GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap the first week of spring practice for the Florida Gators as they practiced twice before spring break.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down how practice went, who looked good and how the new coaches were doing around the team.
Andrew and Nick also break down the Florida Gators basketball team heading into the SEC tournament and recap the weekend for the diamond sports teams.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, little bit of time away, but we’re back ready for action.
Nick: How was spring training?
Andrew: It’s baseball, my friend. It’s always great. I could get used to just chilling at Braves spring training.
Nick: What do we think the Braves are going to do this year?
Andrew: We already talked about it. They’re going to be in the mix for a wildcard.
Nick: We’ll see.
Andrew: Did get to see former Gator, Paco Rodriquez, Nick. You and I were talking about this. Been out of action.
Nick: Been a long time coming for him.
Andrew: Been out of action for two years. Comes back with a perfect inning. Man, oh man, was it a perfect inning. Three strikeouts. The Paco Rodriquez of old was there. That crazy delivery, it was there. It’s nasty.
Nick: Had another big weekend for the diamond sports. Florida 9-0 to start weekend play. Baseball that is. Baseball has swept three consecutive series. I haven’t been able to find the last time Florida started a weekend like that, or a season like that.
Andrew: We’ll talk more about that here in a little bit. Softball the same way. Goes out to California in the Judy Garman Classic and beats two top 25 teams, and beats them pretty well. Pitching, to say the least, is quite nasty for both of those guys.
Nick: We did some looking at Barnhill’s numbers. She’s striking out 60% of the batters she faces. Not 60% of the outs she records, 60% of the people who step into the box against Kelly Barnhill are striking out.
Andrew: That’s usually success for winning.
Nick: That is a recipe for winning. They’re doing it. I wanted to say that softball probably had a bigger weekend, based on who they were playing.
Andrew: They did. We’ll talk about that here in a second, after we talk a little football. Definitely a bigger weekend for them. Basketball, on the other hand, not so great of a weekend. Drops to Vanderbilt, gets swept by Vanderbilt in a game that didn’t really mean anything, but did mean something.
Nick: I think people got a little too angry about it, but Florida’s lost to Vanderbilt twice, by a combined four points.
Andrew: Here’s the thing. They may have to face them in the SEC Tournament again. That’ll be that. We’ll dive more into basketball here in a second. Got to talk football, Nick. Last week, while we were away from podcast, Gators started spring practice. They went to that two practices, and then they have this week off with spring break for the team. You were out there for the two practices. First question I have for you is what was the energy level out there?
Nick: Good energy. You know it’s good energy when you’ve got Johnny Townsend starting swamp jacks. Energy’s good. I think it’s easy. You’re not in pads. You haven’t been hitting each other for two weeks yet. I think it’s easy to come out with higher energy, but for the portions of practice that we see, which is not very much, energy’s good. It’s still early in spring practice, but I’ll be looking forward to when the pads get on and starting to see some of the new guys and where they’re looking at.
I can say that it looks like Chris Williamson is moving to safety, from what we can see. He might be playing both, but when we’re there he’s taking a lot of reps with safety. The only thing I really have to say about that is we saw that he’s not a cornerback, so you might as well try him somewhere else.
Andrew: Right. It’s a little bit of a depth issue this year in spring with them, because of the numbers being low, and none of the signees early enrolling. That’s there. Question for you, new staff members, what did you see out of those guys? What were the general thoughts from you on those new staff members, especially Brad Davis?
Nick: Brad Davis is much different in terms of energy at practice. Mike Summers would have moments where he would get a little animated, but really Brad Davis is when you think of an offensive line coach, that loud in your face, face mask grabbing, cussing kind of coach, that’s kind of what you get from Brad Davis. It was interesting to see kind of how, and McElwain said it, when the whistle blows where does everyone go? You’re still trying to figure out where we’re going. It’s a whole new practice system. Not just for the new guys, but for the coaches as well.
You can kind of see the coaches have the plays and practice. Florida’s got practice mapped out to the second, and the coaches are holding the thing, but you kind of hear they’re in full blown coach mode, “Go, go, go.” All of a sudden you hear the thing, and all the new coaches are looking down at their piece of paper that has the schedule on it. It’s like, what are we doing next? That’s the drill, but where is it? They kind of look up and are like, “Over here.” It’s almost like a learning process, on the job learning, for them. Just as far as what’s next. Once you get into the actual coaching they seem to be holding attention. It’s interesting.
I’m not sure, the only one I’m not sure would be instant upgrade would be Corey Bell maybe, but that’s just because I spent a lot of time watching Torrian Gray, and he was such a technician. I say technician, and you probably think technique, looking at your foot placement, this and that. It’s all that, but he would explain to you why. You’re going to do this, because when you’re looking at a wide receiver’s hips this will help you be able to react to these two different things that he could do, these two different moves. It was like here’s a technique, and here’s why that’s the technique.
Andrew: Right. I think Randy Shannon’s also going to be helping a good bit with the safeties as well, so that’ll be some help there as well. Everything I’ve been told, Nick, and heard from different people is nothing but positive about the new guys, on the field and off the field. I would say I speak more from the off the field recruiting world of it, and it’s instant upgrades, especially Ja’Juan Seider. The guys love, love, love him. You can instantly tell why McElwain continued to go after him. It’s his ability to be very down to earth with the guys, and it’s something that I think he’s got that young energy. He’s a lot like Tim Skipper and Chris Rumph when I say it’s just there’s energy.
When you talk to them, there’s that energy. From talking to some parents and stuff like that, that’s really how it is on the field as well, as far as talking with those guys about why do this on the field. It’s very big that those guys are there. Their energy level is contagious.
Nick: Ja’Juan Seider, I actually learned something interesting. He recruited Jordan Scarlett all the way back when Scarlett was like an eighth grader.
Andrew: To West Virginia.
Nick: To West Virginia. Scarlett said even when he was at Marshall. It started when he was at Marshall.
Nick: Long way back. I kind of joked with Scarlett. I said, “Did he kind of give you any crap for why didn’t you pick me?” He said, “No, it was kind of just a thing of I told you I was going to coach you, and here I am.”
Andrew: That’s something that’s funny, because when you start to talk to some of these guys in recruiting they kind of say the same thing, that Seider will offer them once he got to Florida and say, “Now I have a chance to land you, now that I’m at Florida.” One of those being Asa Martin, the running back out of Alabama, Decatur. He’s an SEC player, is going to be playing in the SEC, but he said that his best relationship was with Coach Seider. When you look at him now at Florida, Seider has told him, “Now I feel like I have a good chance to get you, because I’m here.” It’s interesting to hear from that.
As far as the offensive line goes, I’ve heard nothing but what you said, that the guys really like him. They understand that on the field he is a hardnose. He’s going to chew your ass, get on you, but off the field he’s a guy that’s probably going to be like a brother or a father figure to you, and going to keep you laughing.
Nick: Yeah. You can just see. Drew Hughes tweets out that picture of him in that jump man jumpsuit, and just the reaction he got from players, and how he’s playing back off of them. A guy that just gets it, and a guy that is really fitting in with these kids. Almost like a friend, but there is still that coach/player aspect to the relationship.
Andrew: Right. That’s kind of what I mean as far as it goes with the offensive line. There has to be a mentality of when you step on the field you’ve got to be the nastiest, meanest guy, and players as well. Then when you step off the field you can be that nice guy. On the field, there is no love taps. It’s get after each other. I think that’s there.
Nick, before we move on, I wanted to ask you this. The overlying story is quarterback play, of course. You can tweet out a photo of Franks missing a pass, and everyone wants to give it to Trask, vice versa. As far as what you’ve seen, and I’m asking you this over everybody else, because you and I have talked about this, and I trust your opinion when I ask you this, what did you see the most out of Franks? Did you see better footwork? What did you see out of Franks, and then with Trask? Did you see an improvement? I don’t care about numbers. I just want to know what you thought about fundamentals.
Nick: I think Feleipe has kind of shortened up his throwing motion a little bit. He kind of threw it like a baseball player, where you’ve got that long windup. Other than that, I still see the same kind of things. He’s not the most accurate. He tends to miss high when he does miss, which is not where you want to. When you miss high that’s when you start getting tipped balls, and you start getting interceptions. Still a powerful arm. Both of the guys have powerful arms. I don’t know what I’ve seen. I definitely haven’t seen enough to say one or the other is going to win. I don’t know why everyone has kind of picked him to win at this early point. He looks like he’s improved.
To me, I think it comes down to what Jim McElwain says about who makes the people around them better. The one thing I’ve been told from people around the team is that they’re not sure if that’s in Trask’s makeup. Nothing physical, but being a guy that can rally the team around him, someone that’s going to instill confidence. You don’t have to be a Tim Tebow, 30 minutes for the rest of our lives, yelling in the locker room, but you’ve got to be able to instill confidence.
Andrew: You’ve got to make everybody accountable.
Nick: Yeah. I just don’t know if that’s the kind of guy he is. Whether it’s calling people out if they’re not doing something right, or if it’s making sure to go up to somebody and say, “Hey, that was good. Timing was a little bit off. This is what we need to do.” Just holding people accountable. I don’t know if that, because it’s somewhat confrontational to go up to somebody and say, “You did this wrong. This is what you were supposed to do. Do it better.”
Andrew: Right. That’s kind of what I’ve heard as well is that the leadership standpoint is something that Trask is going to have to get more involved with. The rallying the team around him, the taking charge of the huddle, just taking charge of the off the field stuff. “Guys, it’s an off day today, but let’s still go get some routes on air, or let’s go get some one on ones. Let’s get some work in.” That kind of stuff is the thing that I’ve heard with Trask, and I think that that’s something that could end up losing him the job. That really could lose him the job if he’s a guy that doesn’t really take charge of the huddle. We’ll see how that goes about.
Of course, the elephant in the room is still that they are still looking for a transfer quarterback. You hear, I read this the other day, someone said, “The Duke transfer quarterback is going to visit, so Florida must not feel good on Trask and Franks.” My response to that is that’s not necessarily the case. Better to have an insurance guy there just in case. You know what Zaire at Notre Dame is going to do. You know what the Thomas Sirk kid is going to do, from Duke. If Trask or Franks continue to struggle, would you rather have a transfer quarterback play and you figure it out again the next year, or would you rather lose with Trask and Franks? I think most people would say win. I don’t think that it’s anything to do with Trask or Franks, but more so to deal with an insurance policy.
Nick: I think at some point, this might take us a little off topic, but I don’t think saying you’re looking into a graduate transfer is a damnation of two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. It might just be that they’re not ready. I think at some point you’re going to have to recruit your own quarterback. Jim McElwain and the coaching staff, you’ve got to get your own guy on staff. I think you had the guy, and he’s going to be playing for West Virginia this year. I think at some point you can’t keep relying on graduate transfers. You’ve got to find your own guy as a freshman.
That’s not saying that the guy you get will play as a freshman, but you need to land a quarterback that you’ve recruited, and that you think fits what you want, your offensive system, that he’s going to be coachable with the guys you have to turn into somebody. You know what I mean? I think that’s got to be this year.
Andrew: I’m with you. I think that one of those guys will eventually be the guy, but I just think it’s dumb to say, “They’re recruiting a grad transfer because they don’t believe in these two guys.” I think it’s way too early to tell that. I think it’s more of an insurance policy. They know Del Rio is not going to be a good insurance policy. You’ve seen what he’s been able to do. You get an insurance policy. Then you have to think about this. Franks comes in. Say he starts. Trask isn’t ready. What happens if Franks does get banged up? You need an insurance policy to go in there, if you don’t believe in both of your two freshman quarterbacks. You know Jake Allen’s not going to be ready there. You think Kadarius Toney’s going to have some packages, probably not going to be your guy to play the whole game, so you need an insurance policy.
Nick: Kadarius Toney is not in the mix for starting quarterback. They might have some packages for him.
Andrew: Right. That’s what I’m saying. I think they have some packages. I say this with quarterback the same way I say this with baseball. You never can have too many quarterbacks, just like you can never have too many pitchers. Never can. Never, ever can. You look at Florida this year. They were very close. They were two quarterbacks. They were very close to having to burn Franks or Trask in a bowl game, burn their redshirt, because you didn’t.
Nick: Get more quarterbacks.
Andrew: Exactly. That’s kind of where I look at it. Anything else you want to talk about football before we move on?
Nick: I’m not sold on Duke Dawson outside.
Andrew: I could have told you that.
Nick: Not sold on Chauncey Gardner outside.
Andrew: Yeah. I think he’s still more of a nickel/safety guy.
Nick: Right now I think you’ve got two wide receivers in Callaway and Cleveland, and then it’s everyone else. You’ve got to find somebody that can get into that group or get close to that group. You’ve got to find somebody that can take heat and attention off of those two guys.
Andrew: Not impressed with Hammond?
Nick: They haven’t even put pads on yet. It’s just clear from what they’re doing that there’s just different tiers of athlete and different tiers of talent at wide receiver.
Andrew: I agree with that. You’re still missing Freddie Swain. He’s not there. Then you still got big James Robinson on campus in the fall. I think, while Florida has definitely upgraded, I think anybody that breathes will be better than Fulwood having to take the field for you. I do agree that there’s still some separation between the top guys and the next tier guys. I think it’s a pretty clear separation, in my opinion.
Nick: I agree with that. What else do I think? I haven’t seen enough of, I’m blanking on his name. The early enrollee defensive tackle.
Andrew: Tyree Campbell.
Nick: Haven’t seen enough of Tyree, but I think I wouldn’t be able to make a determination on him until pads come on anyway.
Andrew: Okay. Real quick, can you give us a starting front five for offense?
Nick: The offensive line is going to be Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan, center is McCoy. Right guard is where I think you’re going to have a battle. Right tackle is going to be Jawaan Taylor. Right guard I think right now Fred Johnson is taking those reps with the first team, but I think you need to look at Brett Heggie. Brett Heggie, I think, and Fred Johnson, are going to be battling for that right guard spot, that starting right guard spot.
Andrew: You and I have been down on this guy, but I’m going to ask you about it, because Mac brought it up. He brought up Nick Buchanan.
Andrew: Is he in better shape?
Nick: Yes. Nick Buchanan is in much better shape. I noticed that. I remember almost walking around to a different part of the field to see Buchanan again, and thinking to myself, “He’s in better shape now.” Maybe I’ll reserve the right to change that opinion once the pads come on.
Andrew: I think he’s a guy that we talk about. I think he’s a guy that is very physical. I think the biggest thing that’s held him up is being in shape. You and I talked about this, he was, I would say, a good 30 pounds out of shape when he arrived on campus, and was still out of shape last year. I think we might see a battle there, but I agree with you. I think right guard is the position that’s probably up for grabs the most. Mac did call out Tyler Jordan, so we’ll see how he responds to Mac calling him out a little bit. I think he does need to get tougher. I’m not going to lie. I think Jordan needs to get tougher.
Nick: How nice is that though, that there’s only one position that you’re questioning?
Andrew: I’m going to be honest with you though, that one spot scares me, because I’m not sold on Fred Johnson being at guard. I think he’s too big.
Nick: He is a big dude.
Andrew: He doesn’t bend well. Any observations of the early enrollees, real quick, before we move on? We talked about Kadarius Toney. Kadeem Telfort, what do you think about him? Kemore Gamble, what did you think about him?
Nick: Kemore Gamble looks good. I haven’t really seen too much of him yet. Who else?
Andrew: Kadeem. You said he was a big dude.
Nick: Kadeem is very big, very big.
Andrew: Working at left or right?
Nick: I haven’t even noticed. Based on where we are, I can really only see the first team when they go fast ball, and he’s not with that first group. The second group for fast ball is on the other side of the field. The first team is in between them and me, so I can’t really see them.
Andrew: James Houston?
Nick: James Houston’s moving around a little bit, but still coming back. He’s non-contact after his ACL surgery before last season. I think they expect him to be good to go in the fall, but he’s going to be no contact. Right now it’s just about him learning the defense, learning the calls and checks and all that. Just learning the system.
Andrew: Okay. We’ll move on. I want to give a quick note real quick on recruiting before we move on to basketball. Recruiting, been handing out the offers, left, right, sideways, everywhere you can think about. Tons of offers going out. They’re going to have their Junior Day on the 25th, March 25. They’ll have a practice, and they’ll have a Junior Day.
Some people have asked me, “Why is that?” Mac doesn’t like having a lot of guys on campus at once. He thinks that it’s better to have smaller groups on campus when there’s nothing to do, simply for the reason of having attention paid to these guys. That’s something he’s big on, and he wants to watch them have their practice with the new guys. That’s something too you have to think about. Seider, Bell, Davis didn’t really get on campus until that second week of February, so they wanted to get those guys on campus, get their board figured out, and then have them come out and watch them have practice, watch them go through the motions. That’ll be a big one.
The 17th, which would be next weekend. Not this coming weekend, the next weekend. They’re going to have a few guys on campus as well, and then they’ll have guys on campus, of course, for the spring game on April 7. Prospects will start coming on campus, but I wanted to kind of get that out of the way of really why they wanted Junior Day later in the process.
Nick: No need to rush it.
Andrew: No. I think it’s one of those things too where it’s like if you have a prospect going, “Okay, this weekend I’m going to one. This weekend I’m going to one. This weekend I’m going to one,” in late January or February, they kind of all mix in together. If you’re able to have a Junior Day for a practice, and say you get 30 kids on campus to watch practice, I think it’s a little bit different, because it’s in the middle of March, where they’re not taking as many visits to have a Junior Day. They’re probably going to have more to do on that Junior Day than if they go to Miami for just a practice.
Also, that kind of leads me into, Nick, Miami’s on a little bit of a role with recruiting. They’re getting some recruits. Let’s think about this. Mark Richt always does this. He loads up early. Miami always does this as well. They load up early, and they finish terrible. It’s March 6 when we’re taping this. You guys are listening on March 7. Don’t freak out. Richt always finds a way to screw it up.
Nick: You have a lot of faith that he’ll screw it up.
Andrew: Nick, think about it. Think about last year. Top class in the country, supposedly. Where’d they finish? Outside the top 25, I believe.
Nick: Not a strong finish.
Andrew: No. They did finish in the top 15 or top 20, something like that. Still, it’s just one of those things where I laugh about it, because they say all the time, “They’re doing well.” Think about the guys they got. They got Artur Sitkowski. Everyone had dropped him off their board. They got Brian Hightower, the receiver. Nobody would take him. They got Lorenzo Lingard, that Florida and Florida State did want. They got the running back. Congratulations. You got one. Let’s not sit here and talk about all these guys they got when they didn’t beat no one. They got them by default.
Nick: What do you think about them landing Artur Sitkowski? That happened while you were down there in Orlando.
Andrew: It’s a good pickup, but it’s one of those things where most teams backed off. When you throw 5 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in your junior year, and you barely throw for 1,000 yards, a lot of questions are raised, especially when teams are starting to say you can’t read a defense. I’m questioning that big time. Nick, you just made this point to me and to the listeners that Florida needs to start recruiting their own quarterbacks. That doesn’t mean recruit a project like Artur Sitkowski. That doesn’t mean recruit projects. That means you need to go land one of these studs that is ready to get playing time as a freshman and ready to take over your team as a sophomore. Looking at you, Justin Fields.
Nick: What’s the offer status on that?
Andrew: He’s been offered. That’s Florida’s top guy, and I think he’s a guy that fits that mold. That’s why I just said looking at him, because that is the guy that, in my opinion, Florida needs to land. That is the most important prospect for Florida to land this year is Justin Fields. He’s a guy that will be one of the top three quarterbacks in the country when it comes time for this recruiting class. Right there with the Trevor Laurence’s of the world, the Emory Jones’ of the world, with all those top guys. He will be up there with it. Really spins the ball well. Is a dual threat guy that can also run a little bit. Understands the game, very smart guy. Close to a 4.0 GPA. Smart guy. Florida’s going for the flip with Penn State. I think Florida has a shot. In my opinion, that is the guy Florida needs to really focus on before taking these other guys. Everyone wants to take a guy like Joe Milton, same thing. Are you wanting to recruit a project for three years? Go ahead. Take him.
Nick: Always tough recruiting against James Franklin.
Andrew: It shouldn’t be. Unless you like pedophiles, and I don’t understand the reason for going to Penn State.
Nick: That has nothing to do with anyone that’s there.
Andrew: They allowed it for 15 years.
Nick: That has nothing to do with James Franklin.
Andrew: Just saying. Let’s move on though. Basketball, Nick. Heading into the SEC Tournament the two seed. Probably right now looking at a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. A quick one and out maybe bumps you to a five seed. Not something you want. Looking at this team, Nick, I’m not too concerned about the loss to Kentucky, because they were really in that game, from what I understand. I didn’t watch it. I was gone during that.
Then you look at this Vanderbilt game, and Vanderbilt just plays them really well. Florida plays really bad in Nashville at Memorial Gym. A different gym all around. They just play bad there. They always have. I’m not too concerned, Nick. Are you?
Nick: No. Not concerned. Not concerned with them. I think you’re more concerned about losing the game at home to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt, that’s tough. That coliseum there’s no shooting backdrop. It’s a tough place to play when you’re only playing there once a year.
Nick: Not concerned. You’ll get a chance to play. If you’re angry about it, you’ll get a chance to play them again potentially. All you have to do is beat A&M.
Andrew: Then Florida would follow that up by playing Arkansas, a team they’ve beaten two times in a row. They would most likely play them. Wouldn’t see Kentucky until the finals, so that would be an interesting thing. I think if Florida makes it to the finals, to take on Kentucky or South Carolina, whoever they may be, on Sunday, I think you look at Florida as a four seed in the tournament. Had you told most people heading into this year Florida was going to be a four seed in the NCAA Tournament, two seed in the SEC, most people would have took that.
Nick: Yeah. We were not that high on them.
Andrew: No. I think when you headed into this year, had you said they were going to make a tournament, most people would have been satisfied with that, to say they’re going to be a four seed. This team has a chance to make it to that second weekend. I still think it relies on Kevaughn Allen. When you look at Allen on Saturday against Vanderbilt, he has 13 points in the first half, and then takes two shots in the second half. That’s become a common theme for Kevaughn is he has one half where he shoots the ball a ton, and then he has another half where he barely shoots. Florida needs him to be more consistent with that, and they need good Kasey Hill to show up.
Nick: Yeah. I think Kasey Hill got a little too much heat last Sunday, or Saturday.
Andrew: I’ll reserve comment, but that’s a play you want your senior leader to maybe settle down a little bit, maybe take a better … I don’t know. I just think it was a little bit of a rushed shot. It was more of Kasey being out of control there. I agree with you. I think Kasey has been better this year overall, but this team needs Kevaughn Allen to really show up in the SEC Tournament. Florida doesn’t play until Friday night as well.
Nick: Do they call it a two-game bye? Even though really only …
Andrew: I think they call it a two-game bye, because teams like Vanderbilt get the one game bye. If you’re Florida, you’re happy about that, because when you look at what they’ve got it’s a team that doesn’t have a ton of depth inside. I think it’s a good thing.
Nick: Yeah. Does losing at Vanderbilt change what Florida needs to do in the SEC Tournament to secure that four spot?
Andrew: I think you have to win at least one. I think if you go one and done you’re at the risk of maybe dropping to a five seed, especially if you lose again to Vanderbilt. I think you could be okay and probably still get a four seed if you were to lose to Arkansas in the semis, because when you look at it Arkansas’s probably pretty much locked in as a tournament team. I think if you got that you’re a four seed. I think if they were to go all the way, beat Kentucky, maybe you look at a three seed. Maybe. I think they’re pretty much a four seed though.
Nick: Okay. I agree with that.
Andrew: Let’s go to the diamond sports, where they totally dominated this weekend. Nick, I’m going to give you this. Over a five game stretch this weekend for softball, including two top 25 teams, the Gators won 45-8, with those eight runs coming in two games. It’s nasty. Including a Delanie Gourley perfect game.
Nick: That’s pretty impressive. Her first?
Andrew: Her first. I know people say no-hitters or perfect games are becoming a little more common. A perfect game is a perfect game, Nick. I don’t care what you say. Softball, baseball, little league coach pitch, whatever it is, a perfect game? Get out of here. That’s really good.
Nick: I think it’s a little different for baseball than college softball, just because college softball you’ve got the run rule.
Nick: So, it ends, but still. It’s a perfect game, whether or not she only has to throw five innings. Although, after having a four hour game last week I will continue to petition the NCAA for a run rule in college baseball.
Andrew: Including in that perfect game for Gourley, she struck out 12 of the 15 batters she faced.
Andrew: Not too bad for her. Overall, they defeated Iowa 8-0. Long Beach State, 17-0. #23, Cal, 4-0. #7, UCLA, 9-4. Then they come back and beat a very, very hot and good Northwestern team 7-4. Northwestern took down Cal, took Michigan to extra innings, really good team that’s playing really hot ball right now. Overall, they’re doing well.
Probably the biggest thing for Florida this weekend was the bats came alive, especially Janelle Wheaton. Nick, I’ve been very hard on Wheaton all year this year because she’s been slumping. Came into the weekend hitting below the Mendoza line. People don’t know what that is. That’s .200 batting average. Had a cool six for eight at the plate this weekend, including a homerun. She walked five times, scored six runs. Had a really good weekend.
For Florida, their lineup needs Janelle Wheaton. They really do, because of the fact they need a right-handed bat that’s good. When you look at Florida, they’re very left handed oriented. You think of Lorenz, Kaley Kvistad, Nicole Dewitt, they’re very left handed team. To get Wheaton to backup Kvistad and make her get pitched to is something they need. This pitching staff does well, but Florida needs to get the bats rolling. Having Wheaton as a right-handed bat doing that is good.
Nick: You had mentioned that several times about needing that five hole hitter to kind of protect, what’s her name?
Andrew: Kvistad. Kaley Kvistad.
Nick: Kaley Kvistad.
Andrew: It’s kind of like we talked about with JJ Schwarz last year. When Pete Alonso was out, you needed that bat. That’s what it was. When you look at what has happened this season, look at Kaley Kvistad. She’s batted 48 times. She’s walked 26 times. When you look at that it’s a situation where you have to be able to have someone protect her at the plate. She’s still batting a cool .479 on the year, two homeruns. When you look at what could happen if they were having to pitch to her more, you’re talking about someone that could really be putting up the numbers. To have Wheaton, still only hitting .217 on the year, but coming off of a five for eight weekend is good. They need that. I think heading into SEC play this weekend against Missouri the team’s starting to feel themselves a little bit. That’s good. Pitching staff, pitching staff is ridiculous. A .7 ERA, and really that only blew up because Gourley gave up four runs on Sunday.
Nick: What do they have coming up this week?
Andrew: Missouri. They start SEC play. They have that wild weekend, Nick, that Saturday, Sunday, Monday. You guys have the Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Softball has the Monday night, I guess you could say primetime game, where they face Missouri. They’ll go with that, that Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
Interesting, they have the whole week off. Usually Walton likes to take his team away during spring break and let them play a little bit, but he’s giving them really Saturday to Saturday off. They played their last game Saturday afternoon. They won’t play again till Saturday afternoon at 12:30.
Nick: Aren’t they usually on the road for spring break?
Andrew: Yeah. Usually. It’s a little bit different. Usually this is the weekend for the Judy Garman Classic out in California, but they pushed it up for some reason. I’m not exactly sure why they pushed it up. I’m not sure if there was just nothing going on. Florida does have a little earlier spring break. Maybe there wasn’t a tournament during the week. No midweek games, so interesting to see.
Now, I saved you about eight minutes to talk about your baseball team, Nick. One loss last weekend, but shutout. What’s the mindset of this team? Are they hitting yet, or still struggling?
Nick: Still struggling. They had 26 walks this weekend against a Columbia team that really struggled all day, or all weekend, to throw strikes consistently. Tough to get into there, but a couple guys who hadn’t been playing well, Nelson Maldonado, had a good weekend. Keenan Bell, who I’m going to keep banging the table for this one, Keenan Bell needs to be in the lineup every single day. I don’t care about lefties, righties, whatever it is, Keenan Bell, Blake Reese, those guys need to be in the lineup every single day, and you figure it out.
JJ Schwarz still struggling a little bit at the plate. Had a good Friday night, but kind of struggled after that. Did have three walks on Sunday, and then struck out on four pitches and had some words for the umpire. Still struggling to hit. The team, you’re still waiting for the team to kind of break out.
Andrew: I like what you said about Bell. He impressed me a lot as well. JJ Schwarz, man, it’s just I’m starting to think this is what he is, and you look at last year.
Nick: It’s very long.
Andrew: I know we talk about it, and you said he didn’t have as bad of a sophomore year as many people did, but I mean, he’s just not hitting. You and I talked about this over the weekend. His swing has gotten exceptionally long. For the people that may not know what that means, that just means that it’s loopy. It’s not straight to the ball anymore. It’s long, loopy. It’s a lot more pieces being moved around. When you look at his batting average, .209, Nick. It’s just not good. No homeruns hit this year against, I don’t want to say weak competition, but he’s had plenty of opportunities against bad pitching. He should have been able to at least get one. What’s even more concerning to me, Nick, is his slugging percentage, .256?
Nick: He’s got one extra base hit this year.
Andrew: There you go. Ten strikeouts to just 7 walks. It’s not something you’re looking at. I hate to say it, but I’m really starting to believe this is what JJ Schwarz really is, and that is a decent hitter with no position.
Nick: People are saying we need to move him down the lineup, this and that. Deacon Liput was struggling, and he basically got the day off yesterday, didn’t start. Ended up pinch running and getting a chance to hit there in the eighth, but pretty much had just a day off. Relax. You’re pressing. Relax. Calm down. Don’t think about anything today. Just chill. You can do that with JJ.
Problem is, with both of those guys really, to get where you want to go and to accomplish your goals, you need those two guys hitting and playing well. You’re left with a situation now where you’re thinking, how do I, where do I, what am I supposed to do? When it comes down to SEC play, these two guys have to be in the lineup, and they have to be playing well. Do I let them battle through it, or do I let them take a couple days off? What’s the right approach to that?
Andrew: I think it’s a lot of different things. You could give them a day off. Then when you look at a guy like JJ, it’s not about him not seeing pitches, so moving him down in the lineup maybe he sees less pitches to hit. I mean, I think it’s a little bit of a tossup. I wouldn’t be concerned about it as much, Nick, if it was just to open the season, but it started last year, really the end of his freshman year it started, and it’s really moved on. It’s not only is he not hitting the breaking balls, but now he’s late on the fastballs as well. Guessing at the plate. I think would be the best word to say for JJ’s approach is guessing.
Nick: Yeah. It’s not great. You’re going to face an FGCU team that is playing really well, and then coming up quickly is Auburn, and Auburn’s got a Friday night guy and a Saturday guy that are pitching out of this world right now. I think their Friday night guy has got 21 scoreless, 21 consecutive innings.
Nick: FGCU right now, this is not a team to be overlooked. They’re 10-2. They’ve won their last six, and they’re 7-2 at home. Florida will have to go down there Tuesday. That’s a long bus ride as well.
Andrew: Who do they play this weekend?
Nick: Florida, who is it this weekend? Not SEC play yet. Let me see.
Andrew: SEC play starts the following week for Florida.
Nick: They go on the road to Auburn. I think it was Seton Hall.
Andrew: Seton Hall. Okay.
Nick: Florida will get Seton Hall. That’s another team from up north that you should be able to go ahead and get that weekend sweep. Last interesting thing that I wanted to bring up, before we have to get out of here, is Tyler Dyson. I think Florida might have found their answer at closer.
Nick: Dyson’s a freshman. He comes out, and yesterday he’s throwing 94-98. Huge right-handed power arm. I think it will be him. It depends on his makeup, but I think look for Dyson to start getting that call when it’s a one run, two run game, eighth, ninth inning. S
Andrew: Right. Okay. That’ll pretty much wrap us up. Nick, tell the people where they can find us. If you haven’t joined us yet on Gator Country, let us know. We’ll still hook you up with that coupon deal and get you on board. Tell the people where they can find us, Nick. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday. No spring practice this week, but basketball, baseball, softball, all that good stuff is coming the way.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. iTunes, give us a follow there. Let us know what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong. Drop a comment down there. I haven’t asked you guys to give us comments in a while. Let us know how we’re doing. Social media, @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Find all of our news on the message boards, and follow both of us. We’re doing some stuff on Twitter, and you can follow me on Instagram as well. @NickdelaTorreGC on Twitter. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: That’s right. Cool stuff coming all the way around. Always tweeting something stupid, I’m sure. Nick, we appreciate everyone coming back. Glad to be back on here with everyone. We’ll see everyone on Friday. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.