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Florida football recruiting: 2021 QB Carlos Del Rio commits to Gators

From its Friday Night Lights event, Florida gets a potential future starter under center.

NCAA Football: Florida Spring Game Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Since having to scramble to secure Emory Jones’s commitment at the 11th hour of the early signing period in 2018, Dan Mullen’s Florida Gators have made a habit of locking down their target at quarterback appropriately early in the recruiting cycle. That was the case with 2019 signee-turned-enrollee-turned-transfer Jalon Jones, and also the case with 2020 QB Anthony Richardson, who both removed himself from Florida’s commit list and returned.

And it is the case with Florida’s newest commitment, 2021 quarterback Carlos Del Rio of McEachern High in Powder Springs, Georgia, who made his commitment to the Gators on Friday night after performing — and well — in Florida’s Friday Night Lights recruiting event, announcing it on Twitter.

Despite the lack of a #ToTheSwamp tweet issued by Mullen’s account, there’s no reason to believe Del Rio’s commitment isn’t genuine.

As for why it would be accepted, it’s not hard to tell. Del Rio — no relation to former Florida QB Luke Del Rio — fits the physical profile for Mullen quarterbacks at 6’3” and 200ish pounds with a live arm and good athleticism, and while he may not be as natural a runner as Richardson or either Jones to precede him as a Florida commit, he can certainly be mobile inside and outside of the pocket.

More importantly, he flashes a strong arm on tape — which, in the case of his Hudl highlights, seems to quite possibly mean tape from 1990s-era camcorders — despite definitely having some technique to clean up, which makes Del Rio the sort of raw, high-ceiling prospect that Mullen has worked wonders with throughout his career, from Tim Tebow to Feleipe Franks.

And that makes him closer to the predicted fit for Florida than even higher-rated quarterback the Gators had been pursuing in the 2021 class. Five-star passer Brock Vandagriff, who may end up the class’s top QB prospect, had made eyes at Florida before ultimately committing to Oklahoma, while Florida had also had contact with Jalen Milroe, an athletic passer from Texas who committed to the Longhorns within the last week.

But Del Rio had been consistently mentioned as a Florida target for months, and repeatedly visited Gainesville prior to Friday, when the reported strong showing likely just cemented his ability to give Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson a verbal pledge.

Del Rio is just the third commit in Florida’s 2021 recruiting class, slotting in between four-star defensive end Tyreak Sapp and three-star offensive tackle George Jackson on the commit list. But the Gators once had the nation’s top 2021 class before five decommitments, and multiple players on that list — like Kamar Wilcoxson, in attendance on Friday — remain possibilities to eventually sign with Florida.

Getting Del Rio to commit to the Gators now likely reduces Florida’s necessary efforts to recruit QBs in the final 16 months of the 2021 recruiting cycle to maintaining their relationship with him.

And that frees up plenty of manpower that could go toward building a top-flight recruiting class around its centerpiece.