Andrew Spivey brings you the latest edition of the Spivey Senses podcast where he discusses why the excitement is back for the Florida Gators football team and what improvement can be shown.
Also Andrew Spivey talks about what he seen from Florida Gators football prospects and commits over the weekend and what stood out to him during their games this past weekend.
To finish off the podcast Andrew talks about what he expects to see from the offense this year and what prospects will be looking for this year from the Florida Gators football season.
What’s up, Gator Country? Andrew Spivey back for the opening week of football season, excitement finally. I’m so ready for football. I’ve been able to go out to some high school football games last couple of weeks, and it’s great, but it’s nothing like Saturday football in the Swamp and around the SEC. I’m fired up for it. I think this is going to be an exciting season for everybody. I think that while the record may not be great for Florida this year, and when I say great, 10 wins, SEC championship, I do think that it’s going to be a better season. I’ll be the first to admit last year I never got excited for Florida football. It was just another day for myself. It was what am I going to tell people? What am I going to write about? It was just another boring year, but I’m excited this year. I’m really fired up. I’m excited for Coach McElwain. Someone on Twitter today told me they thought Coach McElwain was maybe under selling himself and under selling the team, because he has that grin on his face. I do agree. I think that McElwain and his staff are going to have a really good plan going forward.
As you look at the depth chart today that you came out you see several freshman on that depth chart as well. You see Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkrite both as ORs for a second team on the depth chart at running back. That’s a big positive for those guys. You see Cece Jefferson as the #2 defensive end behind Jon Bullard. That’s a big thing. You see Martez Ivey. You see Fred Johnson. You see Tyler Jordan. Those are freshmen that are there. That’s huge for those guys as well. The thing for me is Martez Ivey just had that scope. Nick and I talked about that last week, and everyone was kind of freaking out thinking he’s out for the year, but he’s questionable for this opening week. That’s going to be huge. That means he’ll most likely be back next week, barring a crazy setback, if he doesn’t play this week. That’s just big for this staff in general, and I think that overall you’re going to look at an offensive line, when Martez Ivey’s playing, that’s going to be very good.
The one surprise for me is Mason Halter at left tackle and David Sharpe at right tackle. I thought it would be flopped, but maybe Martez Ivey is the better left tackle of him and Sharpe, and that’s just preparing Ivey to be there. Coach McElwain said again that the depth chart’s there. You’re going to see those 22 guys on that starting depth chart for the two deep, but he’s going to play a lot more. He says he plans to play nine receivers this year. Nine receivers is a lot of receivers. I think he’s just looking to see who’s going to make plays for this team and who’s going to be the playmakers. There’s going to really no depth chart for a while in my opinion of who’s going to play. I think that you’ll see as the Tennessee game comes on who’s going to be the playmakers, whether it’s Ahmad Fulwood, CJ Worton, or if it’s even Antonio Callaway. It could be those guys. I think it will be important to see how it goes in the Tennessee game for that. Overall, very excited for this team, very excited for the future of what’s going to come under Jim McElwain. That kind of leads me into my next point a little bit.
We had several high school football games go on this past weekend. A lot of them were on TV or on the internet. We were all able to watch them a little bit. Start off with St. Thomas and Booker T. That was a huge game for national TV for south Florida area. Booker T’s a down a little bit, so they fell to St. Thomas, but Jake Allen once again looked very good, had over 200 yards passing, had four touchdowns, two of which went to Sam Bruce who looked good as well. The one thing I’ll say about Jake Allen is that maybe he doesn’t have the biggest arm of a quarterback, but he’s the guy that comes out and throws the ball really well, puts the ball on target, and has very good foot work in the pocket. He’s a good pocket passer, and I just think that he’s a guy that you’re going to look at, and he’s not maybe going to be a Heisman trophy winner from day one, but he’s going to be a guy that’s going to come out, and he’s going to just make plays. That’s kind of where I think Florida likes him a lot, and I think Florida will be able to work with him a little bit on his arm strength a little bit to help get that better. That’s definitely not something that comes overnight, by any means, but I think it’s something that Florida can work with getting stronger, and you’ve still got to remember, he’s only a junior in high school, so he’s still go a lot of room to grow a little bit to get that arm strength up.
To go a little bit further on that St. Thomas game, Sam Bruce once again putting up great plays as well. In my opinion he might be the best playmaker in the state of Florida. He comes out, and he makes a spectacular play to score a touchdown in the St. Thomas game. Jake Allen through a will route to him, and he stops on a dime, just completely stops, makes a sidestep, and jumps in the end zone for a touchdown. He’s just a spectacular athlete. He’s a guy that whoever gets him is going to probably play him from day one. He’s just going to be a guy that is going to be an instant playmaker for any team that gets him. He’ll be visiting Florida this coming weekend for the New Mexico State game, so that’s going to be big for Florida. Sam Bruce is going to be a regular in Gainesville this year for games, because of his buddy Jordan Scarlett. Big things are ahead for Florida with Jake Allen, and hopefully with Sam Bruce, if they’re able to get him. I think Sam Bruce is a guy that Florida really needs to get on offense.
The next game that I focused in a lot was the Hollandale/Cedar Grove game that featured Josh Hammond. Josh Hammond’s a guy that he doesn’t get on the highlight reels a ton, because he doesn’t make the one handed grabs or shake a lot of people, but he’s a guy that just makes plays. Had three touchdowns, and three touchdowns that were big plays, not one handed grabs, or he didn’t exactly run a 4-4 and run away from everybody, but he just simply makes grabs. He runs very good routes from either outside or in the slot, depending on where he lines up, and he just catches the football really well. He could have had a fourth touchdown, but called back for a 65-yarder because of illegal procedure, but Josh Hammond’s a guy that is a lot like his brother Frankie. He’s just a guy that’s going to go out there, do what he’s supposed to do, and you’re not going to have to worry about whether he’s in the right place. That’s something that is very good for Florida going forward.
The next game I kind of watched a little bit on was the American Heritage game. I really like Nick Eubanks and Brian Burns. Brian Burns is such a phenomenal player at his defensive end position. He’s a guy that is probably going to come in and start, either from day one or in his first year as a rush end. He’s a guy that once he gains a little weight he’s going to be unblockable. He’s got an explosive first step, and he’s just a solid playmaker. Then Nick Eubanks, he’s just a good pass catching tight end. Florida and Alabama are battling for him right now. He told me he’s going to release his five official visits on Friday, so that will be big to see where he goes with that.
Then the last game kind of was the IMG/Miramar game, which I guess you can’t even really call it a game. IMG ended up running away from that game, was up by 30 points in the first half and ended up putting in a lot of their second string guys. Defensive end Shavar Manuel, he moved to defensive tackle this year and is doing well. He had a sack in the game. He’s still recovering from a leg injury he had last year, and that’s hampered him a little bit. He didn’t play last week, and he didn’t play a ton this week, but he’s coming back from injury. He’s going to be a guy that I think is going to be a real good playmaker at defensive tackle. Once he gets back healthy he’s going to be unstoppable to block from that defensive tackle position.
That kind of wraps up what games I watched this weekend. I didn’t watch the Miami Central game. I did watch some of Felipe Frank’s game. Once again, he’s got a big arm. He’s a big playmaker. He just has very bad accuracy problems. He doesn’t throw the ball in tight windows very well, and he’s a guy that’s just very inaccurate. That’s something that can be coached, sure, but I know there’s a lot of people that believe he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but that is on potential alone. He’s not a guy that’s going to come in and play from day one. He needs to come in and learn. A guy like Nussmeier or Mac could work with him, but he’s not a guy that’s going to come in and start as a freshman. He’s a good playmaker, don’t get me wrong. He has the intangibles. It’s just getting all the intangibles to go along with his potential, which is his accuracy problems and his footwork. Once that happens then he’ll be, in my opinion, a really good quarterback.
That’s kind of what I had this weekend. I played golf as well. Got to play the last round of golf on Saturday before the football season comes out. Shot a 92. Not very good, but for me, I’m an amateur, it was okay. Found a few fairways. Not going to birdie a putt, but the rest of that was about pars or bogies. That’s about my golf game. That’s why I missed the Miami Central game. If anybody has any tips on my golf game, just let me know.
To move forward a little bit, on the recruiting end of things. Not a big weekend for visitors this coming weekend for Florida, when they play New Mexico, but you’ll see Chauncey Gardner who’s supposed to come in. Sam Bruce, as I said, is coming in. Brett Heggie, the center commit, is coming in. Let’s see here. Rick Wells is coming in. Stone Forsythe’s coming in. Tyrek Tisdale says he’s coming in. Ohio State 2017 athlete commit, Bruce Judson’s coming in, as well as big time running backs from the 2017 class, Devan Barrett and Adarius Lemons are coming in. A couple guys have told me they may come in, but they’re not exactly sure. Those guys are Freddie Swain, Marcus Tatum, and JaQuan Bailey. Those guys told me they may come in, just depending on their travel plans. Marcus Tatum would be a huge guy to get in on this visit, if he’s able to come in, as well as getting Freddie Swain in. That would be a big pickup as well if they could get him in. Florida is traveling in the right direction for Freddie Swain, just need to continue to keep the momentum off for Tennessee and Miami right now.
It’s good to see they’re coming in. Very good to see Sam Bruce and Chauncey Gardner in. Those guys are going to help recruit whoever comes on campus. Right now this is still Monday. I’m taping this on Monday around lunchtime, around 1:00. So that will be a lot of names added probably as the week goes on and as plans start to come more clear for guys. Friday will be the day that I’ll put out my visitors list like always.
Also, working on a couple little things here with recruiting. I’m talking to guys to kind of see what their whole plan is for this year. Do they want to see Florida have a better record this year, or are they more concerned about the improvement it is? Overwhelming response is improvement. I’ve only a couple guys tell me they want to see a better record, but just to kind of read a couple of them, I’ll have a full story on this tomorrow, on Tuesday. Mark Thompson, he pretty much said he just wants to show improvement. He wants to see the standpoint of the running backs and how the O line improves. He says that’s definitely convincing enough to him to come in and make an instant impact already, but he wants to really see more with it. That’s something I think that is going to be the overwhelming telltale sign for a lot of people. Benjamin Victor, his quote to me was he wanted to see how the quarterbacks perform and how the receivers were involved in the offense.
That’s kind of where recruiting is for a lot of guys right now. They’re more excited for the future of the program and know that maybe they’re not going to be a 10 or 11 win team this year for Florida, but can the offense look better? Can McElwain and company have those guys showing an identity? I keep saying that. Identity is key this year. Showing that the offense is moving in a direction forward and not a direction backwards. Will Muschamp’s offense went backwards from year one to year two to year three to year four. That can’t happen with McElwain. It’s got to go up if he wants to get the big playmakers like Nate Craig, like Freddie Swain, like Sam Bruce, like Benjamin Victor. He’s going to need to show improvement.
I think he will, and I think that all is going to start with New Mexico on Saturday. I think that you’re going to see Will Grier and Treon Harris split up the reps a lot, and I think you’re going to see them really score some points. I think that you’re going to see the offense get better each week, even though they’re going to be playing better teams each week. I think McElwain’s going to have a better feel of what the playmakers can do and what each player can do better as the week goes on.
You look at a guy like Brandon Powell. Brandon Powell’s a guy that I think can be involved in several different ways, if McElwain realizes that once he sees him on the field. Can Brandon Powell be a big time receiver? For me that’s a big question mark as far as catching the ball, but I think speed sweeps are there for him. Screens are there from him. My biggest thing is how well does he do on simple go routes, simple out routes, slants, stuff like that? Is he able to catch the ball, make moves on that? Is he able to catch the ball in traffic? That’s something a guy like Sam Bruce will be looking at, as well a guy like Freddie Swain and guys like Josh Hammond, those guys, to see what the slot receiver does. Then Nick Eubanks, Isaac Nauta, Jamal Pettigrew, those tight ends, they’re going to be looking at Jake McGee and C’yontai Lewis to see how big of playmakers they are. Are they able to go across the middle and catch the ball? Is McElwain throwing them the ball more down the field, closer to the line of scrimmage? What’s that message for them?
Once you see that you’ll see prospects start to like Florida more, or if things are not looking good they’ll decrease their interest in Florida. The Tennessee game for me is going to be huge for recruiting, because guys will be able to finally see Florida go up against a great defense when they play Tennessee in Week 4. I think after that that’s when you’re going to see prospects start to either like offense at Florida or not like offense at Florida, and that will be for 2016 and 2017.
That’s where I’m kind of at in recruiting. To hit a couple things football related, I go back to the quarterbacks. They’re going to split reps. I think that you’re going to see a quarter by quarter breakdown, that would be my guess. I don’t think you do it by half, simply because you don’t want Treon Harris or Will Grier working with a different group of guys than the other guy. That wouldn’t be fair to those guys for a balancing to see performance wise who’s better. Then I think you’ll see nine wide receivers play, like Mac says. You got Ahmad Fulwood. You got Demarcus Robinson, CJ Worton, Antonio Callaway. Those are the four listed on the depth chart with Brandon Powell and Alvin Bailey, so six receivers. I think you’ll still see Chris Thompson get some playing time. I think you’ll still see possibly a guy like Ralph Andrades maybe get some playing time. Latroy Pittman’s suspended, so that cuts out his playing time. I think you’ll see more guys play, just to see who can make plays out there. I don’t think Ahmad Fulwood has really guaranteed him a spot starting after this week. Mac continues to say that Fulwood’s a guy that is 6’3” but only plays like he’s 5’8”. That’s not very good to hear from your head coach heading into the season. That’s something Fulwood needs to step up at.
As far as the offensive line goes, you have your starters of Halter, Trip Thurman, and Cam Dillard, Antonio Riles and David Sharpe. I think you’re going to see Tyler Jordan get a lot playing time in this game. If Martez Ivey can play I think you see him get some playing time in this game. Then I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Nick Buchanan and Fred Johnson get some playing time as well, because Mac continues to say he wants to see who the best five offensive linemen are that can communicate the best and block the best. Whoever that’s going to be is who he’s going to start, and that’s going to forward through the season. I think that that’s a work in progress for the offensive line, but for me it’s just very encouraging that he has eight guys that right now are ready to play football, and that he trusts to play football. For me that’s a big step from where we were about a month ago, two months ago, heading into the season where we all thought offensive line you were going to be struggling to get five linemen on the field.
As safety, that’s kind of my biggest question is Nick Washington starting at safety over Duke Dawson. For me that tells me Duke Dawson’s not doing what he’s supposed to do, or isn’t in the right place. Mac was very high on Duke for a while, and now he’s not. Now he’s a second string guy, and Nick Washington, a guy who’s not done very well this fall camp, is starting. To me that’s a little discouraging for Duke Dawson. Again, that safety position is going to be key for recruiting as well, because people are going to want to see how Geoff Collins does on defense.
For me that is another thing that I am very interested to watch. I know everybody’s talking about the offense, but I want to see how much the defense blitzes. How different is the defense from last year to this year? Is it that big of a difference? Do they blitz more? How does the rush get to the passer? For me, the defense is a mystery to me of not how good it’s going to be, because it’s going to be good, but how do they achieve that? Is more nickel blitzes with Brian Poole coming off the edge? Is it more bringing the linebackers? Does a guy like Antonio Morrison blitz a lot, or is it Anzalone and Jeremy Powell doing that? Then how does Bryan Cox do starting at the rush position now that Alex McCalister’s suspended?
A lot of what-ifs for me on the defensive side of the ball, but a lot of positives for me, because I just want to see how Geoff Collins does with his scheme. I really want to see how different he does things. I love watching them blitz right now with the secondary the way it is, so bring the heat. Hit the quarterback, and let’s get the ball rolling and get some turnovers going. Turnovers and getting the offense the ball in plus territory, which is on the opposing team’s 50 yard line or better, that’s the best way to get confidence going for this offense, and that’s the best way to get a quarterback’s confidence going as well. Start the season off strong. Start the season with confidence, and let that just grow, because McElwain and company, they’re fired up. This team is itching and ready to go.
For once though I am telling you guys, for the first time in really two years, I am amped for football season. I’m excited for Florida Gator football season. I’m excited to see what’s going on, and I think that we’re going to be pleasantly surprised at how well this team does. Maybe not from a record standpoint, but just from a production standpoint. The record could surprise people. A good year and things could get very good for Florida, and the record could get great. I’m just very interested to see the offense to see how well it does in recruiting.
That’s kind of all my allotted time for this podcast. Nick and I are going to have a podcast discussing the depth chart more in depth a little bit, and we also have some guest planned for this week. We’re going to have a podcast previewing the game for a final time on Thursday. We’re going to have a lot of different features up on the site this coming year. Can’t forget about the soccer team, beating #1 Florida State on Sunday, by a score of 3-2. Florida State hadn’t lost since last September, when Florida beat them. They were national champions. Then Mary Weiss and the volleyball team. They went on the road for their first two games, and they won them in kind of running away fashion. Alex Holston is going to have an incredible year for them. Her and Savannah Jordan for the soccer team, those two girls right there are two girls that don’t get talked about enough in Florida athletics that are going to have big years.
All in all, Gator athletics are rolling in the direction. The Gators have a new indoor practice facility that’s creating a lot of buzz. McElwain and company are ready to go. Great things are ahead for Gator Nation and Gator Country in general. Guys, stay in touch with us. Nick and myself will be on Twitter. You can follow me @AndrewSpiveyGC on Twitter and @NickdelaTorreGC is him on Twitter. Stick around with us on the message boards as well. I appreciate you guys listening, and until next week, Andrew Spivey speaking to you Gator Country. Take Care.