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Spring scrimmage and QB talk
for the Florida Gators: Podcast

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  • Spring scrimmage and QB talk for the Florida Gators: Podcast
Written by Andrew Spivey, March 25, 2016, 0 Comments,
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GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as the Florida Gators football team had its first spring scrimmage on Thursday and are now over half way done with spring football.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down the play of the quarterbacks as we focus on Luke Del Rio and how he has taken charge of the position and the offense.

Andrew and Nick also preview the Florida Gators diamond sports for this week, plus talk a little recruiting as several prospects visited for spring football this week.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Once again, your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:                         That’s right, another GC podcast. Spring football under way. First scrimmage going down Thursday. It was a star studded event on Wednesday at spring practice. Jack Del Rio, he is the father of Luke Del Rio, who will be the starting quarterback for Florida. He was down in Boca for the NFL owner meetings, coaches meetings, and just made a short trip up from Boca to Gainesville. Was there at practice with family friend, legendary Hoosiers coach, Gene Hackman.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         And the Old Ball Coach.

Andrew:                 And the Old Ball Coach.

Nick:                         It’s not often that Steve Spurrier can show up in Gainesville and not be the most famous person at practice, but when Gene Hackman shows up, that’s the case.

Andrew:                 Judd Davis, former Gator, also there, and the Old Ball Coach, that’s for sure. It’s very interesting. Jake Allen had a pretty good tweet, Gator commit, and he said, “Only at the Gators practice can you show up and have an NFL coach, a Hall of Fame, and Heisman Trophy winner, an actor, and just be a normal day in Gainesville.” That’s pretty cool, as Coach Mac would say. I think that’s pretty cool.

Nick:                         Mac is a basketball junkie. On Thursday when we spoke to him he ends the press conference, as he’s walking out, “Who do you guys got out tonight?” He’s been asking us about March Madness and our brackets all spring. He’s a little mad that he can’t have one. That would break NCAA rules for him to have a bracket. Basketball junkie, obviously Hoosiers one of his favorite movies, and to see Gene Hackman there, who’s done a ton of movies dating back to the 70s, not just Hoosiers. That was pretty cool to see him out there, but I think it’ll be even cooler for Mac to see how some of his team, some of his younger players, handle about 120, 125 scrimmage reps, live reps. Coaches not on the field behind them. Coaches on the sideline kind of trying to create as much of a game atmosphere, a true Saturday atmosphere as you can.

Andrew:                 This is the first legit true scrimmage of the spring. It’s good, because you get, in practice it’s different than a scrimmage. Practice you’ve got the coach standing over it, and a scrimmage is a game-like situation where the coaches are on the sidelines. Florida probably doesn’t send guys to the box like it does on normal game day for a scrimmage, but they are still signaling, calls, that kind of stuff, so you’re able to really see. How’s Feleipe Franks? How’s Kyle Trask? How are the freshmen receivers? How is Dre Massey? I know Massey didn’t participate on Thursday due to an injury, but you’re able to see that kind of stuff. How is Fred Johnson picking up on things? How is the defensive guys like Chauncey Gardner, that kind of stuff, picking up at it? Then it’s just how does Del Rio do in a game situation where I think we can both agree Jalen Tabor’s the best cornerback he’ll face all year, so how he’s doing against Jalen Tabor?

Nick:                         He’s up there. If you don’t want to throw Jalen Tabor, you’ve got to look at the other side of the field, and now you’re throwing at Quincy Wilson. It’s kind of what Del Rio said last year. Last year he spent the entire season running the scout team, so now he’s throwing at Quincy and Tabor and Vernon Hargreaves and Jon Bullard’s rushing him. Caleb Brantley is rushing him, Joey Ivie. He said, running the scout team is kind of tough, because I’m not really making a decision. I’m not really making calls. They show you a card, and they say you’re going to throw to this guy. He’s like, now I’m trying to throw to that guy, whether he’s open or not. It’s the defense’s job to make sure he’s not open when you’re going up against a scout team. So for him, some guys he’s throwing against, but he’s getting a little more freedom to run things.

Andrew:                 If he starts throwing to Marcus Maye a lot this spring Mac’s going to have to let him know the color jerseys that he’s supposed to be throwing to, so yeah. No. I think you and I have had multiple updates, more than anybody out there, as far as insider notes on Gator Country on the message board. Not a member, check us out. Little plug. You and I have both been told by several different people that Del Rio is just a field general. He’s a coach on the field. I think this, and I challenge, not really challenge, but anyone who’s listening who hasn’t had a chance to listen to Del Rio with the media on Wednesday, go check it out. I say that, and it doesn’t mean anything, but when you look at your best quarterbacks, your guys that are true field generals, the Tom Brady’s of the world, the Peyton Mannings of the world, even Greg McElroy, those kind of guys, they have a different presence about them when they’re talking the game, when they’re describing things, and that’s exactly what you get from Del Rio.

Now, Del Rio has been around a coach all of his life in his dad, and has been around a lot of, I would say influential people in his life, but he definitely sounds like a guy who understands what he’s supposed to do on the field, and is a guy that I think Mac trusts. You’re not going to, he’s not going to see a situation he hasn’t seen before, in my opinion.

Nick:                         I think the biggest thing that I got, because obviously that’s a question you’re going to be asked when you’re a coach’s son, and not just, we talk about Treon Harris, Will Grier, they’re coach’s sons, but Luke has had the opportunity to be around NFL locker rooms with his dad coaching the Jaguars, defensive coordinator in Denver, then Head Coach in Oakland. I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me when we asked him about that, about growing up as a coach’s son, was just being able to pick the brains of professionals, and not wasting the opportunity.

It’s tough, because you get around, you’re 10 years old, and you get around a Mark Brunell, who was a great quarterback for the Jaguars, or get around some of these guys. It’s easy to kind of just be star struck, but it seems like he had the foresight and the maturity to kind of pick their brains about football, knowing early on that this is something he wanted to do. So to me that was really interesting, saying being able to pick these guys’ minds and see how they work, how they look at the game, how they approach it, and kind of take pieces of that and see what works for him.

Andrew:                 That’s what makes these, your top quarterbacks, different. Greg McElroy, and I know I continue using his name, and I don’t mean to compare them at all. I don’t mean that at all, but when you look at a guy like Del Rio his father is one of the big wigs. I’m not exactly sure exactly what his title was in the Dallas Cowboys organization, but he was one of Jared Jones’ top guys. He had been around a lot as well. So you see these different things there. It’s a different kind of feel for when you hear Del Rio speak and then when you heard Grier and Treon speak. It’s not that either one of those guys spoke badly. They were both very well-spoken guys, but you didn’t get a sense that it was like they could describe the game to you.

I think Del Rio could teach the game to people through his quarterback play, and that’s what’s allowing him to be such a good field general on the field for guys like Swain, Hammond, Massey, those guys that are out there. I think that’s going to be the biggest difference for McElwain. McElwain’s offense is complicated. It’s not a very easy offense for a quarterback to run, because it’s all about matchups, and it’s a learning process that I don’t want to say changes every week, but matchups change. He needs someone that’s smart to run this offense, and I think that’s what Del Rio is really bringing to the table.

Nick:                         Del Rio kind of said it. He said, if you look at Alabama. We asked him what he believes is expected of him. He said, you look at Alabama, and it’s just managing. It’s getting to the guy, getting the ball to the guy you’re supposed to on time, and not turning it over. He understands that the offense is not going to ask him to be everything. They’re not going to ask him to go out and win games. On a weekly basis a game plan might change. We think they’re going to be able to shut this and this down. We’re going to need you to make some plays in order for us to win, but the offense is set up for the quarterback to kind of just be the delivery system, and just to keep the offense running smoothly. You don’t need to run for a thousand yards. You don’t need to throw for 5,000 yards. We just need you to be a product of the system, and it’s a system that’s proven over time at different places that it can be effective.

Andrew:                 That’s the biggest thing. Run sets up the pass. You’ve seen Mac a lot of times last year where play action, you and I both talk about it several times where it was like, that guy was wide open. Why is that? That is exactly what Mac’s offense is. It’s predicated on finding the matchup of what matchup gives me the best chance to succeed this time? You and I were told several times, I remember one time, before the LSU game, you and I were in Baton Rouge for the LSU game, and you and I were told Florida has a game plan that is going to expose LSU. You and I both looked at each other, and we’re like, okay. But when you went to the LSU game it really showed. Florida had players wide open in the game, just didn’t execute.

You sit there and you think about that, that with a quarterback like Del Rio that understands the game just like Mac does, man, it’s going to be fun. Again, I don’t mean this to compare, but a guy like Tebow, he understood the game plan to a T to where he was able to understand what was coming about. A guy like Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning’s the same way. He knows what the coaches are trying to do when he does it, and that’s what Del Rio does. I think that’s what’s got a lot of people excited.

Nick:                         Just stability. I think that’s really what can be overlooked. When you mentioned Tebow, that’s not really, everything that Tim Tebow brought to Florida just kind of like isn’t really what Jim McElwain needs. Would you turn it down if you had a player like that? No, but there’s a reason that Tebow gets brought up. It’s a once in a generation, once in a lifetime kind of player that makes a different impact, and you can win championships like that, but you don’t need something like that to win a championship. I think it goes back to Alabama and guys that you had mentioned, AJ McCarron, who’s homeboy that I’m missing right now?

Andrew:                 McElroy.

Nick:                         Greg McElroy, those weren’t Tim Tebow guys. They didn’t have that kind of impact that Tim Tebow had. Both won national championships playing the position and playing it differently.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         So it’s a more sustainable offense where you look at Ohio State with Urban Meyer, he had great quarterback play at Florida. You win a national championship. Goes up to Ohio State, had great quarterback play, wins a national championship. They don’t get that last year, lose a couple games, or lose a game, lose a couple. To me, it’s more sustainable if you’re not trying to find that once in a generation player every year, every three, four years, so that you can have him to rely on. You’re trying to build a system, an offensive system, that needs a quarterback, but won’t rely solely on a quarterback.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s a good point. You look at some of the vets in the NFL. You look at Tom Brady, and Tom Brady in my opinion is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

Nick:                         Get out of here.

Andrew:                 It’ll come about, but it is what it is. Anyway, but you look at the system that Belichick and those guys have built. Every year it’s a new crop of receivers that come in, but every year, and, of course, Gronk’s been there.

Nick:                         This is a terrible example, because Tom Brady is so good it doesn’t matter who’s around him.

Andrew:                 Right, but what I’m saying is it’s a system that it is, and that’s what McElwain’s system is. Alabama’s a perfect example. Alabama hasn’t had the same quarterback play in back to back years since McElroy, but it’s a system. It’s able to be built around that. It’s there. One thing you and I wanted to talk about, and Mac’s a guy who continues to say we got four quarterbacks that are going to play, yada, yada, yada, in the scrimmage. Quarterback is the #1 position that you have to keep your other three guys interested in the competition, because you need depth. So while Mac is saying that, quarterback is Luke Del Rio. Everyone in the building, everyone in the country knows that, but it’s a simple thing of, hey Feleipe, hey Kyle, hey Austin, continue to work, and let’s see what happens.

Nick:                         Yeah, I guess. Guys can see it. It’s one thing to say something in the media, but guys on the team know it. They know the way that reps are being distributed. They know the way that the reps look. The team is rallied around. I’m sure they like Austin Appleby, Feleipe, and Kyle. I’m sure they like them, but the team is rallied around Luke. The team expects Luke to be the starter, and barring something unforeseen, he will be the starter for Florida, and I think the best thing, you can say quarterback competition to keep everyone interested and motivated, but really I think it’s better if you have a guy that the team can rally around. Last year I don’t think it ever got to that point, even though we thought that Florida would start Will Grier and that he would win the job. It was still kind of up in the air, and I think if you can get a situation where, even starting now in spring, where the team is rallied around one guy and expect one guy to be the starter, that builds more cohesion and more confidence heading into the summer, and then heading into the fall.

Andrew:                  That’s what I said. Everybody in America knows who the starting quarterback is, but it kind of goes back to our point almost. Del Rio understands the thing. Those guys needs the reps. Appleby needs the reps. The two freshmen need the reps. Continue to get those guys reps, and go about it, because you never know. I mean, hopefully Del Rio isn’t buddies with Grier and doing something illegal, but it seems like every year something crazy as hell happens to a Florida quarterback. Be prepared for that situation by letting those two freshmen, by letting Appleby, get some reps, and in spring ball when, spring ball it’s all about learning. It’s all about getting better, and, as we just said about this defense, Trask and Franks going against this defense is only going to make them better for the future. I think you and I both can agree that some time or another Florida’s going to rely on those two freshmen to make a few plays.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think so. To me, quarterback battle is kind of locked up. I think there are other battles. I said it before. Before spring started I thought running back would be the tightest battle. I don’t even know if you can kind of call wide receiver a battle.

Andrew:                 A receiver is, right now at receiver a lot of things hinge on Callaway. Is he coming back? When does he come back? That kind of stuff. A lot of that’s hinging on that, because one spot is locked down for Callaway, whether he comes back tomorrow, whether he comes back next week, whether he comes back August 1 or September 1. Whenever he comes back, he’s got a spot. So it all hinges on that. My thing is they need five receivers. You want to go into the year with six receivers that can play ball. You want three that should start, and three more that can rotate in. I think you can lock down Callaway as one, whenever he comes back. Chris Thompson is another one that’s been doing really well. Fulwood, I think Fulwood gets into that mix, and that goes back to our point, and we’ll talk about that in just a second. So those are the three.

Now who is your slot receiver? Is it Dre Massey? Is it Brandon Powell when he comes back? Who kind of figures in? That’s my biggest question mark is who steps up to be that guy? Is it Chris Thompson? Is it Fulwood? Is it a guy like CJ Worton? Is it one of the three newcomers? Is it Brandon Powell, who’s not even practicing this spring? Where is it? Where is the guys that are outside of Callaway?

Nick:                         Bueller. Bueller. They’re just not there. To me, in the tiny little portions we’ve seen, I’ve been very impressed with Swain, and very impressed with Hammond. Dre Massey is another guy. I think he might be kind of limited in his role as far as not really playing outside, might be just kind of like a slot, maybe used in an H back role, but it’s just I think let’s get into this. It’s you see me or another reporter tweet out just a quote from Jim McElwain. He mentions Ahmad Fulwood, and it kind of gets blown out of the water, and everyone’s like, he’s going to have a great year. Then you forget Quinton Dunbar had an awesome spring every year, and then you saw what happened. Everyone has a good spring.

You really need, with Jim McElwain, you really need to go back and see how he’s handled talking about how his players have done in the media. I remember after Will Grier completed 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards and 4 touchdowns against Ole Miss. Coach, what’d you think of Will Grier’s performance today? He was okay. He missed some throws. Well, he only had five incompletions, and I think two of them were drops. So he didn’t even miss some throws. This might be the best quarterback performance you guys have had in a long time. What do you mean? It’s just the way Jim McElwain coaches all of his players differently.

Andrew:                  Here’s the thing. Mac preaches perfection, and is anybody going to be perfect? No. But that’s what he wants.

Nick:                         I don’t even think it’s perfection, because then you get a bad game from Treon Harris the next week, or two weeks later, and it’s, I thought Treon did some good things. We need to play better around him. You’re left thinking, those two performances weren’t even close. It’s just he’s handling it differently. One of the players had a good game, is a confident kid, and it’s kind of like Greg McElroy told us. When we played well, he would try to knock us down a peg. When we didn’t play well, he would try to build us up. I remember we spoke to him after the LSU game.

Andrew:                  That was Garrett Grayson, and that’s what I was getting at. He was like, this is going to be a team that gets built up. What I’m saying though is like with, Mac’s a guy that has a general message that he wants, and he knows his players read stuff in the media. He’s not going to bash anyone. That’s not McElwain. I kind of take it kind of like Bobby Cox. Nick, I know you’re going to hate me for saying that with the Braves, but you would always hear Bobby talk up his guys. It was always I want the media to talk up my guys, not talk down to my guys. I’ll let my guys know behind the scenes they’re playing like crap, or they’re doing this, or they’re doing that. I think that’s just kind of where it is.

I think the biggest case in point is this, and it’s Ahmad Fulwood. I like Ahmad. People have asked me, do you have something against Ahmad? I’m like, no, I actually really like Ahmad. I liked him during recruiting and everything else. I think he’s a very good guy. The light just hasn’t come on for him. Nick, you and I said this off the air, he has an NFL style body, but hasn’t adjusted to the game well enough. Mac says, he has good leadership, when he’s asked about it, and that’s his way of saying something positive about him without having to talk bad about his play.

Nick:                        This is what you need, this is where I think it really comes in. Freshman year, 17 receptions and a touchdown. Sophomore year, 12 receptions, a touchdown. Last year, 6. Each year has been less involved, and I don’t understand why a coach says, a guy is playing well in the spring, he’s going to have a great season. Look at what he’s done. Your stats and your numbers tell you who you are. That’s what Ahmad Fulwood is. He hasn’t done anything in three years to show that he’s going to be a guy that gets 50, 60, or more catches, 40 catches. He hasn’t shown that he’s going to catch for more than 500, 600 yards, double digit touchdowns in a season. He hasn’t been that.

I think when you see McElwain say, he’s doing better, or he’s doing this, it’s trying to motivate a guy who might be discouraged seeing younger guys come in, maybe being a little intimidated or starting to feel the pressure. Thinking, I’m a senior. I was supposed to get my reps. This is supposed to be my year. Who are these other guys coming in? They’re going to take time away from me. It’s Mac coaches every player differently, and I think he’s just trying to get more out of Ahmad, knowing he’s going into his last season. I just think Ahmad Fulwood has shown us what he is, and it’s good. He’s a nice kid. I just don’t think he’s going to be an impact player. Period.

Andrew:                  I agree. That’s what I was going to say. It is what it is, and like I said, that’s Mac’s way of being nice about the situation and saying this is what he does well. He’s a good leader. He’s a good person, that kind of stuff, and that’s the way it is. We’ll see. Again, the biggest thing is who steps up to be outside of Callaway to be that guy. You and I were told that Saturday and Monday Chris Thompson was a guy that was really good. Chris Thompson has showed spurts where he’s been good. My thing is consistency, and right now outside of Antonio Callaway no receiver for the Florida Gators have been consistent. Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         There’s been zero consistency. It’s kind of been that way for years.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         To me, that’s why I say I don’t even know if it’s a battle. You’re just trying to find somebody to be consistent.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         Whereas running back you have guys that you believe can be, and that should be, which is why I consider that more of a battle.

Andrew:                  Here’s this now, and let me say this.

Nick:                         At receiver you’re just looking for somebody with warm blood and a pulse right now.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing, and this is, I think, what we should talk about as well. This is a system with Mac, Mac’s system, that doesn’t need a receiver that is a guy that can go over the top. No. They need receivers that consistently can catch the ball. That’s what’s been struggling for the Gators since Urban Meyer.

Nick:                         Catch the ball, get open.

Andrew:                  Catch the ball, just go north and south. Stop east and west. North and south.

Nick:                         That’s part of the position. You’re going to have guys, receivers are divas. You’re going to have guys that don’t like to get hit.

Andrew:                  #11 says differently.

Nick:                         Okay, and you could pick out 20 guys that aren’t Julio Jones that fit the other stereotype.

Andrew:                  That is true.

Nick:                         Julio Jones is different.

Andrew:                  He is a different man, a different man, for sure. Like I said, we’ll see. I think that it’s a team that’s got progress. Josh Hammond and Frankie, Josh, Frankie Hammond. Excuse me. I was right the first time. Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain, well, damn. It’s like Freddie, Frankie. Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond are two guys that I think get it. They’re good receivers. They get it. Then arguably the best receiver in the class in Tyrie Cleveland isn’t even on campus yet. I could see a scenario where at times it’s all freshmen receivers on the field, or two freshmen receivers and a newcomer in Massey on the field. The one thing I will say is this. I haven’t heard the rave reviews I thought I would hear about Massey at the slot. Part of that maybe is that he’s still adjusting to receiver. High school quarterback, he’s still adjusting, but I don’t know if he’s pulled away from Brandon Powell at the slot as much as we all thought he would.

Nick:                         Brandon Powell is out.

Andrew:                  But you know what I’m saying? I think most of us heading into the spring thought it wasn’t even going to be a position battle in the fall. It was going to be Massey’s job, because Brandon Powell didn’t do well, but I think you have to take away that notion now.

Nick:                         I think, so Brandon Powell, correct me if I’m wrong, Brandon Powell enrolled early.

Andrew:                  Yes, he did.

Nick:                         Got hurt.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         Missed last spring. Missed his first spring. Got hurt last spring. Now hurt again and missing another spring. Each year, his freshman year and his sophomore year, that spring injury, or the injury that kept him out of spring, ended up rearing its ugly head during the season. So I’m not sold that he’ll have a good year. I think right now it’s Massey’s, Dre Massey’s, to lose, because I haven’t seen any consistency from Powell either. I loved the transition he made in being physical last year. He threw down some nice blocks for his other receivers, and I liked that. I just don’t know what kind of impact he’ll have, and where his foot will be when he comes back, having to sit out three consecutive springs with a very similar injury.

Andrew:                  Let me ask you this, because I’m drawing a blank here. This is his second surgery now on the foot, correct?

Nick:                         He had, I’m not sure how many he’s had. He was in a walking boot all of his freshman spring.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         He was in a walking boot last spring. He was in a walking boot towards the end of last year.

Andrew:                  I believe it’s his second one. Anyway, I mean, we’ll see. I think it’s interesting. I personally was really looking forward to Massey, however you want to say it. I call him Massey. He is, I still think he’s going to be really good. We’ll see how that is. You guys are listening to this on Friday, hopefully Nick and I have already posted some insider notes, if not, they’ll be up very soon from that. Good three day weekend for this team to get off for Easter weekend and get away, and then come back for the last two weeks of the spring ball. Gators are already halfway through with spring ball.

Nick:                         I’ve got three questions for us from the tweeter machine.

Andrew:                  Go ahead.

Nick:                         First one is, I guess, both of our opinions. Bigger concern, second safety or linebacker depth?

Andrew:                  Want me to go first?

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                  Second safety or linebacker depth. I’m going to go second safety, because…

Nick:                         I agree.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing, Nick Washington is a very smart player. Maybe the smartest guy on the field. I’ll never take that away from him, but him and Marcell have been suspect enough that they scare me. They do, and that is that Nick’s usually in the right place, just gets beat on the plays. Marcell is usually in Mars when he’s supposed to be on Earth on plays, and that worries me. Now, they are a year older. We’ll see. Everyone talks about linebacker depth, and I get it, because it’s Anzalone and Davis, but Florida, this is not old school football where it’s four linebackers on the field at all times. Florida goes a lot of times with one linebacker on the field. So, I don’t know. I don’t get the whole depth thing at linebacker. People continue to, even in recruiting they’re like, Florida has to load up at linebacker in 2017, and I’m like, what? No. They need two again, but we’re not talking about old school Pittsburgh Steeler defense where they’re playing four linebackers at all times.

Nick:                         No. You look at it. Okay, you lose Antonio Morrison. My opinion Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone are both better than Morrison. The depth behind them, we’ve gone over this. I don’t trust D Mac at all. I think Matt Rolin can be a good player if he’s healthy, and I’m alright. I like the progress David Reese is making. It’s really cool to see how older guys, seniors, in Davis and Anzalone, how they’ve really taken him under their wing. Randy Shannon spends a lot of time with him. I think Reese will be ready to play. Not sure what his role will be, because if you’ve got two seniors in Anzalone and Davis, and they’re healthy, Florida’s not going to play more than two linebackers most of the time. So those two guys, if healthy, will carry you throughout the year. David Reese I think is making a good progress, backing him up.

There’s just no one on this team that gives you what Keanu Neal did. That’s just a reality that Florida’s going to have to face this fall. Nobody on the team that plays safety, or that can play safety, is going to give you the production that Keanu Neal did, so that’s a real problem. I don’t think the depth at linebacker is anywhere near the problem of finding somebody to play next to Marcus Maye.

Andrew:                  Yeah. I mean, that’s right. I agree with that.

Nick:                         Sometimes you’ve got to have hard truths. There’s just nobody to replace him. You can make the argument that there was nobody to replace Ronald Powell and Sharif Floyd and Dominic Easley and Jon Bullard and Dante Fowler, and they replaced them. That’s fine. You knew that there were really good players that were kind of waiting, and you were just waiting for them to break out. Nick Washington is a good player. Marcell Harris is a good player. Keanu Neal was an elite player, and you knew that from his sophomore year. Florida doesn’t have that elite player to fill in. Whereas on the defensive line they have had that.

Andrew:                  Right. That’s exactly right. Again, that’s my answer as well. What’s the next question?

Nick:                         How has Jabari Zuniga looked, and we’ll just let you call him Jabari, since you refuse to even attempt to pronounce his last name.

Andrew:                  Yeah. I have no idea. Jabari. You and I, I think, have both heard some positive things. He’s coming there. You got to remember this. He just turned 17 years old, and is a young guy who this is just his third spring football. He’s still learning, and I’ve heard some positive things. He’s stronger. He’s gained some good weight, and I think you seen him on the field some. I think his redshirt sophomore year is the breakout year, but we’ll see. We’ll see how he continues to go through this spring. I’ve heard good things.

Nick:                         Yeah. I’ve seen him. He’s getting a little bit bigger. I wouldn’t put him on the same level as Keivonnis Davis. I think Keivonnis Davis is kind of the guy that will make the biggest jump, having played in a couple games last year. I think he’s the guy that’s going to make the biggest jump, but to me Jabari is getting bigger. Like you said, so young that you kind of need to take that into account. I think he can make an impact, but like you, I think the bigger impact is going to be his redshirt sophomore year. He will get some time this year, but in my opinion it’s Keivonnis Davis as a guy that’s really going to turn the corner and probably make a name for himself this year.

Andrew:                  I agree. Last question?

Nick:                         Last one is the D line seems to be the strong spot. We were just talking about it. How many guys do you think will be in the rotation?

Andrew:                  Usually you like eight. Usually you like 8-10. I think Florida last year pretty much paid 8-9 in a game. Let’s rattle off here. Sherit and Cece.

Nick:                         Justus Reed, Cece’s really haven’t seen him at the rush.

Andrew:                  No. I’m saying starters are probably Cece, Jordan Sherit, Brantley, and Ivie. I would say those probably are your four starters.

Nick:                         I don’t know, because Bryan Cox has kind of been playing both, strong side end as well as some rush, and I think Bryan Cox is a guy that will be in that starting lineup somewhere.

Andrew:                  I think it all depends on where Cece’s playing. If he’s playing, I don’t know.

Nick:                         Obviously they’re going to plan on playing Cece at both, but I think if you’re trying to get your best four in the starting lineup I think that four involves Bryan Cox, redshirt senior, one of the only, one of three guys left from that 2012 class. I think Bryan Cox figures into that starting lineup, and I think it might push Joey Ivie out, with Cece and Brantley being your starters inside, Cox at an end, and then you go to your rush position over there. I don’t know.

Andrew:                  I think it depends on also who it is. You play a team like Alabama, you may go with more of a…

Nick:                         Play a team like Alabama you’re going to sliding Cece over to end, Ivie, Brantley, and then Cox.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         That will be your front four.

Andrew:                  That’s what I’m saying.

Nick:                         Some big boys there.

Andrew:                  I think it just depends on who it is. Let’s just run through these guys real quick. I think it’s Ivie, Joey Ivie, Caleb Brantley, Cece, Sherit, Bryan Cox, Justus Reed, Khairi Clark. I think Thomas Holley figures in there somewhere. That’s eight. Who are we missing?

Nick:                         It’s probably going to be about eight.

Andrew:                  I think Jabari can see some time. Keivonnis Davis is in there.

Nick:                         Yeah. Probably about 10 then.

Andrew:                  I think you see Antonneous Clayton get some roles like Cece. I think you got…

Nick:                         It’s really going to depend with Clayton. We were both very high on him after seeing him in person, but it’s really going to depend on…

Andrew:                 Weight.

Nick:                         Weight and how quickly he can adapt to the speed of everything and to what they’re going to be asking him to do.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         I think if you look at Jordan Smith, very good of him to get on campus, but I think he’s destined for a redshirt.

Andrew:                  He needs to gain weight.

Nick:                         You look at him, I don’t even think he weighs the 238 that he’s listed at. Guy that really is getting a lot of close attention and needs it, and in my opinion will not be ready to play this year.

Andrew:                  Yeah. Baseball, excuse me, football is dominating that, but they are off the weekend.

Nick:                         Taven Bryan also is a guy that’ll factor in there at tackle.

Andrew:                  Taven Bryan is definitely a guy that’ll play. Like we said, football is off this weekend, so it’ll be the diamond sports taking control. Gators are on the road this weekend in both sports. Softball headed to Baton Rouge to play LSU in a double header Friday and a game on Saturday, as they have Easter off, and then baseball headed to Columbia, Missouri.

Nick:                         No. Lexington, Kentucky.

Andrew:                  I mean, Lexington, Kentucky. Sorry, I’m thinking Missouri because of last week, but, yeah, Lexington, Kentucky to play Kentucky, who can hit the ball.

Nick:                         Florida takes a 16 game winning streak up to Lexington. Logan Shore, 4-0, .223 ERA, will face Zach Brown. Brown’s a better pitcher than this number will suggest, just 1-3 on the year with .514 ERA. So that is not really indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. He’s a good arm, good righty arm. A.J. Puk, of course, 1-1, .188 ERA on the year will face off against Dustin Beggs. Beggs is good. This is one of the, every week in the SEC you’re going to face some of the best arms in the country, and that’s Beggs, 5-0, .177 on the year, very impressive. Then on Easter Alex Faedo will take his perfect 5-0 record against Kyle Cody, who was a second round draft pick last year and chose to come back to school. He’s 2-1 with a .695 ERA.

Andrew:                  Beggs has a downright nasty slider. I watched him.

Nick:                         He drops the hammer with that thing.

Andrew:                  Yes, I watched him on Saturday pitch against Georgia on SEC Network, and it was exploding. It’s got the Logan Shore movement, but it’s a little harder thrown, and it just explodes off the dish. Once it gets to the plate it just explodes. Couple things on the not so good Gator softball team, as our message board listeners and Twitter likes to say. The Gators enter this weekend with the top earned run average in the country at .87. The best fielding percentage in the league, unless you ask the guy on Twitter who thinks Florida sucks at fielding. Also enters the series with the #1 on base percentage. Aleshia Ocasio just has the #1 ERA in the country.

Nick:                         Well, you can’t please everyone, and the Gators softball team shows that and proves that every day.

Andrew:                  30-1, and a win on Friday would set the school record for best start in history, school record. That’s there. The schedule though isn’t easy. #7 Alabama, I mean, #7 LSU this week, followed next week by #9, Alabama. Florida in four straight weeks they face #3, #16, #7, and #9. That 30-1 record is no slouch.

Nick:                         That’s coming in hot.

Andrew:                  That’s coming in hot.

Nick:                         I’m actually going to, I think, depending on our football schedule and what’s going on, but I am planning on heading up to Jacksonville next Tuesday as Florida and Florida State take Game 2 of their three game series in Jacksonville at the baseball grounds of Jacksonville up there.

Andrew:                  Good for you. It should be a good one, and basketball unfortunately lost over the, on Wednesday, and ended their season. Good season, and showed some good presence. KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, those guys did really well, and I think they have a good future ahead. Anyway, recruiting coverage, we’ve been loading up on the recruiting coverage, a lot of good prospects coming into town, and all that good stuff. So, Nick, tell the people where they can find us, and we’ll stop bugging the people.

Nick:                         You know the drill. www. GatorCountry.com. On Twitter it’s GatorCountry, @NickdelaTorreGC, follow me around, @AndrewSpiveyGC, follow him. On Instagram, TheGatorCountry and back to just Gator Country on Facebook. Follow us on all the social medias, and stay up to date.

Andrew:                  It should be fun. We’re enjoying this, and two weeks until the spring game, so come check us out. Do us a favor, join Gator Country and get the best news. As always, Butch and Mark, you know the drill, still not very good. Go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                          You stay classy, Gator kid, Gator Nation, Country? I said both of them. You stay classy, Gator Nation.

Andrew:                  There you go.

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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GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as the Florida Gators football team had its first spring scrimmage on Thursday and are now over half way done with spring football.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down the play of the quarterbacks as we focus on Luke Del Rio and how he has taken charge of the position and the offense.

Andrew and Nick also preview the Florida Gators diamond sports for this week, plus talk a little recruiting as several prospects visited for spring football this week.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Once again, your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas. What’s up, Nicholas?

Nick:                         That’s right, another GC podcast. Spring football under way. First scrimmage going down Thursday. It was a star studded event on Wednesday at spring practice. Jack Del Rio, he is the father of Luke Del Rio, who will be the starting quarterback for Florida. He was down in Boca for the NFL owner meetings, coaches meetings, and just made a short trip up from Boca to Gainesville. Was there at practice with family friend, legendary Hoosiers coach, Gene Hackman.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         And the Old Ball Coach.

Andrew:                 And the Old Ball Coach.

Nick:                         It’s not often that Steve Spurrier can show up in Gainesville and not be the most famous person at practice, but when Gene Hackman shows up, that’s the case.

Andrew:                 Judd Davis, former Gator, also there, and the Old Ball Coach, that’s for sure. It’s very interesting. Jake Allen had a pretty good tweet, Gator commit, and he said, “Only at the Gators practice can you show up and have an NFL coach, a Hall of Fame, and Heisman Trophy winner, an actor, and just be a normal day in Gainesville.” That’s pretty cool, as Coach Mac would say. I think that’s pretty cool.

Nick:                         Mac is a basketball junkie. On Thursday when we spoke to him he ends the press conference, as he’s walking out, “Who do you guys got out tonight?” He’s been asking us about March Madness and our brackets all spring. He’s a little mad that he can’t have one. That would break NCAA rules for him to have a bracket. Basketball junkie, obviously Hoosiers one of his favorite movies, and to see Gene Hackman there, who’s done a ton of movies dating back to the 70s, not just Hoosiers. That was pretty cool to see him out there, but I think it’ll be even cooler for Mac to see how some of his team, some of his younger players, handle about 120, 125 scrimmage reps, live reps. Coaches not on the field behind them. Coaches on the sideline kind of trying to create as much of a game atmosphere, a true Saturday atmosphere as you can.

Andrew:                 This is the first legit true scrimmage of the spring. It’s good, because you get, in practice it’s different than a scrimmage. Practice you’ve got the coach standing over it, and a scrimmage is a game-like situation where the coaches are on the sidelines. Florida probably doesn’t send guys to the box like it does on normal game day for a scrimmage, but they are still signaling, calls, that kind of stuff, so you’re able to really see. How’s Feleipe Franks? How’s Kyle Trask? How are the freshmen receivers? How is Dre Massey? I know Massey didn’t participate on Thursday due to an injury, but you’re able to see that kind of stuff. How is Fred Johnson picking up on things? How is the defensive guys like Chauncey Gardner, that kind of stuff, picking up at it? Then it’s just how does Del Rio do in a game situation where I think we can both agree Jalen Tabor’s the best cornerback he’ll face all year, so how he’s doing against Jalen Tabor?

Nick:                         He’s up there. If you don’t want to throw Jalen Tabor, you’ve got to look at the other side of the field, and now you’re throwing at Quincy Wilson. It’s kind of what Del Rio said last year. Last year he spent the entire season running the scout team, so now he’s throwing at Quincy and Tabor and Vernon Hargreaves and Jon Bullard’s rushing him. Caleb Brantley is rushing him, Joey Ivie. He said, running the scout team is kind of tough, because I’m not really making a decision. I’m not really making calls. They show you a card, and they say you’re going to throw to this guy. He’s like, now I’m trying to throw to that guy, whether he’s open or not. It’s the defense’s job to make sure he’s not open when you’re going up against a scout team. So for him, some guys he’s throwing against, but he’s getting a little more freedom to run things.

Andrew:                 If he starts throwing to Marcus Maye a lot this spring Mac’s going to have to let him know the color jerseys that he’s supposed to be throwing to, so yeah. No. I think you and I have had multiple updates, more than anybody out there, as far as insider notes on Gator Country on the message board. Not a member, check us out. Little plug. You and I have both been told by several different people that Del Rio is just a field general. He’s a coach on the field. I think this, and I challenge, not really challenge, but anyone who’s listening who hasn’t had a chance to listen to Del Rio with the media on Wednesday, go check it out. I say that, and it doesn’t mean anything, but when you look at your best quarterbacks, your guys that are true field generals, the Tom Brady’s of the world, the Peyton Mannings of the world, even Greg McElroy, those kind of guys, they have a different presence about them when they’re talking the game, when they’re describing things, and that’s exactly what you get from Del Rio.

Now, Del Rio has been around a coach all of his life in his dad, and has been around a lot of, I would say influential people in his life, but he definitely sounds like a guy who understands what he’s supposed to do on the field, and is a guy that I think Mac trusts. You’re not going to, he’s not going to see a situation he hasn’t seen before, in my opinion.

Nick:                         I think the biggest thing that I got, because obviously that’s a question you’re going to be asked when you’re a coach’s son, and not just, we talk about Treon Harris, Will Grier, they’re coach’s sons, but Luke has had the opportunity to be around NFL locker rooms with his dad coaching the Jaguars, defensive coordinator in Denver, then Head Coach in Oakland. I think the biggest thing that stuck out to me when we asked him about that, about growing up as a coach’s son, was just being able to pick the brains of professionals, and not wasting the opportunity.

It’s tough, because you get around, you’re 10 years old, and you get around a Mark Brunell, who was a great quarterback for the Jaguars, or get around some of these guys. It’s easy to kind of just be star struck, but it seems like he had the foresight and the maturity to kind of pick their brains about football, knowing early on that this is something he wanted to do. So to me that was really interesting, saying being able to pick these guys’ minds and see how they work, how they look at the game, how they approach it, and kind of take pieces of that and see what works for him.

Andrew:                 That’s what makes these, your top quarterbacks, different. Greg McElroy, and I know I continue using his name, and I don’t mean to compare them at all. I don’t mean that at all, but when you look at a guy like Del Rio his father is one of the big wigs. I’m not exactly sure exactly what his title was in the Dallas Cowboys organization, but he was one of Jared Jones’ top guys. He had been around a lot as well. So you see these different things there. It’s a different kind of feel for when you hear Del Rio speak and then when you heard Grier and Treon speak. It’s not that either one of those guys spoke badly. They were both very well-spoken guys, but you didn’t get a sense that it was like they could describe the game to you.

I think Del Rio could teach the game to people through his quarterback play, and that’s what’s allowing him to be such a good field general on the field for guys like Swain, Hammond, Massey, those guys that are out there. I think that’s going to be the biggest difference for McElwain. McElwain’s offense is complicated. It’s not a very easy offense for a quarterback to run, because it’s all about matchups, and it’s a learning process that I don’t want to say changes every week, but matchups change. He needs someone that’s smart to run this offense, and I think that’s what Del Rio is really bringing to the table.

Nick:                         Del Rio kind of said it. He said, if you look at Alabama. We asked him what he believes is expected of him. He said, you look at Alabama, and it’s just managing. It’s getting to the guy, getting the ball to the guy you’re supposed to on time, and not turning it over. He understands that the offense is not going to ask him to be everything. They’re not going to ask him to go out and win games. On a weekly basis a game plan might change. We think they’re going to be able to shut this and this down. We’re going to need you to make some plays in order for us to win, but the offense is set up for the quarterback to kind of just be the delivery system, and just to keep the offense running smoothly. You don’t need to run for a thousand yards. You don’t need to throw for 5,000 yards. We just need you to be a product of the system, and it’s a system that’s proven over time at different places that it can be effective.

Andrew:                 That’s the biggest thing. Run sets up the pass. You’ve seen Mac a lot of times last year where play action, you and I both talk about it several times where it was like, that guy was wide open. Why is that? That is exactly what Mac’s offense is. It’s predicated on finding the matchup of what matchup gives me the best chance to succeed this time? You and I were told several times, I remember one time, before the LSU game, you and I were in Baton Rouge for the LSU game, and you and I were told Florida has a game plan that is going to expose LSU. You and I both looked at each other, and we’re like, okay. But when you went to the LSU game it really showed. Florida had players wide open in the game, just didn’t execute.

You sit there and you think about that, that with a quarterback like Del Rio that understands the game just like Mac does, man, it’s going to be fun. Again, I don’t mean this to compare, but a guy like Tebow, he understood the game plan to a T to where he was able to understand what was coming about. A guy like Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning’s the same way. He knows what the coaches are trying to do when he does it, and that’s what Del Rio does. I think that’s what’s got a lot of people excited.

Nick:                         Just stability. I think that’s really what can be overlooked. When you mentioned Tebow, that’s not really, everything that Tim Tebow brought to Florida just kind of like isn’t really what Jim McElwain needs. Would you turn it down if you had a player like that? No, but there’s a reason that Tebow gets brought up. It’s a once in a generation, once in a lifetime kind of player that makes a different impact, and you can win championships like that, but you don’t need something like that to win a championship. I think it goes back to Alabama and guys that you had mentioned, AJ McCarron, who’s homeboy that I’m missing right now?

Andrew:                 McElroy.

Nick:                         Greg McElroy, those weren’t Tim Tebow guys. They didn’t have that kind of impact that Tim Tebow had. Both won national championships playing the position and playing it differently.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         So it’s a more sustainable offense where you look at Ohio State with Urban Meyer, he had great quarterback play at Florida. You win a national championship. Goes up to Ohio State, had great quarterback play, wins a national championship. They don’t get that last year, lose a couple games, or lose a game, lose a couple. To me, it’s more sustainable if you’re not trying to find that once in a generation player every year, every three, four years, so that you can have him to rely on. You’re trying to build a system, an offensive system, that needs a quarterback, but won’t rely solely on a quarterback.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s a good point. You look at some of the vets in the NFL. You look at Tom Brady, and Tom Brady in my opinion is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

Nick:                         Get out of here.

Andrew:                 It’ll come about, but it is what it is. Anyway, but you look at the system that Belichick and those guys have built. Every year it’s a new crop of receivers that come in, but every year, and, of course, Gronk’s been there.

Nick:                         This is a terrible example, because Tom Brady is so good it doesn’t matter who’s around him.

Andrew:                 Right, but what I’m saying is it’s a system that it is, and that’s what McElwain’s system is. Alabama’s a perfect example. Alabama hasn’t had the same quarterback play in back to back years since McElroy, but it’s a system. It’s able to be built around that. It’s there. One thing you and I wanted to talk about, and Mac’s a guy who continues to say we got four quarterbacks that are going to play, yada, yada, yada, in the scrimmage. Quarterback is the #1 position that you have to keep your other three guys interested in the competition, because you need depth. So while Mac is saying that, quarterback is Luke Del Rio. Everyone in the building, everyone in the country knows that, but it’s a simple thing of, hey Feleipe, hey Kyle, hey Austin, continue to work, and let’s see what happens.

Nick:                         Yeah, I guess. Guys can see it. It’s one thing to say something in the media, but guys on the team know it. They know the way that reps are being distributed. They know the way that the reps look. The team is rallied around. I’m sure they like Austin Appleby, Feleipe, and Kyle. I’m sure they like them, but the team is rallied around Luke. The team expects Luke to be the starter, and barring something unforeseen, he will be the starter for Florida, and I think the best thing, you can say quarterback competition to keep everyone interested and motivated, but really I think it’s better if you have a guy that the team can rally around. Last year I don’t think it ever got to that point, even though we thought that Florida would start Will Grier and that he would win the job. It was still kind of up in the air, and I think if you can get a situation where, even starting now in spring, where the team is rallied around one guy and expect one guy to be the starter, that builds more cohesion and more confidence heading into the summer, and then heading into the fall.

Andrew:                  That’s what I said. Everybody in America knows who the starting quarterback is, but it kind of goes back to our point almost. Del Rio understands the thing. Those guys needs the reps. Appleby needs the reps. The two freshmen need the reps. Continue to get those guys reps, and go about it, because you never know. I mean, hopefully Del Rio isn’t buddies with Grier and doing something illegal, but it seems like every year something crazy as hell happens to a Florida quarterback. Be prepared for that situation by letting those two freshmen, by letting Appleby, get some reps, and in spring ball when, spring ball it’s all about learning. It’s all about getting better, and, as we just said about this defense, Trask and Franks going against this defense is only going to make them better for the future. I think you and I both can agree that some time or another Florida’s going to rely on those two freshmen to make a few plays.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think so. To me, quarterback battle is kind of locked up. I think there are other battles. I said it before. Before spring started I thought running back would be the tightest battle. I don’t even know if you can kind of call wide receiver a battle.

Andrew:                 A receiver is, right now at receiver a lot of things hinge on Callaway. Is he coming back? When does he come back? That kind of stuff. A lot of that’s hinging on that, because one spot is locked down for Callaway, whether he comes back tomorrow, whether he comes back next week, whether he comes back August 1 or September 1. Whenever he comes back, he’s got a spot. So it all hinges on that. My thing is they need five receivers. You want to go into the year with six receivers that can play ball. You want three that should start, and three more that can rotate in. I think you can lock down Callaway as one, whenever he comes back. Chris Thompson is another one that’s been doing really well. Fulwood, I think Fulwood gets into that mix, and that goes back to our point, and we’ll talk about that in just a second. So those are the three.

Now who is your slot receiver? Is it Dre Massey? Is it Brandon Powell when he comes back? Who kind of figures in? That’s my biggest question mark is who steps up to be that guy? Is it Chris Thompson? Is it Fulwood? Is it a guy like CJ Worton? Is it one of the three newcomers? Is it Brandon Powell, who’s not even practicing this spring? Where is it? Where is the guys that are outside of Callaway?

Nick:                         Bueller. Bueller. They’re just not there. To me, in the tiny little portions we’ve seen, I’ve been very impressed with Swain, and very impressed with Hammond. Dre Massey is another guy. I think he might be kind of limited in his role as far as not really playing outside, might be just kind of like a slot, maybe used in an H back role, but it’s just I think let’s get into this. It’s you see me or another reporter tweet out just a quote from Jim McElwain. He mentions Ahmad Fulwood, and it kind of gets blown out of the water, and everyone’s like, he’s going to have a great year. Then you forget Quinton Dunbar had an awesome spring every year, and then you saw what happened. Everyone has a good spring.

You really need, with Jim McElwain, you really need to go back and see how he’s handled talking about how his players have done in the media. I remember after Will Grier completed 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards and 4 touchdowns against Ole Miss. Coach, what’d you think of Will Grier’s performance today? He was okay. He missed some throws. Well, he only had five incompletions, and I think two of them were drops. So he didn’t even miss some throws. This might be the best quarterback performance you guys have had in a long time. What do you mean? It’s just the way Jim McElwain coaches all of his players differently.

Andrew:                  Here’s the thing. Mac preaches perfection, and is anybody going to be perfect? No. But that’s what he wants.

Nick:                         I don’t even think it’s perfection, because then you get a bad game from Treon Harris the next week, or two weeks later, and it’s, I thought Treon did some good things. We need to play better around him. You’re left thinking, those two performances weren’t even close. It’s just he’s handling it differently. One of the players had a good game, is a confident kid, and it’s kind of like Greg McElroy told us. When we played well, he would try to knock us down a peg. When we didn’t play well, he would try to build us up. I remember we spoke to him after the LSU game.

Andrew:                  That was Garrett Grayson, and that’s what I was getting at. He was like, this is going to be a team that gets built up. What I’m saying though is like with, Mac’s a guy that has a general message that he wants, and he knows his players read stuff in the media. He’s not going to bash anyone. That’s not McElwain. I kind of take it kind of like Bobby Cox. Nick, I know you’re going to hate me for saying that with the Braves, but you would always hear Bobby talk up his guys. It was always I want the media to talk up my guys, not talk down to my guys. I’ll let my guys know behind the scenes they’re playing like crap, or they’re doing this, or they’re doing that. I think that’s just kind of where it is.

I think the biggest case in point is this, and it’s Ahmad Fulwood. I like Ahmad. People have asked me, do you have something against Ahmad? I’m like, no, I actually really like Ahmad. I liked him during recruiting and everything else. I think he’s a very good guy. The light just hasn’t come on for him. Nick, you and I said this off the air, he has an NFL style body, but hasn’t adjusted to the game well enough. Mac says, he has good leadership, when he’s asked about it, and that’s his way of saying something positive about him without having to talk bad about his play.

Nick:                        This is what you need, this is where I think it really comes in. Freshman year, 17 receptions and a touchdown. Sophomore year, 12 receptions, a touchdown. Last year, 6. Each year has been less involved, and I don’t understand why a coach says, a guy is playing well in the spring, he’s going to have a great season. Look at what he’s done. Your stats and your numbers tell you who you are. That’s what Ahmad Fulwood is. He hasn’t done anything in three years to show that he’s going to be a guy that gets 50, 60, or more catches, 40 catches. He hasn’t shown that he’s going to catch for more than 500, 600 yards, double digit touchdowns in a season. He hasn’t been that.

I think when you see McElwain say, he’s doing better, or he’s doing this, it’s trying to motivate a guy who might be discouraged seeing younger guys come in, maybe being a little intimidated or starting to feel the pressure. Thinking, I’m a senior. I was supposed to get my reps. This is supposed to be my year. Who are these other guys coming in? They’re going to take time away from me. It’s Mac coaches every player differently, and I think he’s just trying to get more out of Ahmad, knowing he’s going into his last season. I just think Ahmad Fulwood has shown us what he is, and it’s good. He’s a nice kid. I just don’t think he’s going to be an impact player. Period.

Andrew:                  I agree. That’s what I was going to say. It is what it is, and like I said, that’s Mac’s way of being nice about the situation and saying this is what he does well. He’s a good leader. He’s a good person, that kind of stuff, and that’s the way it is. We’ll see. Again, the biggest thing is who steps up to be outside of Callaway to be that guy. You and I were told that Saturday and Monday Chris Thompson was a guy that was really good. Chris Thompson has showed spurts where he’s been good. My thing is consistency, and right now outside of Antonio Callaway no receiver for the Florida Gators have been consistent. Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         There’s been zero consistency. It’s kind of been that way for years.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         To me, that’s why I say I don’t even know if it’s a battle. You’re just trying to find somebody to be consistent.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         Whereas running back you have guys that you believe can be, and that should be, which is why I consider that more of a battle.

Andrew:                  Here’s this now, and let me say this.

Nick:                         At receiver you’re just looking for somebody with warm blood and a pulse right now.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing, and this is, I think, what we should talk about as well. This is a system with Mac, Mac’s system, that doesn’t need a receiver that is a guy that can go over the top. No. They need receivers that consistently can catch the ball. That’s what’s been struggling for the Gators since Urban Meyer.

Nick:                         Catch the ball, get open.

Andrew:                  Catch the ball, just go north and south. Stop east and west. North and south.

Nick:                         That’s part of the position. You’re going to have guys, receivers are divas. You’re going to have guys that don’t like to get hit.

Andrew:                  #11 says differently.

Nick:                         Okay, and you could pick out 20 guys that aren’t Julio Jones that fit the other stereotype.

Andrew:                  That is true.

Nick:                         Julio Jones is different.

Andrew:                  He is a different man, a different man, for sure. Like I said, we’ll see. I think that it’s a team that’s got progress. Josh Hammond and Frankie, Josh, Frankie Hammond. Excuse me. I was right the first time. Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain, well, damn. It’s like Freddie, Frankie. Freddie Swain, Josh Hammond are two guys that I think get it. They’re good receivers. They get it. Then arguably the best receiver in the class in Tyrie Cleveland isn’t even on campus yet. I could see a scenario where at times it’s all freshmen receivers on the field, or two freshmen receivers and a newcomer in Massey on the field. The one thing I will say is this. I haven’t heard the rave reviews I thought I would hear about Massey at the slot. Part of that maybe is that he’s still adjusting to receiver. High school quarterback, he’s still adjusting, but I don’t know if he’s pulled away from Brandon Powell at the slot as much as we all thought he would.

Nick:                         Brandon Powell is out.

Andrew:                  But you know what I’m saying? I think most of us heading into the spring thought it wasn’t even going to be a position battle in the fall. It was going to be Massey’s job, because Brandon Powell didn’t do well, but I think you have to take away that notion now.

Nick:                         I think, so Brandon Powell, correct me if I’m wrong, Brandon Powell enrolled early.

Andrew:                  Yes, he did.

Nick:                         Got hurt.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         Missed last spring. Missed his first spring. Got hurt last spring. Now hurt again and missing another spring. Each year, his freshman year and his sophomore year, that spring injury, or the injury that kept him out of spring, ended up rearing its ugly head during the season. So I’m not sold that he’ll have a good year. I think right now it’s Massey’s, Dre Massey’s, to lose, because I haven’t seen any consistency from Powell either. I loved the transition he made in being physical last year. He threw down some nice blocks for his other receivers, and I liked that. I just don’t know what kind of impact he’ll have, and where his foot will be when he comes back, having to sit out three consecutive springs with a very similar injury.

Andrew:                  Let me ask you this, because I’m drawing a blank here. This is his second surgery now on the foot, correct?

Nick:                         He had, I’m not sure how many he’s had. He was in a walking boot all of his freshman spring.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         He was in a walking boot last spring. He was in a walking boot towards the end of last year.

Andrew:                  I believe it’s his second one. Anyway, I mean, we’ll see. I think it’s interesting. I personally was really looking forward to Massey, however you want to say it. I call him Massey. He is, I still think he’s going to be really good. We’ll see how that is. You guys are listening to this on Friday, hopefully Nick and I have already posted some insider notes, if not, they’ll be up very soon from that. Good three day weekend for this team to get off for Easter weekend and get away, and then come back for the last two weeks of the spring ball. Gators are already halfway through with spring ball.

Nick:                         I’ve got three questions for us from the tweeter machine.

Andrew:                  Go ahead.

Nick:                         First one is, I guess, both of our opinions. Bigger concern, second safety or linebacker depth?

Andrew:                  Want me to go first?

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                  Second safety or linebacker depth. I’m going to go second safety, because…

Nick:                         I agree.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing, Nick Washington is a very smart player. Maybe the smartest guy on the field. I’ll never take that away from him, but him and Marcell have been suspect enough that they scare me. They do, and that is that Nick’s usually in the right place, just gets beat on the plays. Marcell is usually in Mars when he’s supposed to be on Earth on plays, and that worries me. Now, they are a year older. We’ll see. Everyone talks about linebacker depth, and I get it, because it’s Anzalone and Davis, but Florida, this is not old school football where it’s four linebackers on the field at all times. Florida goes a lot of times with one linebacker on the field. So, I don’t know. I don’t get the whole depth thing at linebacker. People continue to, even in recruiting they’re like, Florida has to load up at linebacker in 2017, and I’m like, what? No. They need two again, but we’re not talking about old school Pittsburgh Steeler defense where they’re playing four linebackers at all times.

Nick:                         No. You look at it. Okay, you lose Antonio Morrison. My opinion Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone are both better than Morrison. The depth behind them, we’ve gone over this. I don’t trust D Mac at all. I think Matt Rolin can be a good player if he’s healthy, and I’m alright. I like the progress David Reese is making. It’s really cool to see how older guys, seniors, in Davis and Anzalone, how they’ve really taken him under their wing. Randy Shannon spends a lot of time with him. I think Reese will be ready to play. Not sure what his role will be, because if you’ve got two seniors in Anzalone and Davis, and they’re healthy, Florida’s not going to play more than two linebackers most of the time. So those two guys, if healthy, will carry you throughout the year. David Reese I think is making a good progress, backing him up.

There’s just no one on this team that gives you what Keanu Neal did. That’s just a reality that Florida’s going to have to face this fall. Nobody on the team that plays safety, or that can play safety, is going to give you the production that Keanu Neal did, so that’s a real problem. I don’t think the depth at linebacker is anywhere near the problem of finding somebody to play next to Marcus Maye.

Andrew:                  Yeah. I mean, that’s right. I agree with that.

Nick:                         Sometimes you’ve got to have hard truths. There’s just nobody to replace him. You can make the argument that there was nobody to replace Ronald Powell and Sharif Floyd and Dominic Easley and Jon Bullard and Dante Fowler, and they replaced them. That’s fine. You knew that there were really good players that were kind of waiting, and you were just waiting for them to break out. Nick Washington is a good player. Marcell Harris is a good player. Keanu Neal was an elite player, and you knew that from his sophomore year. Florida doesn’t have that elite player to fill in. Whereas on the defensive line they have had that.

Andrew:                  Right. That’s exactly right. Again, that’s my answer as well. What’s the next question?

Nick:                         How has Jabari Zuniga looked, and we’ll just let you call him Jabari, since you refuse to even attempt to pronounce his last name.

Andrew:                  Yeah. I have no idea. Jabari. You and I, I think, have both heard some positive things. He’s coming there. You got to remember this. He just turned 17 years old, and is a young guy who this is just his third spring football. He’s still learning, and I’ve heard some positive things. He’s stronger. He’s gained some good weight, and I think you seen him on the field some. I think his redshirt sophomore year is the breakout year, but we’ll see. We’ll see how he continues to go through this spring. I’ve heard good things.

Nick:                         Yeah. I’ve seen him. He’s getting a little bit bigger. I wouldn’t put him on the same level as Keivonnis Davis. I think Keivonnis Davis is kind of the guy that will make the biggest jump, having played in a couple games last year. I think he’s the guy that’s going to make the biggest jump, but to me Jabari is getting bigger. Like you said, so young that you kind of need to take that into account. I think he can make an impact, but like you, I think the bigger impact is going to be his redshirt sophomore year. He will get some time this year, but in my opinion it’s Keivonnis Davis as a guy that’s really going to turn the corner and probably make a name for himself this year.

Andrew:                  I agree. Last question?

Nick:                         Last one is the D line seems to be the strong spot. We were just talking about it. How many guys do you think will be in the rotation?

Andrew:                  Usually you like eight. Usually you like 8-10. I think Florida last year pretty much paid 8-9 in a game. Let’s rattle off here. Sherit and Cece.

Nick:                         Justus Reed, Cece’s really haven’t seen him at the rush.

Andrew:                  No. I’m saying starters are probably Cece, Jordan Sherit, Brantley, and Ivie. I would say those probably are your four starters.

Nick:                         I don’t know, because Bryan Cox has kind of been playing both, strong side end as well as some rush, and I think Bryan Cox is a guy that will be in that starting lineup somewhere.

Andrew:                  I think it all depends on where Cece’s playing. If he’s playing, I don’t know.

Nick:                         Obviously they’re going to plan on playing Cece at both, but I think if you’re trying to get your best four in the starting lineup I think that four involves Bryan Cox, redshirt senior, one of the only, one of three guys left from that 2012 class. I think Bryan Cox figures into that starting lineup, and I think it might push Joey Ivie out, with Cece and Brantley being your starters inside, Cox at an end, and then you go to your rush position over there. I don’t know.

Andrew:                  I think it depends on also who it is. You play a team like Alabama, you may go with more of a…

Nick:                         Play a team like Alabama you’re going to sliding Cece over to end, Ivie, Brantley, and then Cox.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         That will be your front four.

Andrew:                  That’s what I’m saying.

Nick:                         Some big boys there.

Andrew:                  I think it just depends on who it is. Let’s just run through these guys real quick. I think it’s Ivie, Joey Ivie, Caleb Brantley, Cece, Sherit, Bryan Cox, Justus Reed, Khairi Clark. I think Thomas Holley figures in there somewhere. That’s eight. Who are we missing?

Nick:                         It’s probably going to be about eight.

Andrew:                  I think Jabari can see some time. Keivonnis Davis is in there.

Nick:                         Yeah. Probably about 10 then.

Andrew:                  I think you see Antonneous Clayton get some roles like Cece. I think you got…

Nick:                         It’s really going to depend with Clayton. We were both very high on him after seeing him in person, but it’s really going to depend on…

Andrew:                 Weight.

Nick:                         Weight and how quickly he can adapt to the speed of everything and to what they’re going to be asking him to do.

Andrew:                  Right.

Nick:                         I think if you look at Jordan Smith, very good of him to get on campus, but I think he’s destined for a redshirt.

Andrew:                  He needs to gain weight.

Nick:                         You look at him, I don’t even think he weighs the 238 that he’s listed at. Guy that really is getting a lot of close attention and needs it, and in my opinion will not be ready to play this year.

Andrew:                  Yeah. Baseball, excuse me, football is dominating that, but they are off the weekend.

Nick:                         Taven Bryan also is a guy that’ll factor in there at tackle.

Andrew:                  Taven Bryan is definitely a guy that’ll play. Like we said, football is off this weekend, so it’ll be the diamond sports taking control. Gators are on the road this weekend in both sports. Softball headed to Baton Rouge to play LSU in a double header Friday and a game on Saturday, as they have Easter off, and then baseball headed to Columbia, Missouri.

Nick:                         No. Lexington, Kentucky.

Andrew:                  I mean, Lexington, Kentucky. Sorry, I’m thinking Missouri because of last week, but, yeah, Lexington, Kentucky to play Kentucky, who can hit the ball.

Nick:                         Florida takes a 16 game winning streak up to Lexington. Logan Shore, 4-0, .223 ERA, will face Zach Brown. Brown’s a better pitcher than this number will suggest, just 1-3 on the year with .514 ERA. So that is not really indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. He’s a good arm, good righty arm. A.J. Puk, of course, 1-1, .188 ERA on the year will face off against Dustin Beggs. Beggs is good. This is one of the, every week in the SEC you’re going to face some of the best arms in the country, and that’s Beggs, 5-0, .177 on the year, very impressive. Then on Easter Alex Faedo will take his perfect 5-0 record against Kyle Cody, who was a second round draft pick last year and chose to come back to school. He’s 2-1 with a .695 ERA.

Andrew:                  Beggs has a downright nasty slider. I watched him.

Nick:                         He drops the hammer with that thing.

Andrew:                  Yes, I watched him on Saturday pitch against Georgia on SEC Network, and it was exploding. It’s got the Logan Shore movement, but it’s a little harder thrown, and it just explodes off the dish. Once it gets to the plate it just explodes. Couple things on the not so good Gator softball team, as our message board listeners and Twitter likes to say. The Gators enter this weekend with the top earned run average in the country at .87. The best fielding percentage in the league, unless you ask the guy on Twitter who thinks Florida sucks at fielding. Also enters the series with the #1 on base percentage. Aleshia Ocasio just has the #1 ERA in the country.

Nick:                         Well, you can’t please everyone, and the Gators softball team shows that and proves that every day.

Andrew:                  30-1, and a win on Friday would set the school record for best start in history, school record. That’s there. The schedule though isn’t easy. #7 Alabama, I mean, #7 LSU this week, followed next week by #9, Alabama. Florida in four straight weeks they face #3, #16, #7, and #9. That 30-1 record is no slouch.

Nick:                         That’s coming in hot.

Andrew:                  That’s coming in hot.

Nick:                         I’m actually going to, I think, depending on our football schedule and what’s going on, but I am planning on heading up to Jacksonville next Tuesday as Florida and Florida State take Game 2 of their three game series in Jacksonville at the baseball grounds of Jacksonville up there.

Andrew:                  Good for you. It should be a good one, and basketball unfortunately lost over the, on Wednesday, and ended their season. Good season, and showed some good presence. KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, those guys did really well, and I think they have a good future ahead. Anyway, recruiting coverage, we’ve been loading up on the recruiting coverage, a lot of good prospects coming into town, and all that good stuff. So, Nick, tell the people where they can find us, and we’ll stop bugging the people.

Nick:                         You know the drill. www. GatorCountry.com. On Twitter it’s GatorCountry, @NickdelaTorreGC, follow me around, @AndrewSpiveyGC, follow him. On Instagram, TheGatorCountry and back to just Gator Country on Facebook. Follow us on all the social medias, and stay up to date.

Andrew:                  It should be fun. We’re enjoying this, and two weeks until the spring game, so come check us out. Do us a favor, join Gator Country and get the best news. As always, Butch and Mark, you know the drill, still not very good. Go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                          You stay classy, Gator kid, Gator Nation, Country? I said both of them. You stay classy, Gator Nation.

Andrew:                  There you go.

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