GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we start to preview Florida Gators vs. UAB Blazers on Saturday afternoon.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre discuss the latest news surrounding the Gators as they head into Saturday’s game.
Andrew and Nick also discuss the latest coaching news as the Gators look for a new football coach.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, didn’t do a Sunday recap, Monday for you guys. You were traveling. Quite frankly, I don’t know what there is to talk about about that game on Saturday, Nick.
Nick: Yeah. I normally fly, but did a little drive this time, so I spent like nine hours in the car on Sunday. About that game, after the initial onslaught Florida outscored South Carolina. There was a positive.
Andrew: Okay. There’s your positive. Whatever. Whatever you want to make out a positive, Nick, you can make out a positive. I’m tired of giving moral victories around this football team and everything. I’m just ready for the season to be over with.
Nick: Two short weeks.
Andrew: Two short weeks. That’s right. Really this week, and then next week is Thanksgiving week, so it’ll be even shorter. This week’s a cool week though, Nick, for me personally. Maybe not for Florida fans, because I personally really believe that UAB is going to come in and win this football game.
Nick: We’re going to get into that, your reasons why. Tell the people about your relationship with head coach over there.
Andrew: Bill Clark is the head coach over at UAB. Bill’s actually the guy that hired me at the University of South Alabama. He was the defensive coordinator there, and was actually the guy that hired me, and got me into the college ranks. I have a little bit of respect and a little bit of ties to Bill, Coach Clark.
Nick: What did Bill hire you to do?
Andrew: I was the GA. I was basically there to kind of follow around on the defense and help out on the defense. Did a little bit of filming as well, and that kind of stuff. Was there to assist in practice. That was my job. I was a GA on that staff with them. Was kind of his guy, and he was the defensive coordinator. It was fun. I love it. Wouldn’t trade that for anything, that experience of working under him.
I told you this story, Nick, a little bit. UAB took their program and shut it down. Coach Clark was actually asked to come back to the University of South Alabama and coach, would probably be the head coach here now, had that happen. He’s a guy that stuck it out, and look at what he’s done. I can make a claim he should be Coach of the Year, Nick.
Nick: Absolutely. You look at UAB. They were bowl eligible in 2014 for the first time in a decade. Before 2014, the last bowl game they had been eligible for was in 2004. Shortly after they get the news that we’re bowl eligible for the first time in 10 years, they’re deciding to shut the program down. I think that took everyone by shock. They said there was a lack of funding, and there was really outrage, certainly in Birmingham and in Alabama, but really nationwide.
Shortly after that, about six months after that, and they decided that we’ve got money, and we’re going to bring the football program back. That process took two years, and now you’re looking a team, and Bill Clark and his staff had to get creative. How do we field a football team? You only have two years to get ready, and now you look at them. They’ve got seven wins. They’re bowl eligible again. Quite a story for Bill Clark, and for everyone there at that program.
Andrew: Yeah. Half of his guys, more than half of his guys, transferred, because they were able to transfer and be eligible immediately.
Andrew: Several of their guys transferred to South Alabama, including their offensive coordinator, who quit UAB, or left UAB. I guess he didn’t quit, because they didn’t have a job. Came to South Alabama. It’s incredible.
A little backstory on UAB, and that is the University of Alabama board of trustees runs UAB. That’s Paul “Bear” Bryant, Jr. is the guy that runs that. Everybody knows the story about how UAB wanted to hire Jimbo Fisher when Jimbo Fisher was the LSU offensive coordinator, and Bear Bryant, Jr, Paul, Jr. decided no. Not going to do that. Didn’t want Jimbo there. Didn’t want to spend the money.
Now that the support is becoming crazy, because it’s the fundraising that is going on just in UAB and just in Birmingham around there. They’ve built that new indoor facility, stuff like that. They’re in the process of planning a new on campus stadium as well, and going to have that on campus stadium. It’s crazy the amount of support. To me, Nick, it just goes to show you what good football and having a winning culture will do for your fanbase. Something Florida right now is in the process of doing, the fundraising, and you talk about a new coach. What can that new coach do to excite that fanbase?
Nick: Do you know any specifics about what they raised?
Andrew: No. I don’t number wise, but you got to think about it. They were a team that had no money. They were shutting down their program. Think about that. That’s crazy.
Now, let’s be fair about how UAB has built the football team to where they are today. They were able to sign some juco guys that were supposed to go to juco because they didn’t qualify for NCAA, but here was the catch. They were basically able to go to UAB, sit out that year that they were off, get their academics up, and then be ready. There was some loopholes. They were able to sign more than the 25. There was some loopholes.
Nick: You almost have to allow that to happen.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. It’s just to me it just speaks volumes for that team.
Nick: Absolutely. I would not be shocked, I would almost be more surprised if Bill Clark is not the Coach of the Year.
Andrew: Yeah. How can you argue? I say this too, with respect to Bill Clark, and that is there’s not too many other coaches around America that can be Coach of the Year. This has been a pretty much, I don’t want to say a down year as far as the big schools, but who are you going to give it to around the country? Then you look at a story like Bill Clark. You win seven football games on a normal year at UAB, and you’re doing good. Then you look back at the history of what happened just a few years ago, and it’s like, wow.
I don’t know. Like you said, Nick, I appreciate you asking me about that. It’s a feel-good story for me. Again, I’m not going to have any rooting interest in this game. Sure not going to root for UAB to beat up on the Gators or anything, but I will respect Bill Clark in this game. I will say this. His team will be ready to go. He’s a fiery guy, and a guy that loves the game of football.
I would say, if Florida was looking for a football coach, and it wasn’t as bad as this was, Bill Clark is a name that should be on radars. Shouldn’t be on the radar of Florida now, because of the circumstances they are. They need a big name, but I will say I think Bill Clark gets a big job one day.
Nick: Bill Clark’s a defensive guy, but I really see Florida having problems in this game, because of Bill’s and UAB’s offense.
Andrew: Yeah. They’re running the ball and doing well.
Nick: 27th best running attack in the country.
Andrew: In the country? Wow. I didn’t know it was that good.
Nick: Averaging well over 200 yards a game.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. Randy Shannon spoke about this the other day, on Monday, and said he blamed a lot of things on Florida’s inability to run the ball. What do you make of that? What do you make of this? I’m just asking.
Nick: To be honest, Randy’s been saying so many things. A lot of them make me scratch my head. I don’t know what he’s trying to say even.
Andrew: For the life of me, Nick, I can’t figure it out. Here’s the thing. Our good buddy, Chad Wilson, was pointing out the other day about how young Florida is compared to Ohio State and other teams in America on defense. I get that. I really do get that. Nick, the thing that bothers me is this, and that is when you look at the guys that are in the front seven, at the beginning of the year we were talking about this front seven might be one of the better front sevens in the country. The linebackers, the defensive line, they’re not showing, Nick. It’s just not showing.
Nick: Something we were told yesterday by Christian Garcia. People have had their opinions on Christian Garcia. Nice kid, walk-on, great story. He’s been getting a shot in his shoulder just to play every week. Vosean Joseph has dealt with cramps, dealt with an ankle injury, and you’re out Kylan Johnson. You’re really thin at linebacker. I think you’re starting to see the youth, even though this far into the season you can’t really call them that young anymore. I think you’re seeing the youth, and then also depleted numbers.
It’s not just depleted numbers in games. It’s how are you handling, what are you able to do in practice when you only have a limited number of guys at each position? Are you getting everything you can get out of practice? The answer’s probably no. Then once you get to the game, it’s you’re going to have to play 60 snaps today.
Nick: I think I credit some of the issues on defense to that as well. Another thing that some players on defense told us yesterday is that when Chris Rumph took over they’ve kind of simplified things a little bit, he said, which is good. We probably needed to, because of all the new guys we’re playing. He goes, but it makes us easier to play against. It makes us easier. We kind of show our hand before the snap, and it makes us easier to play against. It’s kind of a win-lose. It’s a win, because we’ve got guys now that can play faster, and might limit mental errors by making it easy, but now you’re easier to defend, or to run an offense against.
Andrew: Right. That’s been kind of my argument all year is Florida has looked very vanilla. Here’s the thing. I will say this. I don’t believe Florida expected to miss Ventrell Miller this year, but I will say this as well, Nick, and that is I don’t have sympathy for Randy Shannon, because he recruited this position for three years. He recruited this position. He knew where he was going to be. Now, did he know Kylan Johnson was going to be out this year, and that kind of stuff? No, but to say that this all goes back to one player being suspended in Ventrell Miller is crazy. We knew James Houston wasn’t going to play. He had the ACL injury, so we knew he wasn’t going to play. I don’t know.
Nick: Yeah. You never really expected him. We expected James, especially not even a full year, just over a full year removed from ACL surgery, we kind of figured he would redshirt. I agree with you there. It’s a position Randy recruited, and Christian Garcia says that Skip, who’s the linebacker’s coach now, is telling them daily, “You guys can’t get hurt. We don’t have enough numbers. We can’t afford for anybody else to get hurt.”
Andrew: It’s true. You can’t. You can’t. Here’s what’s crazy, Nick. Alabama is missing seven scholarship linebackers, and are still rolling out top 100 players at linebacker.
Nick: They’ve been a machine for over a decade now. Looking at the job that everyone doing recruiting, and Florida has got probably Jim McElwain’s first two classes were real light on defense. That was because Will Muschamp’s first four classes were light on defense. That’s a question I asked you. I remember going into McElwain’s first recruiting classes. You can’t forget about the defense, because these guys aren’t going to be here forever. I think last year’s class was very good on defense, but you’re seeing it now. Last year’s class are just freshmen, and you’re seeing the depth issues now.
Andrew: That’s a good point. Here’s the thing. They only have one linebacker committed this year. Where do you go with this?
Let’s dig a little bit more into UAB, and then let’s get into this coaching mess, talking about which coach, this, that, and the other. Like you said, this is a good rushing attack of UAB. 210.5 yards per game, just averaging 175.8 through the air. You got to stop the running game. That’s going to be a key this week. Got to stop the running game. Nick, I’m going to be honest with you. Florida’s got to find a way to start quick on offense.
Nick: Yeah. We said, and you and I have said, maybe even harshly, this team is looking for a reason to quit. When South Carolina went up early last week, I thought they were going to quit. They didn’t. When you play teams like this, we say it all the time, you can’t let them hang around and build confidence and get confident. You can’t. You just can’t do it. You got to kind of step on the gas early, and end it.
Andrew: I do. I give the team a lot of credit for not stopping and quitting and giving up last week. I do. I give them a ton of credit. That was a different football team then we saw at Missouri as far as effort goes. I give that. I give them a lot of credit.
Now, let me ask you this. If UAB goes up early, what happens?
Nick: The other thing about Florida getting up early is that UAB is a big running team. If you get them out of that and force them to throw, that’s not their game. If UAB goes up early, they’ve got a freshman running back who already has 1,000 yards. They run some read option stuff that I’m not confident Florida has the discipline to stay contain, set contain, set the edge, and play disciplined. If UAB goes up early, I see them being able to run the ball on Florida.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. That’s kind of where I worry about with this team. Let’s dig into what people want to know, Nick, and that is what in the hell is going on on this coaching search?
Nick: Everyone’s got sources.
Andrew: Everyone’s got sources. Do you have sources?
Nick: No. Twitter told me I don’t have any. I’m just waiting to see who tweets, and then I’ll put that as my source.
Andrew: Let’s talk about what we know. That is we know Chip Kelly is being vetted. We know that Scott Frost has been vetted. We know that there is name’s like Charlie Strong, Mike Norvell, Dan Mullin. We know all those names are out there. We know that they’re looking at all those names. We put out on Saturday night, and caused a little bit of people to panic a little bit and take things the wrong way, but we said that if it was going to be Chip Kelly it would announce soon. If. That was the keyword. If. As Nick says all the time, reading comprehension sometimes is questionable. The big word, if, that means if Chip Kelly was going to be the head coach, he was going to be the one to be hired soon. Okay?
Still could happen. That’s the news. I do tend to believe that when there’s as much smoke as there is with Chip Kelly something’s there. Scott Strickland’s done a good job of coming out on Twitter and trying to throw water on the fire to calm it down a little bit, and it may be. Everyone may be completely off on Kelly. I personally feel like there is a chance Chip Kelly is, but I also feel like it might not be. I’m getting mixed signals here. It just is that way. I know that Strickland and Kelly have met in person, have talked, and I do know that a lot of things have been cleared up in the past with Kelly, and then I also know that there’s some people that have some concerns over Kelly, and rightfully so.
Nick: What would be your concern?
Andrew: My main concern, Nick, is every year, like you say, you’ve told me this before, and that is every year his name’s going to come up. You’re going to be negative recruited that he’s going to leave early, go to the League. He’s going to leave in 2-3 years. You have that concern there. You also have a little bit of a concern of how much does he love recruiting? He’s been very vocal that he doesn’t like it at times, and that’s okay.
This is what I told you on Monday, and I’ll repeat it today. You can’t let the fear of him leaving deter you from the fear of winning now. I do believe that. It’s like I told you as well, your big name coaches, every year Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, they’re going to the League. Jim Harbaugh’s going back to the League. You can’t let the fear overweigh it. If Chip Kelly’s the guy for the job today, then you go hire him.
Me personally, I’ve been in the Scott Frost corner for a while, because I think Frost is a guy that stays at Florida a long time. I do think Kelly’s that splash. I don’t want to steal your words from you, but you and I both agree that Kelly is more of a sure thing to win, because who knows what Frost does at Florida? I personally think the risk is worth the reward with Chip Kelly.
Nick: Yeah. The thing with Chip Kelly is every year, and this is what you and I were talking about on Monday, every year there’s going to be three, four, five NFL jobs open up, and every year it’s going to be is Chip Kelly taking this? Is Chip Kelly interviewing for this? Is he going to leave? That’s just something you have to deal with if he’s going to be your coach.
Then I also think, from what I’ve been told, he does have a real desire to go back to the NFL. So probably going to be something that you have to seriously worry about each time rumors come up. Is this the time? Kelly is the biggest splash name, for sure. I see, based on what he does, what his offense is, the talent pool that he has to recruit from, Florida can recruit nationally, but you’ve got guys right here in your backyard that can make Chip Kelly’s offense go, and make it one of the best in the country. So I think it’s almost a low floor, high ceiling kind of deal with Chip Kelly, where I would expect Florida to be competing very quickly.
Andrew: This is my thing too, Nick. This is with Kelly, this is with Scott Frost, this is with whoever it is as the next coach at Florida, and that is make no mistake, there’s talent at Florida. There’s talent at Florida. You look at the record this year and stuff like that, and it is a little bit misleading, because you do have the credit cards, and you do have the guys injured, that kind of stuff. Let’s just be honest here. Tyrie Cleveland, Kadarius Toney, Malik Davis, three of your best offensive weapons, are either not playing or are injured. Josh Hammond’s been injured at times this year. You look at your offensive line, and you’re down two starters there. You look at different places, you’re down a lot of guys.
There’s talent at Florida for the right guy. There will be a little bit of a transition with Chip Kelly. Your linemen are going to want to be more cut than they are big. I go back to this, and that’s with whoever coaches, is the next coach at Florida, and that is the state of Alabama, and really high school football around the country, are going to more spread. The state of Florida in general you’re not going to find …
Nick: I don’t know if I can name you, and you know how I feel about Florida and Florida high school sports, I don’t know if I can name you a single school in Florida that isn’t running some kind of semblance of a spread.
Andrew: Apoka. They’re running the Wing-T.
Andrew: That’s the only main school I can tell you about, that’s year in and year out. Go back to that, and that is the state of Florida you’re not finding 6’5”, 315-320 pound guys to run the pro-style offense every year. You’re just not. You’re not. You have your guys that are there once every few years that are there, and that’s fine. You look at Martez Ivey. Martez Ivey’s not a big guy by any means. He’s a pretty good size. Find a way to live with that and to deal with the state of Florida offensive line recruiting.
Whether it be Frost or Kelly, or whoever it may be, and we’re kind of dialed in right now on Kelly, and he’s done well on recruiting in Florida. Even when he was at Oregon, he was recruiting a few of those guys. Again, I’ll live by that statement that if it’s going to be Chip Kelly, it’s going to be done soon. If it’s not done soon, it’s not going to be Chip Kelly. I mean, Florida’s not going to wait until after the FSU game to hire Chip Kelly. That would stupid.
Nick: Exactly. If you’re waiting to hire a coach, it’s because that coach is still coaching right now, and they still have games left. If you’re hiring Chip Kelly, there’s no sense in waiting.
Andrew: Right. Get him out there. Get him on the phone with recruits, and save this recruiting class.
Nick: Yeah. Chip Kelly, I don’t think that the recruits now, what I’m getting at is I don’t think he’s too old, or his success at Oregon is too far gone, for these recruits who are 15, 16, 17. I still think those guys even remember what the Oregon offense is, and don’t remember his one disaster year in San Francisco.
Andrew: Right. Here’s the thing too. They remember those uniforms. Like it or not, that’s stuff that fans don’t like it, but that’s the stuff that draws attendance, and draws attention. Here’s another thing. Offense, scoring points, that draws attention from everybody, even the defensive guys.
Nick: Certainly. Defenses want to go and play with an offense that is going to put up 30, 40 points a game. They want to play with those guys. It makes their job easier.
Andrew: Exactly. Again, Nick and I are not sitting here today telling you guys that it is going to be Chip Kelly. We’re not. We’re saying if it happens, it’ll be soon. If. If he’s the guy, it’ll be soon. Norvell, those guys, they’re still out there. Nick, I know you have people telling you stuff about Charlie Strong as well, and I personally believe Charlie Strong is a fallback plan if the big names don’t pan out. I don’t think Florida is the right job for Charlie Strong right now. Three years from now, maybe. Right now, I just don’t see it. He had that disaster at Texas, and I understand there’s some things that went wrong there, and that’s fine. I think Charlie is a hell of a football coach. I just don’t think from a PR standpoint, from a recruiting standpoint, and from a fanbase standpoint, you can hire Charlie Strong right now.
Nick: No. The Chip Kelly stuff went so crazy, and Scott Frost had such a good year. Charlie Strong is a good man. He’s a Gator. Loves the university, but at this point, if you hire Charlie Strong, you’re not getting Chip Kelly, and you’re not getting Scott Frost. I think, because Charlie is a Gator, because he had so much success at Florida, I think he would get a longer leash with fans, but not in this situation. If Charlie Strong was the hot name in a given year when Florida was looking for a coach, I think, yeah, he’d come in with a longer leash. Right now, no. I don’t think Charlie would get a fair shake at Florida, just because he’s not the guy people wanted.
Andrew: Here’s another thing, Nick. Fanbase is not ready for a defensive guy. To be honest with you, Florida’s not either. I know people are out there saying, “He’ll hire the best offensive coordinator,” and that’s fine. That really is fine. Offensive coordinators come and go. You need a guy right now that can come in and develop. I’m a Charlie Strong fan, as far as his defense and that kind of stuff. I can’t see that. I think you hire Willie Taggart before you hire Charlie Strong. I personally think Charlie Strong is a better football coach than Willie Taggart, but from the simple standpoint of Willie Taggart is an offensive-minded guy. I just think Florida has to hire an offensive guy.
Nick: I was talking to somebody about it, and I don’t think you can even hire Taggart. He’s not even 500.
Andrew: No. I don’t think it would excite the fanbase, but I’m saying if you had the option of Strong or Taggart, I think you have to go with Taggart.
Nick: The fanbase is so wrapped up in Chip Kelly that getting Scott Frost at this point might be considered as like a loss.
Nick: Everyone is just so wrapped up in Chip Kelly, and he could very well be the coach, and I think it would be very successful. I don’t get getting so excited about this. If you end up getting Scott Frost instead of Chip Kelly, that’s something to be excited about.
Andrew: I do think that people would be excited about Scott Frost, but here’s the thing, Nick. I kind of relate it a little bit to my Braves. I mean this. Why I’m drawing this conclusion and drawing this comparison is from a fanbase standpoint. My Braves, we’re tired of losing. If that big name can come in and excite the fanbase, just to bring that guy in, I’m all for it. It’s the same way, I think, with football right now with Florida. If you can get that big name to come in and excite the fanbase, fine.
It’s kind of like Mike White wasn’t under as much scrutiny. He was under a lot of scrutiny, but he wasn’t under as much scrutiny, because Florida had been successful in football. Nobody was really upset about the Will Muschamp hiring, because they had been successful in football. When you have two straight coaches of being unsuccessful, I think it does draw scrutiny. Instant success, Nick. That’s what everybody wants.
Nick: Might not necessarily be attainable.
Andrew: Yeah. I’m with you. Basketball started on Monday. Got that blowout win. Igor had a big game, and we were there to cover it. Things are going. That’s there. Football is going through the stretch of the last two games, Senior Day. I will say this, Nick. Whatever has happened this season, go out and support your seniors, and support the team. The guys do deserve that, so support those guys. Soon as coach is hired, things are going to be taking off, and everything will be good again.
Nick: When? When will it be good? The people need to know.
Andrew: The day Florida hires a football coach, people are going to be excited.
Nick: Okay. How long does that last? All the way through the first season?
Andrew: Yeah. I do. I think that things are going to be fine. I think that recruiting, I think that this class ends up really well on recruiting. Here’s the thing with Chip Kelly, and that is he ain’t going to bullshit around hiring coaches. If that means he’s got to piss off LSU to get a coach, or piss off Georgia to get a coach in the middle of their bowl season, he’s going to piss them off. Me personally, Nick, I’m all for Chip Kelly in a way, because I love Jim McElwain to death, but he was Mr. Nice Guy.
Nick: Okay. I agree with your assessment on Kelly. He don’t care. By the way, Nick Saban, we want Mike Locksley to come coach tight end for us, so we’ll be taking him.
Andrew: Here’s the thing. Me covering recruiting, Chip Kelly would be fun. So I’m ready for that. Nick, tell the people where they can find us. We got a coupon code if you guys want to come check us out. Promise no bullshit coming on our coaching search. It is what we hear, and we stick by what we hear and post it, and give you guys that. Basketball recruiting, basketball, football recruiting, everything you want to talk about we got it for you. Nick, tell the people where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone later.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. Podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can also find the podcast on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe. Never miss an episode. They’ll send it right to your phone. You can also follow us on social media. @GatorCountry on Twitter and Facebook, @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Follow me and Andrew, @NickdelaTorreGC and @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go. Guys, we appreciate it. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.