In the latest episode of Gator Country’s podcast, Nick de la Torre and Andrew Spivey talk about roster updates Florida football released last week and discuss the position battles to look out for this spring.
We also talk about the access the media will have this spring plus some of the key dates to remember as we head into spring football.
This is the first of our new and improved podcast, stay tuned for more!
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? This is your man, Andrew Spivey. Joined by Nicholas de la Torre. What’s up Nicholas?
Nick: Nothing much, just enjoyed some baseball over the weekend. Got two good games coming up, and just trying to find a place to part as they continue to build the indoor practice facility over by the baseball field.
Andrew: Yeah. You think you may hurry that up a little bit? I keep seeing you post photos of dirt. I’m sick of dirt, man. Can I get some walls going up, buddy?
Nick: I’m a man of the people. If the people want to see different piles of dirt, I am going to take pictures of those piles, and I’m going to put them up on Gator Country.
Andrew: Here’s my question. Does the soil sample say success or failure?
Nick: I haven’t taken the soil samples yet. That’ll be the next podcast. I’ll get out there with my lab kit.
Andrew: There you go. Let’s do that. Well, Gator County, we’re going to talk a couple things today. We’re going to start off with a little spring ball. Coach McElwain announced that March 16th, a little over two weeks now. Well, two weeks actually today. We get a little spring ball going on. I think we’ve all kind of gotten to the point where we’re over the high of recruiting, and now we’re just kind of waiting for spring ball to go up. Nick, we kind of got access a little bit. I know me and you are going to disagree here, because you’re a guy that wants to see practice, and I understand that, but I’m a guy that also understands that maybe hiding things is okay. I’m going to let you go first, because I have to have the last word. So, Nick, what do you think about access?
Nick: Of course, I would love access. Being a reporter I would love to be out there, but the thing is, I get why they close practices. I also think that coaches are too paranoid. A guy I follow on Twitter, through sources and connections to schools, was getting game film, old game film. You probably saw me posting on the message board. It’s the coach’s film of Florida versus LSU in 2007, and Florida versus Arkansas in 2002. So it’s old game film, and he was just recently shut down, because I believe it was TCU didn’t want him to have their old game film. I don’t understand. What are you being paranoid about? This game film’s old. I understand that Mac has to do a lot, and they have to do a lot of installing and stuff like that, and you want to be able to do that, and you want to be able to yell at a kid who’s not getting it as quick as you want, and not have that be on Twitter immediately. So I get it. I don’t like. I understand it, and I think at times coaches can be too paranoid.
Andrew: Okay. Of course I’m going to rebuttal against you and say that I love it. I love it. I will say this, I do agree with the allowing you guys to come out for 15 minutes and kind of see warmups, special teams, that stuff. Maybe you don’t get a lot, but you still kind of feel a little bit more a part of the process. I think this is a huge spring for McElwain and company, because they need to just have sole focus on let’s get the basics down. Let’s get this spring going well. If there’s no distractions, everything goes well, and I think Florida fans will be okay if he goes out, wins nine games next year, if spring’s closed. Will Muschamp, he sucked on the field, and he allowed no access. So he was a bad guy in both worlds. Again, I think it’s great. I think that shutting the spring off is good. Maybe some of fall camp open up a little bit, maybe. We’ll see. I just think that having the sole focus, and the attention of the players, on practice is great.
Nick, I think that one thing we’re going to see though, when you do get that 15 minutes is weight gain. Florida’s just put out that new roster. Andrew Mike up to 302. That is insane for me to think about at 276. I guess my question for you is how much do you think that the new strength coach impacted this, or do you think the players are buying into the system more?
Nick: It could be a little bit of both. I think the players didn’t have the same sense as the fans, especially a guy like Andrew Mike, younger guys. They weren’t tired of Muschamp. They really liked Muschamp. They had just given him a commitment. Do you know what I mean? So they weren’t Gator fans that had watched the past two years and had a real rooting interest. These are guys that made decisions to better themselves by going to the University of Florida and playing football there. So I don’t think that they were tired. Anytime you get a new coaching staff that new staff is going to bring energy. They don’t the baggage of the past three seasons that the previous coaching staff had. So I think it could be some of that.
Also, when something new happens, they get a new weightlifting program. I go to the gym, and I try to switch up my program every month, every two months, every so often so that the gym doesn’t get monotonous. I’m sure getting a new weight room program for these guys, getting a new meal plan possibly for these guys, is something that excited them, and there’s so much opportunity. I think that’s what really drives it. Andrew Mike probably, after the Birmingham Bowl looks at the [depth] chart and goes, I’m one of eight offensive linemen. I should probably do whatever I need to do to give myself the best opportunity to start next year, because that’s a real possibility.
Andrew: I kind of agree with you a little bit. I think that you start to see maybe, I think we’ve seen Jeff Dillman come in and have that Olympic style form, and then Mike Kent comes in with a different form. Maybe that’s helping out a little bit as well, but also I think that we also have to take for granted that this is off season workouts. They’re going to gain weight. Do we expect Andrew Mike to play next season at 302? No. He’ll probably play 290, because fall camp, the summer heat, all that stuff going on.
I go down this list of guys that gained weight. You look at Kavaris Harkless. He’s now 292. That’s huge in my opinion. You got to a guy like Caleb Brantley. He’s up to 319. For me, that’s very good for him as well. Khairi Clark has lost some weight as well. I think that overall you’re seeing good progress for it. The one concern that I have is Will Grier’s still 190. I was thinking he was going to play this year, 6’4”, 200. So that’s the only concern that I really have is where is he at? Again, I think that it’s going to be interesting to see how well Andrew Mike moves at 302. Does he move like a fat guy at 302, or does he still move like the guy we all seen in his high school film and a little bit in his freshman year of practice?
Nick: The thing with Mike is that all of his high school film is him playing tackle, and he’s got to kick step, and he’s got to drive, and he’s got to get back. Now we’re thinking that you’ve got Rod Johnson, David Sharpe, Martez Ivey. You’ve got a lot pieces of tackle. So we’re expecting Mike to move into the inside, where you can be a little slower. You still need to have that technique, so can he still keep his technique with the gained weight? Can he still shuffle his feet a little bit? I think adding that weight is necessary for him moving from tackle to guard, because he’s not going to be playing against the Dante Fowler, Bud Dupris types who would line up on the other side of the hash mark and just dead sprint around the corner. He’s going to be facing the 290, 300 pound defensive tackles that are inside, and he’s got to be able to take them head on, and I think that added weight is necessary for him to play inside.
Andrew: It could be fat boy against fat boy. That’s kind of where we’re at. I think that you hit on it as well, kind of what I wanted to talk about next. I’ve seen people say, well Andrew Mike was a tackle. Andrew Mike was never a tackle in SEC. I think we all knew that. Coming in he was going to be a guard, but I think that a lot of people have overlooked Andrew Mike. You and I have both had some people tell us that Andrew Mike was one of the better guys on the offensive line last year, even as a freshman at 280, 275, something like that. So he was still one of the better guys. I think if you start to look at maybe him, and then maybe kick inside a guy like Rod Johnson, a guard, you’re looking at a tandem of maybe Martez Ivey, Andrew Mike, Rod Johnson, and David Sharpe, four of your offensive linemen with Trip Thurman playing center. That’s not a bad five starting offensive line.
Nick: I think we need to pump the breaks. Martez Ivey is very good. When I saw him he could not pass block at all, and of course offensive line is probably the biggest position that coaches have to project from high school to the next level. Could Martez Ivey be ready? Absolutely. I didn’t think David Sharpe was going to be ready to play, and David Sharpe has showed up. I think he played in high school at 270, 280, because he also played basketball, and he shows up at Florida at 320 pounds. We all think, he got fat. He’s going to be slow. There’s no way he could have put on that much weight and he can still move. He showed us up. He showed all of us up real quick.
Is it possible that Martez Ivey can come in right away? Yeah, but I wouldn’t say you signed a five star offensive lineman, so immediately you plug him in one of the two tackle spots, and then you start shifting pieces. I still think you need to see what he does, because he’s not going to be on campus until summer. So that’s going to be a quick transition period for him. I love Rod Johnson at tackle. I love Rod Johnson at guard. You can put him wherever on the line, and I think I’m still going to like the way he plays.
Obviously the scenario that you just explained, if Martez Ivey can come on right away and play tackle then your line’s that much better. Because he is a good player, he will be a good player. I think you and I agree on that. Most people think so. I’m just not ready, or as ready as you are, to say Martez Ivey is a plug and play, just because of how much projecting you have to do on the line. These guys have to gain so much weight. They’re not going up against 200 pound defensive ends anymore. They’re going up against 240, 50, 60, 70, 80 pound defensive ends who are faster than those 200 pound defensive ends they played against in high school.
Andrew: I think that the expectations are that he should be ready to go, and I’ve watched different guys. I think Martez Ivey is already better than where David Sharpe was as a high school senior. I think the one thing to remember with a guy like Martez Ivey is he’s not 17,18. He’s already a 19 year old grown man almost. He’s a little bit more mature. I think that he has already got the weight on. He’s 285, I believe, already. So you got to think that he’ll come in probably 290, 295.
The one question that I have with Martez Ivey is do you start him out at left tackle, or do you start him out at right tackle? I’m always in the opinion that you start him out at right tackle, ease him to left tackle. Left tackle is the hardest position on the football field with a right handed quarterback. So I think that maybe you start him out at right tackle then move him to left tackle in the coming years. I think that’s where the biggest question mark. In my mind it would be a letdown if Martez Ivey didn’t come in and play next year as a freshman. That’s just my opinion.
Again, it’s the hardest position to project. A guy like Laremy Tunsil didn’t come on campus at Old Miss as good as maybe he was advertised for a lot of people. So again, we’ll see that. I think we’re getting to the point where it’s going to be very interesting to see spring ball, Will Grier, Treon Harris that kind of thing. I guess, let me get your final thoughts real quick. What’s kind of your biggest thing you’re looking for two weeks in advance?
Nick: Obviously the big storyline is going to be Treon Harris, Will Grier. You’re not going to get a starter named. It doesn’t make sense for McElwain to go ahead and name a starter, come out publicly with that, because Florida didn’t sign a quarterback last year. Which is okay, because the guy he wanted to sign last year was going to be a guy that it would be an emergency case quarterback, not the next quarterback. Right now Jim McElwain and the staff think they have the next guy already on campus.
Florida would not be able to withstand saying, Treon you won the starting quarterback job this spring, and Will Grier goes, this isn’t what I signed up for. I was supposed to red shirt, and then take over as a red shirt freshman. I’m out of here. I got to find a place that’s going to play me. Now you’ve got Treon Harris, and behind him I have no eligibility left. After him it’s Skyler Mornhinweg, and then you get into guys who aren’t on scholarship.
I don’t think you’re going to get a quarterback named. It’s definitely going to be a back and forth, something where the coaches are watching every single rep of these guys and watching it again and again and again. Then you got to see, there’s only two freshman, so you’re not really watching the freshman coming in, but you’re still trying to find out, CJ Worton, how’s he doing in the slot? Brandon Powell, is he going to play more of an H back slot, kind of receiver role, or are we going to be giving him the football? There’s guys like JC Jackson. What side of the ball is JC Jackson going to play? Do you slide down [Quinton] O’Neal and play him as linebacker in some situations while you try to find more outside linebackers? Marcus May, is he playing outside linebacker?
here’s a lot of different and moving pieces. Also, something you want to see in the spring is going to be what is Jeff Collins running? He ran a lot of 4,3 at Mississippi State, and I think he’s going to get there and say, we have a lot of good defensive backs. We’re probably going to want to get five of them on the field if we can. I think you’ll see him switch it up. The main thing I want to say to fans is temper your expectations for what the orange and blue debut will be.
Andrew: Oh Lord.
Nick: There are eight offensive linemen. Even if all of them are 100% healthy for the orange and blue debut, there will not be a game. You can’t have…
Andrew: I’m playing.
Nick: So now we have nine. I guess we’ll start a signup sheet. If you want to play offensive line, maybe we can have a game in April for the orange and blue debut, but it’s not going to be a game. I’ve been talking to people around the program. There’s a 0% chance you’re going to get your orange team, blue team, let’s kick a ball off, and we’re going to play a football game. They’re trying to figure out something fun, something engaging for the fans, because they know that two years ago that whatever that was.
Andrew: A circus.
Nick: It wasn’t even really a practice. For fans at home, the TV broadcast was a circus. It was a joke. So they’re trying to figure something out, and I’ve been trying to plant a seed in some people’s heads. I think you should take the eight offensive linemen, split them up into teams of two, and those are your captains. Then you run a seven on seven tournament. You’ve got four teams, a ton of skill guys, and you just run a seven on seven tournament. Seven on seven’s getting a ton of interest. People are starting to watch it at the high school ranks. All of these kids have played seven on seven, and you don’t need offensive linemen to do it. I think that’d be something interesting. Florida’s got a ton of skill position guys. You’re not going to have a game. Florida’s trying to figure out something that’ll be engaging, a fun thing to go and watch. It’s going to be a thing. It’s not going to be football like you’re used to seeing it. Let’s pump the brakes. They’re trying to make it better than it was two years ago, but the numbers are similar, if not worse, on the offensive line than they were two years ago. So you’re not going to get a game.
Andrew: Thanks for ruining that for me. I was really…
Nick: Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We’re talking about practice.
Andrew: Practice. Let me get my final thoughts real quick on the quarterback battle. Quarterback battle for me is going to be interesting, because for the first time, in my opinion, and this is no disrespect to Kurt Roper. Kurt Roper did a hell of a job for one year, but for the first time it may be five, six years. Florida has a quarterback coach, a quarterback coach in Doug Nussmeier, Jim McElwain. I think that that’s going to be very helpful to Treon Harris and to Will Grier. They got a guy that can teach them the fundamentals of drop back passing, reading defenses, looking off safetys, hitting your check down.
In my opinion, this spring needs to be worked on more on the fundamentals of making Treon Harris and Will Grier a better passer. So that, in my opinion, is going to be the biggest thing for me. How much do those guys progress from the spring through the summer to fall camp before the first game next season? Do they get better at their fundamentals, because they finally have a quarterback coach?
I’m with you. They need to find a way to make this game, or that weekend, some way fun for the fans, because if they have another circus show like that McElwain will go from president of Gainesville to the low man on the totem pole of Will Muschamp again. Yeah, funny things going on there. I know you put in your mentions of little Will Muschamp congratulating Billy Donovan the other day. I hate it for your mentions, because Will Muschamp’s still not a liked guy in Gainesville. Anyway, Gator Country, this is your boy Andrew Spivey with Nick de la Torre. We hope that this thing’s going to be a weekly deal going on. That’s our plan. That’s our hope, but as always, things change. So right now I’m signing off. Nick, final thoughts.
Nick: Yeah. Hopefully we’ll be pumping these bad boys out once a week, maybe twice a week if we got something big going on. We’ll have more about the number one undefeated softball team, that’s a machine. Sully’s got the baseball team moving. They look like they’re poised to make a trip to Omaha, and basketball, the season from hell is almost over. So good things are happening. Stay tuned, and we’re excited to keep you guys, your ears happy with our podcast.
Andrew: Lauren Haeger just hit another bomb, sorry.
Nick: I’m sure she did.
Andrew: All right, Gator Country. We’re out.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Nation.