Who will win the Florida quarterback competition?


The Florida Gators will be in action in Jerry World in Arlington, Tex. on Saturday to take on the Michigan Wolverines, but we still don’t know who will be taking the majority of the snaps under center.

Earlier this week in an interview with SEC Country, Jim McElwain said they there were still three guys in the race for Florida quarterback, and that Luke Del Rio, Feleipe Franks, and Malik Zaire all have the potential to play against Michigan.

While all three guys are still pretty unproven, they all three have a different skillset to provide for the Gators’ offense. Here’s a look at each of the three candidates and what it means if they win the starting job.

Malik Zaire

Zaire is a grad transfer from Notre Dame, and he seems like the guy who should win the job. In a very small sample size as a quarterback, he’s been an accurate passer. And he also has the ability to make plays with his legs, which makes him the ultimate x-factor at that position.

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 30: Malik Zaire against LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 30: Malik Zaire against LSU in the 2014 Music City Bowl (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

In three seasons at Notre Dame, Zaire completed 59.1 percent (58-98) of his passes for 816 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He only has two career starts and in one of those he got injured. In his three career starts, he went 38-55 (69.1 percent) for 524 yards, with five touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also ran for 199 yards and a touchdown on 41 carries.

What it means if Zaire is the starter:

If Zaire wins the Florida quarterback job, it seems like a good sign. While on one hand it could mean that he’s exactly as advertised, and he’s ready to take the Florida offense to the next level. But other other hand, if he’s not clearly better than the other two by now, it might simply mean that he’s the lesser of the evils.

Luke Del Rio

Del Rio is the most experienced of the three quarterbacks, but that’s about all he has going for him in this competition. He made six starts last season, and while the Gators did go 5-1 in his starts, he didn’t really do anything to impress you.

He completed 56.7 percent (114-for-201) of his passes for 1,358 yards (226.3 per game) with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he does have six starts as a Florida quarterback and the most time in McElwain’s system, and that’s more than the other two can say.

What it means if Del Rio is the starter:

If Del Rio wins the starting job, it’s probably not because he significantly out-performed the other two. We know what Del Rio is. It’s most likely because he didn’t lose the job, and Zaire and Franks didn’t do enough to impress the coaching staff. If Del Rio ends up being the full-time starter, I expect Florida to have the same sort of vanilla offense that they had in 2016.

Feleipe Franks

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Franks is a redshirt freshman, and the only one of the three who has never played a college football game. He was an Army All-American and the no. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country coming out of high school. At 6’6, 220 pounds, he’s got the build and the arm strength of a prototype pro-style quarterback.

What it means if Franks is the starter?

I believe Franks came into this competition as the clear number three. If he wins the job, I think it means he truly earned it. While he’ll likely make some freshman mistakes, it could mean big things for the Florida offense.

While the number of stars next to your name isn’t important, a lot of guys have those rankings because of the raw tools they possess. If Franks is the guy, it’s because he’s living up to that high school ranking.

In the end, I think Zaire wins the Florida quarterback job. He didn’t come all the way down to Gainesville to stand on the sidelines. In the end, his talent and playmaking ability will separate him from the other two.

Next: Top 10 games of the 2017 SEC Football season

We likely won’t have an answer to this question by Saturday. It sounds like all three might get a chance to show what they can do against Michigan. It will be interesting to see how the Florida quarterback competition plays out, because it will likely determine just how good the Gators can be this season.