Gator Country’s podcast was joined by Daniel Thompson to talk about some stats for the Florida Gators, plus he breaks down the Vanderbilt game this Saturday afternoon.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre also ask Thompson to give us in-depth look at why he thinks Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain has been successful with Florida this year.
Andrew and Nick also break down some key match-ups in the Vanderbilt game, plus they give you a quick update on injuries and who could replace those guys this week.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? It’s Vanderbilt week, so it’s not as much excitement, but it is Homecoming week, and it is 60 minutes to go to Atlanta, the best city in the world, Hotlanta. Go Braves. Nicholas, my man, we didn’t think we’d be talking about it this soon, but it’s here. Win Vandy, go to Atlanta, SEC championship.
Nick: I might just be jaded, but when was the last time we were even talking about? I mean every time the last couple years, definitely since I’ve been at Gator Country, when we bring up Atlanta it’s like, okay if Florida wins out, and then these three teams lose. If there’s a lunar eclipse, a shooting star, and the moon falls out of the sky, if all those things happen then Florida gets to Atlanta. Now, 60 minutes, come away with a W, even if it’s a 2-0 W, you’re going to Atlanta. It’s fun. I’m having a good time covering this football team. We’ve got really cool jobs, and it’s even cooler when the team that you cover is doing well and playing good.
Andrew: Yes, sir. The chomp chomp is alive. It is alive, but bad news coming out on Monday. David Sharpe likely out this week. Martez Ivey is questionable. We’re told he’s probably going to sit this week. It is Vanderbilt. It is a very good defense, but it’s much better that these guys are sitting out this week more so than the Georgia week. I think that they’re going to be okay, and maybe sit them out this week, next week, and maybe even the FAU game, and then get them back for Florida State. What do you think about that?
Nick: Yeah. I think right now if this is the FSU week, if this is the SEC championship, I think both guys are healthy enough to play, but they won’t play this week. I’m not saying this is the coach’s mentality, but even if the unthinkable happens, and you lose to Vanderbilt this week, you’re still one win away. Beating South Carolina, one win away from going to the SEC championship. Is it worth it to say David and Martez want to play, alright guys, go ahead, even though you’re kind of hobbled? Now you’re thinking about it, maybe playing tentative. Now you have an injury, and you’re done for the year. Or is it saying, we’ll rest you. If something crazy happens, and you have to play in two weeks, at least you have an extra week of rest.
Andrew: That’s exactly right. I think it’ll be probably a line of Mason Halter, either Riles or Dorsey. Matt kind of hinted that it was going to be Dorsey. Cam Dilliard, Trip Thurman, and then Fred Johnson. I told you this yesterday when I was speaking to David Sharpe’s father about David. He was telling me how impressed they are with Fred Johnson. He was like, he’s an animal out there. He’s one of the best linemen that they have on the team, and he thought he was the best freshman lineman on the team as well. That’s saying big praise. Maybe this is his chance to go out there and be the starter, know he’s not coming off the field, and getting some good reps. The one thing you can say about this is this is a game that a guy like Dorsey and a guy like Fred Johnson are going to learn the hard way of getting out there, being thrown into the fire, and go with it.
Nick: Fred’s played a lot this year at right tackle.
Andrew: Right, but not a whole game.
Nick: I understand that. I was going to come around to that. Fred’s played a lot this year, so the coaching staff kind of knows what to expect. He plays great, and I mean great, at times, and then there’s times where you look at him, and you’re like, boy, that’s a freshman. That’s a freshman right there. It’s a mixed bag. Again, playing offensive line, especially a tackle spot, is very hard for a freshman to do. I like Fred Johnson as a player, think he’s going to be very good down the line, and I’m confident that he can do well against Vanderbilt and against South Carolina, even with knowing, I’m playing the whole game. There’s more pressure on me this week than in past weeks.
Andrew: That’s the thing. I am interested to see how Dorsey plays, because you and I were told before the season that he was a guy that the staff loved, and that he was practicing well, and that he had learned and he was in his best shape of his life.
Nick: The injury kind of set him back, but after watching Antonio Riles and the way that he kind of struggled to not get into the lineup there, and I understand there was an injury setback, but for Dorsey to not be able to overcome that, how Riles was playing, and get into the rotation kind of makes me hesitant on where my expectations are for him in the next game, next two games.
Andrew: Yeah. You’re exactly right. That’s kind of where I’m at. What is going to be of Dorsey? He’s a big body to play guard, so that’s that. Nick, we got a special guest today, Dan Thompson, Gator Country’s Dan Thompson, our stats guru. He’s going to come on here in just a second and bring us some stats about the team from this year to last year, some penalty stats. Just overall really good stats for this Wednesday podcast.
Nick: Yeah. Dan’s done a really good job. He’s partnered up with the guys that run a website called CFBStats that most writers use to pull up stats from conferences and every team in Division I football, compare teams in conference to nationally. He’s partnered up with the people that give that website their stats to kind of bring in depth looks at how Florida has changed from this year to last year, and how they stack up against other teams across the country, in the SEC, and then breaking it down in a matchup. Who’s Florida this week? Where are advantages that Florida has statistically? What can they take advantage of this week against this opponent?
Andrew: Definitely. Let’s just go on to Dan, and then you and I can finish this bad boy off. Let’s go to Dan Thompson real quick and get some numbers flying in for all of these guys that like numbers.
Nick: We’re bringing on, as Jim McElwain would say, our best guest, because he’s our next guest, our very own Daniel Thompson. He is the stat czar at Gator Country. Dan, how’s it going?
Dan: I’ve never been better. Living the dream.
Andrew: I thought we would call him the swabi, or whatever his name that was on there.
Andrew: Yeah. He was kind of the nerdy guy that came on and would say, boys, they’re a 2 point favorite today, yada, yada. That’s kind of what I see Dan as, our Schwab.
Nick: That was a pretty awful imitation.
Dan: Plus I’m significantly cooler than you are, Andrew, so.
Nick: Shots fired early. This might be Dan’s one and only time on the podcast, so he’s making the most of it.
Andrew: Dan, we have a line on here that you can be mean when you look as clean as Andrew Spivey.
Nick: That’s Andrew’s line, not our line.
Andrew: Until that happens, Dan, go back to being Mark Richt and crying in the corner.
Dan: You’ve got it. I know these podcasts have been on fleek recently.
Nick: There it is. What we wanted to bring Dan on for, Dan has done a great job of getting some pretty in depth stats, and everyone the big question is fans would have probably been happy with 7 wins, 8 wins, thrilled with 9. At this point in the season, 9 wins and people are going to be pretty upset. Dan, what are some of the numbers that, if you can pick out just a couple, that are really the key attributions of why Florida has been able to, under Jim McElwain, make this kind of resurgence, this turnaround so quickly?
Dan: Nick, thanks for the question. I think that there’s a lot of things that you can look at, and when you’re looking at numbers you have to remember that you can’t always look at them in a vacuum. There’s a couple of things, and obviously they’re playing different opponents every year, but there’s a couple of big things that we’ve noticed, just by looking at the numbers. The three of us have chatted about it quite a bit. I would say that the first thing that we see is we see a completely different offense, really just in terms of big picture. Last year they were running the ball, and they were really trying to pound the ball down the opponents’ throat, and it worked in some games, against Georgia, and it didn’t work in most games. That’s why they only won 7 games last year.
This year we see them throwing the ball significantly more. We see them connecting on passes significantly more. Both their yards per attempt and yards per completion are significantly higher. Whereas their rushing numbers have gone down slightly this year, we’ve seen a huge increase in their ability to get the ball out through the air. With that in mind, last year UF, Florida, was really bad with turning the ball over, especially when it came to interceptions. I think that they were throwing just over 1 touchdown per 1 interception that they were throwing. Now they’re throwing 4 or 5 touchdowns per interception that they’re throwing. Those numbers have changed drastically, both in the air and then not turning the ball over.
Defense, we thought that we might see a decline in the defense. I don’t think that we’ve seen that at all. In fact, the numbers will say this defense is even slightly better than last year, considering that right now those numbers are just about the same, with Vanderbilt, who has probably the worst offense in the SEC, and South Carolina, who has one of the worst offenses in the SEC, coming up as well.
Andrew: That’s what I was going to get at with you. Most people bring stats, and then they bring the lesser games, but Florida is now through their tough stretch of their schedule. That five game really end of September through October stretch of Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, Georgia, was the five games that a lot of people worried about. They’ve come out of that stretch with a guy like Antonio Callaway having 22 yards per catch and leading the SEC, plus, like you say, having a better defense that should only improve over this Vandy, South Carolina, FAU game.
Nick: There goes Andrew, noted Tennessee homer, throwing Tennessee into that lump of a difficult stretch for Florida.
Andrew: It is not a difficult stretch. My line said, Nicholas…
Nick: You’ve been hiding it for too long. It’s time to come out. You love Tennessee, and you love Butch Jones.
Andrew: Oh, hell no. Hell no. This is about to get rated R in a very heartbeat of a second. Butch Jones and Mark Richt are not good football coaches, but they are better than Vandy and South Carolina. Nick, Dan, my question to you is penalty wise. What have you noticed with the penalty game? I was doing a quick look at it yesterday and still see that Florida, and surprisingly Alabama, is at the lower bracket of the penalty thing. Is that something you’ve noticed as well?
Dan: Yeah. Florida has actually, they started the season off with 1 penalty. I think we all remember that game. There was one total penalty in the first game of the season, combined by both teams. Since then that number skyrocketed a bit. I think it went up to seven or eight penalties per game, but that number’s gone on the decline in each of the last four games, for a couple of different reasons. One, I think that they’re a little bit more into the season. They’re getting used to adjustments that are being made. They’re getting used to play count and all that kind of stuff that causes a quick false start or causes the team to line up in an illegal formation, but the team as a whole has gotten better from penalties.
Funny enough, on the opposite side of the ball it’s important that Florida does keep low on penalties, because I think right now Florida ranks 120th in the country in number of penalties that opponents are getting per game against them. It’s just over 4. Florida really needs to minimize those, because teams are really minimizing their errors that they’re having against Florida.
Nick: East Carolina committed 9 penalties. Kentucky committed 5. Mississippi committed 5. Missouri committed 6, but after that opponents have only committed 3 or less penalties against Florida. It’s kind of an odd stat to think that is it the referees, the way they’re calling games, or are teams kind of playing cleaner against Florida? I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird stat. You can’t really put your finger on it, but a lack of penalty on your opponents means that they’re not shooting themselves in the foot, at least through penalties and not making it easier for Florida when they’re going up against them.
Andrew: They did have to go to LSU, and Florida was a little butt hurt in that game, because the refs were not calling that game very fair in that game, and then you look to the Georgia game. There were several questionable calls, but I’m like you, Dan, I was looking at it. It looks like the total number of penalties per game is down for Florida. It’s just that when Florida’s getting penalties called it’s not the 5 yard ones. It’s the 15 yard personal foul, the face mask, the kick catch interference. It’s the 10 and 15 yard variety instead of 5 for false for starts, 5 personal foul penalties.
Dan: Yeah. They’re averaging right now just over 50 penalty yards a game, on just over 6.38 penalties per game, give or take. Which is down from last year, so I think that we’ve seen that Florida is getting a little bit better. Yes, that’s just about 9 yards per penalty, so they really need to take those down, and I think that this a style of the nature that they play though. They play in a pretty aggressive defense. They’ve gotten a couple penalties where they’ve been light hits on the quarterback right after they’ve thrown, or a roughing the passer call, but you’re right. If Florida does want to, like we were talking about, really minimize those errors that they’re having against them, they would really have to change their style of defense.
I’m not offended by the way that Florida’s playing and the penalties that they’re getting, because, yes, they’re getting a few more than you would probably want, but at the same time you have to remember those two teams that won national championships in 2006 and in 2008 were among the most penalized teams in the country. They’ve already taken a step down. They average about a penalty less per game and about 10 yards less on penalties per game over last season. So if they can get just a little bit better there I would rather see them have a few more penalties than have to completely change their style of offense or defense.
Andrew: Then you look at the game on Saturday. You have the personal foul on Cronkrite. That’s just a playing hard penalty. Then you have the Chris Thompson play. That’s just a playing hard. I think it’s a difference there. Just a couple of quick things as far as the defense goes. A guy like Bullard, what have you seen kind of from that in him? My personal opinion is Bullard’s not getting the love and the credit for what he is, because the stats don’t show his numbers.
Dan: Right. Andrew, just to piggyback off your last point there. If you take out that call against Cronkrite in the last game, and you take away those two kick catch interference plays against Chris Thompson, that’s 45 yards of penalties that you can take back, and that number looks significantly more palatable than the number that they have right now.
Moving forward. Jonathan Bullard is probably a top 5 rush defense player in college football right now. His pass rush ranked, I believe, on Pro Football Focus as the 8th best pass rusher for defensive tackle. So he’s putting it all together now. He’s one of those players that you talked about in your last podcast, the light has come on for him this season. Whereas he was a very solid, probably 3rd round or 4th round player last year, he could very easily be a 1st round or a 2nd round player, and not only that, this season he has that initial staying power. He has an increased burst in his steps. He’s taking up a large space in that 1 to 3 gap area.
He’s done an incredible job, and the numbers show that he’s doing an exceptional job play over play over play, but you have to read the in depth analytics to show you that. You’re not going to see that on the stats sheet, but that also goes to show you that the best players and the people that are doing the best in the game don’t always show up on the stat sheet. Antonio Callaway has done great as a receiver, but there’s a lot of things that he does game in and game out that you don’t ever see on that stat sheet to show that he’s probably UF’s best wide receiver either.
Nick: There’s little things you can kind of miss. I kind of wanted to get into stats about this game. Vanderbilt’s coming in. The only offense that is worse than them in the SEC is Missouri. They’re coming off of a shutout loss to Houston. Can Vanderbilt score on Florida? If they can, what is the best way for the Commodores to attack the Gators to try to get in that painted area, to try to put some points on the scoreboard?
Dan: The quick answer to that, Nick, is probably not. You want to try to paint a rosy picture.
Nick: Thanks, Dan. That’s all we need then.
Dan: Yeah. I mean, if you look at the numbers, if you look at every single offensive category that tracks offensive performance outside of number of offensive plays that they get per game and the number of passing attempts that comes with that, they are in the bottom third of almost every single statistical category on offense. They rank 97th in the country in rush yards per attempt. 117th in the country in yards per pass completion. 97th in the country in total yards. 86th in the country in total 1st downs per game. 124th in the country in total touchdowns per game on offense. So no.
I mean, could they get lucky and get a trick play? Absolutely. You can score a touchdown, but if you look at those numbers and you look at the defenses that they’ve played, they’re not nearly as starch as the one that Florida’s going to put up. The quick answer to your question is no, probably not. Now could anything happen? Sure, but I’ve seen Vanderbilt play football, and I don’t think that they can score on your St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders, Nick.
Nick: Not many teams can score on the mighty St. Thomas Aquinas Fighting Raiders.
Andrew: Dan, let’s get away from the stats for just a second. You and I have talked about this several times in depth. You’ve been around a program in Urban Meyer when they were winning national championships as well. I said this to Nick in our podcast on Monday, the reason that this team, in my opinion, is different, the reason McElwain has the program going in the right direction is he’s building the program from scratch, from the ground up. Just give us a quick intake of what goes on in the day to day basis with the guys that aren’t Chris Rumph, Tim Skipper, those guys, from your perspective of being in that office back in the Urban Meyer days.
Dan: Sure. I think that you see it a lot now. There’s one general message that you want to get across when you have a successful football program, and whatever that message is it’s your job and your responsibility to make sure that your staff is on board. I think that what we saw under Will Muschamp is we saw a lot of different messages. We saw one coach say different terminology than another coach. We saw one coach in Joker Phillips that went off and did his thing on Twitter with his come play wide receiver for the Joker photoshops and everything else. Everything looked like it was going in so many different directions, and it looked like each coach had their own take on what their responsibility was.
If you looked at Urban Meyer, and now you look at Jim McElwain, everything that they do is unified. Their message is unified. Their terminology is unified. They create unbelievable public relations and media for the program. You saw that a lot under Urban Meyer. He did a great job of, for lack of a better word, of really pimping out his players and how good that they were doing. He was talking about them in the media. He was making sure that their names continued to get brought up in the media, no matter how good or how average his players were. He always talked about how good that they were doing. So you always talked about them. He kept building a tight machine. That’s exactly what Jim McElwain is doing with everything that he’s putting out on Twitter, everything that he’s putting out with recruiting. Everything is a unified message. Everything is beautifully done. Everything seems to be working in sync.
It looks very easy on the front of it. You say, why don’t you just do that for everybody? Everybody can have a successful program. It’s not easy to get that by, and you really have to have coaches know their responsibility within the program, and that they also have to trust the guy that’s leading them. I think that that’s what happened under Will Muschamp is they stopped trusting the guy that was leading the team, so the team started to kind of dwindle underneath them. The unified message is similar. The excitement around the program is similar, and the media buzz and everything that they’re doing to continue to talk about how well Florida’s doing is really similar. Different styles, but very similar.
Andrew: My way of looking at this is kind of like a business approach. You’re in a big business yourself. That is kind of the message everyone wants is that one message, but it takes that certain leader to get that to go through the whole program, and that’s the biggest thing that I see with Mac is that it doesn’t matter if you are the janitor, if you’re the water boy, you’re the equipment guy. He’s letting you know what your message should be, and if you get off of that you might as well pack your bags and head down to Georgia to play for Mark Richt.
Dan: Absolutely. I think that you see that. There’s a couple of things that you see here. One, being a head coach is just as much about being a CEO of your entire program as it is about coaching. Jim McElwain’s not the one that’s standing out there next to the offensive line when they’re practicing. He’s the one monitoring the whole process. You really need to have that vision, and I think that’s what when you have these position coaches that are unable to make that initial step from being a coordinator up to a head coach is that they get caught in a lot of the details. They get caught in a lot of weeds. The same way of a CEO of a company likely came from sales or marketing or maybe engineering, they have to be able to take a step back, trust the people that they put in power to be able to make decisions to help guide that ship in the right direction.
I think that’s what Jim McElwain is doing. He’s saying, I don’t know defense that well, so what am I going to do? I’m going to hire some of the brightest minds on the defensive side of football that we can get, and that’s where you get your Chris Rumph, who’s probably a top 5 defensive line coach in college football. You get Randy Shannon, who’s probably a top 5 or top 10 linebacker coach in college football. You surround yourself with people that are smarter than yourself, and then, like you said, Andrew, pass that message down all the way down.
You follow a lot of the same folks that I follow on Twitter that work for the UF football program. It’s the same ones. It’s your program assistants, your program coordinators, your GAs and everybody else that is saying the same unified message. You have that unified message down the ladder, and you have a program that’s going to be successful.
Andrew: My final thought on this is that it shouldn’t be as hard, but it’s what separates the great ones from the okay ones. I said this on the message board, and I think you got involved in this, Dan. Recruiting is the life blood of your program. Some coaches love it, some coaches hate it. Tommy Tuberville is a prime example. He hated recruiting. He’s the one that got coaches barred from recruiting in the spring, because he wanted to spend time with his family. I understand everyone wants to spend time with their family, but it is a difference in being good and great. That’s what made Steve Spurrier kind of leave the area as well.
For me, that’s what separates McElwain is whatever needs to be done, he’s doing it. The flags on the goal post last week. Had to be done, he did it. That’s something he’s doing as a general thing. Talking to former players about that game in Jacksonville. It is a different game. It’s a weird game. Half of the game’s going to booed by Florida fans, half’s going to be booed by Georgia fans. Knowing the details and not letting anything go unnoticed is what separates the good from the great.
Dan: Absolutely. I think you see that with some of your great leaders of business or technology around the country is that you see those folks that know when you have to rise up to the challenge. One of the things that irked me the most about Will Muschamp, and I generally like the guy, one of the things that irked me the most was the fact that he said that every game was just another game. No. Every game is not just another game. Every game against New Mexico State or Eastern Michigan is not the same as playing Tennessee or playing Georgia or playing Florida State. The reason is because you have to prepare with a different level of intensity, because you know that they’re not looking at the game that way that it’s just another game.
There’s a certain point to that where you don’t want to overlook the game, or you don’t want to get too excited for it, but, no, every game is not the same. You need to be able to channel that energy and show your players that this isn’t another game. We need to step up. We need to raise this to another level. That’s why whenever Apple creates a product to compete against Samsung or Dell or whoever they always seem to create a product that’s just a little bit better, because they always seem to go out there and find that inner energy and create something a little bit better. That’s exactly what Jim McElwain’s doing that Will Muschamp wasn’t able to do.
Nick: You know what I think a lot of that is? I just think that’s McElwain trusting his players, because players are going to hear what he says to the media, and previous coaches, and a lot of coaches, don’t want the players to think, this game is bigger. Don’t want you to play tight. Jim McElwain trusts his players. He knows that playing Georgia is not the same as playing Vanderbilt. It’s not the same as playing FAU or New Mexico State. It’s different, and he’s letting them know that. He’s taking in these rivalries. He loves it. He’s a historian. 99% of the songs, artists, athletes he brings up during press conferences I have to Google, because they were done and retired, done doing what they did, way before I was born. He’s a historian, and he loves this.
He impresses on his players that this is not just another week, and the players will still toe the company line and say, the next game’s the biggest one, because it’s the next on the schedule, but not Jim McElwain. He’s going to tell you, this is Florida vs. Georgia. We don’t lose to Georgia. This is a rivalry game, a game we can’t afford to lose. I think it’s him trusting his players to be honest enough and real enough to say, this is different. This week means more to the fans and to the program. You’re a part of that program, so this game means more, and it’s just trusting the players to continue to play loose while also trying to get them to maybe focus in a little bit more on those big games that you have to win if you’re going to be great.
Andrew: Nick, I told you this the other day. You asked me, you were like, “Did you know that?” There was absolutely a couple games on the schedule you marked down, and you say, we got to bring separate energy to this game. My thing is this. You’re going to Georgia. These guys know it’s a big game, so why not hype it up to be a big game? You don’t have to hype it up that you have to play perfect. Hype it up to be a big game. Let these guys know that Georgia hates you. Let them have hatred towards Georgia. It’s okay to be human, and I think that is what separates Mac. That’s why the players like Mac, and that’s why certain media members don’t like Mac. He’s a real person.
Dan: Right. I think that you see Jim McElwain doing exactly, going back to the Urban Meyer metaphor, doing exactly what Urban Meyer did. Every single rivalry game was important, much more than any other game, to Urban Meyer. He went so far as to not mention Florida State’s name ever.
Nick: The school out west.
Dan: Yeah. It was always the school out west. He does that at Ohio State now. It’s the school up north. That creates rivalry. That makes rivalry fun. I felt like Will Muschamp took the excitement out of every rivalry, and if I was playing for him at Auburn, and all he told me was Alabama was just another nameless, faceless opponent, I’d be pissed off, because that’s part of the reason you go to these big schools is because you have these huge rivalries. The fact that they were so downplayed for four years really irked me.
Nick: I think that hurts, like you mentioned, the mindset of the team as far as getting up for these big games. When you sign on the dotted line and you come to Florida you want to play in that Tennessee matchup. You want Uncle Vern to screw up your last name on a broadcast at 3:30. You want to play in Jacksonville and play Georgia. You want to play Florida State. These are the games you want to play, and to have a head coach say, “This is just like if we were playing Iowa State this week.” Not taking anything away from them after shutting out Texas, but it’s not just another game, and I’m really enjoying the fact that Mac isn’t going the whole politically correct route in that.
Andrew: Can you imagine Nick Saban telling his team that it’s just Auburn? No. He goes it’s the barn. It’s the school out east, or the school east of us is I believe what he used to say early in his thing. He calls it the barn school. It’s the barn school. Dan, I appreciate you coming on. We really appreciate you coming on late notice, bringing us the stats and hopefully we’ll get you on at the end of the season and you’ll have some better news. Hopefully it’s after an 11-1 regular season and headed to Atlanta.
Dan: Absolutely. I’ll see you guys in Atlanta. Thanks for having me on.
Andrew: You got it, Dan. Talk to you soon, buddy.
Dan: Have a good one, guys.
Andrew: Nick, good stats from Dan, as always. A lot of in depths on kind of the nature of the program from Dan. In case everybody doesn’t know, Dan was an intern in the recruiting office and kind of a student assistant in the recruiting office under Urban Meyer, so he does have that kind of perspective of what it means to kind of run the program.
Nick: It’s in depth. Dan was one of the guys that was hands on with recruits as they came in and took visits and helped in that process, so hands on firsthand knowledge of how a recruiting program is run. He had friends there during Muschamp’s era, and could see how things had changed. I think he still knows people there to see how maybe at least at the recruiting aspect, but it’s not just recruiting. It’s, like Jim McElwain said, the entire organization, and that goes from trainers putting frozen water into the water, getting flags, everything. It’s not just winning football games Saturday. It’s everything that goes into that, and that’s recruiting, that’s nutrition, that’s lifting, it’s everything. There’s no stone unturned in Florida’s program this year, and I think that is the biggest change we’ve seen from the two staffs.
Andrew: Yeah. That is exactly right. There is a big change in what’s going on, and it’s good. I like it. The message these guys are sending out there, they’re back to the 2016 part of hitting recruiting in social media with this 2016 class. It’s different. Recruiting is different. The running of football program is different than it is five years ago. You have to hit that social media, that kind of stuff. You see on the news, even with politicians, and I never like to talk politics, but even you see their campaigns going social media, that kind of stuff. Everyone has to adapt, whether that’s business, politics, whatever it is. Football teams, it’s all about social media, getting that brand out, and that’s exactly what Mac is. Nick, couple of things. You’ll have the Vandy game on Saturday. there’s a couple of things on the line here. Florida could continue to move up in the rankings as well, and then they could also continue to march on to Atlanta. This one gets them into Atlanta. 60 minutes to get to Atlanta.
Nick: How about that? Not the narrative I thought we’d be talking about at this time before the season, but right now, yeah. Florida is 60 minutes away from Atlanta for the first time in six years.
Andrew: Hell, Nick. You thought Florida was going to be off of a five game losing streak if I had asked you at the beginning of the year. Yeah, you were wrong, buddy. It’s time to eat some crow. Go ahead. I’m giving you your five seconds to eat crow predicting that five game losing streak for the Gators. Go ahead.
Nick: I thought Florida would, my five game losing streak was all predicated on losing to Tennessee.
Andrew: How did that work out for you?
Nick: That kind of having a snowball effect. Obviously beating Tennessee had a different effect. It pissed off the defense, and they’ve been playing like one of the best defenses in the country. I think that the job the coaching staff, everybody from recruiting to the actual coaches to the graduate assistants, quality control guys, I really think Mac has put in a system that kind of runs efficiently. We talked about the message. Dan mentioned it seemed like Florida’s message, whether it be from Joker Phillips to all this other stuff, was kind of coming from everywhere. Right now it’s one voice. Florida football is running like a Fortune 500 company in that there is a message. Everybody’s on that message, and the person who’s dictating it is the CEO, and that’s Jim McElwain.
I think what you’re seeing is a much more organized, efficient business organization brand, and I think there was no way to predict that Jim McElwain would get it running, get the Florida brand running as smoothly as it is this quickly. You thought maybe it would take a year, not even talking players, just talking about getting his feet wet, getting used to what it’s like to be the head coach at a school like the University of Florida, to be the Florida Gators head coach. I thought it was going to take him some time to get that, but the really just hit the ground running. Kind of, I guess, knew what to do from being at Alabama, seeing how successful they are. Successful people copy other successful people in their ways, and right now Florida has a program that runs a lot like Alabama, and you’re starting to see some of that success pay off on the field.
Andrew: Definitely. It’s going to be a good weekend, a homecoming, another chance to get some revenge from two years ago for the Gators, but Nick, before we end this podcast I think we have to talk a little bit. I think you and I both were pretty good on our World Series predictions there, buddy.
Nick: Yeah. I don’t remember if I predicted the sweep or not, but it was almost a sweep. Congratulations. It’s been 30 years since Royal fans were able to celebrate a World Series. Good friend of mine growing up, Eric Hosmer, very happy for him. I love reading the stories about the things he’s been able to do in the community. It’s cool to kind of see somebody you grow up with now in a position to make a difference in the community and in a position to make a difference in other people’s lives and kind of see them doing that. Congratulations to Hos. Congratulations to the Royals. As a Marlins fans it’s always nice to see the Mets lose.
Andrew: Absolutely. You know what? I just thought about this. Last year the Giants win. Jake Peavy is a cousin to one of my very good friends. So if you are friends with Andrew or Nick, you might be next year.
Nick: How about that?
Andrew: How about that?
Nick: It time to become my friend and maybe send me free tickets to games.
Andrew: Andrew@GatorCountry.com I will make sure we call ourselves friends. Send me an email. Freddie Freeman, let’s go ahead and do that, because it’s time for the ATL to get there. Nick, we won’t bore people no more with baseball. Basketball does start Thursday evening in the O Dome for preseason ball. Mike White’s era gets underway. We’ll have coverage there. Cassidy’s going to be there. Also, one of our new interns, Austin, is going to be there covering the game with Cassidy. Should be some good coverage as Mike White gets going. For me, this is the first time in a long time that I’m like, I really don’t know what to expect from this team. Last year I kind of thought, they’re going to be just okay. This year I think they have a chance to be okay or decent or really bad.
Nick: Yeah. I thought they’d be okay two years ago. Obviously everyone knew they were going to be good, but you kind of always thought they’ll be fine as long as Billy’s there. You get into the unknown with Mike White. What’s this team going to look like? Who do they have? You’ve got Kevon Allen in the projected starting lineup. How does a freshman handle that? Ton of questions. Definitely things that we’ll have to wait and see how they play out, but it should be interesting. It’s a new era. It’s a new time for the first time in almost two decades for Florida. I’m interested in seeing how it all plays out. I know Gator fans are. Thursday night we’ll get a little glimpse into it, but it’s going to take some time. Mike White will have to figure out his players, figure out what it’s like to coach at Florida, and really maybe there is an adjustment period.
Andrew: It has to be.
Nick: Well, we said it had to be for football, and now I’m eating crow.
Andrew: I don’t mean a win loss thing. I mean he’s going to have to adjust to what it is of the day to day grind of recruiting with an SEC schedule. Right now he’s recruiting, but it’s usual recruiting, because it’s off season. Now he’s going to have to figure out a way to recruit and scout Kentucky. How to recruit and scout Texas A&M or Missouri. That’s what I’m saying. It is going to take him a little time to adjust, but overall he has a bunch of young staff members on his staff, and it kind of does seem like the same thing that they get along very well, much like McElwain’s staff does. Nick, we’re running out of time here. Let’s go ahead and end this thing. Say your few magic words. I’ll ruin it, and we’ll see everyone on Friday.
Nick: First things first, my favorite MMA fighter of all time, next to Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson is fighting this weekend, Saturday. That should be on. It is on free on Fox Sports 1. That fight, the main event, should be on after LSU vs. Alabama, so just go ahead and flip over and watch Hendo work. As always, GatorCountry.com. I’ve got a good story. I was able to get in touch with Antonio Callaway’s mother, who confirmed to me that she would always cut the crust off of Antonio’s sandwiches before Jim McElwain took that job over. I also talked to some of his coaches. Give you guys a little glimpse of why nobody that knows him is really surprised at what he’s doing this year. As always, that will be on GatorCountry.com. Thank you for tuning into the podcast. NickdelaTorreGC on Twitter, AndrewSpiveyGC on Twitter. He’s going to ruin it, but you stay classy, Gator Country.
Andrew: Nick, I have one quick question before you.
Nick: I just said my line.
Andrew: I know, but I need to ask you one quick question.
Andrew: My girl Ronda Rousey is the girl right now. That is my woman crush Wednesday, or Thursday crush, whatever it is, for every day of the week.
Nick: Woman crush Wednesday.
Andrew: Yeah. Then Thursday crush woman. I don’t know. Whatever. I am going to ruin this, because Mark Richt is on the hot seat. I don’t want him to go nowhere, because Georgia game wouldn’t be as fun, because he sucks. As always, Mark, Butch, everybody else, you can be clean when you look as nice as Andrew. Peace out, Gator Country. As always, go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy.