This week’s Gator Country podcast is a special one as Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre are joined by a good friend of Gator Country in former Florida Gators receiver Lorenzo Spikes.
Spikes joins the Gator Country gang to preview the upcoming season as well gives you some Florida Gators players to look out for this year as he thinks a couple of receiver will have breakout years for Florida this year.
Also on the show Andrew and Nick discuss the latest injury situation around the program plus give a final opinion on how Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain did this fall camp.
What’s going on, Gator Country? Nick de la Torre back here with another podcast for you. As always, I have Andrew Spivey, but we also have a guest today. Andrew, tell the people who will be joining us.
Andrew: A good friend of mine, good friend of Gator Country, Mr. Lorenzo Spikes. He’s a great guy, knows his Gators. Lorenzo, how are you doing today, brother?
Lorenzo: I’m doing good. I’m waking up. You caught me on the wakeup side.
Andrew: It’s better to catch you on the wakeup than on the down low going to sleep.
Lorenzo: You better believe that. I probably wouldn’t have answered the phone then.
Andrew: There you go. I’d have had to call Fuller to wake you up. Lorenzo, we were talking, it’s high school football season, college football season. Are you fired up for this year or what?
Lorenzo: As much as people think about what we have and have returning, I’m absolutely more than fired up and ready for this team to take the field and shut a few people up. You see the national magazines and all the pundits talking, but people have to take that with a grain of salt, and they have to realize that a lot of these guys are going by what one other person may have said. It’s not that they have come down and actually seen these kids practice or saw what’s on the field. You guys, both you and Nick know they haven’t allowed the media in. So what do they know as far as what they’ve allowed, that first part of practice? That’s not going to give you a whole lot, and you know Coach Mac hasn’t shown anything through that first part of practice. You’re only going to get what they tell you.
Nick: I kind of have equated it to a play or a performance. Where the coaching staff knows what 15 minutes that the media’s going to be out there. They know that we’re going to report on what we see, so we’re seeing an orchestrated performance of what the coaching staff wants us to see in those 15 minutes. Then we leave, and they can do whatever they want freely.
Lorenzo: Right. I think they have. You’ve probably heard some of the kids who are showing up this year and who really needs to step it up. By now you probably already know, and you’ve heard little things that have leaked out of camp. Andrew, you and Nick know no matter what you do if you know enough people, and you know the right people, no matter what the right media people are going to get the information about what’s going on inside the Gator program.
Andrew: Absolutely. You’ve had the opportunity to kind of see some things as well. What’s your impression of this quarterback battle that is going forward? Do you like that it’s a quarterback battle going into the first game? What are the advantages/disadvantages of having a quarterback battle go into game season?
Lorenzo: I don’t mind. I really don’t. For one thing, if it’s a battle going into the season it’s going to give the fans something to look forward to. You’re only going to play the first “warmup” games anyway to get those in the books. As far as these going and having a quarterback battle, so to speak, going into the first couple of games, I don’t think it really makes that big of a difference. What’s going to make a difference is who’s the quarterback for Tennessee and who Tennessee is going to be able to focus on. My impression is I think at some point in time both kids have the opportunity to be on the field during that game. If we want to talk about a quarterback battle, I don’t know if it’s a true thing where Treon’s going to play some. I do see Will Grier winning the quarterback job, but I don’t know as far as Treon what’s going to happen and how much playing time he’s going to get. I have a sneaky suspicion he’s going to play a lot more during that Tennessee game than people think.
Andrew: You also had the opportunity to go out in the summer, and you and I talked about this a little bit in the summertime. You’ve seen something out of Demarcus Robinson that is different. What exactly did you see from Demarcus, and how big do you think Kerry Dixon’s been for Demarcus Robinson?
Lorenzo: I absolutely love Kerry Dixon. I can tell you that now. I love his spirit. I love the way he handles those kids, and the kids really react in a good way, a very positive way, towards Kerry. Demarcus, I know he’s listed, they’ve got it listed as 6’1”. I don’t see it. I’m 6’5”, and when I’m standing with Demarcus I can see he’s looking me almost straight in the eyes. I’m saying that Demarcus is probably closer to 6’3” now. He’s gotten some size. He hasn’t put on a lot of weight, but the weight that he did put on is more muscle. I remember when I first saw Demarcus as a high school kid at the Army All American game. He was a skinny kid. That’s all it was. You can see now it’s got around into shape, and you talk about confidence level. That’s kid’s ready, folks.
Nick: You had to the opportunity to play three years with the Throwin’ Mayoan, so you didn’t really have too much of a quarterback controversy there, but I think it was your last year Kyle Morris and Herbert Perry kind of split the reps.
Lorenzo: I actually had during my time we had Kerwin Bell, or Herbert, boy you brought up his name from the past. When I hear Herbert I think baseball, but the big name we had at that time was actually Rodney Brewer. Of course, everybody knows Rodney went on to play baseball for the Cleveland Indians, but Rodney was probably better known for back in the 80s we were actually up 28-7 at the half on Rutgers, and that 9-1-1, or that 1 was the tie that Rutgers put up on us and came back and tied that game 28-28. That’s what Rodney is most remembered for by a lot of people, but he’s a heck of a guy, heck of a baseball player.
There’s some things I see going on in this Gator program right now. You spoke about Kerry Dixon. There has been a change in this whole receiver staff. There’s been a change in the kids’ attitudes. I know a lot of folks don’t have the opportunity to talk to these kids and get to know these kids. I’m the type of person that I want to know them not just as athlete, but what they do at home, what they do in their time off and things like that. So I get to know them personally. I guess my way of being close to the kids is a little bit different.
Obviously I’m a lot closer to the kids who were Army All Americans, and tend to know them well, like Ahmad Fulwood. I know a lot of people have expected a lot more from Ahmad Fulwood. I think this year you might see a difference, and I think the big thing with Ahmad was in between the ears. I think Kerry Dixon and having somebody like Nussmeier there is really going to help Ahmad Fulwood.
Nick: How much can a coaching staff change that? Jim McElwain has kind of talked a little bit about these players, somewhat specifically about the receivers, where when enough bad stuff happens to you you start listening to the noise outside of the program. You start to doubt yourself. He’s really said to these guys, don’t be afraid to go out there and be great. How much can a coaching staff come in and inject that kind of positivity, that positive energy, the confidence in player?
Lorenzo: I think with the staff, if you knew these guys, and you knew the type of energy, sometimes people can come in and they can see a brand new coaching staff comes in, and it’s kind of a fake hype-up. A coach may come in, and the kids understand that we’re not that good. We’re still not that good. They’re just boosting us up just to make us feel good right now. These kids that we have right now, I don’t think any of them have not bought into the program. I think every single one of them have bought into the program.
I know I’m very close to Demarcus, but at the same time my favorite wide receiver has always been CJ Worton, and it’s going to continue to probably be CJ. I love this kid. We need him back. He is the X factor for this receiving group. You got kids like Chris Thompson. Chris is a kid that if he holds onto the ball he has a knack of getting open. CJ Worton, probably the best route runner that we have out there, but I think this year you’re going to see an elevated play from Ahmad Fulwood. I really think that Calloway will be on the field. He’s going to be on the field that first game. That kid is good. We tend to forget about Brandon Powell with so much going on, but Brandon Powell is, I guess you can call him kind of the X2 for this season.
Andrew: You and I kind of talked about this as well a little bit that this style of offense maybe isn’t what we’re going to see in the future, because of working around what it is. In your opinion how well does a guy like Will Grier do in this pro-style offense more so than the dual threat spread offense he ran in high school? What is the intangibles that Will Grier brings to this football team?
Lorenzo: Will is a lot more athletic than people give him credit for, first of all. If Will drops back some people tend to think that a straight drop back quarterback they have no ability to run. Will Grier is a little bit different from that. There’s been some quarterbacks around the conference in the past that have come in, and he’s not Tyler Murphy from a couple of years ago, but Will has the ability to skate, and he has the ability to step up in the pocket and let that ball zing. One thing about him is that he does not lack that confidence. You’re going to see him as a first time player on the field, but you’re not going to see him lack that confidence.
I don’t think Mac is going to put either one of them in position, or Nussmeier, I don’t think they’re going to put these kids in position to be bad at first. I really think the beginning of the year, the beginning of the season, you’re probably going to see some short stuff. Then he may think he’s going to take some shots deep, but I think right off the bat they’re not going to show a lot. They really want to wait for that decision.
Nick: We’ve seen a lot of what you’re talking about there. What I see is McElwain and Nussmeier seeing that offensive line is going to take some time to gel, that that might be the weak point on the offense, and you’re really seeing these, instead of saying we want to run the offense anyway, so the quarterback’s going to take a seven step drop, and we’re going to hope the offensive line blocks. There’s a lot of those getting the snap, getting your plant foot down, turning and throwing a ball to a Demarcus, to Brandon, to CJ. In my opinion it’s them saying, we think that our guy who’s about to get the ball with five yards of space is better than the guy you have covering him. Prove us wrong. It’s just get the ball out. Get the ball to them quickly, and make a play. Make something happen.
Lorenzo: I agree. I haven’t spoken to Demarcus since, I text him, but we haven’t really spoken. I see that happening, and I think the offense that we’re going to be running is going to put the kids in a position to be successful, whereas the previous staff I honestly don’t think there was a plan. I don’t think that there was some type of a plan to actually get the kids open. You can go out as an offense, and you can run plays, but at the end of the day do you have a play that you’re going to have that’s going to be specifically designed for a certain player to get him in open space, to get him out there in the open so that he’s on his own, or to get him in a difficult matchup for the defense? I don’t care who it is, that’s what Mac is known for, and I think this year you’re going to see some big numbers from some of these receivers.
Nick: I guess it’s time to put you on the spot. We talked about expectations in our last podcast. What do you think the expectation should be, wins, losses, at the end of the season?
Lorenzo: I can honestly see this team winning 9 games, some people may not. Of course, the pundits don’t see it, but I can see this team winning 9 games, and I can see them winning as many as 7. It really depends on how they come out in the first few games. They get past that Tennessee game, and if they look good in that Tennessee game, look out. Then it’s game on.
Nick: That’s the game that we’ve kind of been pointing to as a tipping point for the season.
Lorenzo: Right. I look at that, and further down the road Ole Miss is going to be a challenge, but those two games themselves, Tennessee and Ole Miss. For some reason the last few years we’ve always had some difficulty with the West in the eastern side, but I think if they can do those two games and do well in those games that 9 record or that 10, you never know. It’s a possibility. It’s a good one.
Andrew: I appreciate you coming on. You know the love is here from me. I appreciate it. I hope to get you on later in the season.
Lorenzo: Sounds good.
Andrew: Take care, Lorenzo.
Lorenzo: Take care, Nick. Take care, my main man.
Andrew: Nick, that was Lorenzo Spikes. Great guy. He’s a guy that we love, we enjoy so much. He brings a lot of really good things to us. We always appreciate him coming on. He had some good thoughts, some thoughts that you and I have had as well on the season. He’s big on CJ Worton and big on Callaway, and I know you’re big on Worton as well. I guess, did that surprise you at all that he’s very impressed with him, or what?
Nick: No. Not at all. I really think, I keep saying it, I think for all of the deficiencies that Florida has at wide receiver, Antonio Callaway, Demarcus Robinson, Brandon Powell, and CJ Worton those are your four guys that you can trust. CJ Worton, like Zo said, great route runner, very good hands. I’ve seen him drop a couple of passes this week, which is unusual for him, but I would agree with Zo that he is, I would say CJ Worton’s the best pure receiver, from a everything standpoint, from blocking, route running, hands, knowledge of the playbook, all of the things. Obviously, Demarcus Robinson is the freak athlete, but I would agree that Worton is probably the best pure receiver on the team.
Antonio Callaway, this kid, if you took Antonio Callaway back to the Booker T coaches they’d probably ask who he was, because what he has done to transform his body from smaller kid in high to the man that he looks like now as a freshman, incredible job by him in the weight room. I think it’s those four guys. Do you need more than four wide receivers? At some point in the season, yeah, probably, but having four on the team right now is better than what you’ve had in the past couple seasons.
Andrew: Yeah. You say four, again you have McGee. You have C’yontai Lewis, and you do have your tailbacks that are going to be a big part of that. You and I talked about this before. McElwain’s big about using those guys as threats, and he’s been doing that in the past eight years that you and I have talked about, with Alabama, with Colorado State. They’re all majorly involved, and that’s something that’s going to be there this year as well. You may see some sets, in my opinion, where it does go to a two set tight end with two receivers and a tailback, and that ends up giving you your five wide that you want, just a five wide in a different capacity.
I know that having McGee and C’yontai Lewis as receivers isn’t maybe the best thing, but you’ve got to remember these aren’t your prototypical tight ends of the old days. These are guys that are more of a flex style tight end. C’yontai Lewis is 230, 235, in that range. He’s more now of a big play, Andre Johnson kind of receiver in the NFL, or a Calvin Johnson receiver in the NFL. Not that caliber, but I’m saying size wise. He’s that kind of player with those. I think that you will see McElwain get creative with what he does in the receiving with the receivers and the tight ends.
Nick: You have to. You’ve got to find some way, obviously what Florida has done offensively the past four years, past five years even, isn’t working. To go out and try to the same thing would be the definition of insanity. You’ve got to try to figure out a different way to do things. I think that’s what McElwain and Doug Nussmeier are doing right now.
Andrew: I think we’d probably be beat up by Gator fans if we didn’t talk about the big news of yesterday. Martez Ivey down with, I would say, a minor setback. You and I were told that it’s just a scope. He had a torn meniscus in high school and had that repaired. Now they’re going in just to scrap some scar tissue and really clean up that meniscus area, something that was reaggravated on Wednesday during a goal line drill. From everything I’ve heard, Nick you may have heard differently, it’s not a long injury, probably a month at best really where it is. Athletes now recover from that so well that you can see guys come back from, if it’s just a simple go in there and clean it out, a couple weeks and he could be back on the field.
Nick: Yeah. When you hear meniscus it’s probably, if you have to knee injury, it’s probably the one that you’d want to have over a patella, an ACL, anything like that. The hesitancy that I have is you go in for any kind of surgery, and obviously it’s surgery. Even though it’s only arthroscopic you can go in expecting one thing and find out another. Like you said, it’s something where if they go in and everything is clean, they’re able to do what they need to do, get in and out, something that he could return from in a couple of weeks. There’s always the small possibility that you go in expecting A, and you find A, B, and C and now it’s a larger issue.
Andrew: Right. I think that to go in I think you’re optimistic. I guess that would be the best word to say. That it’s not going to be as bad as some have believed it to be when you first heard McElwain talk about it. So hopefully that it’s something he can bounce back. Not only does Florida need Martez Ivey, but he’s worked hard. He’s a guy that is a playmaker, and we want to see him back on the field.
Also, Keanu Neal is still out a little bit. You and I heard on Friday morning, when we’re taping this, that he should be back, and that if it was game week he’d be on the field. That’s big for Keanu. You and I also talked about it’s kind of one of those deals where it’s like what do you really get out of Keanu risking the injury during practice? Maybe it’s just a precautionary thing. Is that kind of what you’ve heard as well?
Nick: Yeah. Listen, Keanu Neal knows this defense. Geoff Collins did a good job of not changing too much, kind of an, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it thing. So Keanu knows what is going on. Him missing practice is not the same as a Will Grier or Treon Harris or a freshman, an Antonio Callaway, missing practice. Keanu Neal knows the defense up and down, and he’s the kind of player when he feels good to play you put him back in. It doesn’t matter how much time he’s missed.
Regarding the injury, you can probably see it just watching him on the football field, Keanu Neal does not have an ounce of fat on his body, very muscular kind of kid. When you’re that muscular your ligaments and your muscles are so tight. That’s why he keeps having these reoccurring hamstring issues. There’s only so much stretching or yoga or pilates that they can make him do, just the way that his body is built and how muscular and how tight he is he’s going to have some of these lingering issues where he’s pulling a hamstring or aggravating old injuries.
Andrew: Yeah. He’s a guy that he’s had it before, so the good thing is he kind of does know when he’s healthy and ready to go and when he can go out and push it and not. That’s an injury that I am not concerned about.
Nick: That’s kind of the silver lining in it as well. Obviously it’s probably frustrating for him, hamstring again, you know what I mean? It’s like when am I going to be done with this? The other side of the coin is I know how this goes. I know what to expect through each process of coming back, and I know when it’s 100%. I know what that’s going to feel like.
Andrew: Right. Let’s get some positive news here. Travaris Dorsey back from injury. Then CJ Worton is back with no contact right now. That’s good as well. That’s two guys off, two guys on kind of deal, but that’s good for Dorsey, because you and I both heard that he was having a really good fall camp before that knee injury took him down.
Nick: Right. He was having a good fall camp. CJ Worton also returned to practice. Interesting note, obviously you can’t say the same thing about Dorsey, because all of the offensive linemen wear those big bulky knee braces as a precaution, but CJ Worton returned to practice this week. He had a compression sleeve, not a brace, but a compression sleeve, pretty heavy duty compression sleeve, on his left knee on Tuesday. Thursday that was completely off. It doesn’t seem to be very serious for him with the knee injury.
To get Dorsey back, because Dorsey’s kind of fitting into the mix of those eight, nine offensive linemen that Jim McElwain wants to have ready for each game. He definitely fits into the mix if you take out Martez Ivey for any kind of extended period of time. So to get him back, obviously a big guy like that can get out of football shape pretty quickly. Dorsey’s already a massive human being to begin with, so to get him into these last couple practices before a game, get his legs back under him, get his lungs ready to be able to go 20, 30 plays if they need him to, that’s important to get him back.
Andrew: Definitely. Since this is kind of the last, this is our departing shot for fall camp as well, we’re heading into next week is game week. Monday is game prep for New Mexico. They start that. It’s finally football season. It’s finally that week of game prep. Before I pass it to you I just kind of want to give my final thoughts of fall camp. I thought it was a successful one for a lot of guys, from what I’ve heard. I think that while there is a quarterback battle I do think both quarterbacks have progressed some. I do think that coaching staff has done a good job of getting those guys ready, all players, not just the quarterback. I do think that the team has bought into what the coaching staff said.
You and I have talked about this before. A guy like Antonio Morrison saying how much he respects and is jealous of guys getting to play for Mac, that speaks volumes. If you know Antonio Morrison, he doesn’t say stuff like that unless he means it. I think that overall camp was a successful camp for Florida, and you can’t gauge the season on fall camp, but heading into the season I do feel like McElwain has the team heading in the right direction, and they did come out relatively healthy. I guess the only really guy that they’re going to miss probably the opening game for injury is Martez Ivey.
Nick: Yeah. Knock on wood again, we’ve said this a couple times as far as Florida making it through camp without any injuries, and now you’ve got a couple of what appear to be minor injuries, but still a couple popping up. I really feel like it’s something you can’t control, but staying healthy is paramount for this football team. Hopefully you get everyone back, if not for New Mexico State, then get them back by the first game, first SEC game at Kentucky.
I know the players are looking forward to breaking camp here today, as we tape on Friday like we said. Looking forward to stop focusing just on them and start focusing on actual opponent. Soon you will have actual other people. Mason Halter won’t have to worry about Jon Bullard. He’s going to have a defensive end from New Mexico State to start game planning on and focusing on. That’s one of the tougher parts of camp is that you get tired of hitting your teammates. Now soon in a couple days they will be able to focus on hitting somebody else’s teammate.
Andrew: Yeah. Thank goodness. I’m so ready to see the Swamp. I guess that kind of brings up my next question. What is your prediction on how the fan base is going to fill the Swamp this year? I’m going to say that I think that it’s better than last year. It’s not full, but I do think that the excitement level is back around the program, maybe in a cautionary optimistic standpoint, but I do think the fan base is pretty excited.
Nick: I think most fans have passed cautious.
Andrew: I say that in like I think that a lot of fans are really excited, but I think that at the same time they’re still worried.
Nick: I’m a little worried about attendance for the opener. The reason being is it’s Labor Day weekend, and it’s kind of a long weekend signaling the end of summer. Some people might go home, some students might go home to be with their families for a long weekend. Some families might take their kids, take their family on a vacation. A little leery of some of that happening and maybe not filling the Swamp for McElwain’s first game, because of the holiday weekend, but I do see a lot of excitement. I expect the fans to show up.
Andrew: The little hurricane or tropical storm coming, hopefully that doesn’t bring anything out. It won’t hurt Miami’s attendance, because it can’t be hurt anymore. Zing. Got ‘em.
Nick: As a south Florida kid growing up, we don’t even bat an eyelash about a tropical storm. We’re just happy that we’ll probably get one day off of school, and it’ll be like a regular rainstorm in south Florida if that thing stays a tropical storm. As always, if you are in the south Florida area stay safe. Use your shutters, and get your shopping done at Publix, because it is going to get bad the couple days before that thing’s about to hit landfall.
Andrew: Publix, that was an endorsement for you. All gift certificates can be made out to Andrew Spivey of Gator Country. You’re welcome for that shout out.
Nick: How do I give the shout out and you get the gift card? I don’t understand how that works.
Andrew: Because you are a guest on my show. You were the host, but you were the guest. I don’t know how that works, but if it involves free money I want it. Sorry, Nick. Love you, buddy, but that’s just how things work around this joint. Anyway, tonight’s the big night, Nick. You and I both really excited. St. Thomas, Booker T. I’m fired up for that. It’s going to be a great football game. Nick, you’ve wore on me. That St. Thomas pride. I’ve kind of let out little jives on Twitter. Jake Allen’s a good friend of mine, I guess you could say. In recruiting he’s a good dude. I’m pulling for STA tonight with you as well. It should be a good football game. I guess the next time we tape this it’ll be game week. Maybe I’ll put some eye black on.
Nick: Maybe. We’ll have to see if we can do some kind of video Skype then, put it on the site so people can see that. We are getting out of here. I am ending this differently in the spirit of the game tonight. You stay classy, Gator Country, and Pride on A.
Andrew: Pride on A. I like it. Gator Country, stay tuned to Nick and Andrew.