How will the Florida Gators reload on defense: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we discuss the latest news around the Florida Gators football program as the Gators enter the offseason.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down what it means for the Gators defense after they lost several key players to the NFL draft.

Andrew and Nick also discuss the national championship game, plus the latest surrounding the basketball team at Florida.



S1                    What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, I don’t know about you. I’m feeling much better. We’re, broken schedule again a little bit this week, because the National Championship. We wanted to wait until we could discuss that, and it was a good one. It was one of those games that I think we’ll all remember for a long, long time, and props to Clemson.

S2                    Clemson deserved it.

S1                    Bring your own guts.

S2                    Deshawn Watson’s tweet from, I think it was 2012, was surfacing around, and he wrote, I guess he must have been watching the 2012 game, but wrote, “If I ever get a chance to play in one of these games, then I’m going to go off.” He had a chance last year. Didn’t really go down the way he wanted it to, but it certainly went his way last night, and that’s instant classic game. No one’s ever come back from 14 points in a National Championship game like that. That was the largest deficit to come back from, and I think I talked to you about it. Kind of had a sinking feeling that Clemson could have had the kind of offense and the kind of players to be able to do that, to be able to beat Alabama.

S1                    Yeah. I don’t know about you, Nick, but I was watching that game, and even when they went down 14-0, I’m sitting here to myself thinking, “I like Clemson,” and It was just that I didn’t think, after watching the first few drives noticing that just really how bad of a passer Jalen Hurts is. I really liked, I really thought they had a good shot at that. It was interesting to see. It was definitely interesting to see, but, like you said, the passing game that Clemson had with the big receivers is exactly how you had to attack. If you were going to beat Alabama, you had to go right at their DBs. You weren’t going to win up in the front seven. You weren’t going to run at them. You weren’t going to run sideline to sideline against them. You had to attack the DBs. Something Florida tried, and Florida doesn’t have the playmakers that Clemson does.

S2                    No. I think really what, we talked about that already. That was the way you beat Bama. If that defense has a weakness, it’s the cornerbacks, and you got to be able to go at them. Does Florida have, first off, you can just say it. Florida does not have the skill players that Clemson does on offense, but it’s not just having the skill players. Leggett, the tight end, made some great plays last night. You’ve got Tay Scott, Deon Cain, Mike Williams. Florida doesn’t have a guy that’s as good as Mike Williams. I don’t think they have a guy that’s as good as Deon Cain, and then what is the former walk-on’s name? I’m blanking on his name right now. Caught the winning touchdown.

S1                    Hunter Renfroe.

S2                    Hunter Renfroe. To me it’s kind of, the difference they had was the quarterback, the guy that can get the ball to those guys to take advantage of that. They were able to run the ball a little bit, but a big thing is that they spread Alabama out, and when you look at the teams Alabama’s lost to, like Ole Miss, Ohio State, they run that spread out offense, where you’re going to make sure that if Alabama’s going to try to stop the run, then you’ve got man on the outside, and that’s where they’re weakest. So, Clemson was able to spread them out, get man to man situations, and a little pig play that Joker Phillips promised we would see a couple years ago and never saw.

S1                    I think the thing to also remember is this, and that is that Bama’s front seven is one of, if not the, best we’ve ever seen, so you had to go quick. It wasn’t going to be able to hold the ball. Florida had some, what little success they did have against Bama was when they went quick game, and that’s kind of what Clemson did as well. You were able to see a lot of the little crossing routes to Renfroe. They were able to beat them with several screens to Deon Cain and to Tay Scott, and that’s the kind of thing you did.

I wanted to hit this though, Nick, and this is what, this is kind of something that I think we all talked about, but maybe haven’t talked about, and that is what Jalen Hurts did was he was able to provide a running game for Bama, but what he hurt them with was there’s no passing game. I think that was over …

S2                    That’s going to be really important for them to fix coming up, because, we kind of said it before, but then you hit some big plays, but other than the pass he makes to OJ Howard, and that’s not even a good pass. Is the pass good? Yeah, but you and I can make that pass. He’s wide open. There’s no one within 10 yards of him. There’s no pressure. He’s wide open. You can overthrow that ball a little bit. You can underthrow that ball a little bit. You’re throwing to guy that’s 6’6” and probably has a 40” vert. You can throw that ball wherever. He’s going to go down and get it.

S1                    Right, and that’s what I was going to say, but I think it was a situation where they’re able to run the ball all year, and they were able to not have to throw the ball a ton, and then when they did it was there. I think that’s something that is going to be a question mark going forward, because it’s not only that Hurts doesn’t pass the ball well, but he’s so short, and you were able to see that a lot in the game, and that was deflections. Off of the ends, off of the tackles, off the linebackers.

I think it’s a real problem going forward for them, and then you look at a guy like Tua that’s coming in, a double threat guy. You were able to see him in the Army game a little bit, and he’s almost the exact same thing as Hurts in that he’s more of a runner than a thrower, and I think that’s a situation that’s going to be bad. We all like our dual threat quarterbacks that can move around a lot, but when you look at a guy like Deondre Francois, he’s able to do both. Is he as good of a runner as Hurts? Probably not, but he’s a better passer, and I think that’s something that even with Florida going down with like Franks, for instance, you make sure that you got a quarterback that can throw the ball.

S2                    For me, looking at Alabama, Bo Scarbrough, that was their hot hand right now, and I know he wasn’t even the starter to begin the season, but when he goes down with his ankle injury, they call it a lower right leg injury.

S1                    He broke his leg.

S2                    He broke it? I didn’t even see that today.

S1                    Has a broken bone in his lower leg. Won’t require surgery, but yeah. That was the turning point in my opinion.

S2                    That was, and he wasn’t the starter, but it’s kind of they found the hot hand, like the Cubs, where Aroldis Chapman got hot late, and okay, yeah. If we need to ask him to get nine outs to close the game, he’s been hot, so we’ll ask him to get nine outs, even though we haven’t had to do that all year. Bo was their guy. When he went out the offense just didn’t look the same, and Bama’s got five stars behind him, so it’s not like they had to bring out a walk-on when Bo went down. It’s just a thing where he’s got the confidence. The team has confidence in him. The offense just didn’t look the same after they lost Bo.

To me, people start to talk. Is the Alabama dynasty done? No. They recruit too well for the Alabama dynasty to be done. Clemson’s just a better team, and Deshawn Watson might have been the best player on the field last night.

S1                    Yes. I heard that same thing.

S2                    Mike Williams might have been the best player, that catch he had.

S1                    Sick.

S2                    Second to last, or third to last touchdown when they finally took the first lead, when he goes up, adjusts himself. There’s pass interference. That catch, that’s NFL stuff. That’s big time wide receiver one NFL stuff.

S1                    Yeah, and a pick play is a pick play. It is what it is. It’s part of football. That’s football.

S2                    It’s a very thin line between pick and rub, and if we say, “Hey, that’s a pick play,” there’s rules against that. Now, if you say it’s a rub, but, I mean, to see the dedication that Tay Scott had in it. Tay Scott just launched his body into the defensive back, and he has every right to run his route. He’s supposed to run a slant, and it works. You start to wonder why don’t more teams run that? You also start to wonder, “Hey, it happened to Bama in a big situation, so I can’t wait to see how quickly they have a rule against it that will be enforced from now on.”

S1                    They should have run that play, that play should have been the Ahmad Fulwood special. He likes to block. Just saying.

S2                    That’s your best blocking tight end.

S1                    Yeah. Like you said, the run isn’t over. They recruit too well, but I do think that they’re at a crossroads right now on offense, because you ran off all your quarterbacks that can throw the ball, Barnett, Bateman, those guys, and now you’ve got Tua and Hurts coming in. You better fix it, and you better fix it in a hurry, because you look at, in my opinion, their best receiver in Calvin Ridley, and he’s a nonfactor in the game. I mean, nonfactor. What? Three catches, I believe, in the game? Just a nonfactor. So, I think they’re at a crossroads of that, and we’ll see where that goes. You can be as good as you want to defensively, but they do lose guys on defense. You’re at a crossroads. We’ll see where it goes going forward with that, and we’ll also see where Clemson goes. You’re going to have an unproven quarterback next season, and also lose Mike Williams.

S2                    That will be interesting to see. They did just get the top 2018 kid. That’s not going to help you next year.

S1                    They also had the top 2015 kid too.

S2                    Right. It’ll be interesting, but you lose a lot just in Deshawn Watson. We’re talking about a guy who’d been there three years who has kind of made the team, and they’ve taken on his identity. It really is, for better or for worse, the most important position on the field. So, I look at it, and I think you’re probably going to see some kind of downtick.

S1                    You’ve got to.

S2                    You’re going to lose a lot, but you’re really losing the engine of the offense.

S1                    Right. You’re losing your heart and soul of that team. We’ll see where it goes. To move on to Florida news, a lot of announcements. Guys leaving, a couple guys coming back. Cam Dillard is transferring. So, a lot of news. I would say I’m not surprised on any of it, Nick. I felt like we knew, and we had said all along, that this was going to be it for Caleb Brantley. He almost went last season, had nothing else to prove. Teez and Quincy, we are pretty sure they’re going to be first round draft picks.

Alex Anzalone, you and I disagreed a little bit on that, but I think at the end of the day we both understand why he went, and good for him. Duke Dawson, you and I were in agreement all along he should come back to school. We had heard that there were some family members wanting him to go. I personally think he made the best decision for himself. David Sharpe, good riddance. That’s about the best thing I can say. Marcell Harris says he’s coming back to school. He was never going anywhere.

S2                    No. There were no surprises, so if Duke Dawson would have gotten a first to third round grade, he’s gone, and that makes sense. I don’t think he got that grade, and that’s why he’s back. Marcell Harris makes an announcement. He was never going anywhere, and everyone else fully expecting them to. Remember what I said about Anzalone. I said with Anzalone, “I think if he plays in the game that means he’s coming back. I think if he does not play in the game, that means he’s leaving.” To me it is you start talking about agents and stuff like that. Now, to me, it’s if Anzalone plays in the game there’s a chance he gets hurt, and when he gets hurt that’s going to, even if you’re healthy for the Combine, it’s going to affect you getting ready for the Combine, and for all of those other things.

S1                    Right.

S2                    That’s an issue. So, to me it’s, let’s see if I can go and do some stuff in practice and maybe give it a chance, but really, yeah, I’m good. I’m going to be good to do all the other stuff that I need to do as far as lifting and running and training and doing all that to get ready for the Combine. So, once Jim McElwain came out and said, “Alex Anzalone’s not playing,” in my mind, I’m going to write my story about Alex Anzalone leaving, because that’s where I think it’s at right now.

S1                    Right. We had kind of heard that his dad had talked to him about that and everything else. We had heard the day before the game that he’d been invited to the Senior Bowl. Be interesting to see how he goes about with that.

You look at what is gone from the team, and then you look at what’s coming back next season. Hear me out, Nick, and that is that what happened at the end of the season was devastating for the team, that they lost so many guys, and it hurt them down the stretch, but for next season it might be a plus. You look at Vosean Joseph playing a lot, Reese playing a lot, Kylan playing a lot, Chauncey playing a lot, Marcell and Nick. Marcell playing his best ball of his Gator career, playing there. Jabari playing a lot. Cece being able to play more and more. Taven Bryan.

In the end, I think it’s a plus that all that happened. I would have loved to see that defense all year long. I think it was one of the better defenses in the country. I think we have to reevaluate how down they’re going to be next season.

S2                    Florida, in total, is going to be losing a lot of combined starts. So, you’re going to be losing 184 career starts on defense. That is, let me pull this back up. That’s Marcus Maye, 32. Bryan Cox, 28. Jalen Tabor, 26. Quincy Wilson, 24. Jarrad Davis, 23. Caleb Brantley, 22. Joey Ivie, 16. Alex Anzalone, 10. So, right there you’ve got guys who you can consider as starters. You’re replacing eight starters, and then Daniel McMillian, not really a starter. He had three starts, career. That’s a lot to replace.

You are getting back 78 starts on defense, and I’ll break that down. Jordan Sherit, who will be coming back from ACL surgery. Nick Washington, Cece Jefferson, Marcell Harris. So, you’re looking at that already, and you’ve got your two outside edge rushers in Jefferson and Sherit. We’ll see what they want to do with Jefferson. We all know, it was well documented about him playing more defensive tackle, but we saw, what was it? The Georgia game? Maybe even before that, where it was kind of like, because of injuries you finally saw that Cece’s playing defensive end, and found him. He’d been lost while defensive tackle. Found him. Then there in Washington and Harris you have your two safeties.

Duke Dawson, eight. Kylan Johnson, six. Keivonnis Davis, five. Khairi Clark, David Reese, both four starts. Chauncey Gardner, Taven Bryan, Jabari Zuniga, all three starts, and then Chris Williamson and Vosean Joseph have one start each. I like the linebackers. I’m okay at safety. I don’t think you’re elite, but I think you’ve got a lot of leadership and a lot of experience back there. Love getting Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner back. You’re going to have to play a freshman cornerback.

S1                    I think there’s several scenarios that are going to be looked at next season. I think we both feel pretty good in saying that it will be Nick Washington and Marcell as your starting safeties. We agree on that?

S2                    Yeah. There’s talk about Chauncey Gardner going back there, but I think you’ve got two seniors. Gardner played well when he had to back there, but I think he’s a nickel. I think he could play outside cornerback too as well. I think you don’t complicate things. Washington and Harris aren’t playing corner, so if you have a guy that can play corner, why would you say, “I’m going to put you at safety, and then now we have to find three corners.”

S1                    Right. That’s what I’m saying. I think you see, and I’m very scared of this. I don’t like Duke playing outside corner, but I do think that you will see them test Duke as the starting corner opposite of Chauncey Gardner next season. I’m scared of that.

S2                    You didn’t get help for, in terms of early enrollees, so in the spring I think absolutely that’s what you’ll see.

S1                    Right. So, I think that is what you’ll see. I just, I wonder how well that happens, and then also you have to think about Quincy Litton is a guy that you and I were both told that the staff is really high on. They almost pulled his redshirt in the SEC Championship game, because he had been doing really well at corner. So, he’s another guy that could step in to play. In my opinion, perfect world, you have Duke playing inside, Litton and Chauncey as your corners. I know that’s no experience at corner, but perfect world I think that’s what you would like.

I’m with you at linebacker. I feel very, very good about what they bring back, and you have a guy like Jeremiah Moon that I think will step in and play your outside linebacker, your Sam linebacker. He played a lot before he got hurt, so I think you’ll see him play there. The biggest question mark is depth on the defensive line. You do have the early enrollee, Kyrie Campbell, there, so you’ll hope he does well. Jordan Smith’s another guy, Clayton, those are guys at end that you’re hoping bounces back and has a good redshirt freshman year, or in Clayton’s situation, sophomore year. You agree with that?

S2                    I don’t think Clayton will be able to redshirt though.

S1                    No. I said sophomore. I said, “In Clayton’s case a sophomore year.”

S2                    Okay. I’m really going to be interested to see where Clayton is physically for spring ball, because you break your arm late at FSU. You break your arm. He’s young. It’s a break; it’ll probably be ready, but interesting to see where he’ll be. Someone who, we talked about before, kind of got down on himself, got down on his situation before. Almost kind of like a Jordan Scarlett, where you come in, and you’ve got some fanfare behind you. You’re a big player. You’re probably reading social media, and they’re all telling you how great you are, and then you look at it, and, all of a sudden, why isn’t that translating to the field? Then you show up to practice, and you kind of mope around, and you let it get to you, and that’s not going to help you get onto the field.

So, to me, I think maybe you see, look at all these guys that are gone. Like I just said, 184 starts are gone. You have a chance to start over a Jordan Sherit, or over a Cece Jefferson. “Hey, Antonneous, if you play well enough, we have this guy that can go in and play more defensive tackle.” So, I think you kind of lay things out to him and say, “Listen, come in. Bust your butt. You have an opportunity here to become a starter.” I think that’s kind of where he could be.

S1                    I do. I think, and I said this to someone over the weekend, and that is I would expect Clayton to have the same kind of emergence that Jabari did, and that was, did you see, and I think it could even be better than Jabari. Jabari was really good at the beginning of the year, and kind of faded late. I think that that’s something we can really see from a Clayton. Clayton did, when he was in the game, he did perform pretty well at times in there, so I think you’re good there. I just worry about defensive tackle. You’re going to probably start Taven and Khairi Clark. You got Luke Ancrum in there a little bit. Where else do you go for depth there? That’s a concern.

To be honest with you, I think when you look at the starters I am perfectly fine with everybody that’s starting, with the exception of cornerback, and it’s not that I don’t think that they have the talent. It’s just that there’s a lot of uncertainty there. Is it a Quincy Litton that is there? Is it your boy, Williamson? Is it maybe a McArthur Burnett, who has redshirted? Who is it that comes in and plays that position? Outside of corner, I feel very good. I think the biggest question will be depth, and that’ll be a question that really won’t be answered until summer, when you get all your freshman in and see which one of these freshmen we’re able to plug into the two deep.

S2                    Litton is, to me, looking at Litton, I’m looking at a guy who I think should stick at safety, maybe.

S1                    Maybe.

S2                    Or at least continue training there, because what happens if Nick Washington, who’s had shoulder problems two or three years now, or Marcell Harris goes down? I think Litton’s your safety of the future, and how much time do I want him to be spending somewhere else? There’s just big concerns depth wise, and I don’t know if either of us have the right answer. It’s like, if you move Litton to corner, and he starts playing well, what happens if one of the safeties goes down? Now are you pulling Chauncey back? Are you pulling Duke back? Are you pulling Quincy Litton back? There’s just depth concerns, major depth concerns. At a position where it used to be crazy.

S1                    And you’ve got a guy like Jawaan Taylor, who had the labrum surgery, so he’ll probably miss spring ball. So, that’s a check against him, because that’s time he doesn’t get to train there. Maybe you cross train Litton a little bit, and see. I hate to say you train him at corner, because that’s where you need him, because I think, like you said, I think long term I think he’s a safety, but, at the end of the day, maybe it’s a situation where it’s like a Chauncey, where you can cross train him a little bit, and have him play corner.

I don’t know. It’s a situation where I’m glad I’m not the guy having to make that decision, because, at the end of the day, you do got to get your best four to five DBs on the field, but at what risk? With a guy like Litton, who missed a lot of time, practicing at that one area he’s going to play at, especially if it’s safety, where he’s got to learn to make the calls, would be huge. So, we’ll see.

Let’s go to offensive line though. So, Cam transfers.

S2                    That’s 19 starts.

S1                    Here’s the thing. You and I will agree on this. I know for sure. Cam’s a great guy, is a solid guy, is a guy that was a technician that knew what he was going to do, wasn’t the toughest guy or anything like that, but once McCoy started playing well and knowing what to do the writing was on the wall for Cam.

S2                    Yeah. I think it was, and then you look. You’ve got Tyler Jordan can play center. McCoy’s played center.

S1                    Heggie.

S2                    Heggie can play center, and also, the other thing is, I kind of mentioned it before, Cam was getting a ton of crap from people. If he was a normal student, if he was a regular student, they would have told him, “Hey, I’m graduating. I want to do grad school. What should I do?” Any advisor’s going to tell him, “Go somewhere else. Get a different experience for next two, three, four years, however long your graduate program is.” To me, he’s making a regular decision.

Everyone liked when Austin Appleby came in, or everyone like when Mason Halter. They liked it for a little while. They liked it when it first happened. Love when grad transfer come in, and then when they go out it’s like, “This guy’s a traitor.” You didn’t call the guy that came to your school a traitor. To me, Cam’s been her for four years. He’s gone through a lot. Came in, redshirted. Had to play sparingly as a sophomore, or sparingly as a freshman, then more his redshirt sophomore year, and then was a starter going into this year. I thought Cam played his best football this year.

S1                    I agree with that. We’ll see how that works out for Cam, whether he goes and plays anywhere or just goes and becomes a regular grad student. He does have the family and all that. Best of luck to him. Never hear a bad word about Cam. Great guy, but it was kind of writing on the wall when TJ took over. TJ’s a tougher guy, yada, yada, yada.

Also, lose David Sharpe. I know this is going to be probably unpopular, but for Florida that was a good move. They needed to kind of cut their losses with David. He wasn’t getting better, was a guy that we had been told wasn’t a leader in the offensive line room, and it was something that I think was good for Florida to just go ahead and let him go and be done. He’s going to get drafted. How high, we’ll see, and it also opens up for Martez to play left tackle, which is regular position, position that he did really well at. It just opens up the left guard position.

S2                    It does. I think we both agree your first move is probably Martez sliding over to left tackle, open up that left guard spot, and then the rest of the line looks McCoy, Jordan, Waany, and now you’re just looking for that one guy.

S1                    Right. I think that there’s several guys that could fill that.

S2                    The offensive line returns 64 starts.

S1                    I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

S2                    It’s right on the average for teams, or the average from the last five seasons is 64. That’s a number, I think, it comes from Phil Steele, but 64 starts is the average of most teams. So, Florida’s at the average. Two years ago they returned one start. You returned 20-something this year. This year, going into 2017, Martez Ivey has 20 starts. Jawaan Taylor, who’ll only be a sophomore, has 12 starts. That’s more than Tyler Jordan, who’s played for two years. More than Fred Johnson, who’s played for two years. Right there, that right there, if you’re looking at those two as your tackles, 32 starts from your returning tackles. I’ll take that.

S1                    Yeah. No doubt about that. I think that it’s a thing where you got to get tougher though, and that’s something Coach Mac said after the Outback Bowl, that they had to get tougher, and I think that’s something that they have to do. They have to get tougher up front, and that means guys like Tyler Jordan get tougher. That means Waany getting tougher, McCoy getting tougher, Martez getting bigger and tougher and staying healthy. I think that’s a thing too that we have to remember is that Ivey really hasn’t had an off season where he was able to really work out and be healthy. So, we’ll see really how he does. Does he have to have any cleaning of his knee or shoulder this year? As far as I know he doesn’t, but we do know he had shoulder issues at the end of the year, so that’d be very big, very big if he was able to have a full off season working out and getting bigger and stronger.

It’s just a big question mark of who plays left guard. Is it a Desire-Jones that played a little bit? Does Sandifer or Buchanan finally rise up and play? Does Fred Johnson get better, so he can go there? I don’t think he has the bend to play guard. I’m trying to think. Does a guy like Heggie? Is he good enough to play guard, and can hold him back at center? I think there’s a lot of bodies to play the position. The biggest question mark is who is ready to play that position. Kavaris Harkless played it some too. Does he take that next step? That’s a lot of guys to play at one position. Like you said, it’s a good problem to have, having four of your starters back. Just see.

S2                    I’m not even sure what I think move should be at left guard. Yet at least.

S1                    I would think that Buchanan and Sandifer are your guys that should be the guy that plays there, the big body there. They just haven’t performed well enough to get in there to play. Sandifer still has that baby weight. I’ll be honest now, and this is unpopular, but I would like to see what Heggie does there.

S2                    Yeah. If you, I guess if you feel good about McCoy at center, then you got to find a way, “Brett, are you one of the best five, because we’re only going to get the best five out there. Is that you?”

S1                    Right. Exactly. Like you said, it’s a good problem to have, and it’s, in my opinion, it’s an off season where the offensive line needs to get stronger and more nasty, and that’s all of them up front. Jawaan still, this is really his first time to be in the weight room for a good period of time, with him only arriving in June. So, we’ll see what happens there with him, as far as him getting stronger, losing more weight and getting stronger.

It’s a good problem to have, and, like you said, the rest of the offense in general you return everyone but Sharpe and your quarterback, which was Del Rio at a time, and he does come back. So, you return everybody but your left tackle and your quarterback, starting quarterback, from the bowl game. So, that means Scarlett, Perine, those guys can get quicker, faster, and your receivers can get better. I still think that the receiver group needs to get quicker, still needs to polish their routes more.

S2                    They still have a long way to go. I think you and I would say that too.

S1                    Tyrie even admitted that. He said, “I’m looking forward to being able to be in the weight room and actually work out and get stronger.” For Tyrie, I think that’s big.

S2                    Tyrie, need to get bigger and stronger. Antonio Callaway’s already posting working out, whether he’s back home or he’s in Gainesville. It started when he was back home. Already posting working out and doing different kinds of workouts for hands and speed and stuff like that.

To me, you’ve got two, and you’re still looking for a third. I mentioned three guys from Clemson yesterday, and a tight end, so they’ve got four, four kind of go to guys. You added a fifth. They asked Deshawn Watson, “If you’re throwing a pass on 4th down, if you’re throwing a pass on 3rd down and short, who you going to?” He said, “Renfroe.” He said that’s his dude. That’s his guy that he goes to, the one he trusts. Maybe they have five guys. Florida right now, you say, Callaway and probably, what’s he called?

S1                    Tyrie.

S2                    Tyrie. But I’m not even ready to put an ironclad statement that, yeah, Tyrie.

S1                    Florida did get a big free agent signing coming back in Dre Massey, who was showing that he’s already running and coming back, and all reports are that he’ll be ready to go when it comes to spring ball time, and that’s big. I still look back at that first game, after everything we heard all off season, and I still look back and think, “That was a big loss.”

I hate to do this, but I’ll do it anyway, and that is Brandon Powell has just not been that guy. He’s just not done what anybody’s expected. He’s not as fast as many people want him to believe that he is. He’s just not been that X factor that Florida needs at the slot. Whatever that may be, if it’s his foot still bothers him. It’s something we’ve talked about will probably be a problem the rest of his life of playing football. Whatever it may be, the slot receiver position at Florida has been bad.

The tight end position at Florida was bad this year. Those two positions alone, receiver, mainly slot receiver, and tight end, have got to improve. When you watch Jim McElwain during his film room thing with the national title game, he was bragging about the use of the tight ends, that kind of stuff. We all know that Mac wants to use his tight ends a lot, did that a lot with Jake McGee. These tight ends have got to get better. Goolsby and C’yontai played, I’ll say it, pitiful this year. The slot receiver position is pitiful.

That’s something that’s got to improve this year. That’s on, unfortunately, Greg Nord and Kerry Dixon to get it better. It has to improve. The quarterback play is terrible, but when guys are getting balls hitting them in the hands and they’re dropping it, nothing you can do about it.

S2                    No. I don’t think anyone would look at what the tight ends this year and say, “That’s what we expected.”

S1                    We thought they would be up for the tight end award. You and I said we wouldn’t be surprised if one of them made semi-finalist and had a big year.

S2                    I think I would have been surprised. I just didn’t know. Yeah, I would have been surprised. You look at them, and the talent’s there. The ability’s there. Then they just disappear. They’re just gone. There’s no impact. They have a good block or two during a game, but there’s just no impact. It’s like, if you’re not catching passes, then find something else to do. Make yourself a better blocker. Coach sees that and says, “Okay, we’re going to bring him into the game more, because he can play more packages. We can play him at running, not just when we’re going five wide and we need to get an extra body in there.”

When you look at receiving numbers, Goolsby finishes with 38, which is third best on the team, and C’yontai’s 18. Antonio Callaway’s got two less receptions than both the tight ends combined.

S1                    Here’s my thing with the tight end play, and that is not only do they not make the grabs, but Goolsby’s a big old guy. C’yontai is a guy, when you look at OJ Howard and Jordan Leggett on Monday night, both of those are guys that are very similar than C’yontai Lewis, in that they’re mismatches, but C’yontai’s not that mismatch that we thought he would be. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a guy like Kemore Gamble or Zach Bird get in there and take some playing time away from those two guys, because offense is focused around the tight end play, and it is shitty, and it’s got to get better. Slot receiver has got to get better, and I think Dre Massey does that.

I’ll say it, and it might be unpopular to say it, but I expect Callaway to have a better year. I did feel like he kind of had a little bit of a sophomore slump this year. I mean, is that to say, Nick, that he underperformed a little bit?

S2                    Yeah. He actually said that much on his own too, and it wasn’t the play calling’s fault. He said, “It wasn’t really my fault. It was kind of just for whatever reasons. For whatever reason it is, I didn’t get the ball enough,” and it almost sounded like he was going to say it was frustrating. I’m sure it was. He’s not the kind of guy that’s going to call anybody out and say, “It’s frustrating. I need the ball more,” but, yeah, I don’t think he had the year that he expected to have. I don’t think that he had the year that most people, maybe the coaches, expected him to have. His numbers went up from Year 1 to Year 2. So, in his freshman year he had 35 receptions. This year he had 54. Last year, 678 yards. This year, 721. Last year, four touchdowns. This year, three touchdowns, that goes down a little bit. Then the yards per catch goes down significantly, from 19.37 to 13.35.

S1                    Special teams was something he went down big time with.

S2                    Yeah. That was a problem.

S1                    That’s where you missed Dre Massey as well. To wrap it up real quick, Florida needs to get better speed, more speed. They’re looking at that in recruiting, but defensively I think we feel good on that. Nick, so we talked about we’re going to go Tuesday, Friday. We’ll be back on Friday, and we’re going to focus that one on recruiting, because the dead period ends at midnight on Wednesday night.

S2                    That’s going to be wild.

S1                    Yeah. We should have some coaching news by Friday to talk about, hopefully. Don’t hold us to it. Then, the official visits come in on the 13th-15th, that’s for the weekend. So, we’ll have that.

I want to talk real quick, Nick, before we get out of here, about basketball. Basketball team hasn’t been getting the publicity, and that’s fair, because it’s been football season, but this team is doing well. They’re one of just three unbeatens in the SEC, and doing well so far.

S2                    They’re doing well. They are, I think the big thing was, you and I were talking, we almost kind of had written them off for dead, the way they started that game against Tennessee last Saturday.

S1                    Yeah.

S2                    And they come back, double digit win. For Florida to be successful, the bar might be unrealistic, but for Florida to be successful you really need to win your games at home. You can maybe lose one or two. You might lose Kentucky at home, but win your homes games, and then you’re going to need to beat all the teams you’re supposed to beat on the road. Winning on the road in the SEC is very hard.

S1                    Right.

S2                    Very hard, but when they go to Arkansas you have to have that game, if you’re going to be the team that you want to be, the team that’s going to get to the tournament, that’s going to maybe make a little run in the tournament. You have to win that game at Arkansas, and they do that. Now you’ll have a game at Alabama. That’s another game that you should win.

S1                    Yeah. We’re taping this before Alabama, before the Alabama game. You guys are listening to this, and they’ve already played. Kasey Hill’s playing better. Kevaughn Allen, I think you and I agree, he just needs to be selfish. He needs to be that alpha dog and be selfish and take over the game. Hayes is playing well. Team’s playing well. We’ll get more into basketball over the next couple weeks, but wanted to hit on that real quick.

Like I said, we’ll be back on Friday. We’ll hit on recruiting. It’ll be all recruiting, unless there’s coaching situations to talk about, which I’m sure there will be. Nick, tell the people where they’ll find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone on Friday. If you’re not on Gator Country yet, come check us out.

S2                    Last thing, our man Zack Abolverdi just tweeted this out. “Dabo Sweeney went 9-5, 6-7, and 10-4 in his first three seasons at Clemson.” Calm down with this coaching staff. Take time. They have to find a quarterback. They haven’t found him yet, and they need to find a quarterback.

S1                    That they do. Tell the people where they’ll find us.

S2           for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is on iTunes. Search @TheGatorCountry. If you’re on Android, we’re going to look into getting it put on Google Play, so if you’re on Android you can just pick it up the same way the guys on iTunes pick it up. Also, on the website it’s there in transcript form if you prefer to read the podcast. Follow us on social media. It’s @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. It’s @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

S1                    That’s right. As always, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

S2                    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, 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.