Talking Florida Gators spring football and recruiting: Podcast

GatorCountry.com brings you a new podcast as we recap the Florida Gators scrimmage and talk about spring practice.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down how the offense looks and focus on the quarterbacks and how they’re performing this spring.

Andrew and Nick also talk about recruiting and the amount of visitors the Gators are hosting and who they will host this coming weekend.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we’re back doing our podcast. Easter weekend kind of threw the podcast schedule off, because we usually tape on Sunday. But never fail, we’re back. Guess what? This one will just be even more eventful. We’ll talk about the scrimmage from the last week, and then the Gators will scrimmage again on Saturday. We’ll talk a little bit about recruiting. Guess what, Nick? More top prospects are coming to campus this weekend.

Nick:                         Yeah. More top prospects. Easter weekend was good. I had family in town. Florida swept the baseball team. They’ve won seven now, seven straight, heading up to Tennessee this weekend. Tennessee is young, but they’re good. We will, unfortunately, since we’re only doing one this week, we’ll have less softball and baseball talk, because there’s a lot of football to talk about.

Andrew:                 Baseball’s doing well, like you said. We’ll talk about that. Softball, we’ll talk about softball. They’re doing well, despite dropping, I guess now they’re going to call themselves the Softball National Champion UCF Golden Knights. Dropped that game 1-0. That was a weird game.

Nick:                         Every national championship the road goes through Orlando. We’ll just say that.

Andrew:                 Oh brother. Here we go. Let’s just go ahead. Let’s get into it, Nick. You got to go to the scrimmage last Friday. Give me a recap just of what you were able to see, and then let’s talk about that and break it all down.

Nick:                         First thing is that I think the offense, as a whole, is still behind the defense in the first scrimmage, and I want to say this, and we’re not supposed to talk about scheme. The thing was, and some people were angry. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, video, or talk about schemes. I couldn’t say like, “Kadarius Toney’s doing a wildcat.” That’s scheme. I couldn’t say, “Florida’s running a lot of trips to one side of the field with tight end on the other side of the field and a running back.” Can’t talk about scheme.

But I can tell you that there was a lot of read option stuff. That’s not me talking about scheme that’s just you watch Dan Mullen’s offense for 15 years.

Andrew:                 Let me guess. There’s a lot of quarterback run too.

Nick:                         Yeah. So, the part is, and it’s human nature. When the quarterbacks are in a non-contact situation, which they were, and you’re running that read option, the defense knows they’re not going to run the quarterback, because we’re not getting anything out of that. We can’t hit the quarterback, so the defense isn’t going to get anything out of that. The offense isn’t going to get anything out of that. So, a lot of these running plays that aren’t going anywhere, you’re losing an element of that play. Now it becomes a play where we know exactly where the running back is running the ball to, because if he’s standing to Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, Emory Jones’s right, he’s running left. We’re going to crash left. I think that had a lot to do into now we’re running 2nd and long, because we ran the ball on 1st down, and now the defense knows where we’re going. There were a lot of three and outs, and I think some of that led to it.

In the second half, they kind of let the quarterbacks carry it a little more, but then again, then you’re looking at it’s wide open, because the offense isn’t expecting him to hold it, because now we’re playing two-hand touch. To me, the offense was a little bit behind, and it was a good day, I think, for Kyle Trask, other than his interception. It was a poor day for Feleipe Franks, and really Jake Allen and Emory Jones kind of took the backseat in terms of reps. I’m really encouraged again by some of the things I’ve seen on defense, and we’ll get more into that, but defense is definitely ahead of the offense right now.

Andrew:                 That’s not surprising.

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 It’s kind of like, and we talk a lot of baseball, but it’s kind of like baseball, in that spring training the pitchers always have the advantage over the hitters. It just is what it is. The defense is playing loose, and that’s how it is. Listen, Dan Mullen’s offense is not complicated, but it is a totally different offense than it is with Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier. First of all, it’s offense, and not offensive. Yes.

Here’s the thing for me. It’s not surprising that Kyle Trask, to me, is shining. Kyle Trask is a smart kid. Kyle Trask is a very good player. The thing you and I have always heard is that it was just the leadership and the getting practice to go to the game situations or scrimmage situations when it’s 11-on-11.

Feleipe Franks struggling to me is not a surprise, simply because I’m not sure Feleipe Franks can make the decisions when it’s time to go.

Nick:                         Another thing for Trask is he played in a spread. People are saying, is he suited for the spread, this and that. He played in a spread in high school. Maybe the terminology is different, because every coach they call it different things. They’ve got their own terminology for even the same play. It’s still the same concept. I think that’s something that maybe would give him a leg up, just in terms of I went to a school where we ran this four years.

Andrew:                 Right. Listen, is Kyle Trask the athlete Feleipe Franks or Emory Jones is? No. That’s not it. Kyle Trask is going to be that guy who is like Chris Leek who when he takes off and runs he runs for 15 or 20 yards you’re all going to sit there and think, the watch broke it took so long for him to get there.

Nick:                         I think we’ve both said it on the podcast. Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, you’re not going to ask them to run the ball 20 times a game, but you might ask them to run it five-seven times a game and feel comfortable with them running it 10-15 times, if you’re including situations where it’s a pass play, but it breaks down and they can scramble.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         They’re both capable runners, but they’re not in any sense a Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel where you say, just run, take off.

Andrew:                 You’re not going to have as many designed runs. It’s kind of like it is when it was with Leek. I say this, and I hope people will hear me out when I say this. You almost go to pro concept, pro-style concept, in the spread offense in that it is more predicated on passing a little bit more, more on traditional running game than it will be when Emory Jones’s time is coming or when one of Mullen’s handpicked quarterbacks is coming, when you have the Nick Fitzgeralds of the world, the Dak Prescotts of the world, the Tim Tebows of the world. I don’t mean that type of player, but I mean those guys that can run the ball.

I want to just say this, and I don’t want to get off topic here too much, but everyone is down on Emory Jones. Read a story on Thursday, we’re taping this on Thursday, someone said that it wasn’t a good pickup with Emory Jones, and the light bulb hasn’t come on with Emory Jones, and it’s a bad sign Emory Jones isn’t doing well. First of all, you’re in practice #8. You’re halfway through the spring with a freshman quarterback who’s not only trying to get adjusted to college, he’s trying to get adjusted to the new coaching staff. He’s trying to make a lot of changes in his fundamentals of throwing the ball.

Nick, for me, and I told you this before, I’m not judging Emory Jones by this spring. Am I judging Emory Jones by the fall? Probably not. I’m judging Emory Jones by next spring. Has he improved enough for next spring? That’s when you can say he’s a bust or it’s a fail. You can’t judge or call someone a bust after eight practices. Feleipe Franks has been on campus now three years. Kyle Trask has been on campus three years. That’s different than Emory Jones being on campus for two months now, three months now.

Nick:                         Yeah. No, that’s completely different. Right now, I would tell you, if the season starts today, he’s the third-string quarterback, and maybe you have some stuff for him, maybe you have some packages for him, but that’s just where it is right now, and that’s fine. He’s 17, 18 years old. You’ve got two guys who have been on campus. This is going into their third spring. Remember, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask were both early enrollees. They went through their lumps when they were freshmen, early enrollee freshmen.

Andrew:                 Heck, remember Feleipe Franks’s first spring game.

Nick:                         I’ve tried to suppress that and not remember it.

Andrew:                 Seven picks it seemed like. It was a lot.

Nick:                         It was a rough day.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Listen, Emory Jones is not ready to start right now. That’s fine. I think that’s also just some of people get so wrapped up in recruiting, and they always want the new guy to come in and start right away. Last year it was Adarius Lemons is going to be the starting running back. We were like, what? What are you talking about?

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         We’ve got Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine on campus. What do you mean Adarius Lemons is going to start at running back? I think some people just get wrapped up in recruiting, because recruiting is such a big deal, and then when you get these early enrollees. Couple that with like a +10 multiplier when you’re talking about a quarterback.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing. There is very high hopes for Emory Jones. Me included. I still think Emory Jones is a good player. Listen, I’m saying this, and I’m hoping that someone doesn’t take this the wrong way, but go back to Tebow. He was a terrible practice player. Terrible player. Guys like Emory Jones, and I shouldn’t even say this, but I’ll finish my comment. Guys like Emory Jones are gamers. When he’s able to run the ball, that’s when his game becomes elevated more.

Is his passing game ever going to be elite? Probably not. But his ability to run the ball allows defenses to give him windows to throw the ball more. That’s not something you’re going to get in practice when Grantham knows what’s coming from the offense. Mullen knows what’s coming from Grantham, or Billy or whoever is calling plays on offense in practice knows what’s coming from Grantham. It’s a little bit tougher.

Now, saying that, I still don’t think Emory Jones is your quarterback in the fall. I do think you have packages for Emory Jones. I’m just saying for the writer, and I’m not going to name call who it is, who says it’s a bust, Emory Jones is a bust already. That’s crazy. He’s been on campus for eight practices. The man needs to develop. The man needs to get better with his passing game, no doubt about it. Is he where he wants to be? No. Is he where a lot of quarterbacks coming out of high school are passing wise? No. But there’s a lot of quarterbacks coming out of high school that aren’t as athletic as Emory Jones.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s a nice headline that will get you a bunch of clicks, and probably some angry comments, but I would not agree with that. I think it’s super premature to say that he is a bust. I don’t think in any way that he is your starter. I think right now, I would feel comfortable, and I’ve been saying it for a while, that Kyle Trask would be my guy to start. I think he’s the most accurate quarterback, and that’s based on what I’ve seen from three years of him. I think people would have a lot different view, if Kyle Trask didn’t break his foot and need surgery, he probably plays the last couple games last year.

Andrew:                 I’ll take it even further, Nick. If Kyle Trask isn’t a backup quarterback in high school, everyone wants him to play.

Nick:                         There’s also the thing, and I get it, because you know my South Florida bias, there’s also, I think, a bias with him because he’s not a Florida guy. He’s not the four-star quarterback from Florida. He’s from somewhere else. He’s from Texas. I think that also plays into it as well.

Andrew:                 Maybe so. That is true. Here’s another thing to it, and that is a lot of people are soured on Mac and Nuss, and for legitimate reasons, but him and Feleipe and Jake Allen are always going to be the guys that aren’t talked about until they perform. Emory Jones is the new guy on campus who nobody’s seen. So, he’s the famous backup quarterback that everyone wants to play. He’s the guy everybody talks about. Again, I am one of those people that say Feleipe Franks has got to prove it to me. I’ve seen enough of him last year. Listen, he was in a bad offense, you can tell me whatever you want to tell me. When a guy can’t make a read, I’ve seen enough.

I’m in that corner, but I’m also in the corner of saying that Mullen works wonders with quarterbacks. I’m not even so much concerned about what’s happening in the spring, because I think what happens in the summertime, and not just the summertime, but the rest of spring into summertime and in fall camp is when these quarterbacks may take it to the next level. Listen, Mullen and those guys haven’t been able to work with those quarterbacks a ton, simply because Mullen got on campus, he hit the ground recruiting. Then he was building his coaching staff. Then they were getting ready for spring. Just wasn’t a lot of time.

Nick:                         No. Really only have had eight spring practices, nine spring practices so far to work with them.

Andrew:                 Right. Something that stood out to me from Mullen talking about it, the scrimmage in whole, not just quarterbacks, but all. He said, their IQ of football, the team was down. Listen, that’s all something that is improved in the meeting rooms, that’s improved in walkthroughs, everything. That’s something that can all be done from the end of spring through fall camp. I think that might be when the team takes the biggest jump, Nick.

Nick:                         We just saw, and I wrote it in a story yesterday, I wrote it in a story that went up on Wednesday that was just in the short time that they were with Nick Savage, some of the body changes are remarkable. Now you’re looking into that was a learning phase of the program. Once spring football is done, Savage goes into his growing phase, because now you’re in the off season. Now you’re going to see guys where they’ve dropped the body fat and stuff like that, but now the next phase I expect to see guys looking completely different after the next three months really of just working out and conditioning with Savage before summer ball starts.

That really too, another thing when we talk about quarterbacks, not making excuses, but you’re doing a lot of install right now. We’ve been saying it. There’s been a lot of working on fundamentals and stuff like that, but it’s still tough to work on install. There’s only so much your brain can take on and absorb and retain. I think you need to get install done, and now you go out with, I have the install. I know that. That’s already there, and now I have all these fundamentals. I’ve got three months to work on them by myself and with the other quarterbacks and the other players, until summer. Now the onus kind of turns on from we’re giving you the tools and we’re doing everything. Now you need to go out, and you need to do something with it.

Andrew:                 Right. That’s a good point. Again, listen, there was a lot of excuses made during the McElwain term from a lot of people, from a lot of coaches and from a lot of players. Nick and I are not trying to throw that out. I’m simply, and Nick’s simply, saying it’s a spring with a lot of changes. Quarterback play is still there and still on the up and up that has to come up. We’ll see.

Give me the rundown, Nick. How was the rest of the offense? Offensive line, running backs, how was it?

Nick:                         I love the running back situation. I joked that it takes, people say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to bring down Damien Pierce. He is a big, big physical running back. He likes contact. Jordan Scarlett was good. He kind of took less reps. I still think he’s your #1 running back right now. Kind of took less reps. Lamical Perine looked good. That’s the best group to me on offense.

I’m still worried. Outside of Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, I still think it’s a very pedestrian wide receiver group as a whole. I think Rick Wells has kind of flashed all spring in practice, and then kind of disappears in the game. Tyrie Cleveland didn’t play in the game. Kadarius Toney, I think, will be a player. There’s going to be plays that are just designed to get the ball in his hands, like McElwain and Nussmeier said they would. That get it to list that they used to start a fire in their fireplace somewhere instead of bringing it to the field. I think there is a get it to list in Gainesville now.

Andrew:                 The get it to list actually come out.

Nick:                         I think it exists. I don’t know if it existed before. It was talked about, but I think it exists now.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         As the offensive line, I think they’re still trying to figure out who is going to go where, and I think Brett Heggie’s a starter. Right now you’ve got four guys who will probably play. Is it Fred Johnson or Tyler Jordan that kind of gets kicked out? The other thing I think that I want to see more is I want to see more of Jean DeLance. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of him to feel confident there. He’s been playing as the backup left tackle. I actually think, and it didn’t make sense to me , and it probably won’t make sense to you, I think Nick Buchanan is playing better at center than he did at guard, then I ever saw him playing at guard. To me, that’s interesting. I think guard is tougher. I mean, I think center is tougher.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, you got a lot more challenges. I will say that maybe center isn’t as tough footwork, maybe moves so much. You’re not kick blocking, that kind of stuff. You’re not worried about pulling more. You’re not worried about that kind of stuff. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe it’s simply change of scenery for him. New coaching staff, maybe the light bulb finally came on. Remember, Nick, coming out of high school Nick Buchanan was a guy that a lot of people were very high on.

Nick:                         Absolutely. I guess, behind what I said would be you’re making calls, you’re making protections. You’ve got a big nose tackle breathing his dirty breath down your face when you got to think about snapping the ball. As soon as you snap it, he’s hitting you. I think that’s where I was coming from, but what you’re talking about with the footwork, and Nick Buchanan’s a big dude, what you’re talking about with the footwork and the kick blocking and maybe playing more athletic people at tackle, maybe a nose or something like that, maybe that’s better. To me, it didn’t make sense, but you brought up some good points there.

I’m not ready to say that I’m in love with the offensive line. After seeing them last year, we all drank the Kool-Aid that the last said, and that they were the best group on offense. We saw in the Michigan game that that was a lie. I’m not ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet. It’s still the same guys. I said last year, if you bring back a bad group just because they’re experienced, it doesn’t mean they’re good. Not ready to dare.

Andrew:                 I think you and I said it best last year, before the Michigan game. Better prove it.

Nick:                         Yeah. And they did not.

Andrew:                 Exactly. We’ll move to defense, Nick, and talk about a couple of guys. We’ve talked about Trey Dean and the defensive group as a whole. Wanted to point out one thing too, and that is Jeawon Taylor didn’t go through the scrimmage. He’s not going to go through any scrimmages this spring, because he’s no-contact. You can’t have a no-contact guy go through scrimmage. Stewart and Brian Edwards were your starters at safety during the scrimmage. Jeawon Taylor is still a starter, and that’s been very evident overall. I just wanted to point that out.

Nick, as a whole, how has the defensive back group looked? In my opinion, this has got a chance to be a pretty good defensive back group with Chauncey now sliding down to nickel.

Nick:                         Absolutely. I think, again, huge. They’re going to be probably the strength. I have some good stuff to say about the defensive line as well, but I think, again, the strength. Marco Wilson, CJ Henderson, they’re really no competition in terms of who’s going to start. It’s those two. I think Trey Dean is your third guy. He was walking off the field Wednesday when we were doing interviews, and I thought, man, that does not look like a freshman. That does not look like a kid who should be in a high school classroom right now. He’s big, and he plays very physical. I like those three. I like Chauncey at nickel.

I think Brad Stewart’s played well at safety too, from what I’ve seen as well. It’ll be a first time starting for him, and it’ll really be a first time starting for Jeawon Taylor. He started, I think, the last four games last year after the injuries to the other safeties. I think he’s a very smart player, and we talked about that on our last podcast. I think he’s a very smart player, and that position needs a lot of talking.

That’s something that Coach English mentioned Wednesday. He knows his safeties are young, but they’re not afraid to talk. I think that goes back into what we were talking about with Jeawon Taylor of kind of coming into his own in terms of confidence and being comfortable in that role of I’m a junior now, I can be more vocal. Guys are looking up to me. I think that’s a big thing for the defense to have somebody that can make the calls and be confident to say, you’re in the wrong spot. You need to be over here.

I think defensive back is probably the most talented group on defense. I think defensive line might be the deepest group on the defense.

Andrew:                 Go ahead. That’s what I was going to move on and talk about. When you got a guy in Antonneous Clayton who’s finally starting to come into his own a little bit, you add that body in there. Listen, I think he, a lot like Jeremiah Moon, can benefit from the change to that 4-3, 3-4 look, because of his body style, that kind of stuff. If you add him in the mix now, you’re looking at another guy that, listen, he’s a five-star coming out of high school. Make of that what you want, but still that’s another body that you’ve got now on that defensive line that you didn’t have last year.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think the defensive line is just so deep right now. You’re still looking at Luke Ancrum and Khairi Clark are with the first team. Cece Jefferson and Jachai Polite. That’s been your first team. Behind that, Jeremiah Moon’s been playing with his hand up, playing that buck position. For a while, maybe the first six practices, I really only saw him playing with the third team, just because you’ve got Cece playing that buck position as well as playing with his hand down. You’ve got Jachai Polite playing that buck position with his hand down as well. In the scrimmage, I did see him working with all three teams, first, second, third team.

I think what Sal Sunseri wants to do is get to a place where he is so confident with 10-12 guys that there aren’t really teams. Sure, somebody will start. Four guys will come in, and they’ll start the game, but you won’t really be able to tell. When Slaton’s on the field, it’s not the second team’s on the field. You might have Slaton, Cece, Moon. I just think it’s a group of 10 guys that you’re going to be rotating. You really won’t have clear defined teams. I think that’s what they’re kind of building towards right now.

Andrew:                 Listen, the defensive line in SEC, you better have 9-10 guys that can rotate in, if you want to be successful in the pass rush. I mean, listen, Bama has that. Georgia has that now. If you want to be successful in the SEC on defense, you’ve got to have guys that can rotate and be fresh. If you got guys that can rotate and be fresh and play at that high level to where you’re not missing the guy in front of you, or if you are it’s just very little that you don’t notice it, that’s when you become elite.

Nick:                         I think Chris Rumph said it best. He said, “I learned from Nick Saban, those guys only have one gas tank. You don’t get a refill.” They don’t refill much at any point during the game, so you’ve got to, you can’t expect a 360 pound TJ Slaton to play 90 snaps, 70 snaps.

Andrew:                 That’s when you get in trouble. That’s when you get injuries, and it just goes on and on. Again, that is where, if you’ve got that there, that’s when you become elite. When you look at some of the elite defenses Florida’s had under Muschamp, the first few years under Mac, that’s when you had the defensive line that was able to rotate and be legit, to where you had guys that could rotate in. When you had Dominic Easley and Sharrif Floyd and that group of guys that were able to rotate in with Jon Bullard and those guys, that’s when you become elite. When you have Cece, Jachai Polite, Jabari, Clayton, those guys that can all rotate in and out and play at high levels, you’re talking about some good speed.

Nick:                         There’s a lot of guys on that defensive line that I like. I think Elijah Conliffe is a guy also, maybe I didn’t mention before. Really liking him. There’s just a very deep group. I think the recruiting there the last couple years, when you look at Polite, Conliffe, Slaton, I think there’s a lot of guys. Zuniga, who I didn’t mention before. A lot of talent there. There’s some guys that can get after the quarterback. Listen, Todd Grantham’s going to dial up the pressure.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s exactly what it’s going to be. That’s a good recap of the scrimmage. Again, Florida practices on Friday again. Scrimmage on Saturday. Nothing open to the media or to the public going forward on those two days. Nick and I will be talking to some people and getting all that stuff. Get your updates over at Gator Country. We’ll have all that.

Nick:                         I do have a negative to touch on real quick.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         The linebackers, again, they’re very suspect in pass coverage. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. I don’t think anyone is gasping by me saying that, based on what we saw last year, but that’s going to be another recurring theme with the linebackers. I’m not sure, we’ve asked Grantham, and we’ve asked defensive coaches, we’ve seen a lot at nickel, and we’re not sure if that is just because defensive back is so good, or if they’re seeing kind of a deficiency with the linebackers. I think you’re seeing Vosean Joseph is losing some first team reps right now to Rayshad Jackson. Still, I really don’t like any of them in coverage.

Against the run, running sideline to sideline, I think they’re good. They’re talented there. When you start having them cover, whether it’s in zone or covering tight ends or running backs, man to man, that’s really the soft spot in Florida’s defense.

Andrew:                 I wanted to move on a little bit here and talk about recruiting, because, man, Nick, it’s just a theme every day almost some big prospect or big prospects are on campus. Again, it goes back to Mullen and his recruiting staff and his coaching staff in general for just recruiting hard, getting these guys on campus. Again, are they going to land the #1 recruiting class in the country? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? Chances are no, because only one team gets that. I do think that the recruiting, I mean, it’s going to be strong. You can’t host this many guys on campus, Nick, and just fail. It just isn’t.

I mean, you look back at this past week. They had the three California kids, Jayden Daniels, Jeremiah Criddell, and Sean Dollars all on campus for a two-day visit. FSU got them on campus for a day, but it was Florida that ended up getting them on the East Coast. When you go back, and you just look at some of the California prospects that’s been on campus this year, some of the top prospects in general that’s been on campus, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing the amount of guys that have been on campus, and that’s expected to continue again this weekend.

Nick:                         Now everyone knows about it. It’s already out there. You put it out there. There’s a certain school that Florida seems to be cursed with. Who’s coming on campus this week, and who are some of the names you need to see there? It’s a team that has seemingly eight of the top 20 kids every year.

Andrew:                 We talking about IMG every year. If they were able to have a recruiting class, they’d have the #1 recruiting class just about every year, just because of who it is. This weekend they’re going to start, not start, because they’re not doing the full tour until the summer, but they kind of do college tours a little bit. They’re going to do Florida this weekend, Miami next weekend. A lot of the guys from IMG are coming up to Florida on campus this weekend.

It’s not the full team, contrary to what other sites are saying, but a lot of guys are coming up on campus. You got David Baldwin, the quarterback, he’s coming up on campus. Two five-star running backs, Trey Sanders, Noah Cain coming up on campus. You have former Gator commit Jaleel McRae coming up on campus. He’s over at IMG now, some knee concerns there. A linebacker, DB, where will he play? He’s one of those guys that I think ends up growing into a linebacker, kind of like an Amari Burney probably does. We’ll see.

Then you have offensive lineman, Dante Lucas. Transferred up from Miami to IMG this year. He’s a guy that has been on campus at Florida a few times. Deyavie Hammond transferred from Lakeland. Been on campus a few times as well, but first time under Mullen, making his first campus tour visit under Mullen.

You have a couple of underclassmen guys. Listen, Nick, you know how it is. Getting these 2020, 2021 guys on campus, that’s huge. One of those guys is the defensive end commit Josh Griffis. He’ll be on campus. Mullen is making it a mission, making it a priority, that he’s going to recruit IMG, and I would almost say he’s probably going around telling people, “I guarantee you, I’m going to sign one of those dudes from IMG, if I have to break my left hand for it.”

Nick:                         Well, Chris Weinke’s out of there. That might have been part of the problem to begin with.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, that was a huge thing. Listen, and I said this to a few people, I don’t mean no disrespect to these two guys, but you had Chris Rumph and Doug Nussmeier recruiting that school. You had other top recruiters from across the country recruiting that school. No offense, you couldn’t have those two guys recruiting that school. You did, and you lost out.

Mullen’s kind of saying, I’m going to recruit that school myself. He’s got Larry Scott recruiting that school. He’s got Billy Gonzales recruiting that school. He’s got Knox recruiting that school. Basically, he has everyone recruiting that school. He took the helicopter there. That was the first visit on the helicopter there. That made news. He’s got it.

Listen, he made a huge headway with Trey Sanders. He took his brother, Steve Sanders, on the preferred walk-on spot, possible chance to get on scholarship. He’ll be on campus this summer. That’s a huge upstick in Sanders’ recruitment. Listen, Trey Sanders is one of those guys that those kids look up to. You get one of those guys on campus, they’re going to probably break that curse in a big way.

Nick:                         It doesn’t make sense. It’s literally just two hours down the road, and the talent they have, it should be a priority. It should be, not even just we’re putting our best recruiter there, it should be all hands on deck. Whoever has a connection with any kid at IMG, feel free to go down there whenever you want, as much as you can.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Have the entire staff. Listen, each one of you guys have got a guy at IMG you’re recruiting. Forget the recruiting areas, everything else. You have a guy at IMG you’re recruiting. IMG is going to be on campus this weekend, but that’s not even the big stuff. I mean, that is the big stuff, but that’s not all.

You got the quarterback, Jalen Jones, out of Maryland, former Mississippi State commit under Mullen, is going to be on campus. Nick, this is such a huge visit for Florida with Jalen Jones. He’s coming in on campus on Friday. He wants to make a decision soon. When he wants to make a decision soon, he hasn’t visited Gainesville with Mullen, so that’s big. Virginia and Ohio State’s gotten him on campus a lot. Getting him on campus at Florida is huge.

Nick:                         6’3” 180-pound kid from Baltimore, Maryland. You mentioned already, was committed to Mullen for some time. He’s being recruited, I think, by Brian Johnson. You can correct me if I’m wrong.

Andrew:                 Brian Johnson is one of those guys recruiting him. Mullen’s kind of the main guy recruiting him right now.

Nick:                         Listed as dual threat, but you watch a lot of film and watch a lot of tape on the guys. Tell them a little bit about what to expect from him as a player, and then really what is that timeline. You say soon. We talk about it all the time, the quarterbacks are the ones, those dominos start falling pretty early.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Listen, Jalen is a guy who’s a really good athlete. His passing game is probably better than Emory’s right now. Is it top notch? No, but it’s better than Emory. It’s good, but not great, if that makes sense, Nick. A 6’3” guy, but he’s a smart kid. When you hear quarterback, and you hear smart kid, that’s two things you want to hear out of quarterbacks. Again, I like Jalen. He’s improved such a lot from sophomore to junior year. He’ll probably make that step from junior to senior year as well. Again, I like to take, and any time Urban Meyer’s recruiting a quarterback, listen, it’s like Dan Mullen recruiting a quarterback. They both know what they want out of quarterbacks. Like that a lot.

He says he wants to do it this spring, but hasn’t really set a date. He hasn’t said, I want to do it in April, in May or June. He just says I want to do it this spring. Me personally, I think it’s done before the summer. Like you say, quarterbacks always want to get it done. Jalen’s a guy that has said he wants to commit and start working on recruiting others. If that’s the case, you would say probably by summertime he is, so that he can be on campus in the summertime and be at camps in the summertime recruiting other guys.

Again, we’ll see. Florida, Ohio State, Virginia are the big schools there. The one thing Florida has going with Jalen is Dan Mullen’s been recruiting him since his freshman year. He’s already committed to Mullen once. The thing for me is now he’s got Urban and Virginia there. They’re closer to home at Maryland, and he hasn’t been to Gainesville. Of course, Mullen has to reimpress him at Florida.

Listen, Mullen’s probably sitting there telling him the same thing he told him at Mississippi State, and that is I don’t have a quarterback right now. Nick, you and I just talked about it. We don’t know who the starting quarterback is going to be. Emory Jones may not turn out to ever get better as a passer. We don’t know. Is he lying to Jalen when he says he don’t have a quarterback? No.

Nick:                         No. That’s the other huge thing. We talked about it all the time with the last staff. You’re behind. Really until you get to Year 3 or 4, you’re going to be behind. Mullen, because he was at Mississippi State, obviously, listen there’s kids who would probably tell Dan Mullen, “Coach, I love everything you’re saying. I love you. Love your staff. I’m not going to go live in Starkville. Sorry.”

Andrew:                 Sorry. Not happening.

Nick:                         But these guys aren’t afraid to fail. Worst thing that can happen is they say no. Cool. Whatever. We tried. They’re going to try. That relationship is already built in a lot.

The question I have, that popped into my head while you were talking about Jalen Jones, is this a two quarterback year for Florida?

Andrew:                 People keep asking me that. I think it’s a question of what happens this spring, and kind of what happens in the summer and the fall with the rest of the quarterbacks. Does somebody leave? How does it all kind of work out? Right now, I think it’s probably leaning towards one. It could very well change to two.

I think that a lot of that may be determined after the spring when Mullen and Brian Johnson and the rest of the offensive staff kind of sit down and look at it and say, “What do we have?” Do you really have Kyle Trask, Feleipe Franks, and Emory Jones after next year that can all play? If so, you only need one. If you go through the year and you say, really you only have Kyle Trask and Emory Jones that can play, I need two, because Kyle Trask is going to be gone soon, that kind of stuff. It just kind of depends on that, where you think. Right now, again, I lean towards one.

Nick:                         Okay. That makes sense. Obviously, if somebody were to transfer, if somebody were to leave, then your numbers look different. Also, depending on what happens, are you maybe looking at a graduate transfer again? I know, I can feel the fanbase shuddering or screaming at us and yelling no, because of the past history with the last three.

Andrew:                 You got the Barrow kid at Ohio State. Listen, he’s familiar with the system, that kind of stuff. If Mullen goes out of the spring, and he says, “I don’t have a quarterback that can do,” and Barrow decides he wants to transfer, you go take a shot with him and see. You can’t judge a grad transfer by the last staff on offense. You just simply can’t. I don’t think it’s fair.

Mullen’s going to have a quarterback. It just is what it is. The theme we’ve went over since Tim Tebow left, and that is Florida needs a quarterback. If they have to go find a grad transfer, if they have to go find a grocery store boy that can play quarterback, they’ve got to find a quarterback.

Nick:                         Yeah. Dan Mullen is not in the business, some people are saying if the team is going to be bad, then just let Emory play. They’ll be bad, and he can learn. Then you worry about losing your confidence. I’ll tell you this right now. Dan Mullen is not ready to say we’re going to be bad.

Andrew:                 No.

Nick:                         Dan Mullen will never settle for that. He’s going to play whoever he thinks is going to give him the best chance to win. If that’s a graduate transfer, I think Florida would be in the hunt there.

Andrew:                 Yeah. No, no, no is he going to say we’re just going to suck. He’s not going to pull one of your Marlins and say we’re in rebuild mode. Couple more guys. Florida will also host Warren McClendon, offensive lineman out of Georgia, this weekend.

Then two defensive linemen, Nick. Nathan Pickering, defensive end out of Mississippi, a guy that Mullen and Grantham recruited at Mississippi State, probably a guy that they said we can’t get, but we’re going to try. Now it’s paying off. Then Derek Hunter, the big defensive end out of Miami, or Palm Beach, excuse me. Coming up, this will be his third trip this spring. Listen, he’s got a recruitment that’s going to be wild. He says he love every campus. Nick, it’s kind of like I tell everybody, follow the visits. Third time this spring. He obviously likes it. He raves about Sal Sunseri. That’s a big one. Commit Dionte Marks will be back on campus. This will be his third trip on campus this spring.

Again, who’s-who of visiting Florida is on campus. It just is what it is. When you continue to host all these guys on campus, you’re bound to have good things happen. On Wednesday they hosted Tyron Hopper, linebacker out of Georgia. On Thursday, as we’re taping this, they’re hosting Ethan Rae, a big guy out of California, tight end. They’re hosting top kids every week on campus. Kids are seeing this on social media from myself, from other people. Florida’s hosting this guy. They’re saying, why are these guys visiting? I need to go check it out and see it myself. That’s why you’re getting these guys on campus.

Nick:                         One thing I did like that McElwain’s staff did was make that spring game, getting a week ahead of ourselves here, but did make that spring game on a Friday. How do you think the turnout for the Orange & Blue game will be when you’re talking about now you’re sharing that Saturday with a bunch of other guys?

Andrew:                 So far, the list looks pretty good. We’re still a week and a few days out, but so far, the list looks really good of who’s coming in. It’ll be interesting to see, to compare, when it comes that time. So far, I like the list of guys coming in. Again, we’ll talk about that more next week as we get closer.

Nick, we got about three minutes here. I wanted to let both of us kind of talk about the series we got here coming up. You guys in baseball have got Tennessee. You got a minute. Give me a brief rundown.

Nick:                         Florida has won seven straight games, and three of those teams are top 10 teams. Tennessee is not a top 25 team, but a very good team. Young football team, and they’ve got some arms. That’s going to be the same thing every weekend when you’re talking about SEC. They’ve got arms. It’ll be an interesting series. I expect Florida to take two out of three and keep rolling.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Big series as well for you guys. Jonathan India, man oh man.

Nick:                         He is unconscious. If you see Jonathan India on campus, don’t wake him up, because it’s been pretty fun to watch.

Andrew:                 Don’t touch his bat.

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 Don’t touch his bat. I wonder this, Nick. Does him and Will Dalton have like a friendly wager, because when one hits it, another one’s got to hit it as well. Neither one of them are going to pull away.

Nick:                         Well, Will Dalton is also leading the team in strikeouts, so there’s a little different approach. Yeah, I think there is a little friendly wager. Dalton hits one and steps on home and looks at India and goes, “You’re behind now.”

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’ll be fun. Softball goes to Alabama this weekend. Florida retook the lead in the SEC, and now sit with just two loses, and Georgia has three. Florida goes to Alabama. Listen, this Alabama team is down this year, very young, but it’s Alabama softball. They’re going to be good. They’re going to give you a battle. They’re going to contend. Alicia Osorio, their pitcher who struck out 21 batters in the game, is really good, so expect a pitching matchup this weekend that’s really sound. Florida needs to continue winning to stay ahead in the SEC, because it’s just like baseball. SEC is tough.

Nick, I do have to give a shout out to one former Gator.

Nick:                         Who’s that?

Andrew:                 Preston Tucker. Do yourself a thing, my man. Good grief. The first player in Braves history to have back to back games of three-run homers in the first inning. Impressive.

Nick:                         He kind of came out of nowhere too. Almost an afterthought there in Houston for a little while. Really kind of just tearing the cover off the ball, and he’s going to make, when Acuna comes up, he’s going to make the Braves have some tough decisions to make.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Listen, he was a guy that Houston said they liked him a lot. It was just one of those things where he was the fourth outfielder. Listen, Preston’s never been the best defender in the outfield, and nowadays with the sabermetrics and this, that, and the other, that becomes a little bit. He could always hit. Nick, I told you this before. He’s not striking out as much. That’s making Preston Tucker make a lot of money and show some heads.

Nick:                         Absolutely.

Andrew:                 Nick, we got a few seconds. Tell everybody where they can find us. Real quick, there’s been a lot of changes in the Gator sites. Only one site stayed the same. Gator Country. There’s a reason for that. Our man, Ray Hines, the owner, the guy who pays our bills and everything, is a guy who has done this for over 20 years. Come check us out. I got the approval from Ray, and that is if someone wants to come check it out and get a free trial, we’ll give it to you.

Nick:                         Absolutely. You can find all that www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe and get a little push notification to your phone whenever a new episode goes live. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. Again, we appreciate it. Come check us out. We’re doing our thing. Nick will have plenty of post-scrimmage updates on Saturday. I’ll have plenty of post-recruiting updates. We’ll have our softball and baseball stuff going. Our man, Eric, is still pumping out the basketball stuff. We’ll be ready when the new coaching hire comes out for Dusty May’s spot. As always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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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.