Florida Gators spring practice notes from McElwain: Podcast

Gator Country brings you a new podcast as we recap what Jim McElwain said about the Florida Gators heading into spring practice next Tuesday.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down exactly what McElwain said about the Gators newcomers, plus the quarterback position.

Andrew and Nick also preview the Florida Gators basketball game against Kentucky, plus baseball and softball previews for the weekend.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, Coach Mac speaks on Thursday. That meant spring football is officially underway. Kind of feels like I just got back from Tampa and the Outback Bowl.

Nick:                         Yeah. Mac joked around that this is probably the earliest he’s ever been able to start spring. He said he remembers a couple days coaching in Montana where spring football got snowed out. Don’t have to worry about any snow. It’s currently 75 and sunny in Gainesville.

I like what they’re doing. You’re going to get two practices before spring break. Florida goes on spring break next week. Florida will practice, I think, Tuesday, Thursday, or Tuesday, Wednesday, and then they’ll break for spring. NCAA rules say your first practice is no pads, second practice and third practice are just shoulder pads and helmets.

Andrew:                 Shells.

Nick:                         Shells. That just lets you do your install for those first two practices, and then you send the kids home for spring break with some homework. You don’t have any chemistry homework over spring break, but you got some football homework. With your iPads, go over the film from that install, and when we come back, we shouldn’t have to worry about that. We should be full speed when we get back.

Andrew:                 It’s more about, in my opinion, letting the guys get used to how practices run, the first two days. Letting the new guys.

Nick:                         Especially those new guys, and two quarterbacks.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Then it’s also kind of a little bit about learning how Brad Davis, Corey Bell, Ja’Juan Seider are going to run things, that kind of thing. Like you said, it’s more, not so much an install, as it is a walkthrough almost, but full speed. Like I said a couple weeks ago, Alabama’s been doing this for a while. It was something Nick Saban said that it broke it up to where the guys had a little bit of a break. You got the first two practices out, then you’re able to come back. One of the things he also preaches all the time is you’ll see who’s dedicated to football. Who goes spring break and is just pounding food all week, pounding drinks, not specific drinks, all week, and who is staying in shape? Guess what? When you come back that Monday is going to be hell for some guys.

Nick:                         It would be hell for me. If I were one of Jim McElwain’s football players I would probably be encouraged to go elsewhere once I showed back up.

Andrew:                 You would have the puke bucket beside you?

Nick:                         Yeah. I would get back from spring, and we’d have Mike Kent making us run at 5:00AM, and I probably would not make it. I would not hit my times.

Andrew:                 That’s something you’ll see. You’ll see who is really invested, I guess is the best way to say it. I mean, here’s the deal, they also deserve, spring break’s just about their only break that they get to enjoy. Christmas break is very short. There is no Thanksgiving break. There’s a little bit of summer break there. It’s something that I think is interesting as well though, to break it up, not to have that month long grind all back to back to back, to where at the end of it you’re kind of just flat almost.

Nick:                         It does give you a nice little break. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out. Will the first media availability after we get back from spring break, after that first practice, will it be, “The guys came, and we could really tell that they had been putting in their work, that they didn’t go and forget about everything,” or is it going to be a press conference that says, “These guys didn’t do their job. We were lackluster out there.”

Andrew:                 I think it’ll be a mix of “We started slow, and we got it fixed.” That’s kind of where I’ll with what I think for it. You could definitely tell that there was some excitement from Mac on Thursday from listening to what he said. It kind of boils over from last week, when you had Brad Davis and Ja’Juan Seider and Corey Bell’s opening press conference. There’s some excitement around. There’s always excitement around, but I think some optimism that things are going to be better this season. Mac continues to say they want to kick down the door, and I would say heading into the spring they definitely feel like that’s something that can be accomplished.

Nick:                         I’ll be interested to see, from whatever open portions we get, I’ll be interested to see those guys too. It’s not just the five early enrollees that are getting used to the way things run and the standards, it’s also the new coaching staff. This will be their first practice. They’ll get the outline and everything, but it’s still going to be new to them. That horn goes off, and you get a coach looking down, “Where are we going? What’s the next drill? Where am I supposed to be next? What are we doing?” It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they adapt to the way Mac likes his practices run, and also what they bring to it as well.

Andrew:                 It’s kind of like you said with the new guys coming in too. It’s a little bit different. In high school you practice two and a half hours. Florida practice is usually 90 minutes, but it’s 90 minutes of work time.

Nick:                         Those two hours there can be a lot of standing around.

Andrew:                 With your two hours, two and a half hours, of high school practice, it might be legit 90 minutes to two hours of practice, compared to when you’re out there for 90 minutes to two hours at Florida it’s going to be nonstop. Go, go, go, go. Run from one drill to the other. That’ll be it.

Something else, Nick, too that I think maybe we haven’t thought about and haven’t said too much about. With them starting a little earlier it’ll be a little cooler weather. It’s still going to be hot, but it’ll be a little cooler weather to maybe fine tune some things without being wore out while fine tuning things.

Nick:                         That’s true. Maybe not as much, because you always have the indoor.

Andrew:                 I’m saying, April is getting to where it’s 90 degrees every day, whereas if you’re in Michigan it’s 75 and sunny. When you’re in Florida in April it’s 85, 90. Right now it’s, like you said, 80 degrees, 85 degrees, sunny. You’re ready to go. Indoor, you do get a lot more indoor practices in the spring, because you’re not so much trying to get in game shape as it is trying to get better.

Nick:                         Apparently, you don’t want to be in Michigan in the spring. That’s why they’re going to Rome.

Andrew:                 They’re going to Rome for the publicity. Let’s get into a couple things. Just to preview real quick, we’re going to talk here for a few minutes about what Coach Mac said on Thursday, and then we’ll follow that up starting next week with Monday, Wednesday, Friday podcasts, and we’ll be going spring previews fully on them. Just to recap kind of what Coach Mac said on Thursday, Nick, some injuries. Not sure what’s going on with Quincy Litton, unless it’s his foot injury again. Mac didn’t really specify too much with Freddie Swain, but all in all it’s Freddie Swain, Jawaan, safety Jawaan. Quincy Litton is out. Antonio Riles is out. Who else am I missing, Nick? I know I’m missing someone.

Nick:                         I’ve got a full list. Guys that are out completely. Antonio Riles, that was an ACL. I’m guessing Freddie Swain is still that shoulder injury he had, but Mac didn’t specify. Luke Del Rio is the shoulder. Quincy Litton, still his foot, right?

Andrew:                 I’m guessing. He came back and was ready to go. I’m guessing it’s that.

Nick:                         Jawaan Taylor, safety Jawaan, he had shoulder surgery right after the SEC Championship game. David Reese had surgery on his wrist. He was in a hard cast for the Bowl game. Jordan Sherit had a knee injury. All those guys are out completely for the spring.

Non-contact guys are going to be Dre Massey, who tore his ACL last year. James Houston, the early enrollee, he tore his ACL in high school. He’ll be non-contact, but still be able to go through install and stuff like that. Then, CJ McWilliams, who also tore his ACL last year.

Andrew:                 I think it’s big news, well I say it’s big news, we expected Dre Massey to be able to go. I just think it’s very big to have him there to continue to work, to let him get back.

Nick:                         Who’s that?

Andrew:                 Dre Massey. To get him back into the fold of things. He was there for two months, got to go through fall practice for July, and what? Most of August, or all of August, and then you got the game week. To get him back in the fold, in my opinion, is something that will be good, especially with the younger quarterbacks, to have that veteran guy, him and Brandon Powell there. Really him, Brandon Powell, and Antonio Callaway, I guess, are your vets at receiver.

Nick:                         You only have five. You only have five scholarship receivers.

Andrew:                 That’s true.

Nick:                         You only have 59 healthy scholarship players this spring.

Andrew:                 That gets fixed when the freshmen come in and that sort of thing. You’re always a little bit down, but not usually 26 guys. I think it’s good to get those receivers. I’m particularly interested to really see how Callaway and Tyrie use this whole offseason and spring ball to go about it. Callaway’s never had a full off season. Tyrie didn’t really have a full off season last year, because of his incident. It’ll be interesting to see how those guys go and work with those two freshmen quarterbacks.

Nick:                         Going to be a lot of reps for Josh Hammond. Going to be a lot of reps for those receivers. Does Brandon Powell stay healthy? That’ll be a question. He seems to always have that foot thing flair up. A lot of time and reps. Mac called receiver a position of strength. I’m going to call BS on that. I am not ready to call that a position of strength yet.

Andrew:                 I don’t know. You’re forgetting Rick Wells too. I’m interested to see what Rick’s able to do. He’s a guy that I think …

Nick:                         Are you?

Andrew:                 I really am. I’m interested to see. I really am. I’m interested to see if he is. It’s kind of like we said with him before. He’s a possession receiver. He’s a guy that’s just going to catch the ball. He’s going to be reliable to catch the ball. I’m interested to see what he does there.

Then, when you look at tight end, they moved Camrin Knight to linebacker, so you’ve got Goolsby, C’yontai, Moral, Kemore, and is Kalif working with tight ends or receivers? Tight ends, right?

Nick:                         Yes.

Andrew:                 I think so.

Nick:                         He’ll be working with the tight ends.

Andrew:                 I’m interested to see how Goolsby and C’yontai improve, because they need to as well, and then you got to look at Kemore coming in and getting in the fold of things.

On offense, it all really goes back to quarterback, Nick.

Nick:                         Yeah. Kadarius Toney will get a chance. I think Florida told him he would get a chance, right?

Andrew:                 That’s right. They told him he would get the opportunity to stay there before he moved. I said this before, and I’ll say this again. Is he a guy that is going to thread the needle on passes? Probably not, but he can do some things with his legs. I think whether or not he stays at quarterback I think he’s a guy that can do things with his legs to where you’re able to give him a package. We all talked about Dre Massey having a package. Let’s see what Kadarius Toney gets. Let’s see what kind of package he gets. You can do a little wildcat on the goal line, that kind of stuff, and see what he does. Interesting that Coach Mac did kind of talk about having that run threat at quarterback.

Nick:                         Yeah. It’s something you see that everyone’s kind of talking about. Florida, you look at Alabama. Alabama’s got a running quarterback, and that’s probably the last school in the country you’d think would have one.

Andrew:                 We’ll talk a little bit more on the next podcast of why.

Nick:                         It’s really a two quarterback, two horse race. Two people, Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. One of those two will be your starting quarterback. I don’t see Luke Del Rio earning the starting job. I think it’s going to be one of the two redshirt freshmen. You’ll see what separates them starting Tuesday.

Andrew:                 A couple more things, Nick. Let’s talk some more position changes. You had Richard.

Nick:                         Richard Desir-Jones moving to the defensive line. In high school he played both, and he was a wrestler in high school. He’s actually practiced, during his redshirt year he practiced defensive line. I remember telling you that as something just you and I talking, as something to look for. I said, “Richard’s here. Desir-Jones is here after practice, and he’s working hitting bags, like hitting pads and hitting bags like a defensive lineman, going through D line drills.” I think it’s something he’s been working on, and when you see someone like Brett Heggie, I think Heggie will play right away, so probably a good position change for him.

The other position change I do not think is good.

Andrew:                 What’s that?

Nick:                         Cam Knight moving from tight end to linebacker.

Andrew:                 Here’s my thing with that. That is a situation where he’s not going to play tight end.

Nick:                         Never was going to play a meaningful rep at tight end. He was going to block when they needed him to, but never a threat to catch a pass.

Andrew:                 Right. When I look at that move I think, “Well, what was he best at?” That was about being physical playing tight end. He did play some linebacker in high school. Right now I would say you’re not short on depth at linebacker, but you’re still looking for some more guys to get some reps. Maybe he’s a guy that shows up and is able to play a little bit, get in there a little bit. Then I think he’s a guy that is a special teams guy there. I think that’s more of a move of he wasn’t going to help us here, where can he maybe help us a little more at?

Nick:                         I don’t see him playing much linebacker either.

Andrew:                 I didn’t say that. What I said to you was, “I think he has a better chance to get on the field there than he does at tight end.” We’ll see.

Nick:                         Better chance to get on the field if he transfers somewhere else.

Andrew:                 Couple things, like you said, with Heggie. Playing guard and center. That’ll be interesting. I think that’s something we kind of talked about as being possible. You see it happen with Tyler Jordan a little bit. TJ McCoy’s probably got center locked down for the next three seasons. He was just a redshirt freshman last year, so heading into his redshirt sophomore year. It’s like you say, you want your five best on the field, and if Heggie’s one of your five best, then go for it.

Nick:                         McElwain spoke really highly of TJ McCoy today. He was asked about offensive line changes, and he said, “Some guys, like Nick Buchanan, will have to step up and step in.” He said, “Really I think TJ McCoy’s a guy that when he came in you’re thinking, oh jeez, we’re down to our third center, but we probably found our best guy at that position.” TJ McCoy, from a transfer because of his father’s illness to being able to come back. I think that’s a really cool story, and it’s interesting how that works out. You think you’ve got a center in Cam Dillard, and then you think you got a backup in Tyler Jordan, and this guy’s third. Maybe it’s just one of those guys that looks okay on the practice field, and then when the bullets start flying and when the game starts just ups his game a level, ups his game a notch.

Andrew:                 I wouldn’t fight that guy.

Nick:                         No. I wouldn’t fight any of those guys.

Andrew:                 No, but I’m just saying. He’s a guy that everybody that you talk to talks about how tough he is. I mean, how many times have we said this, Nick, playing offensive line is about one thing, and that is wanting to kick the guy in front of you’s ass. If want to do that, 99% of the time that is going to accomplish itself. TJ McCoy’s a guy who’s always been talked about as being a guy that’s undersize. Guess what? You can’t question his heart. The biggest thing we always said about Cam was that he knew what to do. TJ seems like he knows what to do, and brings a little more dog to the fight. That’s what you want.

I’ll be interested to see really how all the guys do with Coach Davis now, but I think him and McCoy might become good friends, because they both seem like they’re very tough human beings.

Nick:                         I agree with that. McElwain called the offensive line out, said he needs them to be anger, needs them to be more physical, needs them to be tougher. That’s probably the last thing you want to hear if you’re an offensive lineman, that you’re not being those things.

Andrew:                 That thing is, Nick, and it’s really why the change had to be made, but he called them out all year, and it just got tougher and tougher talk by him, to the point where I think it’s to the point this year where it’s going to be you’re either going to be tough, or you’re going to be riding pine, whoever you are.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 I’m not sure I would want to be that guy that is not tough with Davis. As he talked about, there’s consequences for not being tough. It sounds like you’re going to be tough, or you’re not going to be playing very much around him.

Nick:                         I’m really excited to see what his coaching style is, because Mike Summers was …

Andrew:                 Laid back.

Nick:                         Very laid back, quiet. Still a technician. I think he knew what he was talking about, but not that typical offensive line coach, spit flying, helmet grabbing, that kind of guy.

Andrew:                 F bombs dropping. Telling you you suck, your mom sucks, everything else. It goes back to what we just said, Nick, and that is you can know what you’re doing, you can be in the right spot, but if you don’t have the mindset that you want to kick the guy in front of you’s ass, the guy on the defensive line whose job is to do the exact same thing, kick the guy in front of him’s ass, if that guy wants to do it more than you do, guess what? You’re losing the battle, no matter how good you are, no matter what position you’re in. You’re going to lose the battle. It’s like going to war. If you go to war, and you’re in the right place, but you don’t have the right gun or anything like that, guess what? You’re losing the battle.

Nick:                         You can lose a couple battles, but you got to win the war.

Andrew:                 That’s right. That’s what I’m saying. The first battle is knowing what to do. To win the war you’ve got to be ready to kick the guy in front of you’s ass constantly, not just one play, not just one game, whatever it may be. When you look at the LSU game, okay, I think at times the offensive line was tough in that game, but then you turn on the Florida State game, and you think, not very tough. You turn on the Alabama game, as good as Alabama’s defensive line was, you still questioned the toughness in that game.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think you would. That’s the biggest gut check for a team.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. Anything else you want to talk about real quick with football before we move on to basketball?

Nick:                         No. We’ll get more into that on Monday, and we’ll preview. We have a big baseball series, a huge basketball game. We got a bunch of other stuff to cover here.

Andrew:                 Let’s move on to that. We’ll hit on yours first, Nick. I heard the sky is dropping in baseball. Has it fell yet?

Nick:                         Florida lost a game in February, so they cancelled the renovation to McKethan. O’Sullivan, who just signed a 10 year contract, is now on thin ice.

Andrew:                 Omaha’s out, right?

Nick:                         Oh, no. They cancelled the entire tournament.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         College World Series, we’ll just pick it up next year.

Andrew:                 Good deal. We joke about it, because it’s as stupid as it sounds. When you hear people say, “This was the most embarrassing loss,” get out of here. If February is your most embarrassing loss, then you’re doing something great. It’s mindboggling that these people are calling Walton’s loss to Maryland and Sully’s loss to Jacksonville the worst loss ever. It’s just stupid. That’s what I’m going to call it. It’s stupid. It’s idiotic. To me, that shows you don’t know baseball and softball. If I hurt your feelings by saying it, chances are you’re one of the people that said that, because of that. Baseball and softball, you’re not winning every game. You’re not planning to win every game. You’re going to the Hall of Fame if you bat .300.

Nick:                         It’s baseball. Jacksonville threw their Friday night starter. People are saying this is an embarrassing loss. The kid that threw against Florida had a scholarship to Penn State before he transferred. They chose to save their Friday night guy to throw against Florida on Tuesday. Florida threw Michael Byrne, who has been on fire. He has not let up a run in 10 innings pitched, and has 12 strikeouts. Leads the team in innings pitched after two appearances, and leads with strikeouts. He’s been a surprise to me based on the limited action he got as a freshman.

Then you turn to Frank Rubio. To me, it was interesting, because I asked Kevin O’Sullivan before the year, “Hey, Frank Rubio has a chance to be the closer, he has that sidearm righty release. Are you comfortable with him pitching against lefties?” He says, “Yeah. No problem. Super comfortable with it.” Tuesday comes. What happens? Frank gives up two hits, gets an out. Two lefties come up, goes to the bullpen to bring in the left-handed Andrew Baker, who ends up blowing the save, earning the loss. He’s a young kid. He’ll learn from that, and it’s probably the first real adversity he’s ever faced on a baseball field, because he’s never really had to face it, being as good as he was playing in high school. We’ll see how he bounces back from that.

I think that’s interesting to me is to see how that back end of the bullpen shakes out, because O’Sullivan said one thing, and then in the first instance since did it different. Did the opposite.

Andrew:                 Right. I think that bullpen’s one of those things that’s kind of like your batting lineup. That is that it changes throughout the nonconference before you really get into conference play, when you say, “This is going to be my eighth inning guy. This is going to be my ninth inning guy. This is going to be the guy that I think is going to be my get the lefty out kind of guy.” I don’t worry about the bullpen until you get mid-conference, or conference play. Then I start to, okay, now or never.

Nick:                         Not even, yes, conference play, but not even in the beginning of conference play. You’re probably still figuring some stuff out there too.

Andrew:                 Yeah, but you know what I’m saying.

Nick:                         By April, you’ve got to have that figured out. That stuff’s got to be completely figured out by then.

Andrew:                 Right. That’s what I’m saying. By the time you get to conference play you should have an idea. Okay, Frank Rubio’s going to be my ninth inning guy, or, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t tell you half the names in the bullpen. I haven’t studied it a ton, but someone should be that guy to be your eighth inning guy, your Kirby Snead or whoever it may be.

Nick:                         I think that was going to be Rubio, but we’ll see. It’s also interesting that we really didn’t get to see who was going to shake out to be that midweek starter. It could be Byrne, but there’s also Nate Brown and Tyler Dyson, two freshmen, that are going to be competing for it. I think one of the two of them were in line to start that Wednesday game. Sorry, that Wednesday game that ended up being cancelled.

Andrew:                 Okay. Let’s go to Miami.

Nick:                         Also, guys that could come out of the bullpen. Tyler Dyson throws 95-97, so you bring that out of the bullpen and feel good about yourself.

Andrew:                 Right. Let’s go to Miami. What’s Miami coming in ranked? How did they do last weekend? Give us a quick look.

Nick:                         Let me pull this up. Miami lost to Rutgers on Sunday. They committed six errors, five in one inning. Pretty bad, embarrassing loss for them to come off of. They’re coming into the game ranked 17, 2-1. Florida’s 3-1. They did not have a midweek game, Miami. They’ll go with Jesse Lepore, who’s a righty, in Game 1. Jeb Bargfeldt, lefty, in Game 2, and then Michael Mediavilla, who I think is a senior or junior. He was their Saturday guy last year. He will close it out on Sunday.

Andrew:                 Okay. When you look at Miami, we’re typically talking about a good staff with also some decent bats. Know they lost a couple guys. They lost Jason Hayward’s younger brother, lost a couple other guys. Quick preview. What’s the outlook of how you think this team is? Do you think it’s going to be a pitching series? What do you think this weekend?

Nick:                         I think, Miami had to replace a bunch, but you get Edgar Michelangeli back. He’s the owner of that beautiful bat flip. You remember the one I’m talking about?

Andrew:                 I do.

Nick:                         It was in the regionals, where I think he threw the bat out of the stadium. You get Christopher Barr back at first base. Carl Chester is back in center field. They’ve got some guys back. They really did not hit well against Rutgers. Michael Amditis, who is the new catcher, had a good series. He was three for seven with a double. Romy Gonzalez, who’s a new second baseman, he had a homerun and four RBIs last weekend. Everyone kind of struggling.

Then, when you look at what Alex Faedo was able to do against what I think is a better lineup last year, almost throwing a no hitter, I think Florida should be able to take two out of three, if not sweep this series. It’s always tough. A lot of these guys have played against each other. A lot of these guys are from Tampa, Orlando, South Florida area. Miami gets most of their roster, I think, is from South Florida, all the way up to Palm Beach, but from South Florida, and these kids know each other. There’s no love lost between the fans. It’s going to be a packed stadium. I would expect Florida to take at least two of these three.

Andrew:                 It’ll be interesting to kind of, like you said, see who steps up. You want to see Faedo have a better game. Then, to really see how those next two starters, Saturday, Sunday, go, because it is a series. This is an Omaha like feeling series. Of course, these teams are going to change a ton, but this is the first really series that will test each other nerve wise. Not that the first weekend didn’t, not that the Jacksonvill loss didn’t for Florida, the Rutgers loss didn’t for Miami, but it’ll be three series where, like you said, the crowd will be into it. Momentum should be flying. The juices should be going.

Nick:                         I will, unfortunately, miss the weekend. Our good buddy, DK, is getting married, so I’ll be down there for that. Matt Fitzsimmons will be covering the game for us. Matt’s a former baseball player. He knows his stuff. Treat him well on the message boards this weekend.

Andrew:                 Softball is going down to Orlando to play in the Citrus Classic this weekend. Heading in they didn’t play a midweek game this week either. Heading into the weekend 10-1, ranked #3 in the country. After dropping that Maryland game, they dropped from 1 to 3. They’ll be going to play five more games in three days. Didn’t I say it last week, Nick?

Nick:                         You did. You did say it.

Andrew:                 It’ll be another big one for Florida. Not big as far as teams they’re going to play. They’re going to play Syracuse, Fordham, Liberty, Elan, and Lehigh. Not good competition, but that five in three will be another test for the team as they go there. Really a big weekend for them to get things ironed out, as they go next weekend out to California to play in the Judy Garman Classic, which is big team after big team after big team there. That’ll be kind of their spring break trip before SEC play gets underway the following weekend.

For me, this is another chance for Florida to kind of iron out the details on everything. The pitching staff is struggling a little bit, outside of Delanie Gourley and Kelly Barnhill. Then, like we said on Tuesday’s podcast, the batting order outside of the top four is still a tossup. Against these five teams, who’s going to get hot. Can Janelle Wheaton get hot? Is it Jaimie Hoover, the freshman, or is it Aleshia Ocasio? Who takes that five hole spot, and who really solidifies themselves in the everyday lineup as you go next week to California, and then come back home for SEC lay the following weekend?

Nick:                         That’s big. You want to enter, especially the girls that are struggling a little bit at the plate, you want them to enter SEC play with some confidence. You want to get some hits, even if it’s just that bloop that just gets over the second baseman’s head. Just to get on first base to see some success can do wonders for your self-confidence, for your self-esteem, and you really want to be chugging along full steam ahead once you get into SEC play, because the SEC doesn’t mess around with some of these softball teams.

Andrew:                 No. They open up with a good, but maybe not great, Missouri team at home. It’s big. Like I said, then you go next weekend to California, and you got a really good UCLA team, a CAL team that’s pretty good, Long Beach State that’s pretty good. You got a good weekend series that’ll be another test, kind of like the Miami series is for you guys in baseball, and how the Michigan game was for Florida in softball. Again, for me, it’s weaker opponent. You’ll get to see some weaker pitching. Maybe that’s what some of these girls need is a little bit of a break. Like you said, hitting is all mental, in my opinion. A lot of it is physical, but a lot of it’s mental as well. Seeing a ball fall does wonders for confidence, does wonders for the next at bat, and so on.

Nick:                         Who comes after Missouri? Is it Auburn?

Andrew:                 Auburn. Auburn will be Florida’s big test. They’ve beat #1, Oklahoma, earlier in the year. They’re actually ranked ahead of Florida right now. They’re #2. That’s the team that gave Florida problems last year, took two out of three, knocked them out of the SEC Tournament the last two years. That’s kind of your team. Right now, that’ll probably be the two teams that are up there. Alabama is your usual candidate of always being really good. Missouri is pretty good. Again, Arkansas will be flat. They won’t be anything. Georgia, Kentucky are two other teams that will be pretty good, and Tennessee is always a team that Florida battles. Florida State is the #1 team in the country right now. Like baseball, Florida gets two games against them. That’ll be another key opponent for them.

Again, for me it’s all about just really developing this batting order. If they can figure out the batting order, this team’s going to do wonders. I think the pitching staff will figure itself out. Veteran girls that are doing well, just a little hiccup, maybe still rusty from the off season.

Nick:                         I’m interested to see. What will Walton do with this, especially if Barnhill keeps dominating the way she has, what do you see happening there with the rotation? Is there less of a rotation? Does he maybe lean more on one girl?

Andrew:                 I think you said this before. Walton likes that rotation. He likes that baseball style rotation. I would be shocked if he went away from Gourley, or having Gourley and Ocasio pitching every weekend. I really would. Maybe Barnhill starts to become that Friday night go to, maybe that’s it. He likes to go with Gourley on Friday night, that way he has her in relief the rest of the weekend, but if she struggles like she did last weekend, and then Ocasio continues struggling, maybe you look to get Barnhill two starts on a weekend.

I say no. I say Ocasio and Gourley will figure it out. Gourley just had really one bad inning. Ocasio’s struggled really all year basically. I would say they’ll get it figured out, but Ocasio’s struggled lately in the end of games, really her whole career.

Nick:                         That’s an issue.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Baseball and softball will take a back seat this weekend, Nick.

Nick:                         Big game up at Rupp.

Andrew:                 Big game up in Rupp.

Nick:                         Not to put down, who’s left? Arkansas, Vanderbilt?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Not to put down the other two games, Saturday’s probably the regular season SEC Championship.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly what I was going to say. Especially if Florida goes in and wins that game, shut it down pretty much. That’ll mean they’ll have a two game lead. Of course, I guess they’ll still call it a tie, but Florida will basically have a two game lead after sweeping the series. What kind of confidence, what kind of boost is that to Mike White? Not only in the rankings, but in recruiting, if you’re able to say, “I swept Kentucky on the court.” It hasn’t happened very much in Florida history. To do that would be spectacular. It’s going to be tough. I’ll be honest. It’s going to be tough.

Nick:                         I think it’s going to be tough, especially you lose Egbunu. You really need Canyon Barry to play.

Andrew:                 And play well.

Nick:                         Not only to play, but to play well too.

Andrew:                 You need that collective rebounding, like you had against Carolina. I’ve said it all along, an aggressive Kevaughn Allen is the best player for Florida. He’s Florida’s leading scorer always. Always has been Florida’s leading scorer, all year, but it just seems like some games he decides, “I’m going to be a little more passive.” Scored 26 points on seven shots against South Carolina, which is insane. You say he scored 28 points, I would have liked to see him take more shots. I like to see him be more aggressive. When he’s aggressive, things go well. Florida does well. They don’t have those droughts when he’s shooting the ball constantly and being aggressive. Florida needs an aggressive Kevaughn Allen to win on Saturday in Rupp.

Nick:                         I think they can do it. I think they can. I don’t see it being the blowout that it was when they played in Gainesville, for either team. I see it being a close game, and Florida’s going to make Kentucky earn it. They’re playing good defense. They’re playing as a team.

I think Frank Martin had an unbelievable compliment to Mike White saying that you can really tell that this team is playing through his eyes. This is how Mike White played when he was at Ole Miss. This is the kind of effort and the intensity that he played with, and this is his vision of what a team should be playing like. To me, that’s a great compliment from a prestigious head coach, from a peer, and it’s going to take a whole team effort to go up to Kentucky and win. Those are great basketball fans up there. They’re knowledgeable. They’re loud. They’re passionate. They’re going to make you earn it. That team is going to make you earn it.

Andrew:                 For me, Florida is defense for sure. Them playing constant good defense, like they are. Limiting the turnovers, for me, especially on the road, when you’re looking at this game being on the road in an environment that’s going to be insane. Kentucky fans have no love lost for the Gators, especially after what happened down in Gainesville, so it’s going to be crazy. Limit the turnovers. Play good defense, and you find yourself in the game, in my opinion. For Florida, on the road, at Rupp, that’s what you want.

I’ll say this though, Nick. To drop this game, you never want to drop a game, but dropping this game the season isn’t over. I know people are going to say, “Florida can’t win without Egbunu,” if they lose on Saturday. I’m going to go ahead and throw it out there. Even if they do, let’s not throw the season away.

Nick:                         That’s what we’re supposed to do when teams lose games. The season’s over. Throw it out.

Andrew:                 Season’s over. You know what I’m saying. I just feel like it’s one of those games where I think, I do, I’m with you. I think Florida has a good chance to go in there and get the W, but if they don’t, I don’t see it being a huge problem for Florida. I still think they’re a three or a four seed heading into the tournament. Had you said that at the beginning of the year, everybody would have been cool with that, or at least I feel like everybody would have.

Nick:                         I think they would. I think they would take it.

Andrew:                 Mike White should be coach of the year.

Nick:                         I don’t know how anyone else would get SEC Coach of the Year.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Heading into that. That’s a big one. Baileigh will be on the horn for that one. We’ll have some stuff. I’m going to be away, like Nick, so we’ll be checking in and out a little bit. I’ll be gone through Wednesday. Nick will be back on Monday. We’ll be here.

Nick:                         I’ll probably be back in Sunday checking out the baseball game. Apologies to Dan. I will probably be at his wedding on my phone on Saturday night checking out what’s going on with Florida and Miami. That’s just a fun series for me, especially if I’m down there. That’s a tough one to miss. Got to go see DK get married. The old ball and chain.

Andrew:                 As we’re doing the podcast, I find out I get to see big sexy, Bartolo Colon, throw on Saturday. Maybe I get to see a backflip from Bartolo.

Nick:                         Hopefully you get to see him hit. That’s the real treat.

Andrew:                 That’s right. Bartolo is one of the few. He’s definitely not aging very much there, Nick.

Nick:                         Some guys just have rubber arms, man. There’s no explanation for it. If you play baseball, you know it. There’s that coach that throws BP every day. Brad Weitzel throws BP to Florida every day. Arm’s never sore. Arm’s never tired. If I threw BP on Monday, my arm would feel a little ragged on Tuesday, and if I did it again on Tuesday, I’m not throwing BP Wednesday. Need to give the arm a rest. Some guys just have a rubber band for an arm. Bartolo Colon had it. Livon Hernandez, there’s a name for you. Livon Hernandez had a rubber arm. Remember him? Just hanging around towards the end of his career, and it was like, Livon threw another 300 innings this year. He went 7-9, but he threw 300 innings.

Andrew:                 Bartolo, like RA Dickey, who’s throwing a knuckle ball, Bartolo’s still getting by. Now, how he’s getting by with his 92 mile an hour fastball that tops out at 92, I think it might be a little because they’re scared of Bartolo.

Nick:                         I don’t think anyone’s scared of him.

Andrew:                 I don’t know. Speaking of that though, it should be a good series, baseball and softball. Basketball should be good. Then, like we said, Tuesday spring gets underway. If you haven’t joined us yet at Gator Country, check us out. Got a good deal. We’ll have plenty of inside coverage from football. Recruiting will be heating up as kids will start coming on campus. Basketball, baseball, and softball will still be going on. If you want your one stop shop for everything, and the best, hit us up. We’ll give you a coupon code and get you over there.

Nick:                         As always, www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is on iTunes. Subscribe there. Leave us a rating and a comment. Let us know what you like, what you don’t like, what you’d like to see moving forward. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can get the podcast in audio and transcript form on the website. On social media, it’s @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can follow me, @NickdelaTorreGC, and Andrew, @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 I’ll have a lot of Braves coverage this weekend.

Nick:                         Maybe unfollow Andrew for the weekend, and pick back up on Tuesday. I’ll probably be unfollowing you on Twitter.

Andrew:                 No, you won’t be.

Nick:                         Don’t need those updates. No thank you.

Andrew:                 As always, guys, we appreciate it. Hit us up if you want to join. Looking forward to a good spring, and baseball and softball and basketball. Good luck to everyone this weekend. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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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.