luke Del Rio throws a pass during the Gators' first day of spring football practice Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at the Sanders Practice Fields in Gainesville, Fla. / UAA Communications photo by Courtney Culbreath

Quarterback Luke Del Rio throws a pass during the Gators’ first day of spring football practice Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at the Sanders Practice Fields in Gainesville, Fla. / UAA Communications photo by Courtney Culbreath

Our Gators correspondent Luis Torres was there for Del Rio’s interview. Del Rio is considered the early front-runner to be Florida’s starting quarterback this upcoming season.

[Gators QB Del Rio turned down Jim McElwain recruiting bid in 2012]

Here is what Del Rio told reporters …

Question: How has the spring been going so far?

Answer: “It’s been going great. It’s been kind of a weird transition but (offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier) has done a great job of taking the young guys and taking Austin and I and incorporating us into what he’s trying to do in the offense. We’re working as hard as we can to execute the game plan and getting better every day. That’s all we can ask for.”

Q: How was last year’s experience of practicing well but not playing?

A: “Every situation is different. I thought Will did a great job last year. He got better every single game. Treon did a good job of filling in. It’s kind of weird. I got here in Summer B and was just thrown into it. The guys welcomed me with open arms. I actually played against a couple of them in high school, so I had a couple of friends when I got here. But it was a fun time.”

Q: How did you end up at Florida?

A: “Didn’t ever think I’d go to Florida when I lived in Jacksonville. We were so close. My dad went to USC, my sisters went to LSU. We were never really Florida fans. We were just different teams. So it was kind of a journey to get here. When I decided it was for my best interest to leave Oregon State, I made a couple calls and coach Nuss said he was going to be here. I knew coach Mac. He recruited me at Colorado State and Alabama. I knew they were going to run this offense, so I felt really comfortable coming here.”

Q: Did McElwain give you your first college offer?

A: “Yeah, it was my first offer. It was May 1, my first offer. I went up to Fort Collins and, yeah, he offered me.”

Q: How nice is it being in the same system two years in a row? It’s been a while for you since that’s been the case.

A: “Yeah, it’s always nice. The longer you’re in a system, the more comfortable you are. The timing of the plays, that’s what playing the position and football is all about, you’re comfortable and confident in what you’re doing. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in this offense for a year or two. I’m getting more and more comfortable every day.”

Q: Describe your role in the offense?

A: “As far as the quarterbacks? As you saw Greg McElroy running it, AJ McCarron run it. When we got here, you have so many offensive weapons here. So, we try to utilize them as best we can. It’s a little bit different than the one at Alabama. They have their install and we have ours. You’re definitely asked to take care of the ball, get first downs and put points on the board.”

Q: McElwain says you have a leg up in the quarterback competition. How do you stay ahead?

A: “I think it’s an open competition. We’re all competing for the job. We’re all doing everything we can do in our power to earn the starting job. I’ve been here, but I don’t think that makes me above or No. 1 right now. I have to earn it.”

Q: We’ve heard about you being a gym rat, doing a bunch of studying. Where did that come from?

A: “I grew up around the game. My dad is in the NFL, been in the NFL. He coached in the NFL. So, I’ve been around the game a lot. I’ve just kind of observed growing up, doing the best I can to pick people’s brains. Just try to mimic the guys that are in the NFL. They’re there for a reason. They obviously know what they’re doing. I just try to pick some things.”

Q: What have you learned as a coach’s son?

A: “I’ve been very fortunate to be around great players and great coaches and really just be around the game. Whether you’re a coach’s son in college, high school, pro, you’re around the game. You’re around ball all the time. I think it’s advantageous to be able to pick somebody in your family’s brain. But everybody here knows football.”

Q: When did you meet McElwain?

A: “I was in 10th grade. I went to Alabama’s camp, and I thought it was going to be like a regular camp. It’s very similar to ours. They put you to work. I love the way that he coached quarterbacks. He knows how to communicate with them. He knows how to coach them, knows when to get on them. I really liked that sort of connection that we made and we continued.”

Q: Does it help to have background with McElwain and Nussmeier?

A: “I think it’s more of I know the guys, I know my teammates, I know how they run routes, stuff like that. As far as actual playing, I haven’t taken any reps here so it’s a little bit different. Austin’s played a lot, played at Purdue, started a lot of games, and we have two young guys.”

Q: You make an effort to stay behind the scenes last season?

A: “Yeah, it was kind of an awkward situation in the sense that all I could do was focus on helping the defense get better on scout team. It’s a pretty good defense to go against. You’re gonna see a lot of those guys in the NFL. I really just tried to focus on what I could do, because they show you a card and you throw it to a guy, so all I could do was focus on footwork and accuracy and being the best teammate I could. You don’t want a transfer quarterback who’s on the scout team trying to be the outspoken leader when you can’t play that year.”

Q: How excited are you to take over as the leader?

A: “I was very excited for the opportunity to compete, and try to earn the starting job. But it’s still an open competition and we’ll see how it goes.”

Q: What’s your impression of the two freshman quarterbacks Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask?

A: “Oh, they’re very, very arm talented. They’re obviously really big guys. Kyle had a really unique situation in high school and he took full advantage of it. He can spin the ball. And Feleipe, you can tell why he was so highly rated. He’s mobile, he’s big, he’s got a canon of an arm. They’re learning and they’re doing a really good job.”

Q: What do you bring to the offense?

A: “I’ve been in it for a few years. You know, like I said, I haven’t played here but I do have experience running some of the plays. As far as making protection changes with the offensive line and understanding adjustments of the routes. It’s more of a knowledge of the offense than anything.”

Q: What would you to say to someone who’s seen you go to three schools and wonders what the problem is?

A: “Yeah, they see, ‘oh it’s your third school, what happened there?’ You know, it’s a very unique situation. If anybody told me you’d go to three colleges, I’d probably tell them they were crazy when I was a freshman. But it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason and I’m really happy to be here now.”

Q: Seems like it was fate that led you to Florida because of relationships with McElwain and Nussmeier?

A: “Yeah, yeah, it worked out, it worked out. Like I said everything must be meant to be. I played with Nuss. I’ve been around Mac a lot. I’m really happy that they’re on the team that I’m on.”