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    David Sharpe will look to be the anchor at left tackles for the Florida Gators offensive line in 2015. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

Mailbag podcast on Florida
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Written by Andrew Spivey, April 29, 2016, 0 Comments,
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The latest GatorCountry podcast is in the form of a mailbag as the gang answers all of your Florida Gators football and recruiting questions that you have following spring practice.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre answer the tough questions about the offensive line and who they think will be starting in the fall, plus if the line will be improved over 2015.

Andrew and Nick also break down the running back position as asked, plus they give you some recruiting updates and talk satellite camps in this podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

Nick:                         What’s going on, Gator Country podcast listeners? Nick de la Torre, bringing along Andrew Spivey for a little mailbag edition of the podcast. Andrew, tell the people what’s up.

Andrew:                 Definitely. We got a big one coming up, and it’s been a big week. Momentum is swinging the Gator’s way for a change. Some cool recruiting edits and stuff going out with draft stuff, and Drake. I didn’t know the Drake edit was out there, but Coach Mac looking over the Swamp, that was pretty cool.

Nick:                         Views will be out on Friday, when you’re listening to this. Check out Drake, I guess. You and I, we both know we are guilt of being long winded, and I’ve got a bunch of questions here for us. So let’s just crack into them. You ready?

Andrew:                 Yeah. Let’s do that, and then we can finish off with some diamond preview, and we’ll recap the recruiting week as well. Fire away.

Nick:                         Two from FDLAT, and from Gator Don. I think these are kind of similar. Who do you see for starting on the offensive line and at running back, and also how much improvement in the offensive line do you expect this year? I guess, we’ll start with who do we foresee as the starting five on the offensive line. I’m going to go left to right.

Andrew:                 I know who you’re not going to go with.

Nick:                         Who’s that?

Andrew:                 Riles.

Nick:                         I think I am…not. No, you’re right. Left to right, David Sharpe at left tackle. Martez Ivey, Cam Dillard, Tyler Jordan, Fred Johnson. Those are my five.

Andrew:                 I guess we’re going to agree, because Sharpe, Ivey, Dillard, Jordan, Fred is the logical starting five. I think barring something wild happening. Is there any way it doesn’t happen? Martez Ivey is back. He’s lifting, and I did find something else out, Nick, that you and I haven’t even really talked about is they went ahead and scoped both of his shoulders. Both of them had been giving him a little problem, and instead of fixing one and maybe having to deal with the next one next year they just went ahead and scoped both of them. Seems like he’s feeling well. I think it’s probably more of a question of who is the first guy off the bench more so than it is of who’s starting.

Nick:                         Yeah. That brings us back to the question of what kind of rotation are you going to have? Last year a very healthy rotation, but you had freshman that you were thinking of these guys are our building blocks for the future. We should get them reps now. They’re not going to redshirt. We need to get them reps. So now that you have more, I mean you had veterans last year, but now that you have those building blocks in place, do you continue rotating? I know you hated the rotation, but do you continue kind of rotating just to keep guys fresh? Where do you go from here, because there are still guys like Sandifer, TJ McCoy. I really thought TJ McCoy looked good. Obviously, we talked about what we saw during the spring, and knowing that’s very limited, but I liked TJ McCoy, and I really liked Buchanan.

Andrew:                 The hell with the rotation. Let’s just be honest.

Nick:                         But there are some guys who redshirted last year that, if you’re thinking about building, what if David Sharpe leaves? Then you’ve got heading into 2017 now you have three juniors and a redshirt senior. Do we need to start getting those redshirt freshmen some reps so that in 2017 we’re not saying, we’re starting basically four new guys with no playing time?

Andrew:                 You find ways to get them in the game in some early games, but to hell with this rotation stuff. The hell with it. Do you see Bama doing it? Do you see Ohio State doing it? Do you see the best of the best doing it? No. If you ask Jim McElwain if he really believed in that rotation stuff he’d probably say no. So let’s table the rotation stuff, and let’s get five guys to be cohesive and going at it. Let’s be fair with it. Your three guys of Fred, Jordan, and Ivey, they have two more years at least. None of the guys have really shown they’re early entry NFL guys, so probably three more years of playing there. Do you find a left tackle? Yes, but that left tackle’s probably Martez. So do you want to double up his plate, move him around a little bit? That might be something you look at, but then it goes back to who’s your right guard? In my opinion, Florida Gators are not winning the SEC Championship with Antonio Riles playing left guard.

Nick:                         Yeah. I guess that kind of just leads us into the next part of the question, which is how much improvement do you expect from the offensive line? To me, I don’t know. If I’m going to be completely honest, I’d love to have an answer, but I don’t know, because I really saw both Fred Johnson and David Sharpe struggle at times in the spring with the speed that Florida had off the edge, and that’s concerning, because when you get into the SEC schedule every single SEC team, maybe not Vanderbilt, every SEC team will have somebody that has that kind of speed off the edge, and if you can’t handle your own guys, granted I think Florida’s defensive line might be their deepest unit on the team, but if you can’t handle your own guys in practice, it gives me concern moving forward.

Right now I think the strength is right guard with Tyler Jordan. I think he’s been the best offensive lineman, in my opinion. I really have some questions as far as speed rush and the tackles go. So I’m not sure how much improvement. You want to be able to say, they all played a bunch last year, so naturally that’s the progression. They’ll keep progression. I just don’t know yet. I don’t know if I saw enough in the spring to say 100%, without a doubt, the offensive line will be better in 2016 than they were in 2015. You get what I’m kind of saying there? It’s potential, yeah. There’s potential to do it. I just don’t know, and I don’t feel comfortable saying yes, absolutely, 100%, put my pink slip to my car on it.

Andrew:                 There’s so many aspects that go into an offensive line being good. If you bring down the offensive line play for the first six games last year compared to the last four, it’s a whirlwind of difference. It’s the same offensive line playing. Okay, the quarterback got rid of the ball on time. The quarterback knew when to hit a hot route, this, that, and the other. I think it’s one of those deals where if quarterback play is better, offensive line play is probably better. If your running game is better, your offensive line play is probably better. If you’re able to catch the ball, your offensive line play is probably better. I guess the biggest question is do we expect the offense to be better? I say yes. So in return I say the offensive line will be better, because the defensive line is simply not going to be pinning their ears back and just coming after your quarterback. So I would say yes. My concern is Fred Johnson continuing to get better. David Sharpe’s going to be David Sharpe. He’s going to allow a couple of sacks, and he’s also going to do really well. Ivey I think is going to continue to get better. Jordan and Dillard, they’re fine. Johnson is the guy that I worry about maybe getting beat a little bit as he continues to develop.

Nick:                         That’s the thing too. I think people are really down on Cam Dillard, and I’m not sure why. Is he an All-SEC, All-American type? Maybe not, but I think he can get the job done.

Andrew:                 That’s kind of my point. I mean, is he the weak link on the thing? He’s probably, I mean, I like Cam, but he’s probably your weakest pass blocker or run blocker of the thing, but does he do his job? Yes. At the end of the day, that’s it. I mean, I’m very harsh on someone that plays the offensive line, and I won’t name his name again, but Cam Dillard’s doing his job. That guy’s not.

Nick:                         You don’t have to name names. Everyone knows who you’re talking about by now. To answer the question, we hit the five, we agree, the five that we think will be the starters. How much improvement? I think class is still out of session there. Not ready to set anything in stone there. At running back, I think it’s kind of the same thing. We’re really not sure who will. I think if anything, Jordan Cronkrite might have a slight edge coming out of spring, but this is still a competition. This is still wide open, in my opinion, and, if anything, in my mind Lamical Perine was probably 100% redshirt going into the spring, when you saw what Florida had, and the way that nobody was able to close the gap it’s not out of the question that Perine could avoid a redshirt and maybe get playing time.

Now, I’m more bullish on this than you are. I think Jim McElwain sticks with one running back, doesn’t matter if he has 15 on the roster, one guy is going to get the bulk of the carries. It’s just nobody has taken that role and made it theirs. Last spring it was obvious, Kelvin Taylor is going to be the running back. This is his season. This year no one’s stepped up in the spring, and I don’t think that means that you’re going to get a timeshare in the backfield. I just think the coaching staff is going to wait until somebody earns that, and then pick that guy and ride with him.

Andrew:                 I mean, I’m in agreement with you that he does start to go with one. I do think that he would like to have multiple guys ready, but it’s kind of the thing. If you have multiple quarterbacks, you don’t have one. That’s kind of what it is at the running back position. You want one guy to really be that standout guy. Now, here’s the deal. I think Florida has three really good running backs, and they all three had a really good spring at different moments. I would say that Cronkrite did really well at the beginning of the spring, and then Mark did really well at the middle, and then Scarlett as he came back from an injury did well at the end. Now, I say Mark Thompson runs away with the job in the fall, and I think he becomes that bell cow of a running back, but we’ll see. I think all three will see time early in the season.

Nick:                         My big issue right now with Mark is fumbling. You saw it in the spring game. We saw it a couple times in practice, and we really saw it, or heard that it was also an issue throughout the spring. Ball security is something that won’t be, a lack of ball security won’t be tolerated.

Andrew:                 He’ll either get ball security, or he ain’t playing.

Nick:                         That’s what I’m saying. So even if you earn the starting job, you start putting the football in the ground, that’s not going to be the case for long.

Andrew:                 Exactly. I agree with that.

Nick:                         Next question is going to come in. Do you agree that Kyle Trask has the greatest upside at quarterback in the long run?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         That will be of the four guys on campus right now. Of the four on campus right now, one of them is a one year rental. So it’s really between three guys, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, and Luke Del Rio.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. I mean, I think you and I have both said it, and we’ll say it again, and that is yes. I believe that he is the biggest upside. I think Franks has a good upside, but Trask is a guy that is about to make his high school coach look like a dumbass. I mean, it is what it is. When you’re a guy that comes in as a freshman, and he didn’t steal the show, but he looked really well, impressed everyone. He has the biggest upside.

Nick:                         I agree too, and it’s kind of what I had talked about in the past, or during the spring, and it was kind of like mentally he’s more mature, and that goes with everything, pocket presence and footwork. Some of the intangible things that you don’t really think about where it’s being able to sense pressure, being able to know or just feel like he’s a righty, so left tackle got beat; I can feel that pressure. I need to step up, or I need to step up and over to get that guy too far down field, take him out of the play, buy myself some more time. I see that with him, and it was good to see that from somebody who should still be in high school.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         To me, I think yeah. He’s got a big arm. Maybe not as big as Feleipe Franks, but Kyle Trask has more than enough arm, and the accuracy. I think he was the most accurate quarterback of the four all spring long.

Andrew:                 My thing is this. Again, I think Feleipe has a good upside, but Feleipe is a second to two seconds late on all decisions. We saw that with Treon. We didn’t see that with Will Grier. Two seconds is the difference between 70 yard touchdown or a pick six.

Nick:                         With the draft coming on this weekend, that’s the thing that you’ll hear analysts talking about. Those passes that you made in college, you can’t make in the NFL. So that’s part of the projection. Those passes that you made in high school, probably can’t make them at college, definitely not when you’re playing against some of these defenses you’ll in the SEC. So that timing, it might take a little while to make things click mentally, so that you’re not throwing the ball late. Throwing the ball late, where in high school it might be an incompletion, might be six points the other way. You saw that in the spring game with Franks. We saw it in the spring throughout camp, and it’s just something where right now Kyle Trask seems to be farther ahead in that mental part of the game.

Andrew:                 I agree with that. So, next question.

Nick:                         Which players will start on the defensive line, and who will surprise?

Andrew:                 Since we’re getting longwinded, I’ll make it short. To start I say it’s pretty straightforward, I guess is the best way to say it. I think it’s Sherit Cece, Brantley, Ivie, with Cox rotating in in that rotation somewhere, in that starting four, and then being the fifth guy there. My surprise guy, I’m going to go with Jabari. I think Jabari is the guy that does well, and I’m going to stick with it.

Nick:                         I’m going to go with the same, except I have Bryan Cox starting over Sherit.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I think Cox has really, to me, kind of made the biggest jump, and you’ve seen flashes of him, but to me he kind of put it all together and was consistent this spring. So that consistency in being able to consistently make plays, rather than make one or two a game, that to me is what will be the biggest jump for him from his redshirt junior to redshirt senior year, and I think I’m really looking forward to both Jabari Zuniga and to Keivonnis Davis and seeing what those two guys can do. Jabari going after a redshirt year, and Davis going into his sophomore year, what kind of jump can they make? Agree with you as far as the rest of the way along the line with Brantley and Ivie and Cece.

Andrew:                 I think the Sherit, Cox thing could go either way. It could be a rotating decision week by week.

Nick:                         Yeah. You get into looking into matchups and stuff like that. It could very easily be a week to week thing. The next question though might be a little bit of a downer. How would you rate the defensive tackle depth going into next season? Not 2016, but 2017.

Andrew:                 I mean, you can’t really answer that, because there’s still a whole recruiting class to be there. I mean, there’s still Juco guys and stuff like that to be added, so I don’t think we can give an honest answer what that’s going to be. I mean, if you’re looking at it right now it’s not very good, but there’s a whole year to be fixed.

Nick:                         I think really that’s true. So maybe you have Cece Jefferson playing tackle, but Caleb Brantley’s gone. Barring injury, Brantley’s gone. Thomas Holley had already moved to end before reinjuring himself, so you’re looking at really Khairi Clark, Andrew Ivie, Taven Bryan.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         So you need a big recruiting class.

Andrew:                 That’s what I’m saying. They were looking to get a Juco guy, maybe two Juco guys, in the class, so you can’t judge it right now. Getting ahead of yourself in trying to judge something. Something that I don’t think we should do here.

Nick:                         Alright. I got a recruiting question for you.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Will the coaches emphasize early enrollment again this cycle, and if so, do you know of any candidates?

Andrew:                 There’s a little less spot for early enrolling, because of the scholarship numbers. I don’t think you’ll have as many open spots for early enrollees, but I think McElwain is a proponent of that. I mean, when you look at, especially this recruiting class that just passed, and you had 13 guys, and you were able to see them go in the spring. It helps. As far as names, it’s a little early, because a lot of those guys are still saying they’re trying to early enroll; they’re doing that. Probably the biggest name that knows for sure he wants to early enroll is Shawn Wade at defensive back, and if things go as we think they are at cornerback, Shawn Wade going to Florida, if he does go to Florida and early enroll, could be huge, because of the lack of depth there. He’s a guy that could come in and potentially do really well in the spring to set himself up to start the fall. So that’s the biggest name that has confirmed 100% they’re early enrolling. Of course, still committed to Ohio State. I think it’s going to come down to Bama, Florida, but if you ask me I would say there will probably be five guys early enroll, maybe six guys early enroll. Nothing like this past year. Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         Yeah. Don’t get used to getting 12 early enrollees. Florida led the country in early enrollees for a reason. Getting 12 is ridiculous.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Five, six, three or four is normal.

Andrew:                 Exactly. If you see that, five or six, year in, year out, you’re doing something good.

Nick:                         Got you. Last question. It’s going to be a three part.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Who do you think will win the SEC East?

Andrew:                 Damn sure it ain’t going to be Tennessee.

Nick:                         I’m going to go right now with Florida. I don’t know what Georgia’s going to be. I’m not buying into the Tennessee hype. Certainly isn’t going to be Kentucky, Mizzou, or Vanderbilt.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You didn’t expect me to pick Tennessee, did you?

Nick:                         No. Absolutely.

Andrew:                 Just making sure that that 18 times spring national championship will continue, but that fall losing streak will continue. I’m going Florida. I expect a rematch in Hotlanta between Gators and Bama, and we’ll see. Mac says the next step is to win in Atlanta.

Nick:                         There you go. My next question was, who do you think will win the SEC? This is a three parter.

Andrew:                 It’s tough for me. I’m in the belief that in order to be the man you’ve got to beat the man, so until Florida beats Bama I’ll stick with Bama, but I do expect the game to be much closer than it was, simply because Florida’s trotting out a quarterback, instead of playing 10 on 11.

Nick:                         Yeah. No, I’m going to pick Alabama. I think Blake Barnett will win that quarterback job. You and I both know that Bo Scarbrough’s a monster, and Alabama has Da’Shawn Hand. Da’Shawn Hand has barely played at all. He’ll probably end up getting a starting job this year as a junior, but that’s crazy to me. Alabama’s just got five stars, #1 player in the country, or #1 player at their position when they were recruited, just like collecting cobwebs on the bench, and it’s kind of like every three years you’re like, crap, I remember him. He probably would have been starting for my team two years ago, but now he’s just now getting a chance to play at Alabama. Their roster’s going to be full of guys like that again. So I’m picking Florida to win the East, Alabama to win the SEC. Then this asked us who we think will win the National Championship. I’ve probably got it coming down looking something like Alabama and Clemson, with Watson coming back, Alabama Clemson. Ohio State’s losing a lot. I’ll say Alabama and Clemson will be in that game, and it’s way too early. Who knows at this point though?

Andrew:                 I’m going to say that I have no clue. I’m sitting here trying to think.

Nick:                         The end of April, and trying to say who’s going to be playing.

Andrew:                 Here’s the easiest question. Who won’t be the national champion?

Nick:                         Who won’t be?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Michigan. Florida State. Tennessee.

Andrew:                 Tennessee. I got another one for you.

Nick:                         Florida.

Andrew:                 No. There’s a team that’s down in the south.

Nick:                         Miami.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Mark Richt doesn’t win national championships.

Nick:                         Miami are at a 100 to 1 odds right now on VegasInsider.com. Florida is at 55 to 1 odds.

Andrew:                 I’m not an odds maker, but that odd should go way on up for Miami, because Mark Richt doesn’t win national championships. Period.

Nick:                         There you go. We’re moving into some baseball questions, two of them.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         One of them near and dear to your heart and to your Braves.

Andrew:                 No. You can just go ahead.

Nick:                         Do you think A.J. Puk has finally turned the corner and figured some stuff out this year after what you saw on his last outing against Georgia? Great outing. We’re going to need him to make that College World Series run.

Andrew:                 How is that near and dear to my Braves?

Nick:                         Because the Braves pick very highly in the draft.

Andrew:                 They’re not taking A.J. Puk.

Nick:                         They could use a selection on Mr. Puk.

Andrew:                 I dialed Coffey up in Atlanta. We’re not drafting Puk.

Nick:                         Fredi Gonzalez is still there, so you obviously didn’t even get in touch.

Andrew:                 Fredi’s gone.

Nick:                         I remember when he left the Marlins and went to Atlanta, and you were so happy. That was very short lived.

Andrew:                 We don’t have enough time in this podcast to talk about that. Go ahead and talk Puk, because I want to talk Puk as well.

Nick:                         Yeah. So I think with Puk everything is mental with him, and it’s last year we saw the incident with the trespassing, and he kind of had to make a bullpen start to come back out. Comes back out, and he’s ready to go, lights up, is shut down, lights out the rest of the year. So to me, that was impressive, and I think the last couple starts he’s put together really have impressed me. I see that kind of attitude from him that I saw last year. So, yes, I think A.J. Puk will continue to churn out quality starts for Florida the rest of the way. Obviously big start for him this weekend against South Carolina.

Andrew:                 My thing is this, and I would say I’m very hard on A.J. Puk, and I like A.J. Puk. I think A.J. Puk has the stuff to be really good. He kind of reminds me of that Little League pitcher though, that Little League pitcher that when you see him you’re like, I really don’t want to play against this kid, because he can’t control the ball, and that’s what it is. It’s he’s a guy that when he’s on he’s unbeatable, throwing 96 on the knees, on the black, with a curve ball or a slider that’s just downright nasty. Then there’s times where he tries to throw 100, and he has no idea where it’s going. I’m sure Sully’s sitting there saying, “A.J. you’re throwing 96, just throw 96 on the black. Don’t worry about throwing 100.” For me that’s what it is. When A.J. Puk is on his game, he’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, but it’s just one of those deals where you roll him out, and you’re like it’s either going to be Johnny Wholestaff tonight or bullpen you can go get a shower, because we’re not going to need you.

Nick:                         It’s going to be either Dr. A.J. or Mr. Puk.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly right. It’s either going to be A.J. Puk with several Ks after it, or A.J. Puk with several Bs after it for walks.

Nick:                         Yeah. Time will tell. We’ll see this weekend.

Andrew:                 I’ll say this, and here’s the thing. This is the hit on it. Nick, I know you’ll agree with me when I say this. I follow baseball like you do, religiously. I love my Braves and everything else. If I’m drafting a pitcher off the Florida Gators, I’m drafting Logan Shore. He has less risk about him. You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a really good pitcher who’s going to give you six to seven to eight quality innings of really good ball. He’s going to strike out a few. He’s going to walk less than most people are. He’s going to get hit a little bit. Not going to allow very many runs.

Nick:                         Yeah. Logan Shore is a pitcher’s pitcher.

Andrew:                 Right. He’s going to pitch to contact, and he’s going to eat at the innings. He is #3, 4, or 5 pitcher in a rotation in the Big Leagues that will have probably a 10 year career in the Big Leagues.

Nick:                         Yeah. Sticking with baseball. How do we see right field shaping up for the rest of the year? Ryan Larson has earned a couple starts in a row. Jeremy Vasquez has been hitting okay. Vasquez is in the lineup for his bat, and his bat, while it hasn’t been bad, hasn’t been what we expected it to be. Quite frankly, A.J. Puk didn’t get a win in his last start because of the way Vasquez played in right field, misplayed a ball; it ends up being a ground rule double with a guy on second instead of an out, or instead of a sacrifice fly. That caused one run. We ended up playing extra innings. Florida loses. Ryan Larson’s taking over in right field. Now, when you look at Florida, and the power numbers are down pretty much across the board, other than Pete Alonso and Mike Rivera earlier in the year.

Then you go to Omaha where, yes, there were some more homeruns last year, but that is a gigantic park. I hate it. I hate that park, Ameritrade. Gigantic park, you’re going to need somebody who can play defense. Florida right now leads the SEC in fielding percentage. If you’re going to put Vasquez out in right field, I’m a little concerned. Ryan Larson’s good with small ball. Florida’s not hitting the ball out of the park a lot, probably won’t be hitting the ball out of the park if they get to Omaha. Now you have somebody, Jeremy Vasquez, you won’t ask him to bunt, because you know he’s not going to be able to do it. Ryan Larson’s one of the best bunters on the team. If you need to play small ball in Omaha, that’s your better option, and Ryan Larson’s a better outfielder.

I think, unless Ryan Larson, he’ll continue getting opportunities, I think he’ll play this week against South Carolina. Unless he starts slumping, I think Ryan Larson is really going to be that everyday right fielder with Vasquez being able to come in and pinch hit, a role that he did very well doing as a freshman. Come in and pinch hit situationally when the other team has a righty on the mound.

Andrew:                 Something about Vasquez.

Nick:                         Already you were having a situation where in the eighth inning, ninth inning, you were already bringing Larson in, either for Nelson Maldonado in left, or for Jeremy Vasquez in right field, whoever made the last out, or whoever was farther down in the batting lineup, was already getting replaced defensively. If Ryan Larson can come in and start and contribute, you’re not going to get power numbers from him, but you need him to get on base, and you need him to play a role, move guys over when he needs to. His first start he ended up bunting his first two at bats, before getting an RBI. So I see Ryan Larson, unless he goes through a crazy slump where you just can’t count on his bat at all, I see him continuing to start in right field.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You know I’m a Ryan Larson supporter. I’ve been on the Ryan Larson train for a while. I think he’s a good player. Vasquez, to me, just there’s that loop in his swing that just is a timing issue, in my opinion, more for Vasquez than anything. I agree with you. I don’t want to say Florida doesn’t need Vasquez’s bat in there, because that’s redundant. You always want a big bat like that in your order, but I think Florida is okay with the good defensive in right field with a lesser pop from a guy like Vasquez. Larson’s going to put the ball in play, is going to hit for a decent average. You’re just not going to get the homeruns. So yeah, I’m in favor of Larson going, Vasquez being a guy that comes off the bench for pinch hit capabilities late in the game.

Nick:                         Then I think the biggest point is, because the question was really about Omaha, and when you’re talking about that big field, listen, Jeremy Vasquez doesn’t have that power. No power, unbelievable hell of a pop he’s has this year, but when you take into consideration that that is a hard park to hit homeruns out of, big outfield, now you’re saying, we’re not getting power from right field anyway. If we can get average and above average on defense, let’s go with that.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly.

Nick:                         Then that’s it. That concludes our question and answer. Let’s break down the softball and baseball.

Andrew:                 Hold on real quick. I want to hit on recruiting real quick, just for two seconds, just a couple minutes actually. Satellite camp, that’s the big thing going around. We talked about this, Nick, about three weeks ago, a month ago, that they banned the satellite camps. Thursday it’s now back on. Satellite camps are now back on. Commissioner Sankey actually said that the SEC is now going to allow coaches to go and get ready, because this is about to turn into a crap storm around, the southeast in particular, but Nick Saban, McElwain, Hugh Freeze, those guys, they’re about to set up shop everywhere.

Nick:                         I think that in theory the satellite camps, for recruiting, in theory they’re good. We’re going to help all these kids, but you and I have been there. We’ve seen what the satellite camps are. It’s for recruiting. There’s 400 kids there, and 10 of them are the ones that the coaches are focusing on.

Andrew:                 Yup.

Nick:                         You can say, this hurts kids, this and that. It’s a recruiting tool.

Andrew:                 Exactly.

Nick:                         You’re masking being able to leave your state to go do recruiting by saying, we’re trying to do a camp to help coaches and to help these other kids, when really the other kids are kind of just there while you’re trying to get Johnny Running Back to come to your school.

Andrew:                 Exactly. You’re getting that $75 a pop. Again, it helps the smaller schools. The bigger schools, for instance, right now do you think there’s a kid in the state of Florida that Florida doesn’t know about? I mean, they’re hitting 300 schools this week. They’re just about in every school in the state. If there’s someone they don’t know about, then someone didn’t do their job. Okay. Yes, maybe there’s a kid in Kentucky they don’t know about. Well, chances are if he’s that good someone has put out something; someone has found him. Again, it’s great for the smaller schools. Big schools shouldn’t need it. They’ve got the money. They’ve got the presence everywhere. They don’t need it. It is what it is, and get ready, because Harbaugh is not going to like it when people start to go into his territory.

Nick:                         That’s the thing though. No one wants to go there. Everyone’s coming down to Florida, down to Georgia, to Texas, Alabama. The ACC and the SEC are the conferences that are against this, because they’re in the talent rich states. So it’s all these schools that have to go out of their state to find receivers and defensive backs, safeties and running backs, that have to leave because they’re not in Michigan or in Ohio or in Pennsylvania. They’re coming south to get the players. That’s why these southern conferences are saying, hold on, we don’t want this. Get these guys back out. Florida’s not going to Michigan to find the next Vernon Hargreaves. Ain’t happening. They might have to go every once in a while to find a lineman, but Florida’s not going to get playmakers from Idaho.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing though. Saban’s going to go to Columbus, Ohio. He’s going to set up shop right in Urban Meyer’s back door, and that ain’t going to make him happy.

Nick:                         It will, because Urban knows every kid from Ohio, and he’s saying, “Good. That week that Nick Saban, that four days that Nick Saban’s here, he’s wasting his time, because I’m going to be down in Florida getting a kid.”

Andrew:                 We’ll see.

Nick:                         It’s a waste of time for coaches in the SEC to go north just to piss off a coach who’s doing a satellite camp in their state. It’s a waste of time. If Jim McElwain goes to Michigan, to Ann Arbor, or to Columbus, Ohio to do a satellite camp, you might make some Ohio State or some Michigan fans angry, but what you should be doing is trying to find a playmaker in Florida, because that’s what you need. That’s what you need. You’re wasting time going anywhere else. That’s why the SEC and the ACC are against this. That’s why the Big Ten is so for these satellite camps, because they’re not getting the type of athlete up north that they can find down south, and they want to be able to come down and recruit more down here.

Andrew:                 The three states that are affected the most by it are California, Texas, and Florida.

Nick:                         Yeah. Maybe Georgia. Texas kids kind of stay in Texas for the most part.

Andrew:                 But you’re seeing them start to venture out more. You’re starting to see those guys venture out more to Notre Dame. You see a guy at Florida. You’re starting to see guys at Bama, Ole Miss, that kind of stuff. So I think you’re starting to see that a little bit more. If I’m Florida, I’m going to Georgia. I’m setting up shop in south Georgia, middle Georgia, and northern Georgia. I’m setting up shop there. I’m coming to Alabama. I’m doing the same thing. I’m going to Louisiana. I’m setting up the same thing. I’m going to Mississippi. I’m going to Tennessee. I’m going to South Carolina. I’m hitting the southeast, and I’m hitting it hard, and I’m setting up shop there. Big Ten wants to play, they’re going to have to play against the big boys.

Nick:                         I think the only place for me, if I’m Florida, that I would do it, in one of those three states, but then still it’s really hard to pull a kid from California, really hard to pull a kid from Texas.

Andrew:                 I’m not wasting my time in California.

Nick:                         So you’re going to Georgia, maybe, and maybe Texas.

Andrew:                 I’m going Bama, and I’m going to Tennessee, and I’m going to Mississippi.

Nick:                         What are you going to Tennessee for?

Andrew:                 There’s some really good athletes in that Nashville, Memphis area.

Nick:                         Are we putting together a country music tour, or are we trying to build a football team here?

Andrew:                 Look at the past week. Florida went for five guys from that state.

Nick:                         How many kids in Florida, Florida’s got better talent than Tennessee.

Andrew:                 In a lot of areas. Defensive tackle, not so much. Tight end, not so much. We’ll see. Alright. Let’s run through it real quick. We got about five minutes here. Let’s run through it real quick. Baseball.

Nick:                         Baseball. So there’s only four weekends left before the conference tournament. Florida’s on the road for three of those.

Andrew:                 South Carolina for the championship, in my opinion.

Nick:                         You could say that. Florida and South Carolina right now. South Carolina leads the SEC East, but there’s still so many. Florida has to travel to Tennessee, then host Vanderbilt, and then go on the road to LSU. So there’s still a lot of games left, but you’d think that the way that things have gone, the winner of this series will be in the driver’s seat for the SEC East. Huge matchup. You’ll get Logan Shore Friday, A.J. Puk returns to the Saturday role, and Alex Faedo going Sunday. It would be huge for Florida, who trails South Carolina right now by a game, to go 2-1 this weekend. Huge.

Andrew:                 That would be big. Softball has two weekend series left, basically one. They play Texas A&M this weekend on the road, then they host Arkansas. Arkansas, Florida can play their C team and beat Arkansas. So they’re going to sweep Arkansas next weekend. This weekend they got A&M. A&M is middle of the pack. Florida’s tied with Auburn right now in the top of the SEC, so Florida needs a sweep at A&M to make sure to stay even with Auburn. So big series there. Like I said, Arkansas’s the next weekend. In between that is two games with Florida State, which really it’s one game and then the finishing of the nine inning game that was halted with one out, second and third, because of a dumb umpire. So really a game and a piece of Florida State, but big weekend series. Kayli Kvistad is still on fire, and Delanie Gourley is pitching really well, so should be a good weekend for softball out in College Station.

Nick:                         For me, this is a great baseball. There’s a ton in the SEC, but for me South Carolina, Vanderbilt, the Florida, LSUs, those are the series that I really get excited about, so I’m looking forward to that one this week. Not so much with Tennessee next week. They are not very good. They did have some success against Auburn, who is a dumpster fire.

Andrew:                 I want to see Tennessee’s third baseman, who is likely to be the Braves #3 pick.

Nick:                         A.J. Puk, to the Braves, #3.

Andrew:                 No. Tell the people where they can find us. We’ll get out of here, and see everyone on Monday when we recap some baseball, softball, and some recruiting as well.

Nick:                         As always, www.GatorCountry.com. On Facebook @GatorCountry. On Twitter, @GatorCountry. On Instagram we will have fire edits going tonight and all weekend for the draft. It’s TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Find me on Twitter @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC. That is all of the social medias. Hit the follow button. Hit the like. Hit the subscribe. Check us out on iTunes, if you’re not already checking us out on iTunes for the podcast, and thank you.

Andrew:                 Definitely. Should be a good one. Like Nick said, edits are coming your way. As always, guys, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

 

Andrew Spivey

About Andrew Spivey

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

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The latest GatorCountry podcast is in the form of a mailbag as the gang answers all of your Florida Gators football and recruiting questions that you have following spring practice.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre answer the tough questions about the offensive line and who they think will be starting in the fall, plus if the line will be improved over 2015.

Andrew and Nick also break down the running back position as asked, plus they give you some recruiting updates and talk satellite camps in this podcast.

TRANSCRIPT:

Nick:                         What’s going on, Gator Country podcast listeners? Nick de la Torre, bringing along Andrew Spivey for a little mailbag edition of the podcast. Andrew, tell the people what’s up.

Andrew:                 Definitely. We got a big one coming up, and it’s been a big week. Momentum is swinging the Gator’s way for a change. Some cool recruiting edits and stuff going out with draft stuff, and Drake. I didn’t know the Drake edit was out there, but Coach Mac looking over the Swamp, that was pretty cool.

Nick:                         Views will be out on Friday, when you’re listening to this. Check out Drake, I guess. You and I, we both know we are guilt of being long winded, and I’ve got a bunch of questions here for us. So let’s just crack into them. You ready?

Andrew:                 Yeah. Let’s do that, and then we can finish off with some diamond preview, and we’ll recap the recruiting week as well. Fire away.

Nick:                         Two from FDLAT, and from Gator Don. I think these are kind of similar. Who do you see for starting on the offensive line and at running back, and also how much improvement in the offensive line do you expect this year? I guess, we’ll start with who do we foresee as the starting five on the offensive line. I’m going to go left to right.

Andrew:                 I know who you’re not going to go with.

Nick:                         Who’s that?

Andrew:                 Riles.

Nick:                         I think I am…not. No, you’re right. Left to right, David Sharpe at left tackle. Martez Ivey, Cam Dillard, Tyler Jordan, Fred Johnson. Those are my five.

Andrew:                 I guess we’re going to agree, because Sharpe, Ivey, Dillard, Jordan, Fred is the logical starting five. I think barring something wild happening. Is there any way it doesn’t happen? Martez Ivey is back. He’s lifting, and I did find something else out, Nick, that you and I haven’t even really talked about is they went ahead and scoped both of his shoulders. Both of them had been giving him a little problem, and instead of fixing one and maybe having to deal with the next one next year they just went ahead and scoped both of them. Seems like he’s feeling well. I think it’s probably more of a question of who is the first guy off the bench more so than it is of who’s starting.

Nick:                         Yeah. That brings us back to the question of what kind of rotation are you going to have? Last year a very healthy rotation, but you had freshman that you were thinking of these guys are our building blocks for the future. We should get them reps now. They’re not going to redshirt. We need to get them reps. So now that you have more, I mean you had veterans last year, but now that you have those building blocks in place, do you continue rotating? I know you hated the rotation, but do you continue kind of rotating just to keep guys fresh? Where do you go from here, because there are still guys like Sandifer, TJ McCoy. I really thought TJ McCoy looked good. Obviously, we talked about what we saw during the spring, and knowing that’s very limited, but I liked TJ McCoy, and I really liked Buchanan.

Andrew:                 The hell with the rotation. Let’s just be honest.

Nick:                         But there are some guys who redshirted last year that, if you’re thinking about building, what if David Sharpe leaves? Then you’ve got heading into 2017 now you have three juniors and a redshirt senior. Do we need to start getting those redshirt freshmen some reps so that in 2017 we’re not saying, we’re starting basically four new guys with no playing time?

Andrew:                 You find ways to get them in the game in some early games, but to hell with this rotation stuff. The hell with it. Do you see Bama doing it? Do you see Ohio State doing it? Do you see the best of the best doing it? No. If you ask Jim McElwain if he really believed in that rotation stuff he’d probably say no. So let’s table the rotation stuff, and let’s get five guys to be cohesive and going at it. Let’s be fair with it. Your three guys of Fred, Jordan, and Ivey, they have two more years at least. None of the guys have really shown they’re early entry NFL guys, so probably three more years of playing there. Do you find a left tackle? Yes, but that left tackle’s probably Martez. So do you want to double up his plate, move him around a little bit? That might be something you look at, but then it goes back to who’s your right guard? In my opinion, Florida Gators are not winning the SEC Championship with Antonio Riles playing left guard.

Nick:                         Yeah. I guess that kind of just leads us into the next part of the question, which is how much improvement do you expect from the offensive line? To me, I don’t know. If I’m going to be completely honest, I’d love to have an answer, but I don’t know, because I really saw both Fred Johnson and David Sharpe struggle at times in the spring with the speed that Florida had off the edge, and that’s concerning, because when you get into the SEC schedule every single SEC team, maybe not Vanderbilt, every SEC team will have somebody that has that kind of speed off the edge, and if you can’t handle your own guys, granted I think Florida’s defensive line might be their deepest unit on the team, but if you can’t handle your own guys in practice, it gives me concern moving forward.

Right now I think the strength is right guard with Tyler Jordan. I think he’s been the best offensive lineman, in my opinion. I really have some questions as far as speed rush and the tackles go. So I’m not sure how much improvement. You want to be able to say, they all played a bunch last year, so naturally that’s the progression. They’ll keep progression. I just don’t know yet. I don’t know if I saw enough in the spring to say 100%, without a doubt, the offensive line will be better in 2016 than they were in 2015. You get what I’m kind of saying there? It’s potential, yeah. There’s potential to do it. I just don’t know, and I don’t feel comfortable saying yes, absolutely, 100%, put my pink slip to my car on it.

Andrew:                 There’s so many aspects that go into an offensive line being good. If you bring down the offensive line play for the first six games last year compared to the last four, it’s a whirlwind of difference. It’s the same offensive line playing. Okay, the quarterback got rid of the ball on time. The quarterback knew when to hit a hot route, this, that, and the other. I think it’s one of those deals where if quarterback play is better, offensive line play is probably better. If your running game is better, your offensive line play is probably better. If you’re able to catch the ball, your offensive line play is probably better. I guess the biggest question is do we expect the offense to be better? I say yes. So in return I say the offensive line will be better, because the defensive line is simply not going to be pinning their ears back and just coming after your quarterback. So I would say yes. My concern is Fred Johnson continuing to get better. David Sharpe’s going to be David Sharpe. He’s going to allow a couple of sacks, and he’s also going to do really well. Ivey I think is going to continue to get better. Jordan and Dillard, they’re fine. Johnson is the guy that I worry about maybe getting beat a little bit as he continues to develop.

Nick:                         That’s the thing too. I think people are really down on Cam Dillard, and I’m not sure why. Is he an All-SEC, All-American type? Maybe not, but I think he can get the job done.

Andrew:                 That’s kind of my point. I mean, is he the weak link on the thing? He’s probably, I mean, I like Cam, but he’s probably your weakest pass blocker or run blocker of the thing, but does he do his job? Yes. At the end of the day, that’s it. I mean, I’m very harsh on someone that plays the offensive line, and I won’t name his name again, but Cam Dillard’s doing his job. That guy’s not.

Nick:                         You don’t have to name names. Everyone knows who you’re talking about by now. To answer the question, we hit the five, we agree, the five that we think will be the starters. How much improvement? I think class is still out of session there. Not ready to set anything in stone there. At running back, I think it’s kind of the same thing. We’re really not sure who will. I think if anything, Jordan Cronkrite might have a slight edge coming out of spring, but this is still a competition. This is still wide open, in my opinion, and, if anything, in my mind Lamical Perine was probably 100% redshirt going into the spring, when you saw what Florida had, and the way that nobody was able to close the gap it’s not out of the question that Perine could avoid a redshirt and maybe get playing time.

Now, I’m more bullish on this than you are. I think Jim McElwain sticks with one running back, doesn’t matter if he has 15 on the roster, one guy is going to get the bulk of the carries. It’s just nobody has taken that role and made it theirs. Last spring it was obvious, Kelvin Taylor is going to be the running back. This is his season. This year no one’s stepped up in the spring, and I don’t think that means that you’re going to get a timeshare in the backfield. I just think the coaching staff is going to wait until somebody earns that, and then pick that guy and ride with him.

Andrew:                 I mean, I’m in agreement with you that he does start to go with one. I do think that he would like to have multiple guys ready, but it’s kind of the thing. If you have multiple quarterbacks, you don’t have one. That’s kind of what it is at the running back position. You want one guy to really be that standout guy. Now, here’s the deal. I think Florida has three really good running backs, and they all three had a really good spring at different moments. I would say that Cronkrite did really well at the beginning of the spring, and then Mark did really well at the middle, and then Scarlett as he came back from an injury did well at the end. Now, I say Mark Thompson runs away with the job in the fall, and I think he becomes that bell cow of a running back, but we’ll see. I think all three will see time early in the season.

Nick:                         My big issue right now with Mark is fumbling. You saw it in the spring game. We saw it a couple times in practice, and we really saw it, or heard that it was also an issue throughout the spring. Ball security is something that won’t be, a lack of ball security won’t be tolerated.

Andrew:                 He’ll either get ball security, or he ain’t playing.

Nick:                         That’s what I’m saying. So even if you earn the starting job, you start putting the football in the ground, that’s not going to be the case for long.

Andrew:                 Exactly. I agree with that.

Nick:                         Next question is going to come in. Do you agree that Kyle Trask has the greatest upside at quarterback in the long run?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         That will be of the four guys on campus right now. Of the four on campus right now, one of them is a one year rental. So it’s really between three guys, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, and Luke Del Rio.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. I mean, I think you and I have both said it, and we’ll say it again, and that is yes. I believe that he is the biggest upside. I think Franks has a good upside, but Trask is a guy that is about to make his high school coach look like a dumbass. I mean, it is what it is. When you’re a guy that comes in as a freshman, and he didn’t steal the show, but he looked really well, impressed everyone. He has the biggest upside.

Nick:                         I agree too, and it’s kind of what I had talked about in the past, or during the spring, and it was kind of like mentally he’s more mature, and that goes with everything, pocket presence and footwork. Some of the intangible things that you don’t really think about where it’s being able to sense pressure, being able to know or just feel like he’s a righty, so left tackle got beat; I can feel that pressure. I need to step up, or I need to step up and over to get that guy too far down field, take him out of the play, buy myself some more time. I see that with him, and it was good to see that from somebody who should still be in high school.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         To me, I think yeah. He’s got a big arm. Maybe not as big as Feleipe Franks, but Kyle Trask has more than enough arm, and the accuracy. I think he was the most accurate quarterback of the four all spring long.

Andrew:                 My thing is this. Again, I think Feleipe has a good upside, but Feleipe is a second to two seconds late on all decisions. We saw that with Treon. We didn’t see that with Will Grier. Two seconds is the difference between 70 yard touchdown or a pick six.

Nick:                         With the draft coming on this weekend, that’s the thing that you’ll hear analysts talking about. Those passes that you made in college, you can’t make in the NFL. So that’s part of the projection. Those passes that you made in high school, probably can’t make them at college, definitely not when you’re playing against some of these defenses you’ll in the SEC. So that timing, it might take a little while to make things click mentally, so that you’re not throwing the ball late. Throwing the ball late, where in high school it might be an incompletion, might be six points the other way. You saw that in the spring game with Franks. We saw it in the spring throughout camp, and it’s just something where right now Kyle Trask seems to be farther ahead in that mental part of the game.

Andrew:                 I agree with that. So, next question.

Nick:                         Which players will start on the defensive line, and who will surprise?

Andrew:                 Since we’re getting longwinded, I’ll make it short. To start I say it’s pretty straightforward, I guess is the best way to say it. I think it’s Sherit Cece, Brantley, Ivie, with Cox rotating in in that rotation somewhere, in that starting four, and then being the fifth guy there. My surprise guy, I’m going to go with Jabari. I think Jabari is the guy that does well, and I’m going to stick with it.

Nick:                         I’m going to go with the same, except I have Bryan Cox starting over Sherit.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I think Cox has really, to me, kind of made the biggest jump, and you’ve seen flashes of him, but to me he kind of put it all together and was consistent this spring. So that consistency in being able to consistently make plays, rather than make one or two a game, that to me is what will be the biggest jump for him from his redshirt junior to redshirt senior year, and I think I’m really looking forward to both Jabari Zuniga and to Keivonnis Davis and seeing what those two guys can do. Jabari going after a redshirt year, and Davis going into his sophomore year, what kind of jump can they make? Agree with you as far as the rest of the way along the line with Brantley and Ivie and Cece.

Andrew:                 I think the Sherit, Cox thing could go either way. It could be a rotating decision week by week.

Nick:                         Yeah. You get into looking into matchups and stuff like that. It could very easily be a week to week thing. The next question though might be a little bit of a downer. How would you rate the defensive tackle depth going into next season? Not 2016, but 2017.

Andrew:                 I mean, you can’t really answer that, because there’s still a whole recruiting class to be there. I mean, there’s still Juco guys and stuff like that to be added, so I don’t think we can give an honest answer what that’s going to be. I mean, if you’re looking at it right now it’s not very good, but there’s a whole year to be fixed.

Nick:                         I think really that’s true. So maybe you have Cece Jefferson playing tackle, but Caleb Brantley’s gone. Barring injury, Brantley’s gone. Thomas Holley had already moved to end before reinjuring himself, so you’re looking at really Khairi Clark, Andrew Ivie, Taven Bryan.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         So you need a big recruiting class.

Andrew:                 That’s what I’m saying. They were looking to get a Juco guy, maybe two Juco guys, in the class, so you can’t judge it right now. Getting ahead of yourself in trying to judge something. Something that I don’t think we should do here.

Nick:                         Alright. I got a recruiting question for you.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Will the coaches emphasize early enrollment again this cycle, and if so, do you know of any candidates?

Andrew:                 There’s a little less spot for early enrolling, because of the scholarship numbers. I don’t think you’ll have as many open spots for early enrollees, but I think McElwain is a proponent of that. I mean, when you look at, especially this recruiting class that just passed, and you had 13 guys, and you were able to see them go in the spring. It helps. As far as names, it’s a little early, because a lot of those guys are still saying they’re trying to early enroll; they’re doing that. Probably the biggest name that knows for sure he wants to early enroll is Shawn Wade at defensive back, and if things go as we think they are at cornerback, Shawn Wade going to Florida, if he does go to Florida and early enroll, could be huge, because of the lack of depth there. He’s a guy that could come in and potentially do really well in the spring to set himself up to start the fall. So that’s the biggest name that has confirmed 100% they’re early enrolling. Of course, still committed to Ohio State. I think it’s going to come down to Bama, Florida, but if you ask me I would say there will probably be five guys early enroll, maybe six guys early enroll. Nothing like this past year. Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         Yeah. Don’t get used to getting 12 early enrollees. Florida led the country in early enrollees for a reason. Getting 12 is ridiculous.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Five, six, three or four is normal.

Andrew:                 Exactly. If you see that, five or six, year in, year out, you’re doing something good.

Nick:                         Got you. Last question. It’s going to be a three part.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Who do you think will win the SEC East?

Andrew:                 Damn sure it ain’t going to be Tennessee.

Nick:                         I’m going to go right now with Florida. I don’t know what Georgia’s going to be. I’m not buying into the Tennessee hype. Certainly isn’t going to be Kentucky, Mizzou, or Vanderbilt.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You didn’t expect me to pick Tennessee, did you?

Nick:                         No. Absolutely.

Andrew:                 Just making sure that that 18 times spring national championship will continue, but that fall losing streak will continue. I’m going Florida. I expect a rematch in Hotlanta between Gators and Bama, and we’ll see. Mac says the next step is to win in Atlanta.

Nick:                         There you go. My next question was, who do you think will win the SEC? This is a three parter.

Andrew:                 It’s tough for me. I’m in the belief that in order to be the man you’ve got to beat the man, so until Florida beats Bama I’ll stick with Bama, but I do expect the game to be much closer than it was, simply because Florida’s trotting out a quarterback, instead of playing 10 on 11.

Nick:                         Yeah. No, I’m going to pick Alabama. I think Blake Barnett will win that quarterback job. You and I both know that Bo Scarbrough’s a monster, and Alabama has Da’Shawn Hand. Da’Shawn Hand has barely played at all. He’ll probably end up getting a starting job this year as a junior, but that’s crazy to me. Alabama’s just got five stars, #1 player in the country, or #1 player at their position when they were recruited, just like collecting cobwebs on the bench, and it’s kind of like every three years you’re like, crap, I remember him. He probably would have been starting for my team two years ago, but now he’s just now getting a chance to play at Alabama. Their roster’s going to be full of guys like that again. So I’m picking Florida to win the East, Alabama to win the SEC. Then this asked us who we think will win the National Championship. I’ve probably got it coming down looking something like Alabama and Clemson, with Watson coming back, Alabama Clemson. Ohio State’s losing a lot. I’ll say Alabama and Clemson will be in that game, and it’s way too early. Who knows at this point though?

Andrew:                 I’m going to say that I have no clue. I’m sitting here trying to think.

Nick:                         The end of April, and trying to say who’s going to be playing.

Andrew:                 Here’s the easiest question. Who won’t be the national champion?

Nick:                         Who won’t be?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Michigan. Florida State. Tennessee.

Andrew:                 Tennessee. I got another one for you.

Nick:                         Florida.

Andrew:                 No. There’s a team that’s down in the south.

Nick:                         Miami.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Mark Richt doesn’t win national championships.

Nick:                         Miami are at a 100 to 1 odds right now on VegasInsider.com. Florida is at 55 to 1 odds.

Andrew:                 I’m not an odds maker, but that odd should go way on up for Miami, because Mark Richt doesn’t win national championships. Period.

Nick:                         There you go. We’re moving into some baseball questions, two of them.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         One of them near and dear to your heart and to your Braves.

Andrew:                 No. You can just go ahead.

Nick:                         Do you think A.J. Puk has finally turned the corner and figured some stuff out this year after what you saw on his last outing against Georgia? Great outing. We’re going to need him to make that College World Series run.

Andrew:                 How is that near and dear to my Braves?

Nick:                         Because the Braves pick very highly in the draft.

Andrew:                 They’re not taking A.J. Puk.

Nick:                         They could use a selection on Mr. Puk.

Andrew:                 I dialed Coffey up in Atlanta. We’re not drafting Puk.

Nick:                         Fredi Gonzalez is still there, so you obviously didn’t even get in touch.

Andrew:                 Fredi’s gone.

Nick:                         I remember when he left the Marlins and went to Atlanta, and you were so happy. That was very short lived.

Andrew:                 We don’t have enough time in this podcast to talk about that. Go ahead and talk Puk, because I want to talk Puk as well.

Nick:                         Yeah. So I think with Puk everything is mental with him, and it’s last year we saw the incident with the trespassing, and he kind of had to make a bullpen start to come back out. Comes back out, and he’s ready to go, lights up, is shut down, lights out the rest of the year. So to me, that was impressive, and I think the last couple starts he’s put together really have impressed me. I see that kind of attitude from him that I saw last year. So, yes, I think A.J. Puk will continue to churn out quality starts for Florida the rest of the way. Obviously big start for him this weekend against South Carolina.

Andrew:                 My thing is this, and I would say I’m very hard on A.J. Puk, and I like A.J. Puk. I think A.J. Puk has the stuff to be really good. He kind of reminds me of that Little League pitcher though, that Little League pitcher that when you see him you’re like, I really don’t want to play against this kid, because he can’t control the ball, and that’s what it is. It’s he’s a guy that when he’s on he’s unbeatable, throwing 96 on the knees, on the black, with a curve ball or a slider that’s just downright nasty. Then there’s times where he tries to throw 100, and he has no idea where it’s going. I’m sure Sully’s sitting there saying, “A.J. you’re throwing 96, just throw 96 on the black. Don’t worry about throwing 100.” For me that’s what it is. When A.J. Puk is on his game, he’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, but it’s just one of those deals where you roll him out, and you’re like it’s either going to be Johnny Wholestaff tonight or bullpen you can go get a shower, because we’re not going to need you.

Nick:                         It’s going to be either Dr. A.J. or Mr. Puk.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly right. It’s either going to be A.J. Puk with several Ks after it, or A.J. Puk with several Bs after it for walks.

Nick:                         Yeah. Time will tell. We’ll see this weekend.

Andrew:                 I’ll say this, and here’s the thing. This is the hit on it. Nick, I know you’ll agree with me when I say this. I follow baseball like you do, religiously. I love my Braves and everything else. If I’m drafting a pitcher off the Florida Gators, I’m drafting Logan Shore. He has less risk about him. You know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a really good pitcher who’s going to give you six to seven to eight quality innings of really good ball. He’s going to strike out a few. He’s going to walk less than most people are. He’s going to get hit a little bit. Not going to allow very many runs.

Nick:                         Yeah. Logan Shore is a pitcher’s pitcher.

Andrew:                 Right. He’s going to pitch to contact, and he’s going to eat at the innings. He is #3, 4, or 5 pitcher in a rotation in the Big Leagues that will have probably a 10 year career in the Big Leagues.

Nick:                         Yeah. Sticking with baseball. How do we see right field shaping up for the rest of the year? Ryan Larson has earned a couple starts in a row. Jeremy Vasquez has been hitting okay. Vasquez is in the lineup for his bat, and his bat, while it hasn’t been bad, hasn’t been what we expected it to be. Quite frankly, A.J. Puk didn’t get a win in his last start because of the way Vasquez played in right field, misplayed a ball; it ends up being a ground rule double with a guy on second instead of an out, or instead of a sacrifice fly. That caused one run. We ended up playing extra innings. Florida loses. Ryan Larson’s taking over in right field. Now, when you look at Florida, and the power numbers are down pretty much across the board, other than Pete Alonso and Mike Rivera earlier in the year.

Then you go to Omaha where, yes, there were some more homeruns last year, but that is a gigantic park. I hate it. I hate that park, Ameritrade. Gigantic park, you’re going to need somebody who can play defense. Florida right now leads the SEC in fielding percentage. If you’re going to put Vasquez out in right field, I’m a little concerned. Ryan Larson’s good with small ball. Florida’s not hitting the ball out of the park a lot, probably won’t be hitting the ball out of the park if they get to Omaha. Now you have somebody, Jeremy Vasquez, you won’t ask him to bunt, because you know he’s not going to be able to do it. Ryan Larson’s one of the best bunters on the team. If you need to play small ball in Omaha, that’s your better option, and Ryan Larson’s a better outfielder.

I think, unless Ryan Larson, he’ll continue getting opportunities, I think he’ll play this week against South Carolina. Unless he starts slumping, I think Ryan Larson is really going to be that everyday right fielder with Vasquez being able to come in and pinch hit, a role that he did very well doing as a freshman. Come in and pinch hit situationally when the other team has a righty on the mound.

Andrew:                 Something about Vasquez.

Nick:                         Already you were having a situation where in the eighth inning, ninth inning, you were already bringing Larson in, either for Nelson Maldonado in left, or for Jeremy Vasquez in right field, whoever made the last out, or whoever was farther down in the batting lineup, was already getting replaced defensively. If Ryan Larson can come in and start and contribute, you’re not going to get power numbers from him, but you need him to get on base, and you need him to play a role, move guys over when he needs to. His first start he ended up bunting his first two at bats, before getting an RBI. So I see Ryan Larson, unless he goes through a crazy slump where you just can’t count on his bat at all, I see him continuing to start in right field.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You know I’m a Ryan Larson supporter. I’ve been on the Ryan Larson train for a while. I think he’s a good player. Vasquez, to me, just there’s that loop in his swing that just is a timing issue, in my opinion, more for Vasquez than anything. I agree with you. I don’t want to say Florida doesn’t need Vasquez’s bat in there, because that’s redundant. You always want a big bat like that in your order, but I think Florida is okay with the good defensive in right field with a lesser pop from a guy like Vasquez. Larson’s going to put the ball in play, is going to hit for a decent average. You’re just not going to get the homeruns. So yeah, I’m in favor of Larson going, Vasquez being a guy that comes off the bench for pinch hit capabilities late in the game.

Nick:                         Then I think the biggest point is, because the question was really about Omaha, and when you’re talking about that big field, listen, Jeremy Vasquez doesn’t have that power. No power, unbelievable hell of a pop he’s has this year, but when you take into consideration that that is a hard park to hit homeruns out of, big outfield, now you’re saying, we’re not getting power from right field anyway. If we can get average and above average on defense, let’s go with that.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly.

Nick:                         Then that’s it. That concludes our question and answer. Let’s break down the softball and baseball.

Andrew:                 Hold on real quick. I want to hit on recruiting real quick, just for two seconds, just a couple minutes actually. Satellite camp, that’s the big thing going around. We talked about this, Nick, about three weeks ago, a month ago, that they banned the satellite camps. Thursday it’s now back on. Satellite camps are now back on. Commissioner Sankey actually said that the SEC is now going to allow coaches to go and get ready, because this is about to turn into a crap storm around, the southeast in particular, but Nick Saban, McElwain, Hugh Freeze, those guys, they’re about to set up shop everywhere.

Nick:                         I think that in theory the satellite camps, for recruiting, in theory they’re good. We’re going to help all these kids, but you and I have been there. We’ve seen what the satellite camps are. It’s for recruiting. There’s 400 kids there, and 10 of them are the ones that the coaches are focusing on.

Andrew:                 Yup.

Nick:                         You can say, this hurts kids, this and that. It’s a recruiting tool.

Andrew:                 Exactly.

Nick:                         You’re masking being able to leave your state to go do recruiting by saying, we’re trying to do a camp to help coaches and to help these other kids, when really the other kids are kind of just there while you’re trying to get Johnny Running Back to come to your school.

Andrew:                 Exactly. You’re getting that $75 a pop. Again, it helps the smaller schools. The bigger schools, for instance, right now do you think there’s a kid in the state of Florida that Florida doesn’t know about? I mean, they’re hitting 300 schools this week. They’re just about in every school in the state. If there’s someone they don’t know about, then someone didn’t do their job. Okay. Yes, maybe there’s a kid in Kentucky they don’t know about. Well, chances are if he’s that good someone has put out something; someone has found him. Again, it’s great for the smaller schools. Big schools shouldn’t need it. They’ve got the money. They’ve got the presence everywhere. They don’t need it. It is what it is, and get ready, because Harbaugh is not going to like it when people start to go into his territory.

Nick:                         That’s the thing though. No one wants to go there. Everyone’s coming down to Florida, down to Georgia, to Texas, Alabama. The ACC and the SEC are the conferences that are against this, because they’re in the talent rich states. So it’s all these schools that have to go out of their state to find receivers and defensive backs, safeties and running backs, that have to leave because they’re not in Michigan or in Ohio or in Pennsylvania. They’re coming south to get the players. That’s why these southern conferences are saying, hold on, we don’t want this. Get these guys back out. Florida’s not going to Michigan to find the next Vernon Hargreaves. Ain’t happening. They might have to go every once in a while to find a lineman, but Florida’s not going to get playmakers from Idaho.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing though. Saban’s going to go to Columbus, Ohio. He’s going to set up shop right in Urban Meyer’s back door, and that ain’t going to make him happy.

Nick:                         It will, because Urban knows every kid from Ohio, and he’s saying, “Good. That week that Nick Saban, that four days that Nick Saban’s here, he’s wasting his time, because I’m going to be down in Florida getting a kid.”

Andrew:                 We’ll see.

Nick:                         It’s a waste of time for coaches in the SEC to go north just to piss off a coach who’s doing a satellite camp in their state. It’s a waste of time. If Jim McElwain goes to Michigan, to Ann Arbor, or to Columbus, Ohio to do a satellite camp, you might make some Ohio State or some Michigan fans angry, but what you should be doing is trying to find a playmaker in Florida, because that’s what you need. That’s what you need. You’re wasting time going anywhere else. That’s why the SEC and the ACC are against this. That’s why the Big Ten is so for these satellite camps, because they’re not getting the type of athlete up north that they can find down south, and they want to be able to come down and recruit more down here.

Andrew:                 The three states that are affected the most by it are California, Texas, and Florida.

Nick:                         Yeah. Maybe Georgia. Texas kids kind of stay in Texas for the most part.

Andrew:                 But you’re seeing them start to venture out more. You’re starting to see those guys venture out more to Notre Dame. You see a guy at Florida. You’re starting to see guys at Bama, Ole Miss, that kind of stuff. So I think you’re starting to see that a little bit more. If I’m Florida, I’m going to Georgia. I’m setting up shop in south Georgia, middle Georgia, and northern Georgia. I’m setting up shop there. I’m coming to Alabama. I’m doing the same thing. I’m going to Louisiana. I’m setting up the same thing. I’m going to Mississippi. I’m going to Tennessee. I’m going to South Carolina. I’m hitting the southeast, and I’m hitting it hard, and I’m setting up shop there. Big Ten wants to play, they’re going to have to play against the big boys.

Nick:                         I think the only place for me, if I’m Florida, that I would do it, in one of those three states, but then still it’s really hard to pull a kid from California, really hard to pull a kid from Texas.

Andrew:                 I’m not wasting my time in California.

Nick:                         So you’re going to Georgia, maybe, and maybe Texas.

Andrew:                 I’m going Bama, and I’m going to Tennessee, and I’m going to Mississippi.

Nick:                         What are you going to Tennessee for?

Andrew:                 There’s some really good athletes in that Nashville, Memphis area.

Nick:                         Are we putting together a country music tour, or are we trying to build a football team here?

Andrew:                 Look at the past week. Florida went for five guys from that state.

Nick:                         How many kids in Florida, Florida’s got better talent than Tennessee.

Andrew:                 In a lot of areas. Defensive tackle, not so much. Tight end, not so much. We’ll see. Alright. Let’s run through it real quick. We got about five minutes here. Let’s run through it real quick. Baseball.

Nick:                         Baseball. So there’s only four weekends left before the conference tournament. Florida’s on the road for three of those.

Andrew:                 South Carolina for the championship, in my opinion.

Nick:                         You could say that. Florida and South Carolina right now. South Carolina leads the SEC East, but there’s still so many. Florida has to travel to Tennessee, then host Vanderbilt, and then go on the road to LSU. So there’s still a lot of games left, but you’d think that the way that things have gone, the winner of this series will be in the driver’s seat for the SEC East. Huge matchup. You’ll get Logan Shore Friday, A.J. Puk returns to the Saturday role, and Alex Faedo going Sunday. It would be huge for Florida, who trails South Carolina right now by a game, to go 2-1 this weekend. Huge.

Andrew:                 That would be big. Softball has two weekend series left, basically one. They play Texas A&M this weekend on the road, then they host Arkansas. Arkansas, Florida can play their C team and beat Arkansas. So they’re going to sweep Arkansas next weekend. This weekend they got A&M. A&M is middle of the pack. Florida’s tied with Auburn right now in the top of the SEC, so Florida needs a sweep at A&M to make sure to stay even with Auburn. So big series there. Like I said, Arkansas’s the next weekend. In between that is two games with Florida State, which really it’s one game and then the finishing of the nine inning game that was halted with one out, second and third, because of a dumb umpire. So really a game and a piece of Florida State, but big weekend series. Kayli Kvistad is still on fire, and Delanie Gourley is pitching really well, so should be a good weekend for softball out in College Station.

Nick:                         For me, this is a great baseball. There’s a ton in the SEC, but for me South Carolina, Vanderbilt, the Florida, LSUs, those are the series that I really get excited about, so I’m looking forward to that one this week. Not so much with Tennessee next week. They are not very good. They did have some success against Auburn, who is a dumpster fire.

Andrew:                 I want to see Tennessee’s third baseman, who is likely to be the Braves #3 pick.

Nick:                         A.J. Puk, to the Braves, #3.

Andrew:                 No. Tell the people where they can find us. We’ll get out of here, and see everyone on Monday when we recap some baseball, softball, and some recruiting as well.

Nick:                         As always, www.GatorCountry.com. On Facebook @GatorCountry. On Twitter, @GatorCountry. On Instagram we will have fire edits going tonight and all weekend for the draft. It’s TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Find me on Twitter @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC. That is all of the social medias. Hit the follow button. Hit the like. Hit the subscribe. Check us out on iTunes, if you’re not already checking us out on iTunes for the podcast, and thank you.

Andrew:                 Definitely. Should be a good one. Like Nick said, edits are coming your way. As always, guys, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

 

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