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Recruiting needs
podcast- Florida Gators

Written by Andrew Spivey, March 12, 2015, 0 Comments,
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In the latest episode of Gator Country’s  podcast, Nick de la Torre and Andrew Spivey talk about the recruiting needs for the class of 2016 plus some names to watch at the positions of needs. We also talk about some of the big names that will be visiting Florida this weekend for the first of three junior days.

Also in this podcast Nick and myself talk about how the baseball team has risen to the number 1 team in the country plus what makes the undefeated Gators softball team so successful.

This is the second of our new and improved podcast, stay tuned for more this spring!!!

 **** TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:            What’s up, Gator Country? Your boy Andrew Spivey is back, and Nicholas de la Torre is back. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:            What’s going on? Just sitting here angry about the NCAA banning my big guys, my offensive line, defensive line, for rolling up their jerseys. I’m going to miss TJ Humphries and Darius Cummings showing off the gut. The NCAA trying to follow suit with the NFL, the no fun league, so no more guts for us. We’ll live. We’ll learn.

Andrew:            Speaking of the gut, maybe we should get Jon Halapio to come on and voice his disapproval of the no gut league.

Nick:            We will. We’re focusing on a little recruiting today, a little softball, baseball, two number one teams, but maybe we can get Jon on for our second podcast this week. Make his plea to the NCAA.

Andrew:            Speaking of number one, your boys finally decided to join my girls at the top of the podium at number one. Let’s start with your boys, since they have to follow my girls. I’ll let you be the leader for a change. Baseball come out with a big series win over Maine. Maine’s not a very good team, but I think you still see that this baseball team’s a lot better than maybe we all thought. Surprising guys, Guthrie, JJ Schwartz, Josh Tobias, just give us a rundown of the season so far for that baseball team.

Nick:            What happened, the site that named them number one is D1 Baseball. They brought over a guy, Kendall Rogers, he was from Perfect Game. Brought over some new guys, but they’re probably the most thorough website that’s doing rankings. Of course, for football you’ve really got two rankings, two ranking systems that you pay attention to. In baseball there’s six. D1 Baseball is the one that I pay attention to the most. What happened is Vandy goes out west. They’re playing a tournament at Dodgers Stadium. They went 1-2 on the weekend. They were the number one team. Florida sweeps Maine, split with number nine UCF. So Florida jumps up a spot.

They had to do it a lot this weekend without Harrison Bader, and they’ve been without Pete Alonzo all season. They’ve been without freshman Jeremy Vasquez all season. Bader is expected to be back for the weekend. Vasquez is supposed to play one of these two games against Fairfield this week. He’s a freshman, broke his hand in the spring, but he’s more than ready. Got his cast off last week, more than ready to get back in, start hitting balls. Once you get Harrison Bader and Alonzo and Vasquez back in this lineup, you can see what happened to Florida’s lineup when you take Harrison Bader out. You see Sunday Florida struggled, left 15 people on base.

So the lineup with Bader had a lot of bite, and Bader’s leading the team in average, hitting 429, leading in homeruns with 6, 21 RBIs. He’s just been on a tear to begin the year. So taking him out really hurt, but then when you get Pete Alonzo. Alonzo was going to hit fourth in this lineup, and then you lose him with a broken foot the week of the first game. Vasquez is a kid that can play right field, where they’ve been platooning guys. They’ve been platooning Ryan Larson out there. They’ve put Christian Hicks out there. Logan Browning’s been out there. So you get a guy like Vasquez that can stop the platoon in right field and at first base. Now you have Alonzo playing first and playing right. Vasquez playing first and playing right, and you’re getting two better sticks.

So Florida as a team is hitting 300, and I think getting these bats back into the lineup it’s only going to help and improve the lineup. Then you got the pitching staff. Logan Shore’s thrown 19 in a third innings, hasn’t given up a run. Sophomore Dane Dunning only threw 67 pitches yesterday, but he’s got a 1.29 ERA and is 4-0 on the year. Florida’s weekend staff has done an incredible job. They’re 10-1 through nonconference play with Tennessee coming in. Florida, I think last year won the SEC, and everyone thought this team is a year away. Well, now we’re here. Florida’s ready to contend, to win the SEC again, and really the only thing they’re thinking is Omaha, and right now it looks like they have the arms and the sticks to be able to make that run to Omaha.

Andrew:            I think that, I’ve been kind of an outside observer with the baseball team so far. The one thing that I guess sees my glaring problem early on is two being Buddy Reid at the two hole, three hole being Richie Martin, and then really no protection behind Bader, which now JJ Schwartz has done that.

Nick:            Well they switched that up with just how good Bader been’s hitting. They moved Bader into the three hole, where Richie Martin was. Really the plan was at the beginning of the year was to go Guthrie, Reid, Martin, Alonzo, and then protect Alonzo with Bader, and then Shore’s behind him. That lineup right there, that’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of guys that are going to hit for average. I think some of what you’re seeing is they’ve had some unfortunate injuries.

Andrew:            Right.

Nick:            But once you put this lineup in, and you’re getting a guy like Mike Rivera who had a huge RBI double in the eighth yesterday, that’s going to be your seven or eight batter. Top to bottom this is a scary lineup when everyone’s healthy.

Andrew:            Yeah. I agree. I think getting Alonzo back is that. I don’t want to say that Bader’s, Bader is a complete hitter, but I think I look at Bader more as a gap to gap hitter, whereas I look at Alonzo more as your power hitter. I know Bader has six home runs already, so I guess I’ll feel more comfortable when Alonzo’s hitting that cleanup, maybe protecting Bader in the three hole, or whether Bader’s protecting Alonzo.

Nick:            You’re spot on with that. Bader is a gap to gap hitter. He has more home runs through the first 16 games this year than he had all last season. He did miss 19 games last year with a suspension, but still. In the first month of the season he has more homeruns than he had all of last year. I think the power production, you’re a little surprised to see him hitting so many home runs, but when you’re hot, you’re hot. You kind of got to ride the wave in baseball, and while you’re hot keep doing the same thing. Eat the same breakfast, lunch, dinner, wear your same underwear on game day. Don’t change anything when you’re hitting the way he is.

Andrew:            When you’re hot, you’re hot. Don’t change the socks. Don’t change anything. Still rub the lucky bat and everything like that.

Nick:            Wear those smelly socks until you go 0-4.

Andrew:            There you go. It’s funny that you say that about the power for baseball, because when you start to look at the softball team, who is 27-0, set the school record for longest winning streak to begin a season with 27-0. Previous was 25-0. You start to look at the softball team. Tim Walton is not a softball coach.

Nick:            Let me ask you this. I’m looking from an outside perspective, covering baseball. Looking from outside, just watching casually. Softball, I think this is what you were about to say, but Tim Walton won a college world series to Oklahoma, grew up a baseball player. He’s really built this softball team not like a softball team. They’re built like a baseball team in the way that they approach hitting. Can you expand on that? Is that kind of right?

Andrew:            Yeah. I mean, when the college softball fan looks at college softball you think, this is going to be a team that slaps. This is going to be a team that bunts. This is going to be a team that just runs around.

Nick:            Station to station softball.

Andrew:            There you go. You start to look at this softball team, and 42 home runs on the year. 42. I mean, that’s huge. This is a team that can hit for power, can hit for average. The team’s batting 323 on the year. They get hit by a pitch. They’re a squeeze team, a bunt team. In my opinion, it is a baseball team on the softball diamond, and that is you squeezing ladies up. You’re bunting runners up to second and third, for the big home run, or the big two run double. It is a baseball team playing softball, but what’s funny is, so the long ball’s not going out, this team still hits for average. They still can put runners on base. Kirsti Merritt’s already set the record for 20 hit by pitches in a season, 20 now. We’re 27 games in.

Nick:            Get her some ice.

Andrew:            Yeah. Somebody get her some ice. There you go. So you start to look at this team, and it’s like where do you approach this team? You don’t let them hit the long ball. Okay, that’s fine. Lauren Haeger’s going to put a double off the wall, or Kelsey Stewart’s going to hit a little blooper into center and take second, because she is by far the fastest girl in the country. Or you’re going to get a single, it’s just going to be in second. So where do you approach this team, from an offensive standpoint it’s crazy, because one through nine you’re looking at the nine hole hitter for Florida being Alicia Ocasio, the freshman. She’s hitting 375 on the year, already has 12 total bases in 15 plate appearances. She’s just coming along.

Then you start to look at Aubree Munro, who usually hits eight, and again she’s a home run hitter. She hits a walk off three run homer the other day to put Florida ahead. So it’s like where do you approach this team? It’s very tough to approach this team, and Florida has three runners that come in to be their, I guess you would say designated runners, as well. They have several girls coming off the bench that don’t even play. Briana Little, who set the Florida record for three home runs in a game, rotates in left field. She doesn’t even see game action every day. It’s a powerhouse team that you’ve seen, and then he’s built his rotation like a baseball rotation.

Nick:            Let’s talk about that rotation. You mentioned Lauren Haeger, and that’s the big name coming back. You’ve had big names in the past, last year with Hannah Rogers. Before her Stephanie Brambacher. So there’s been big names, but it’s not like a softball team. In baseball that overhand pitching motion is the most unnatural thing you can do, and arms get tired, and you can wear people down.

Softball’s the exact opposite. That underhand motion is a normal, natural motion for the shoulder, and a lot of times you’ll see a softball team throw one girl in a double header. Florida doesn’t really do that. They’re playing Oregon, number two Oregon. They’re playing number three, Michigan, and they’re not throwing their ace. How has Tim Walton been able to build a staff where he’s confident in three, four pitchers to throw out against some of the best teams in the country?

Andrew:            Yeah. I mean, number two Michigan has faced a freshman in Alicia Ocasio and sophomore Delanie Gourley, a lefty. Number two Oregon has faced the freshman Alicia Ocasio, sophomore Delanie Gourley. They haven’t even seen the supposedly ace for Florida in Lauren Haeger. I think that what Tim Walton’s wanted to do is softball is all about seeing the rotation of the ball. You see Lauren Haeger for three games on a weekend, hitters are going to adjust to that. Not no more. Florida’s going to throw Lauren Haeger on Friday, Alicia Ocasio on Saturday, and Delanie Gourley on Sunday.

There’s no repetitiveness out of that, and it’s crazy because you look at some of the top teams they have one, two pitchers that can go out there and throw, but no, not this team. They got three, and three that are really good. The highest earned run average on this team is Delanie Gourley with a 106, and that all came about because Michigan put a four spot on her in the first two innings of the game, and that was the number three team in the country. You look at Lauren Haeger, .59 earned run average. She’s given up five earned runs, and she’s pitched 59 innings. That’s unheard of. Then Alicia Ocasio, who’s a freshman, who a lot of people said, she’s just another girl that’s going to ride pine. .69 earned run average, 9-0, coming with six earned runs given up in 60 innings pitched. Again, that’s unheard of.

I think that Walton has built this team to be such a baseball powerhouse on the softball field that it’s going to be very tough to take two games out of three from this team. Do I think they’ll lose a game? Absolutely, everybody’s going to lose a game, but I think that it’s going to be very tough to take a series, or when you get into the post season to take a series in the post season, from this team, because there’s so much depth. If Delanie Gourley’s struggling, then you bring in Ocasio. If Ocasio’s struggling, you bring in Lauren Haeger, and all three bring something different. Haeger is more of your speed and location. Gourley’s more of her movement, and Ocasio’s more of her speed changing. She throws a really good changeup on top of a fast ball.

So it’s, again, it’s a very different team, and for me it’s just fun to watch, because it’s like Walton has built this team to be so different that it’s very different for teams to adjust to. Again, if you’re a Florida fan right now, this is the time to start watching the softball team as they move into SEC play this weekend against LSU, who comes in 24-0 against 27-0 Florida. So big season ahead for, I think the diamond girls and the diamond guys.

Nick:            I’ve, I think, joked about this. It might not be a joke. Tim Walton has built a machine with this softball team, and we’ve talked about how they’re doing this season. Obviously, number one in the country, undefeated, on a roll. They’re beating top ranked teams.

Something you and I have talked about personally is is Tim Walton building this Florida softball program into like a Geno Auriemma UConn women’s basketball, where you’re building it to a height where the program starts recruiting itself, and now you’ve got girls who are growing up playing softball, 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, getting into high school and dreaming of playing for Tim Walton and playing for Florida? Do you see Florida’s softball program kind of being on that trajectory to a place where it starts becoming the dream? Now obviously Tim still needs to go out and the do the recruiting and get the players, but the program gets to a certain level and a certain height where it just starts recruiting itself.

Andrew:            Yeah. You know Florida really has based recruiting in two states, the state of Florida and the state of California. They go to California for an 11 game trip, and go out there and win 11-0 and beating teams like Michigan, beating teams like Oregon, beating teams like Arizona, with California girls. You start to look at Florida’s roster. You look at Kayli Kvistad, Briana Little, Nicole DeWitt, just all these girls who are younger classman girls that these girls are looking up to are out there performing well.

Then you start to look at there’s California girls on the team. [Janelle Wheaton] is a freshman from that San Diego area, and she goes out there and hits a grand slam last weekend. That’s definitely proving the stock of Tim Walton’s team. I mean, if you’re a softball girl right now you start to look, and you’re like, dang, why not join Florida? They’re 27-0, and they just knocked off the number two and number three teams, 2-0, 2-0, against both of those. So who’s challenging these girls? Again, I do think it is. Again, it’s Tim Walton, his demeanor about the game that is so, I guess, enticing to girls.

Nick:            It’s like you said, it’s less of a softball approach and more of a baseball approach. That’s probably something new, fun, different, for them to take on. We would be remiss, we have talked about the two number one teams in the country as far as baseball and softball go, but we know we can’t leave a podcast without talking some football, and recruiting is hot. We have a junior day coming up. We’ll talk to coach McElwain tomorrow, and spring practice is right around the corner.

Andrew, getting into recruiting, obviously it was a whirlwind for the new staff coming in, having a month to fix an eight man class, which ended up being a six man class after two de-commitments, with a full year to go, where are Jim McElwain and the Florida staff, where are they turning their attention to in the beginning of this class?

Andrew:            I think you’re starting to see this class starting to shape up of guys that Jim McElwain is, I don’t want to say, has basically told them I want to start fresh, but he has told them he wants to start fresh basically. You start to look at guys like Nate Craig, the wide receiver committed to Auburn. When Will Muschamp was at Florida, Florida has -5,000% chance of getting Nate Craig.

Nick:            That sounds like there’s not a great chance.

Andrew:            Exactly. So McElwain is just really starting to get out and tell people, look, we’re changing this program. This is what we’re going to build. Come be a part of it. Of course, there’s so many needs in this class. Again, Will Muschamp, I hate to use the word left it bare, but he left some glaring holes, and I don’t want to call him dumb, but some of them are very dumb. Offensive line, linebackers are very dumb that he didn’t recruit. Again, that’s a huge need. Florida signed six last year. They got to have five more offensive linemen this year. Florida didn’t sign any one linebacker last year, they got to go big this year. They need three or four this year, no doubt.

Nick:            We were sitting here in this position last year after the 2014 signing class, and we said, Florida made linebacker, Florida, because they’d gotten so many the year before, Florida was able to be picky on linebacker. They missed on Raekwon McMillan, and they missed on Clifton Garrett. You say, that’s fine. You had two that you were willing to take, and if you don’t get them that’s okay, because you had four the previous class. I think four or five. So it doesn’t matter, but you got to get some this year, and then you go this year where you don’t get any, or you get one, but he’s probably going to need to take a red shirt. So now you’re in a situation where linebacker is a dire need, and you’re going to need to sign I would say four, if not five. Would you agree with that four or five number?

Andrew:            Yeah. I would say right now, heading into the class, four is kind of the projected number that you want to get, but again, I can’t blame it all on Will Muschamp, because Randy Shannon, Jim McElwain, they had a month to get it, but a month to get recruits is very tough to get a linebacker convinced. So I understand that, but again, you’ve got to do that. You got to get four in this class. This class, I don’t want to say is absolutely loaded at linebacker, but there are some very good prospects in state that you can start to turn at and look to. They’ve already got one in Vosean Joseph from Norland that has done pretty well in the camp circuit so far. Didn’t get invited to the opening, but had a rave reviews about him as well in there.

You start to look at some other guys that are on the bore. You got a Miami linebacker commit, Shaquille Kortman, goes by Shaq Kortman, from Orange Park. He’s going to come in this weekend for a visit. Trey Lamar, who in my opinion might be the best linebacker Florida has a shot with, he’s 6’3”, 240, from Roswell, Georgia. He’s going to come in on the 21st. That’s the guy that in my opinion Florida needs to hammer down on and make a priority. Right now Florida’s top three with Georgia and Auburn, and he says Alabama’s in there as well, but he didn’t talk about Alabama as much as he talks about Georgia and Florida.

Then you start to look at some of the other guys. Jaquan Yulee is from Chesapeake, Virginia, but there’s a connection, and I can’t exactly pronounce the guy’s name, the new graduate assistant quality control coach came from Norfolk State, Mark, I can’t even pronounce his name. He has a connection to Jaquan Yulee up in the Virginia area, and he’s a big guy. He’s 6’3”, about 220, and he’s supposedly going to come down here in the next couple weeks. That’s another guy you’re going to look at.

So the linebacker class is not going to be able to be picky with, but if you start to get some of these big names to come in you can start to gain some of these guys. I think you have to get two middle linebackers in this class. You’re going to graduate Antonio Morrison. Jared Davis is going to be another year, and then he’s going to be out of there. You’re still questioning what Daniel McMillan and what Alex Anzalone are going to do. So you get two big middle linebackers in this class, Trey Lamar will be one of those guys.

Then in my opinion the other biggest needs are quarterback and receiver.

Nick:            Let’s talk about quarterback, because I think you and I disagreed a little bit this year. I said, if you’re Jim McElwain and the staff, you have to think that in Treon Harris and in Will Grier you’ve got your starting quarterbacks. So I didn’t feel like Florida needed to land a great quarterback in this recruiting class, because you think, well Harris a sophomore. Grier is a red shirt freshman. If we get a kid this class, now we’ve got two freshman and a sophomore. You’d rather have your next guy come in this class, so now the kid, your next quarterback, will be a freshman when Will is a red shirt sophomore, and when Treon is a junior. Then you have that year of separation. A freshman you can red shirt him and give him a year to grow and develop, like Grier was able to last year.

But not getting any quarterback last class, while I don’t think it’s bad, puts you in a situation where you have to nail it this year, and you can’t afford to have Grier or Harris transfer, which is why I don’t think we’re going to have a starting quarterback named after spring ball, because you can’t risk naming one, having one of those two guys leave, and then you’re left with Harris or Grier and Skylar Mornhinweg, and we’ve seen what Skylar Mornhinweg looks like at quarterback. So you need to keep Grier and Harris there, and you need to find your next quarterback in this class.

Andrew:            Yeah. You have to go elite here. There’s a lot of, I guess you could say, good names out there, then there are some elite names. Florida really wanted KJ Costello from California. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Right now he says Stanford, USC’s going to be the choice here in a couple weeks. Jacob Eason is the five star, probably number one, quarterback out of Washington. He’s currently committed to Georgia. Says he’s going to visit Florida. We’ll see if he does. With the coaching change to Georgia, maybe Florida does get in there.

After that, it’s kind of a log jam of where a lot of people disagree. Some people believe Philippe Franks is the guy Florida should go on. He’s a 6’6”, 203 pound kid from Crawfordville, Florida, committed to LSU. Nick, you and I’ve seen him several times. I told you several times I don’t see Philippe Franks being that elite guy. I think his accuracy lacks. I’m not sold on Philippe Franks. There’s a couple other guys, Dwayne Haskins is another guy that is from the Maryland area. He’s going to visit Florida. There’s a couple of other guys that Florida’s kind of snooping around on, Jawon Pass, Xavier Gaines, that they’re just kind of snooping around on right now.

I don’t think that really Florida has maybe pinpointed their number one guy after a guy like Eason and Costello. There’s Jake Allison that’s committed to Miami that’s in state right now. I personally think he’s a really good quarterback and a guy that Florida could move on here in the spring when they go out on evaluation period. So I think that’s when Florida will really nail down, okay, this is the guy we’re about to go at full force, balls to the wall, when they go out on spring evaluation period.

Nick:            Let me ask you this, because quarterback is a different animal in recruiting. You see a guy like Will Grier commits right around the end of his junior year. Quarterbacks are committing earlier and earlier, with the thought process of, I’ve nailed down my school, build the recruiting class around me. So I know Florida still has to do their spring evaluations, the coaching staff was wrapped up in the last recruiting class, because they had to move so quickly. Now they need to focus on the football team and spring football, installing new offense and defensive schemes. When does Florida need to nail down, okay, we’ve got our kid? Obviously they want to do it by the summer, but is there a month, a week, a date, that you can say Florida needs to have their quarterback committed by now?

Andrew:            June 1st. June 1st has always kind of been the so-called date that a lot of kids start to move.

Nick:            You start to see a quarterback domino game where one quarterback will commit here, and then the next four days you’ll get four more commitments.

Andrew:            Right. That’s what you’re starting to see. You see Eason, he’s off the board to Georgia. KJ Costello is about to be off the board here in a couple of weeks, couple days, to USC or Stanford. Philippe Franks is off the board. You start to look at Brandon McIlwain, the four star that committed to South Carolina last fall/early winter. So you’re starting to see that come about, but most of your top quarterbacks will be committed in the summer months. So Florida needs to say, by June 1st I want to either be in the lead or very much in the discussion for my quarterback, and if not, then you start to say, oh shit. You start to worry about where you’re going to be, because if Florida doesn’t sign a lead quarterback in this class, to be fair, they’re screwed.

Nick:            I wouldn’t say, put up the white flag, shoot the flares, if Florida doesn’t get their lead quarterback. I think best case scenario you get your elite quarterback, because let’s say Will Grier wins the starting quarterback job. I expect Will to win the starting quarterback job this year. You think you have him for three more years, so it might push a time, if you miss on a quarterback on this year, and you don’t get one till 2017, I think it might push that timetable up for him as far as red shirting and being able to take his time. So I won’t shoot the flare and send out an SOS if Florida doesn’t get the next guy this class. Optimally, obviously, you get your next guy, the guy that you view as in three years this is going to be the guy that’s leading us to an SEC championship game.

Andrew:            You get worried.

Nick:            Yes. You need somebody.

Andrew:            You need a quarterback in this class. Somebody that says, Will Grier wins the starting job. Treon transfers. Treon wins the starting quarterback job, Will Grier transfers. This guy could back it up. You cannot have a situation where you have Jeff Driskel in the game, he gets hurt, and you have a guy like Skylar Mornhinweg who gives you absolutely no chance to win a football game.

Nick:            Right. I mean, you look at the game plan that they went in with Skylar, and they say, we tried to take Jadeveon Clowney out of the game. Skylar Mornhinweg threw the ball 11 times, and 7 of those came on the last drive when Florida was down with a couple minutes left in the game. So that tells you where the coaching staff’s confidence level was in him. Nothing against him. He’s a good kid. It’s very hard to be a student athlete at any college, especially a school like Florida where the academic demands are rivaled by the athletic demands. He’s just not going to win Florida football games, and you need to find a kid, even if he’s not going to be the next great quarterback at Florida, someone that you can feel comfortable throwing in in an emergency situation.

Wrap that up real quick, because we got off on a little tangent. Florida would love to, and needs to, get their next quarterback in this class. If they miss out on their next quarterback, you and I are not ready to jump ship, but it’s like linebacker, if you can be selective, that’s fine, and don’t land anyone it puts more importance on that next class. Right now it’s very important for Florida to get a quarterback. If they don’t, not the worst, but then the next season it’s an absolute must, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Andrew:            Agreed. We’ve got a couple minutes left before we got to jump off of here. Let’s end on the receiver class. I say receiver is a huge need, and I don’t think that it’s a huge need in they need large numbers, but Demarcus Robinson’s probably gone after this year. Unless he just has a crap year this year, he’s likely gone. So that’s your big play, explosive receiver, gone. Florida needs to land a guy, and, damn, did they get lucky. This is the best receiver class in the state of Florida that I can remember in a long time. You start to run off names after names, after names, in the top 100, and you’re lucky, wide receiver, Florida, wide receiver, Florida, wide receiver, Florida, so on and so on. So you start to look at guys that Florida could possibly land. Nate Crick, number one receiver in the country, 6’2”, 200 pounds, is a smaller guy in that maybe he isn’t the 6’5” receiver, but he’s 6’2”, and he’s a manchild. He’s committed to Auburn already.

Nick:            But I’ve read your story in your interview with Nate, and it seems like he’s not really 100% in that commitment.

Andrew:            No. Definitely not. I think it was one of those situations that he went to Auburn, felt the love at Auburn. Auburn has a big play receiver. Florida had Will Muschamp. It was like, ugh, Will Muschamp? No, thank you. So it went to Auburn. Well, now that there’s Jim McElwain, and Jim McElwain produces Julio Jones, so on, so on. So it’s like, maybe I should look at Florida. Coming into Florida this weekend, I think Florida has a really good shot here in the long run. I don’t expect him to flip his commitment. I do expect him to get rid of that Auburn, de-commit, commit, crap, whatever you want to call it, beside his name here in the next couple weeks and open things back up. It’ll be a Florida/Florida State mix. I want to move one to maybe my favorite receiver, and that’s no disrespect to Nate. Nate, if you’re listening to this, I think you’re a damn good receiver. My favorite receiver is Benjamin Victor, and I say

Nick:            I thought you were going to go with my favorite, but go ahead.

Andrew:            I won’t steal Mr. Bruce. I’m sorry. I will not steal Mr. Bruce from Nicholas. Benjamin Victor, a lot of people have told me that he is like a smaller in style AJ Green kind of player, and I can see that, because he does have that build of that. He’s a guy that maybe hasn’t gotten the love that a lot of people in the country have seen from guys like Bruce, guys like Nate Craig, but look at him. He’s 6’4”, 175 pounds. 175’s a little light. He can pick that up, but if you watch his highlight film, you watch him in these camp circuits, you watch the Nike opening video they sent out, it’s one-handed catch after one-handed catch, and that’s all fine.

You start to look at his route running, it is smooth as silk. He is a guy that is ready to go, ready to play ball at the elite level. He’s going to come to Florida this weekend. Florida’s been talking to him on the day to day basis. In my opinion, if you can lock down one of those two big guys, two of them would be fabulous, get those two big play receivers.

Then you start to look at the slot receiver, your guy, Sam Bruce. Looks like a 40 year old grown man, as you call him, the best 5’8” football player in America. He’s there. He’s that guy. Best friends with George Scarlett. He’d be a great guy to play in the slot. Another guy that could play in the slot is Eli Stowe from Niceville. He’s a little bigger than Sam, because he’s 6’, maybe 6’.5” He’s 178 pounds. Silky smooth receiver, great hands as well. So you start to look at those four receivers, and you’re like, if I could just go two for four there, maybe go three for four, you add them into a guy like Rick Wells.

Rick’s not going to be your explosive big play, going to take a 10 yard curl and go 70 yards for a touchdown, but he’s going to make that 10 yard, get 12, get the first down. Throw up the first down signal, come back out in the next play. They’re going to run a toss play, and he’s going to knock the quarterback in the mouth, and get up and say, shut up. I hit you in the mouth. He’s that nasty receiver. He is, and I hate to say this, he is a better Latroy Pittman in that he does the dirty work. He is a poor man’s Riley Cooper. That’s what I’ll say.

Nick:            There you go.

Andrew:            He’s a poor man’s Riley Cooper in that maybe he doesn’t have the elite speed that Riley Cooper does. Again, you start to look at this class, and this is a damn good wide receiver class in the state of Florida. Florida needs to hit some home runs here, and I don’t mean home runs as in they get the number two receiver. Go get the number one. Go get you a guy that you can say, for the next three years, this son of a gun is going to be up for the Biletnikoff Award, maybe the Heisman Trophy as a junior. Go get somebody that Florida hasn’t had since you had Dallas Baker, Riley Cooper, those big play guys. They need that guy.

Nick:            You look at Max Pettigrew who was not, at least in high school, not the caliber of the kind of guys that you’re just listing off there. Rashard Higgins, he’s up for the Biletnikoff. Didn’t win it, but was up for it this year out of Colorado State. So Mac has worked with receivers, and I think that’s going to also help in recruiting receivers, and then obviously into, once they’re on campus, developing them and that.

I think that Florida’s offense can’t get worse. I feel like we keep saying that over and over again, year after year. It can’t get worse. I think you start to see a little bit of improvement, and Mac can tell these kids, I still don’t have my kids on campus. I’m working with somebody else’s recruits, but you can see the improvement on offense. Come here, and we can make an even bigger step next year. So I think that’ll help in recruiting once the football games start, and once these kids start coming and watching spring practice and seeing how things are different than what they’ve seen in the past couple years.

Quick note, before we have to run. My buddy owns a gym down in south Florida. Sam Bruce works out there, and I have confirmation Sam weighs in at like between 180, 182. So at 5’8” weighing 182 pounds, weighs more than I do. That is a grown man.

Andrew:            He is a grown man. The last point that I want to make here. Like a lot of Florida’s former coaches that were assistant, DJ Durkin, those guys, but Florida has football coaches now. I know that sounds very, maybe two-faced, that I’m dissing the other coaching staff and sucking up to this coaching staff, but I mean this in a couple of ways. Doug Nussmeier is a true quarterback coach, true quarterback coach. Kerry Dixon is a true receiver coach. Jim McElwain is a true receiver/running back coach as well. Tim Skipper is a true running back coach. You’re starting to have guys that can coach position.

I felt like the last coaching staff needed guys to come in and be ready to go. Brian White, since his Wisconsin days he hasn’t developed a running back. Chris Leak, I love you, Chris Leak, but was not ready to be a wide receiver coach, and that’s a lot of Florida wide receiver coaches in the past, so that hurt these guys. That’s why I still have faith in guys like Ahmad Fulwood, guys like CJ Wharton and those guys. Again, finally there’s some coaches to coach these guys once they get to camp. Anyway, let’s wrap this up. Nick, any final thoughts before we wrap it up?

Nick:            Final thoughts. We’ve got two games against Fairfield on Tuesday, Wednesday for Kevin O’Sullivan and his boys. Tennessee comes into town. I expect three wins this weekend for Florida. Worst case scenario, I expect them to at least win the series, go 2-1. Tennessee’s not that great. Expect a strong week from Florida baseball, and excited to talk to Coach McElwain tomorrow. March 16th, spring practice getting kicked up. We’ll have a ton of coverage. We’re actually going to be allowed to talk to assistant coaches. So we’re talking to Randy Shannon and Tim Skipper, and all these guys. Should be plenty of coverage. Excited to get some football back in my life and continue with baseball and softball.

Andrew:            There you go. Braves baseball is back on the trail as well. We’re going to whip those Marlins.

Nick:            And we’ll have a fancy baseball league that Andrew and I are in, so…

Andrew:            Trash talking.

Nick:            Be ready for some trash talking. Expect dates on that during the podcasts. The boys don’t call me Mike [Sin], that’s the team name we’ll be getting going. Still need Andrew to sign up for the league. Invitation’s been sent twice now.

Andrew:            Your boy will sign up. Little Chipper here, that’s what I call myself, because Chipper is my role model here. Anyway, we’ll get off of this. Gator Country, your boy, Andrew, signing off. Nick signing off as well. Talk to you later.

Nick:            Stay classy, Gator Nation.

Andrew Spivey

About Andrew Spivey

Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.

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In the latest episode of Gator Country’s  podcast, Nick de la Torre and Andrew Spivey talk about the recruiting needs for the class of 2016 plus some names to watch at the positions of needs. We also talk about some of the big names that will be visiting Florida this weekend for the first of three junior days.

Also in this podcast Nick and myself talk about how the baseball team has risen to the number 1 team in the country plus what makes the undefeated Gators softball team so successful.

This is the second of our new and improved podcast, stay tuned for more this spring!!!

 **** TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:            What’s up, Gator Country? Your boy Andrew Spivey is back, and Nicholas de la Torre is back. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:            What’s going on? Just sitting here angry about the NCAA banning my big guys, my offensive line, defensive line, for rolling up their jerseys. I’m going to miss TJ Humphries and Darius Cummings showing off the gut. The NCAA trying to follow suit with the NFL, the no fun league, so no more guts for us. We’ll live. We’ll learn.

Andrew:            Speaking of the gut, maybe we should get Jon Halapio to come on and voice his disapproval of the no gut league.

Nick:            We will. We’re focusing on a little recruiting today, a little softball, baseball, two number one teams, but maybe we can get Jon on for our second podcast this week. Make his plea to the NCAA.

Andrew:            Speaking of number one, your boys finally decided to join my girls at the top of the podium at number one. Let’s start with your boys, since they have to follow my girls. I’ll let you be the leader for a change. Baseball come out with a big series win over Maine. Maine’s not a very good team, but I think you still see that this baseball team’s a lot better than maybe we all thought. Surprising guys, Guthrie, JJ Schwartz, Josh Tobias, just give us a rundown of the season so far for that baseball team.

Nick:            What happened, the site that named them number one is D1 Baseball. They brought over a guy, Kendall Rogers, he was from Perfect Game. Brought over some new guys, but they’re probably the most thorough website that’s doing rankings. Of course, for football you’ve really got two rankings, two ranking systems that you pay attention to. In baseball there’s six. D1 Baseball is the one that I pay attention to the most. What happened is Vandy goes out west. They’re playing a tournament at Dodgers Stadium. They went 1-2 on the weekend. They were the number one team. Florida sweeps Maine, split with number nine UCF. So Florida jumps up a spot.

They had to do it a lot this weekend without Harrison Bader, and they’ve been without Pete Alonzo all season. They’ve been without freshman Jeremy Vasquez all season. Bader is expected to be back for the weekend. Vasquez is supposed to play one of these two games against Fairfield this week. He’s a freshman, broke his hand in the spring, but he’s more than ready. Got his cast off last week, more than ready to get back in, start hitting balls. Once you get Harrison Bader and Alonzo and Vasquez back in this lineup, you can see what happened to Florida’s lineup when you take Harrison Bader out. You see Sunday Florida struggled, left 15 people on base.

So the lineup with Bader had a lot of bite, and Bader’s leading the team in average, hitting 429, leading in homeruns with 6, 21 RBIs. He’s just been on a tear to begin the year. So taking him out really hurt, but then when you get Pete Alonzo. Alonzo was going to hit fourth in this lineup, and then you lose him with a broken foot the week of the first game. Vasquez is a kid that can play right field, where they’ve been platooning guys. They’ve been platooning Ryan Larson out there. They’ve put Christian Hicks out there. Logan Browning’s been out there. So you get a guy like Vasquez that can stop the platoon in right field and at first base. Now you have Alonzo playing first and playing right. Vasquez playing first and playing right, and you’re getting two better sticks.

So Florida as a team is hitting 300, and I think getting these bats back into the lineup it’s only going to help and improve the lineup. Then you got the pitching staff. Logan Shore’s thrown 19 in a third innings, hasn’t given up a run. Sophomore Dane Dunning only threw 67 pitches yesterday, but he’s got a 1.29 ERA and is 4-0 on the year. Florida’s weekend staff has done an incredible job. They’re 10-1 through nonconference play with Tennessee coming in. Florida, I think last year won the SEC, and everyone thought this team is a year away. Well, now we’re here. Florida’s ready to contend, to win the SEC again, and really the only thing they’re thinking is Omaha, and right now it looks like they have the arms and the sticks to be able to make that run to Omaha.

Andrew:            I think that, I’ve been kind of an outside observer with the baseball team so far. The one thing that I guess sees my glaring problem early on is two being Buddy Reid at the two hole, three hole being Richie Martin, and then really no protection behind Bader, which now JJ Schwartz has done that.

Nick:            Well they switched that up with just how good Bader been’s hitting. They moved Bader into the three hole, where Richie Martin was. Really the plan was at the beginning of the year was to go Guthrie, Reid, Martin, Alonzo, and then protect Alonzo with Bader, and then Shore’s behind him. That lineup right there, that’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of guys that are going to hit for average. I think some of what you’re seeing is they’ve had some unfortunate injuries.

Andrew:            Right.

Nick:            But once you put this lineup in, and you’re getting a guy like Mike Rivera who had a huge RBI double in the eighth yesterday, that’s going to be your seven or eight batter. Top to bottom this is a scary lineup when everyone’s healthy.

Andrew:            Yeah. I agree. I think getting Alonzo back is that. I don’t want to say that Bader’s, Bader is a complete hitter, but I think I look at Bader more as a gap to gap hitter, whereas I look at Alonzo more as your power hitter. I know Bader has six home runs already, so I guess I’ll feel more comfortable when Alonzo’s hitting that cleanup, maybe protecting Bader in the three hole, or whether Bader’s protecting Alonzo.

Nick:            You’re spot on with that. Bader is a gap to gap hitter. He has more home runs through the first 16 games this year than he had all last season. He did miss 19 games last year with a suspension, but still. In the first month of the season he has more homeruns than he had all of last year. I think the power production, you’re a little surprised to see him hitting so many home runs, but when you’re hot, you’re hot. You kind of got to ride the wave in baseball, and while you’re hot keep doing the same thing. Eat the same breakfast, lunch, dinner, wear your same underwear on game day. Don’t change anything when you’re hitting the way he is.

Andrew:            When you’re hot, you’re hot. Don’t change the socks. Don’t change anything. Still rub the lucky bat and everything like that.

Nick:            Wear those smelly socks until you go 0-4.

Andrew:            There you go. It’s funny that you say that about the power for baseball, because when you start to look at the softball team, who is 27-0, set the school record for longest winning streak to begin a season with 27-0. Previous was 25-0. You start to look at the softball team. Tim Walton is not a softball coach.

Nick:            Let me ask you this. I’m looking from an outside perspective, covering baseball. Looking from outside, just watching casually. Softball, I think this is what you were about to say, but Tim Walton won a college world series to Oklahoma, grew up a baseball player. He’s really built this softball team not like a softball team. They’re built like a baseball team in the way that they approach hitting. Can you expand on that? Is that kind of right?

Andrew:            Yeah. I mean, when the college softball fan looks at college softball you think, this is going to be a team that slaps. This is going to be a team that bunts. This is going to be a team that just runs around.

Nick:            Station to station softball.

Andrew:            There you go. You start to look at this softball team, and 42 home runs on the year. 42. I mean, that’s huge. This is a team that can hit for power, can hit for average. The team’s batting 323 on the year. They get hit by a pitch. They’re a squeeze team, a bunt team. In my opinion, it is a baseball team on the softball diamond, and that is you squeezing ladies up. You’re bunting runners up to second and third, for the big home run, or the big two run double. It is a baseball team playing softball, but what’s funny is, so the long ball’s not going out, this team still hits for average. They still can put runners on base. Kirsti Merritt’s already set the record for 20 hit by pitches in a season, 20 now. We’re 27 games in.

Nick:            Get her some ice.

Andrew:            Yeah. Somebody get her some ice. There you go. So you start to look at this team, and it’s like where do you approach this team? You don’t let them hit the long ball. Okay, that’s fine. Lauren Haeger’s going to put a double off the wall, or Kelsey Stewart’s going to hit a little blooper into center and take second, because she is by far the fastest girl in the country. Or you’re going to get a single, it’s just going to be in second. So where do you approach this team, from an offensive standpoint it’s crazy, because one through nine you’re looking at the nine hole hitter for Florida being Alicia Ocasio, the freshman. She’s hitting 375 on the year, already has 12 total bases in 15 plate appearances. She’s just coming along.

Then you start to look at Aubree Munro, who usually hits eight, and again she’s a home run hitter. She hits a walk off three run homer the other day to put Florida ahead. So it’s like where do you approach this team? It’s very tough to approach this team, and Florida has three runners that come in to be their, I guess you would say designated runners, as well. They have several girls coming off the bench that don’t even play. Briana Little, who set the Florida record for three home runs in a game, rotates in left field. She doesn’t even see game action every day. It’s a powerhouse team that you’ve seen, and then he’s built his rotation like a baseball rotation.

Nick:            Let’s talk about that rotation. You mentioned Lauren Haeger, and that’s the big name coming back. You’ve had big names in the past, last year with Hannah Rogers. Before her Stephanie Brambacher. So there’s been big names, but it’s not like a softball team. In baseball that overhand pitching motion is the most unnatural thing you can do, and arms get tired, and you can wear people down.

Softball’s the exact opposite. That underhand motion is a normal, natural motion for the shoulder, and a lot of times you’ll see a softball team throw one girl in a double header. Florida doesn’t really do that. They’re playing Oregon, number two Oregon. They’re playing number three, Michigan, and they’re not throwing their ace. How has Tim Walton been able to build a staff where he’s confident in three, four pitchers to throw out against some of the best teams in the country?

Andrew:            Yeah. I mean, number two Michigan has faced a freshman in Alicia Ocasio and sophomore Delanie Gourley, a lefty. Number two Oregon has faced the freshman Alicia Ocasio, sophomore Delanie Gourley. They haven’t even seen the supposedly ace for Florida in Lauren Haeger. I think that what Tim Walton’s wanted to do is softball is all about seeing the rotation of the ball. You see Lauren Haeger for three games on a weekend, hitters are going to adjust to that. Not no more. Florida’s going to throw Lauren Haeger on Friday, Alicia Ocasio on Saturday, and Delanie Gourley on Sunday.

There’s no repetitiveness out of that, and it’s crazy because you look at some of the top teams they have one, two pitchers that can go out there and throw, but no, not this team. They got three, and three that are really good. The highest earned run average on this team is Delanie Gourley with a 106, and that all came about because Michigan put a four spot on her in the first two innings of the game, and that was the number three team in the country. You look at Lauren Haeger, .59 earned run average. She’s given up five earned runs, and she’s pitched 59 innings. That’s unheard of. Then Alicia Ocasio, who’s a freshman, who a lot of people said, she’s just another girl that’s going to ride pine. .69 earned run average, 9-0, coming with six earned runs given up in 60 innings pitched. Again, that’s unheard of.

I think that Walton has built this team to be such a baseball powerhouse on the softball field that it’s going to be very tough to take two games out of three from this team. Do I think they’ll lose a game? Absolutely, everybody’s going to lose a game, but I think that it’s going to be very tough to take a series, or when you get into the post season to take a series in the post season, from this team, because there’s so much depth. If Delanie Gourley’s struggling, then you bring in Ocasio. If Ocasio’s struggling, you bring in Lauren Haeger, and all three bring something different. Haeger is more of your speed and location. Gourley’s more of her movement, and Ocasio’s more of her speed changing. She throws a really good changeup on top of a fast ball.

So it’s, again, it’s a very different team, and for me it’s just fun to watch, because it’s like Walton has built this team to be so different that it’s very different for teams to adjust to. Again, if you’re a Florida fan right now, this is the time to start watching the softball team as they move into SEC play this weekend against LSU, who comes in 24-0 against 27-0 Florida. So big season ahead for, I think the diamond girls and the diamond guys.

Nick:            I’ve, I think, joked about this. It might not be a joke. Tim Walton has built a machine with this softball team, and we’ve talked about how they’re doing this season. Obviously, number one in the country, undefeated, on a roll. They’re beating top ranked teams.

Something you and I have talked about personally is is Tim Walton building this Florida softball program into like a Geno Auriemma UConn women’s basketball, where you’re building it to a height where the program starts recruiting itself, and now you’ve got girls who are growing up playing softball, 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, getting into high school and dreaming of playing for Tim Walton and playing for Florida? Do you see Florida’s softball program kind of being on that trajectory to a place where it starts becoming the dream? Now obviously Tim still needs to go out and the do the recruiting and get the players, but the program gets to a certain level and a certain height where it just starts recruiting itself.

Andrew:            Yeah. You know Florida really has based recruiting in two states, the state of Florida and the state of California. They go to California for an 11 game trip, and go out there and win 11-0 and beating teams like Michigan, beating teams like Oregon, beating teams like Arizona, with California girls. You start to look at Florida’s roster. You look at Kayli Kvistad, Briana Little, Nicole DeWitt, just all these girls who are younger classman girls that these girls are looking up to are out there performing well.

Then you start to look at there’s California girls on the team. [Janelle Wheaton] is a freshman from that San Diego area, and she goes out there and hits a grand slam last weekend. That’s definitely proving the stock of Tim Walton’s team. I mean, if you’re a softball girl right now you start to look, and you’re like, dang, why not join Florida? They’re 27-0, and they just knocked off the number two and number three teams, 2-0, 2-0, against both of those. So who’s challenging these girls? Again, I do think it is. Again, it’s Tim Walton, his demeanor about the game that is so, I guess, enticing to girls.

Nick:            It’s like you said, it’s less of a softball approach and more of a baseball approach. That’s probably something new, fun, different, for them to take on. We would be remiss, we have talked about the two number one teams in the country as far as baseball and softball go, but we know we can’t leave a podcast without talking some football, and recruiting is hot. We have a junior day coming up. We’ll talk to coach McElwain tomorrow, and spring practice is right around the corner.

Andrew, getting into recruiting, obviously it was a whirlwind for the new staff coming in, having a month to fix an eight man class, which ended up being a six man class after two de-commitments, with a full year to go, where are Jim McElwain and the Florida staff, where are they turning their attention to in the beginning of this class?

Andrew:            I think you’re starting to see this class starting to shape up of guys that Jim McElwain is, I don’t want to say, has basically told them I want to start fresh, but he has told them he wants to start fresh basically. You start to look at guys like Nate Craig, the wide receiver committed to Auburn. When Will Muschamp was at Florida, Florida has -5,000% chance of getting Nate Craig.

Nick:            That sounds like there’s not a great chance.

Andrew:            Exactly. So McElwain is just really starting to get out and tell people, look, we’re changing this program. This is what we’re going to build. Come be a part of it. Of course, there’s so many needs in this class. Again, Will Muschamp, I hate to use the word left it bare, but he left some glaring holes, and I don’t want to call him dumb, but some of them are very dumb. Offensive line, linebackers are very dumb that he didn’t recruit. Again, that’s a huge need. Florida signed six last year. They got to have five more offensive linemen this year. Florida didn’t sign any one linebacker last year, they got to go big this year. They need three or four this year, no doubt.

Nick:            We were sitting here in this position last year after the 2014 signing class, and we said, Florida made linebacker, Florida, because they’d gotten so many the year before, Florida was able to be picky on linebacker. They missed on Raekwon McMillan, and they missed on Clifton Garrett. You say, that’s fine. You had two that you were willing to take, and if you don’t get them that’s okay, because you had four the previous class. I think four or five. So it doesn’t matter, but you got to get some this year, and then you go this year where you don’t get any, or you get one, but he’s probably going to need to take a red shirt. So now you’re in a situation where linebacker is a dire need, and you’re going to need to sign I would say four, if not five. Would you agree with that four or five number?

Andrew:            Yeah. I would say right now, heading into the class, four is kind of the projected number that you want to get, but again, I can’t blame it all on Will Muschamp, because Randy Shannon, Jim McElwain, they had a month to get it, but a month to get recruits is very tough to get a linebacker convinced. So I understand that, but again, you’ve got to do that. You got to get four in this class. This class, I don’t want to say is absolutely loaded at linebacker, but there are some very good prospects in state that you can start to turn at and look to. They’ve already got one in Vosean Joseph from Norland that has done pretty well in the camp circuit so far. Didn’t get invited to the opening, but had a rave reviews about him as well in there.

You start to look at some other guys that are on the bore. You got a Miami linebacker commit, Shaquille Kortman, goes by Shaq Kortman, from Orange Park. He’s going to come in this weekend for a visit. Trey Lamar, who in my opinion might be the best linebacker Florida has a shot with, he’s 6’3”, 240, from Roswell, Georgia. He’s going to come in on the 21st. That’s the guy that in my opinion Florida needs to hammer down on and make a priority. Right now Florida’s top three with Georgia and Auburn, and he says Alabama’s in there as well, but he didn’t talk about Alabama as much as he talks about Georgia and Florida.

Then you start to look at some of the other guys. Jaquan Yulee is from Chesapeake, Virginia, but there’s a connection, and I can’t exactly pronounce the guy’s name, the new graduate assistant quality control coach came from Norfolk State, Mark, I can’t even pronounce his name. He has a connection to Jaquan Yulee up in the Virginia area, and he’s a big guy. He’s 6’3”, about 220, and he’s supposedly going to come down here in the next couple weeks. That’s another guy you’re going to look at.

So the linebacker class is not going to be able to be picky with, but if you start to get some of these big names to come in you can start to gain some of these guys. I think you have to get two middle linebackers in this class. You’re going to graduate Antonio Morrison. Jared Davis is going to be another year, and then he’s going to be out of there. You’re still questioning what Daniel McMillan and what Alex Anzalone are going to do. So you get two big middle linebackers in this class, Trey Lamar will be one of those guys.

Then in my opinion the other biggest needs are quarterback and receiver.

Nick:            Let’s talk about quarterback, because I think you and I disagreed a little bit this year. I said, if you’re Jim McElwain and the staff, you have to think that in Treon Harris and in Will Grier you’ve got your starting quarterbacks. So I didn’t feel like Florida needed to land a great quarterback in this recruiting class, because you think, well Harris a sophomore. Grier is a red shirt freshman. If we get a kid this class, now we’ve got two freshman and a sophomore. You’d rather have your next guy come in this class, so now the kid, your next quarterback, will be a freshman when Will is a red shirt sophomore, and when Treon is a junior. Then you have that year of separation. A freshman you can red shirt him and give him a year to grow and develop, like Grier was able to last year.

But not getting any quarterback last class, while I don’t think it’s bad, puts you in a situation where you have to nail it this year, and you can’t afford to have Grier or Harris transfer, which is why I don’t think we’re going to have a starting quarterback named after spring ball, because you can’t risk naming one, having one of those two guys leave, and then you’re left with Harris or Grier and Skylar Mornhinweg, and we’ve seen what Skylar Mornhinweg looks like at quarterback. So you need to keep Grier and Harris there, and you need to find your next quarterback in this class.

Andrew:            Yeah. You have to go elite here. There’s a lot of, I guess you could say, good names out there, then there are some elite names. Florida really wanted KJ Costello from California. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Right now he says Stanford, USC’s going to be the choice here in a couple weeks. Jacob Eason is the five star, probably number one, quarterback out of Washington. He’s currently committed to Georgia. Says he’s going to visit Florida. We’ll see if he does. With the coaching change to Georgia, maybe Florida does get in there.

After that, it’s kind of a log jam of where a lot of people disagree. Some people believe Philippe Franks is the guy Florida should go on. He’s a 6’6”, 203 pound kid from Crawfordville, Florida, committed to LSU. Nick, you and I’ve seen him several times. I told you several times I don’t see Philippe Franks being that elite guy. I think his accuracy lacks. I’m not sold on Philippe Franks. There’s a couple other guys, Dwayne Haskins is another guy that is from the Maryland area. He’s going to visit Florida. There’s a couple of other guys that Florida’s kind of snooping around on, Jawon Pass, Xavier Gaines, that they’re just kind of snooping around on right now.

I don’t think that really Florida has maybe pinpointed their number one guy after a guy like Eason and Costello. There’s Jake Allison that’s committed to Miami that’s in state right now. I personally think he’s a really good quarterback and a guy that Florida could move on here in the spring when they go out on evaluation period. So I think that’s when Florida will really nail down, okay, this is the guy we’re about to go at full force, balls to the wall, when they go out on spring evaluation period.

Nick:            Let me ask you this, because quarterback is a different animal in recruiting. You see a guy like Will Grier commits right around the end of his junior year. Quarterbacks are committing earlier and earlier, with the thought process of, I’ve nailed down my school, build the recruiting class around me. So I know Florida still has to do their spring evaluations, the coaching staff was wrapped up in the last recruiting class, because they had to move so quickly. Now they need to focus on the football team and spring football, installing new offense and defensive schemes. When does Florida need to nail down, okay, we’ve got our kid? Obviously they want to do it by the summer, but is there a month, a week, a date, that you can say Florida needs to have their quarterback committed by now?

Andrew:            June 1st. June 1st has always kind of been the so-called date that a lot of kids start to move.

Nick:            You start to see a quarterback domino game where one quarterback will commit here, and then the next four days you’ll get four more commitments.

Andrew:            Right. That’s what you’re starting to see. You see Eason, he’s off the board to Georgia. KJ Costello is about to be off the board here in a couple of weeks, couple days, to USC or Stanford. Philippe Franks is off the board. You start to look at Brandon McIlwain, the four star that committed to South Carolina last fall/early winter. So you’re starting to see that come about, but most of your top quarterbacks will be committed in the summer months. So Florida needs to say, by June 1st I want to either be in the lead or very much in the discussion for my quarterback, and if not, then you start to say, oh shit. You start to worry about where you’re going to be, because if Florida doesn’t sign a lead quarterback in this class, to be fair, they’re screwed.

Nick:            I wouldn’t say, put up the white flag, shoot the flares, if Florida doesn’t get their lead quarterback. I think best case scenario you get your elite quarterback, because let’s say Will Grier wins the starting quarterback job. I expect Will to win the starting quarterback job this year. You think you have him for three more years, so it might push a time, if you miss on a quarterback on this year, and you don’t get one till 2017, I think it might push that timetable up for him as far as red shirting and being able to take his time. So I won’t shoot the flare and send out an SOS if Florida doesn’t get the next guy this class. Optimally, obviously, you get your next guy, the guy that you view as in three years this is going to be the guy that’s leading us to an SEC championship game.

Andrew:            You get worried.

Nick:            Yes. You need somebody.

Andrew:            You need a quarterback in this class. Somebody that says, Will Grier wins the starting job. Treon transfers. Treon wins the starting quarterback job, Will Grier transfers. This guy could back it up. You cannot have a situation where you have Jeff Driskel in the game, he gets hurt, and you have a guy like Skylar Mornhinweg who gives you absolutely no chance to win a football game.

Nick:            Right. I mean, you look at the game plan that they went in with Skylar, and they say, we tried to take Jadeveon Clowney out of the game. Skylar Mornhinweg threw the ball 11 times, and 7 of those came on the last drive when Florida was down with a couple minutes left in the game. So that tells you where the coaching staff’s confidence level was in him. Nothing against him. He’s a good kid. It’s very hard to be a student athlete at any college, especially a school like Florida where the academic demands are rivaled by the athletic demands. He’s just not going to win Florida football games, and you need to find a kid, even if he’s not going to be the next great quarterback at Florida, someone that you can feel comfortable throwing in in an emergency situation.

Wrap that up real quick, because we got off on a little tangent. Florida would love to, and needs to, get their next quarterback in this class. If they miss out on their next quarterback, you and I are not ready to jump ship, but it’s like linebacker, if you can be selective, that’s fine, and don’t land anyone it puts more importance on that next class. Right now it’s very important for Florida to get a quarterback. If they don’t, not the worst, but then the next season it’s an absolute must, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Andrew:            Agreed. We’ve got a couple minutes left before we got to jump off of here. Let’s end on the receiver class. I say receiver is a huge need, and I don’t think that it’s a huge need in they need large numbers, but Demarcus Robinson’s probably gone after this year. Unless he just has a crap year this year, he’s likely gone. So that’s your big play, explosive receiver, gone. Florida needs to land a guy, and, damn, did they get lucky. This is the best receiver class in the state of Florida that I can remember in a long time. You start to run off names after names, after names, in the top 100, and you’re lucky, wide receiver, Florida, wide receiver, Florida, wide receiver, Florida, so on and so on. So you start to look at guys that Florida could possibly land. Nate Crick, number one receiver in the country, 6’2”, 200 pounds, is a smaller guy in that maybe he isn’t the 6’5” receiver, but he’s 6’2”, and he’s a manchild. He’s committed to Auburn already.

Nick:            But I’ve read your story in your interview with Nate, and it seems like he’s not really 100% in that commitment.

Andrew:            No. Definitely not. I think it was one of those situations that he went to Auburn, felt the love at Auburn. Auburn has a big play receiver. Florida had Will Muschamp. It was like, ugh, Will Muschamp? No, thank you. So it went to Auburn. Well, now that there’s Jim McElwain, and Jim McElwain produces Julio Jones, so on, so on. So it’s like, maybe I should look at Florida. Coming into Florida this weekend, I think Florida has a really good shot here in the long run. I don’t expect him to flip his commitment. I do expect him to get rid of that Auburn, de-commit, commit, crap, whatever you want to call it, beside his name here in the next couple weeks and open things back up. It’ll be a Florida/Florida State mix. I want to move one to maybe my favorite receiver, and that’s no disrespect to Nate. Nate, if you’re listening to this, I think you’re a damn good receiver. My favorite receiver is Benjamin Victor, and I say

Nick:            I thought you were going to go with my favorite, but go ahead.

Andrew:            I won’t steal Mr. Bruce. I’m sorry. I will not steal Mr. Bruce from Nicholas. Benjamin Victor, a lot of people have told me that he is like a smaller in style AJ Green kind of player, and I can see that, because he does have that build of that. He’s a guy that maybe hasn’t gotten the love that a lot of people in the country have seen from guys like Bruce, guys like Nate Craig, but look at him. He’s 6’4”, 175 pounds. 175’s a little light. He can pick that up, but if you watch his highlight film, you watch him in these camp circuits, you watch the Nike opening video they sent out, it’s one-handed catch after one-handed catch, and that’s all fine.

You start to look at his route running, it is smooth as silk. He is a guy that is ready to go, ready to play ball at the elite level. He’s going to come to Florida this weekend. Florida’s been talking to him on the day to day basis. In my opinion, if you can lock down one of those two big guys, two of them would be fabulous, get those two big play receivers.

Then you start to look at the slot receiver, your guy, Sam Bruce. Looks like a 40 year old grown man, as you call him, the best 5’8” football player in America. He’s there. He’s that guy. Best friends with George Scarlett. He’d be a great guy to play in the slot. Another guy that could play in the slot is Eli Stowe from Niceville. He’s a little bigger than Sam, because he’s 6’, maybe 6’.5” He’s 178 pounds. Silky smooth receiver, great hands as well. So you start to look at those four receivers, and you’re like, if I could just go two for four there, maybe go three for four, you add them into a guy like Rick Wells.

Rick’s not going to be your explosive big play, going to take a 10 yard curl and go 70 yards for a touchdown, but he’s going to make that 10 yard, get 12, get the first down. Throw up the first down signal, come back out in the next play. They’re going to run a toss play, and he’s going to knock the quarterback in the mouth, and get up and say, shut up. I hit you in the mouth. He’s that nasty receiver. He is, and I hate to say this, he is a better Latroy Pittman in that he does the dirty work. He is a poor man’s Riley Cooper. That’s what I’ll say.

Nick:            There you go.

Andrew:            He’s a poor man’s Riley Cooper in that maybe he doesn’t have the elite speed that Riley Cooper does. Again, you start to look at this class, and this is a damn good wide receiver class in the state of Florida. Florida needs to hit some home runs here, and I don’t mean home runs as in they get the number two receiver. Go get the number one. Go get you a guy that you can say, for the next three years, this son of a gun is going to be up for the Biletnikoff Award, maybe the Heisman Trophy as a junior. Go get somebody that Florida hasn’t had since you had Dallas Baker, Riley Cooper, those big play guys. They need that guy.

Nick:            You look at Max Pettigrew who was not, at least in high school, not the caliber of the kind of guys that you’re just listing off there. Rashard Higgins, he’s up for the Biletnikoff. Didn’t win it, but was up for it this year out of Colorado State. So Mac has worked with receivers, and I think that’s going to also help in recruiting receivers, and then obviously into, once they’re on campus, developing them and that.

I think that Florida’s offense can’t get worse. I feel like we keep saying that over and over again, year after year. It can’t get worse. I think you start to see a little bit of improvement, and Mac can tell these kids, I still don’t have my kids on campus. I’m working with somebody else’s recruits, but you can see the improvement on offense. Come here, and we can make an even bigger step next year. So I think that’ll help in recruiting once the football games start, and once these kids start coming and watching spring practice and seeing how things are different than what they’ve seen in the past couple years.

Quick note, before we have to run. My buddy owns a gym down in south Florida. Sam Bruce works out there, and I have confirmation Sam weighs in at like between 180, 182. So at 5’8” weighing 182 pounds, weighs more than I do. That is a grown man.

Andrew:            He is a grown man. The last point that I want to make here. Like a lot of Florida’s former coaches that were assistant, DJ Durkin, those guys, but Florida has football coaches now. I know that sounds very, maybe two-faced, that I’m dissing the other coaching staff and sucking up to this coaching staff, but I mean this in a couple of ways. Doug Nussmeier is a true quarterback coach, true quarterback coach. Kerry Dixon is a true receiver coach. Jim McElwain is a true receiver/running back coach as well. Tim Skipper is a true running back coach. You’re starting to have guys that can coach position.

I felt like the last coaching staff needed guys to come in and be ready to go. Brian White, since his Wisconsin days he hasn’t developed a running back. Chris Leak, I love you, Chris Leak, but was not ready to be a wide receiver coach, and that’s a lot of Florida wide receiver coaches in the past, so that hurt these guys. That’s why I still have faith in guys like Ahmad Fulwood, guys like CJ Wharton and those guys. Again, finally there’s some coaches to coach these guys once they get to camp. Anyway, let’s wrap this up. Nick, any final thoughts before we wrap it up?

Nick:            Final thoughts. We’ve got two games against Fairfield on Tuesday, Wednesday for Kevin O’Sullivan and his boys. Tennessee comes into town. I expect three wins this weekend for Florida. Worst case scenario, I expect them to at least win the series, go 2-1. Tennessee’s not that great. Expect a strong week from Florida baseball, and excited to talk to Coach McElwain tomorrow. March 16th, spring practice getting kicked up. We’ll have a ton of coverage. We’re actually going to be allowed to talk to assistant coaches. So we’re talking to Randy Shannon and Tim Skipper, and all these guys. Should be plenty of coverage. Excited to get some football back in my life and continue with baseball and softball.

Andrew:            There you go. Braves baseball is back on the trail as well. We’re going to whip those Marlins.

Nick:            And we’ll have a fancy baseball league that Andrew and I are in, so…

Andrew:            Trash talking.

Nick:            Be ready for some trash talking. Expect dates on that during the podcasts. The boys don’t call me Mike [Sin], that’s the team name we’ll be getting going. Still need Andrew to sign up for the league. Invitation’s been sent twice now.

Andrew:            Your boy will sign up. Little Chipper here, that’s what I call myself, because Chipper is my role model here. Anyway, we’ll get off of this. Gator Country, your boy, Andrew, signing off. Nick signing off as well. Talk to you later.

Nick:            Stay classy, Gator Nation.

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Dalton Guthrie, McKethan Stadium, Gainesville, Florida
Guthrie’s three hits help Florida Gators sweep Fairfield

The Florida Gators beat Fairfield 6-2 and extended their winning streak to six games.

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