The Florida Gators have been on the practice field for over three weeks now competing during spring practice and that will come to an end on Saturday when the Gators hold their annual Orange and Blue debut and with that comes a lot of questions.
So in this edition of the Gator Country podcast Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre answered the members football questions and there were a lot of good questions about how the team is looking and which players are standing out at the different positions.
Make sure to stay tuned to Gator Country.com as next week we recap how the Orange and Blue debut went plus give a look ahead of what’s next for the Gators football program.
* * * TRANSCRIPT:
Andrew: Hello, Gator Country. Your man, Andrew Spivey is back, and ready for action. Today joined by the man, the myth, the legend, Nicholas de la Torre. What’s going on, my man?
Nick: Thank you for that very accurate introduction, Andrew. I appreciate you letting everyone know. We do have, before we get into these questions, we’ve got a little bit of business. Your Atlanta fighting Braves are going down to Marlin’s Park for opening day, and I expect a sweep for the hometown fighting fish.
Andrew: Oh my God, Nick. I mean, don’t even start this.
Nick: Clean sweep.
Andrew: You own me to wear a Braves hat from two years ago. We go over this. I already have to see that stupid little model arctic, whatever you want to call it when the Gators hit a home run. I am definitely not looking to see that, but I will say that I do kind of like the ballpark. I like the dimensions of the ballpark. It is one of my favorite ones. I will say that I hate that Jose Fernandez is not pitching, because I love watching Jose pitch, but it should be a fun season, even for my Braves.
Nick: That’s how you know you are a baseball fan. Even though the Marlins are a divisional rival, you’re a little upset because you can’t see a great pitcher perform this weekend. That’s how you know you’re a true baseball fan.
Andrew: We do it big in the Atlanta area. We kind of enjoy beating up on your Marlins. But that’s not what these people want to hear us talk about. You and I kind of did a little different thing this week. We put up some questions from our mailbag. Let’s dive right into your football mailbag. We need to think of a cool nickname. So if anybody’s got a cool nickname for Nick and my podcast mailbag, let us know. Let’s just get started. Are you ready, Nicholas, because I’m about to put you on the spot?
Nick: Fire away.
Andrew: Fire away. Mr. XXGator, he was bringing the heat early on. He wants to know, how are the tight ends behind McGee doing pass catching and blocking?
Nick: Well, real quick on McGee, I think Jake McGee is the X factor in this offense. Anything that we’re really talking about as far as guys behind him, I don’t think they’re going to play as big of a role, but obviously you need depth. So I guess, I think the leader in the pack behind him is DeAndre Goolsby. Goolsby missed a little bit of practice on Wednesday. He’s banged up a little bit, but he’s a guy that, all these tight ends are kind of made in the same mold. Goolsby is more of the H back, which Florida’s going to kind of try to feature in this offense. So you’ve got guys like Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis, and a freshman who’s really impressed me, is much bigger than I thought, in Daniel Imatorbhebhe.
Andrew: Bhebhe, let’s just call him Bhebhe.
Nick: We’ll refer to him as Daniel or Bhebhe the rest of the way through here. Those are the guys that I’m really looking at. After Jake McGee, who is your clear cut number 1, I’m looking at C’yontai Lewis, Bhebhe, and DeAndre Goolsby. All three of those guys are great pass catchers. They’re learning and getting better as route runners, but all three of them are athletic guys that can do some things when you get the ball in their hands. Are they great blockers? No, not at this point in their career. Blocking goes a lot with strength, but then also technique. Technique is something you can teach and work on. It’s a craft that you can keep building on.
So right now, as far as blocking, Goolsby, Bhebhe, and C’yontai are really in the infancy stages of learning how to play with their hand on the ground and block, but they can give you so much as far as a weapon. You look at DeAndrew Goolsby, he’s 6’4”. Bhebhe is 6’3”, and C’yontai Lewis is 6’4”, so these are big targets, bit athletic guys that can create mismatches. So while they’re lacking a little bit as far as blocking tight ends, these three guys might be some of the best receivers on the team, after Demarcus Robinson, of course.
Andrew: Yeah. You and I, we used to brag on C’yontai Lewis a lot, and good luck covering that man. He is a coach’s dream for a tight end, in my opinion, and he’s a big, long, lanky guy that can play. Good luck if a linebacker’s on that kid. He’s going to be balling.
Mr. XX, he brought some more heat. He wants to know how the midlevel passing and receiving is looking.
Nick: Okay. So now we’re talking. A lot of what we see are these quick screens, and what I think McElwain is trying to do is something that the previous coaching staff either refused to do, didn’t think of, or wasn’t comfortable doing. There’s a lot of screens that we’re seeing that are being worked on, and it’s a lot of, well, where’s our mismatch? Demarcus Robinson is the most athletic player on our offense, and we’re going to put our chips behind him, saying that he’s better than whoever you’re lining up against him. So we’ll throw him a pass, a quick pass where Will Grier, or the quarterback, is taking the snap from under center and there’s no dropback. It’s plant that right foot, turn, get rid of the ball, and now we’re playing one on one. Can Demarcus beat the guy in front of him? So there’s a lot of short passing that they’re working on.
Grier, Harris, and the quarterbacks, none of them are afraid to take shots down the field. I think you saw Treon Harris do that last year, to the point where fans were crying and calling for Jeff Driskel to take some shots down the field. It seemed like Treon Harris just didn’t have a fear of, I’m going to throw it up, trust my receiver. If it gets picked, it gets picked, but I’m confident in my receiver and my ability. Will Grier has some of that too.
Then you get into the intermediate passing game, and we’re talking post, we’re talking drags. We’re talking 5, 10 yard ins, and this is where I really think there is separation in the quarterbacks. I think Will Grier is showing me an accuracy that none of the other quarterbacks have, where if the wide receiver is making his cut, Will Grier has already anticipated that cut, and is throwing the ball to his spot. These receivers are turning, the ball’s already out of Grier’s hand, and he’s hitting them where their arms are extended in front of their body. They’re not breaking stride. If anything, they’re taking maybe a quicker step to be where that ball is, and it’s carrying them up the field.
Whereas sometimes with Treon Harris those guys are catching the ball either in their body, where they might have to slow down a step. The difference just in those 6, 7 inches of where the ball is placed is a difference in Demarcus Robinson making a catch and being tackled immediately or him making a catch, swiveling his head, and seeing a ton of green in front of him. Then letting your skill position guys, the guys who can make people miss, letting them do what they do best.
I think that intermediate passing game right now is running most efficiently with Will Grier, but it’s definitely an improvement. I think both Treon Harris and Grier are an improvement from what we’ve had with Jeff Driskel in the intermediate passing game.
Andrew: Yeah. Quick, real quick let me add this to this. Nick, you and I talked about this a little bit the other day. Julio made a name for himself in Jim McElwain office on catching that little screen pass getting 10, 20, 30 yard. A couple games, I believe it was the LSU game when it was one versus two. He took it 85 yards for a touchdown. I’m not saying Demarcus Robinson’s Julio Jones by any means, but they still have the same body build that they’re big, tall, physical receivers.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, Florida tried some of these things in the past. They would throw that little pass to, you look at the Birmingham Bowl, they throw that pass to Ahmad Fulwood, and he takes it to the house. They would try to do it with Solomon Patten and some of the smaller receivers.
Andrew: I think it’s different when it’s a big receiver compared to a smaller receiver.
Andrew: Because the smaller receivers you’re trying to get guys out there to block. I think when the bigger receiver’s there it’s like you said, it’s a one on one, may the best man win. I’m not sure Vernon Hargreaves can tackle Demarcus Robinson 10 times out of 10 in one on one open field.
Nick: I don’t know if there’s anyone that can. 10 times out of 10, Vernon might be pretty close to being able to do it, but I don’t know if there’s anyone. He’s an electric playmaker. Everyone in the locker room calls him a freak, and that’s just what he is. He’s got a God given ability and talent that you can’t really teach. It’s just there. He has it.
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s move on real quick. Mr. BGator, one of our favorite members, come on with all these questions.
Nick: He’s the nicest member. I’ve never seen him, unless you’re a Florida State Seminole or a Miami Hurricane, I don’t think Mr. BGator has ever said a cross thing about you.
Andrew: There you go. He wants to know are there any position changes that you may see happen over the spring so far?
Nick: Yeah. I think when you look at, let’s start at linebacker. I think when you look at linebacker and where is Antonio Morrison health wise. The family has asked to respect the process, and we’ve done that. Morrison’s there. He’s constantly around the team. He’s out at practice, but where is he health wise? If he can’t come back, are you looking to make a move of one of these bigger guys? Can a Marcus Maye play some outside linebacker? Can Marcell Harris play some outside linebacker?
I’m really not seeing Marcell Harris get the amount of reps that guys like Duke Dawson, Maye, Keanu Neal, that those guys are getting back there. Maybe it’s a move that Marcell’s been hesitant to before, but he’s going on his third year here, and he hasn’t done much except play on special teams. Maybe it’s a move where he would even approach the coaching staff and say, I want to get on the field. It doesn’t look like it’s happening at safety, maybe there’s a possible move for me.
Other than that, I think that there aren’t too many moves that you’re going to make. Brandon Powell made the move from running back to receiver. He’s out for the spring with that foot injury that he dealt with last spring. Other than that there’s not too many guys. McElwain wants a fullback. Florida doesn’t have that on the roster. Maybe that’s something that he’ll look to get in recruiting, but there isn’t a guy on the roster where he would be able to say, I need you to play fullback. Don’t worry about it. I’ll teach you what we want. They just don’t have a guy with that skill set.
Andrew: I think a Goolsby could be a guy that you could see in that role a little bit, not your traditional fullback, but I think he’s a guy you could kind of see maybe being that guy that catches the ball out of the back field a little bit.
Nick: Yeah. It’s been interesting to watch the receivers work, because when they’re going through their passing on error drills just warming up, all the receivers are running routes, and they’re running digs. They’re running outs. Then Brandon Powell only ran little sweeps and flat routes out of the back, or wheel routes, my favorite route ever. You see the different ways they’re using, so if you’re out there watching practice you don’t think, he’s planning on using Brandon Powell the same way he’s planning on using Ahmad Fulwood. Now with Powell out, Latroy Pittman’s been moved back into that role. So it’s kind of like maybe he’s looking at two different kind of H back roles, or a different role for the slot receivers.
Then DeAndre Gools in a guy that we talked about his blocking before, perfect for the H back. When you think H back, I need, I know Gator fans, we’ve talked about H back with the past offenses, and you haven’t really ever seen it come to fruition, but I need you to think of what Aaron Hernandez was in Urban Meyers offense, a guy that’s lining up next to the quarterback in the back field, a guy that’s lining up wide, a guy that’s lining up right off tackle with his hand in the ground, a guy that’s lining up in the slot, all over the place. That’s a role I can see a DeAndre Goolsby or a C’yontai Lewis, and obviously also Jake McGee, fitting into.
Andrew: You know who you forgot? And this is still a question mark right now, but D’Anfernee McGriff. He’s kind of 50/50 on whether he’s going to get into school. If he gets into school, he fits that role great.
Nick: Perfectly, yeah. You watch this kid’s highlight tape, and then you watch him move and run away from people. You’re like, how big is he? Then you see that he’s 220, 230 pounds. You’re like, a guy that big isn’t supposed to move like that. I asked Jim McElwain at the National Signing Day press conference, because they signed him as an athlete. So I said, where do you see him fitting in, offense, defense? Right away McElwain said, you watch this kid’s highlight tape, you’re going to find a way to get the ball in his hands. So if he can come on, with the lack of playmakers that Florida has, I would not be surprised to see a freshman play.
I know it’s weird, the past four years tons of freshman have played. Muschamp would let you know, we pay freshman. They’re all on defense. With McElwain here I think, especially in his first couple years when he’s getting his guys on campus, I think you’re going to start seeing more and more freshman get a chance on offense, and D’Anfernee McGriff is a prime example, knock on wood, if he gets into school.
Nick: I’m here, Andrew.
Andrew: Okay. It cut out for a second. I think that your assessment is great on that. I think that he is a guy that I think can play that position. You and I kind of looked at him at the Under Armor game, and you had asked me how big he was. I don’t think you believed me until you saw him, and you were like, wow, that kid’s a monster.
Let’s kind of move on away from that. We got to wait a little bit for D’Anfernee. It’s still April, and won’t really know till June. So we’ll still wait a little bit. FDEL81, I don’t know how to say that. Who’s winning the quarterback battle, and prediction on who’s going to be the starting quarterback? I think I know your answer, and I don’t think it starts with a J.
Nick: Yeah. It is not Jacob Guy. From my eye, Will Grier is winning this quarterback battle. To me, Grier has adapted to taking the ball from under center and the footwork that is required to take these different drops, to take a three step, a five step, a seven step drop, all these different drops that he’s going to be asked to do. Then as far as in the pocket, keeping his feet moving while he’s going through reads and going through progressions. I think Will Grier’s been more accurate. We touched on that earlier. I honestly think that this was the plan, and the previous coaching staff planned for Will Grier to be the quarterback of the future. The new coaching staff comes in, so the slates are wiped clean.
I honestly believe that both Treon Harris and Will Grier, I’ll say this. All four quarterbacks that I’ll mention now had a chance, because the slate was wiped clean. So Skylar Mornhinweg, Jacob Guy, Will Grier, and Treon Harris all had a chance, but when you watch practice Grier and Harris are head and shoulders clearly better than Guy and Mornhinweg. I think Guy is clearly better than Mornhinweg, but not on that same level. So Guy would be in a tier 2, behind Will Grier and Treon Harris.
I think that Will Grier has separated himself, just more accurate. He looks more polished back there. He’s making quicker decisions. They work like a seven on seven kind of, not with any linebackers, just receivers and defensive backs. Will Grier seems to be able to see when nothing is there and tuck it down and run, which the coaching staff is asking them. It seems like when Treon Harris does tuck it down and run it’s because Doug Nussmeyer’s standing behind him yelling, nothing there, go, go. It just seems like Will is kind of anticipating things a little quicker than Treon is right now.
Andrew: Right. I think you and I agree. We’ve hit on this several times. We thought Will was the guy. Last question before I get you out of here. I know I put you on the hot seat, and you’re probably burning right now. LurkingGator has a tough question, and I’m going to split this up. So follow along with me here, but he wants to know midway through the spring your predicted depth chart and info on the guys who clearly want a starting spot. So I’m going to start and put you on the spot with the five offensive linemen. Let’s start with the big uglies up front. Give me your five starting offensive linemen.
Nick: Okay. My line is, I put it on the boards, and I’m sure if you’re on the message boards you’ve picked up on it. I’m going with David Sharpe at left tackle, Antonio Riles at left guard. Trip Thurman’s going to be your center. Right guard is going to be Andrew Mike, and right tackle is going to be Rod Johnson. Those are my five. Obviously we’re not seeing Trip Thurman right now, because he’s injured. I think those are my five until I see what Martez Ivey looks like when he gets on campus. I’m not going to rule out that Martez Ivey can play as a freshman. I’m not ready to pencil in a freshman who I haven’t seen play this level yet. I’m not ready to pencil him into that starting five.
Andrew: Before I ask you the next one, I just want to say real quick, on this day, April 4th, April 2nd, whatever day today is, that I believe Martez Ivey is your starting right tackle, and Rod Johnson or David Sharpe are playing right guard. We’re not here to talk my opinion.
Nick: I will say this. If Martez Ivey can come in and earn a starting job, playing Rod Johnson at guard. This is what I’ll say. If Ivey’s good enough to beat out Rod at right tackle, where the coaching staff says, we’re comfortable enough with what we see from Martez that we think Rod gives us an advantage over one of the other two guards, then Fuller’s line is better.
Andrew: I’m with you.
Nick: I’m not saying putting Martez Ivey in is a mistake. I’m saying if Martez Ivey can come in and beat Rod Johnson, who I think has all SEC written all over him, down the line, I think if Martez Ivey can come in and force Rod Johnson down inside to either right or left guard, that Florida’s going to be even better off than that initial five line that I just stated.
Andrew: You told me quarterback. Quarterback’s Will Grier. Running back? Jordan Scarlett’s not on campus right now, and Adam Lane is who knows, so I’m guessing the odd man wins the job is Kelvin Taylor?
Nick: McElwain came out and called out Adam Lane on Monday. He went back to practice on Wednesday. I don’t know where, I don’t know what Adam Lane’s doing. Obviously he’s been on campus for a while, and hasn’t gotten the opportunity. So not to put a thought in his head or words in his mouth, but he probably feels maybe slighted that he hasn’t gotten his opportunity with the past coaching staff. Now you have a new staff, a new slate, a clean slate, and what do you do? You have an injury.
To be fair, only Adam Lane knows what his hamstring really feels like, but Jim McElwain’s talking to the doctors that are evaluating him, and Jim McElwain has shown, DeAndre Goolsby was banged up. He held him from practice. Brandon Powell’s got a hot spot he calls it, in his foot, where they put the screw in. He’s done, shuts him down. It’s not like McElwain is saying, we need you out there whether you’re in a cast or not. He called him out and said, I don’t think he’s injured. I think he’s hurt, and there’s a difference between the two. So I think Adam Lane is maybe even putting himself back into that dog house that he was in before.
Obviously, go Raiders, I am a St. Thomas Aquinas alum and completely 100% biased, I admit it, to Jordan Scarlett, a fellow Raider. I do think de facto, Kelvin Taylor wins the job initially, but I think Scarlett as the year goes on eats into Kelvin Taylor’s carries more and more. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Scarlett earns at least one start or earns close to as many carries as Taylor when it’s all said and done in November after the Florida State game’s over.
Andrew: I’m guessing we can go de facto, Jake McGee at tight end. So let’s move to receiver. We know Demarcus Robinson’s going to be the X game one. Is it CJ Worton inside? Is it Brandon Powell inside? Who gets the Z opposite?
Nick: I think opposite is going to be Fulwood. I still think he’s the most polished wide receiver after Demarcus Robinson. In the inside I think you’re really using CJ Worton as your more typical slot guy, like when you think of a slot receiver running those slants and those drags, stuff over the middle that’s short. There’s that short passing game. Also maybe hitting the seam. I think that’s what you see him for, and then when they’re going to more stuff that’s going to be screens, bubble screens, maybe short, not trick plays, but kind of designed plays, I think you’re going to have designed plays for Brandon Powell versus saying, CJ Worton is running the offense.
Andrew: Right. So we’ve hit the offense. Let’s go to the defensive side of the ball where things are a lot more clear. Let’s start with the big uglies up front. John John’s having a good, an okay spring. McCalister. Give me your starting defensive line.
Nick: I’m going to go, nobody ever says your base is nickel, but Florida’s base is going to be nickel. You’re going to see like last year 70 or more percent of the time Florida’s going to be in a 4-2-5 nickel defense. So on the line you’re going to go Jon Bullard at strong side defensive end. Alex McCalister playing the other side. It’s kind of a buck. He’s definitely playing with his hand in the ground more than he did last year. So, McCalister on the weak side. Then inside you’ve got two big boys in Joey Ivie and Taven Bryan. Bryan’s really just shot out. You kind of say he shot out of nowhere. Alex McCalister said on Wednesday, I know one person from Wyoming, and that’s Taven Bryan.
Taven Bryan’s a guy that we both personally liked last year. We knew the past coaching staff liked, and this coaching staff just love him. Coach Rumph said he doesn’t let him sit at the big boy table yet, because he’s still learning and still swimming. He said he’s feeding him Gerber baby food, but maybe by the time the season comes around he’ll be sitting at the grown up table eating turkey and mashed potatoes with everyone else. I think that’s going to be your starting line.
You get a lot of raw athleticism and speed from Ivie and Bryan inside that I think you don’t get a lot of out of that position. Maybe in the SEC, but not the route college football. You’re not going to get the kind of athleticism that they bring. Obviously Jon Bullard’s a guy that can slide down inside, play outside, and Alex McCalister continues to add weight. He told me he wants to be 255 before fall camp starts, which would be the heaviest he ever weighed. I remember, you probably remember talking to him when he was a 6’7”, 210 pound prospect.
Andrew: 207 was the first time I ever spoke to Alex McCalister, and I said, no way will this kid ever play in the SEC. Real quick, I got to throw this in, big sexy, Chris Rumph, that’s his nickname. It was pretty cool.
Nick: Moving onto linebacker, you’re really only going to need two, because you have the strength is your secondary. I think starting linebacker, if they’re both healthy and 100%, which I definitely expect Jarrad Davis to be. It’s a little murkier, a little cloudier around Antonio Morrison, but those are your two guys. Then right after Morrison I put Alex Anzalone. Anzalone’s really stepped up this spring as far as taking control of things, not just taking control of the linebackers, but taking control of the entire defense.
Kind of in a roll that you saw John Bostick, Jelani Jenkins kind of share where they were so vocal and got everyone where they needed to be. I see Anzalone taking that step. Choppa Dan, Daniel McMillian, he’s making strides. I see him as the fourth guy there, and then Matt Rolin, obviously, has an opportunity if he can stay healthy. Hopefully he can change his narrative a little bit. The guy has had to deal with some ACL injuries, but Florida’s got a lot of talent at linebacker. Obviously it’s kind of a waiting game to see where Morrison and Davis are health wise.
Andrew: I think you see Rolin play some sand linebacker as well. I think you’ll, when they go to a base defense of a 4-3, I think you’ll see Rolin play a 4-3. I agree with you on Anzalone. He’s a smart guy. His dad’s a doctor. His dad’s a doctor. His mom’s really smart. Alex is a smart guy. Back to the, in my opinion, the best secondary in the country, hands down. Vernon Hargreaves is locking down one side corner. Who’s got the other corner?
Nick: I honestly think, it sounds like a cop out, but I honestly think it’s going to be a healthy rotation. Right now it seems like JC Jackson’s getting the most work, but you can’t rest, you can’t sleep on a guy like Quincy Wilson. Obviously Jalen Tabor, a freshman all SEC coming back. So Florida’s got more cornerbacks then they know what to do with. You still put Bryan Poole down in nickel. I see Quincy Wilson working in the nickel some as well. So I don’t know if you’ll have a set starter.
It may be a situation where Florida is playing matchups. We’re going against a team that has smaller, quicker wide receivers, JC Jackson has probably the best hips on the team, can turn and run. We’ll start him. Okay, maybe they have a bigger guy coming in. Jalen Tabor, I think JC Jackson’s 5’10”, 5’11”. Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson both well over 6’ tall, maybe you put one of them in starting. I think it’s a situation where Quincy, JC, and Jalen all might start three, four games apiece, but all of the cornerbacks will be playing a ton.
Andrew: Now back to safety. KeKe, Keanu Neal. He’s got one. Who’s got the other one?
Nick: Right now it’s Marcus Maye. It seems to be every single spring Marcus Maye has a starting safety spot on lock down. By the second game, third game of the year, he’s gone. Right now it looks like Marcus Maye, behind him you’ve got Duke Dawson is really getting the next share of reps after him. Then guys like Marcell Harris are kind of just sitting there waiting for an opportunity, but right now I think it’s Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye, and then after him Duke Dawson. So we’ll see.
Andrew: I am a big Marcus Maye guy. I really like Marcus Maye. He’s a very talented guy. He’s a risk taker. That’s his only problem is he’s a risk taker. He’s a guy that you can almost expect to give up a touchdown a game, but you can almost expect him to get an interception a game or a big play a game.
Nick: It’s a hard mentality to break, because when you’re that athletic, and you’re so much better your entire life than the kids you’re going up against, and now you’re at a place like Florida. What got me here? Taking those chances, taking those risks. It’s always worked out for me in the past. It got me to where I am. Why stop doing it? So it’s a hard mentality to break, but I agree with you. I like him. He’s got the world of athletic ability. He’s just got to put it all together.
Andrew: I completely agree. Nick, I’m going to take you off the hot seat. Guys, I hope you liked this one, so far. Let us know your feedback on this. We’re going to keep doing this as long as you guys want it. For Andrew, I am signing off, and Nicholas, final words and parting shots?
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Nation.
Andrew: Thanks, guys.