QBs Malik Zaire, Luke Del Rio, Feleipe Franks Reportedly Could Play vs. Michigan

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured Columnist

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 5:  Luke Del Rio #14 of the Florida Gators throws a pass during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Gators 31-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain isn't giving the Michigan Wolverines any indications about who will be under center when the two sides square off Sept. 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, McElwain admitted he hasn't settled on a starting quarterback and may allow Malik Zaire, Luke Del Rio and Feleipe Franks to all take snaps in the Top 20 clash. 

"You're going to see a bunch of them in there playing," McElwain said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "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, you know, 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."

McElwain later scoffed at a question about the lack of clarity being a ploy to mess with the Wolverines so they have to prepare to defend several signal-callers. 

"Absolutely, definitively not doing that," he said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson. "There are no mind games. I know what you got to write, write what you got to do. I've told you the answer. But definitively that is a true statement."

Franks is widely considered the most polished pocket passer at McElwain's disposal thanks to his tremendous arm strength and mammoth 6'6" frame. 

However, the redshirt freshman has yet to take a snap under center for the Gators and would be in a tough spot against an attacking Wolverines defense that has morphed into one of the nation's most physical units under head coach Jim Harbaugh. 

So while Franks is clearly the future, expectations should be tempered even if he is thrown into the fire in Week 1.

Then there's Zaire, who arrived at Florida as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame. 

“Obviously it’s not ideal,” Zaire said, per Thompson. “I don’t think anybody in the quarterback room wants that. But at the end of the day, you just gotta 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.”

Although Zaire is a capable dual-threat weapon who could keep the Wolverines on their heels, he attempted a grand total of 98 passes in 15 appearances at Notre Dame and was benched in favor of DeShone Kizer last season because of his inability to pick defenses apart as a conventional dropback passer. 

In other words, it would be surprising to see McElwain deploy him as much more than a situational runner or option specialist in the red zone. 

That leaves Del Rio, who's coming off a pair of shoulder surgeries, as the most logical, high-floor candidate to lead the Gators offense against the Wolverines. 

“It is difficult because everybody kind of gets use to one guy and you’re trying to get in a rhythm,” Del Rio said, per Thompson.

Sure, the numbers (1,358 yards, eight touchdowns, eight interceptions) last season weren't flashy. But the fourth-year junior helped lead Florida to a 5-1 record in six starts, including conference wins over Kentucky and Georgia. 

Combine that track record with a more thorough understanding of the Gators' scheme, and Del Rio is the safest bet to consistently keep the chains moving next Saturday.                 

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