When Luke Del Rio couldn’t lift his duffle bag after Saturday’s game, Jim McElwain knew something was wrong.

“He’s a tough guy. Never said anything,” McElwain said. “Had I known the severity, (I) probably wouldn’t have (kept him in the game).”

On Monday, Del Rio and at least three other UF starters were ruled out for Saturday’s game against South Carolina, including starting linebackers Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis. Two other players are listed as highly questionable with another listed as a game-time decision.

But the news of Del Rio, who has played in six games this season and has been the team’s clear-cut starter under center when he has been healthy, could be the biggest blow to a Florida team still leading the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with just two conference games remaining.

“Sometimes you have to be honest. He was banged up. Played that way,” McElwain said of Del Rio. “And, you know, looking at myself in the mirror, we should have made a change at halftime.”

McElwain said it will be an open competition in practice this week despite backup quarterback Austin Appleby having much more experience than UF’s other two quarterbacks: freshmen Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks.

Appleby has played in four games this season and has thrown for 470 yards, three touchdowns and one interception while completing 61.1 percent of his passes.

Franks and Trask haven’t taken a meaningful in-game snap since high school.

But McElwain wouldn’t rule out any possibilities. He said he once started a freshman quarterback late in the season at Montana State: Rob Compson, who started three games near the end of the 1995 season.

McElwain said Appleby will receive the first snaps in practice, but he will evaluate all three players during the week.

(I’ve) been doing this a long

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