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Florida’s Luke Del Rio out for season, will have shoulder surgery

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It’s a second straight season with a season-ending injury for the Gators passer.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators redshirt junior quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss the rest of the 2017 season after suffering a shoulder injury that will require surgery, Florida coach Jim McElwain revealed Saturday in a post-game press conference.

Del Rio was hit and driven to the ground while attempting in the pass during the second quarter of Florida’s 38-24 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, landing hard on his left — non-throwing — shoulder and would leave the game and not return.

Del Rio was making his first start of the 2017 season, a return to the helm of Florida’s offense after a 2016 campaign he entered as Florida’s starter and left — after returning once from a knee injury — with a different season-ending left shoulder injury.

He had helped steady the Gators on the road in a comeback victory over Kentucky a week ago, and led Florida on two touchdown drives in the first half, but Del Rio’s physical limitations — he lacks the ideal height to see the field as a quarterback, and possesses average arm strength at best -- remained apparent in his 2017 cameos, and mitigated the advantages conferred by his familiarity with the offense and calm in the pocket.

And given that starter-turned-backup-turned-starter Feleipe Franks threw for 185 yards and moved the Gators efficiently for much of his time on Saturday, it’s possible that Florida will ultimately get better play out of its starting quarterback than Del Rio could provide for the rest of this season. But removing Del Rio from the mix at QB is a significant blow to depth, leaving Florida with only the still-growing Franks, Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire, and reserves Kyle Trask and Jake Allen.

Combined, those four players have thrown fewer than 75 passes for the Gators. Del Rio, despite not playing the equivalent of a full season, has thrown more than three times as many.