GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap the latest news around the Florida Gators football program as the Gators saw two players transfer away.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre talk about the impact of Jake Allen and McArthur Burnett transferring away from Florida, plus we talk about the spring evaluation period for Florida’s coaches.
Andrew and Nick also talk about the latest around the baseball and softball team as both teams lead the SEC with just a few series remaining.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicolas, another big weekend in Gator Country. Baseball takes care of business, goes two out of three. Softball with the sweep. Gymnastics comes up a little bit short, but third in the country in the national championships. Not too bad. Women’s tennis makes it to the SEC Championship game. All around good weekend.
Nick: Great weekend. Florida goes two and two last week on the diamond, baseball diamond, but they remain #1 in the country by pretty much any metric. They really in the first two games just steamrolled Kentucky. I think a lot of attention from national guys. Kenny Cahill, Baseball America called him a freight train. I said, that’s absolutely right. Florida hadn’t won a series in Lexington since 2012, had lost the last two there. Kevin O’Sullivan was only 16-16 for his career against Kentucky, which is his worst record against any team. I think worse record of any team they play regularly, which is astonishing.
Andrew: That’s crazy. I forgot to mention that lacrosse also won the Big East regular season championship. That was big as well. Softball, they went out and took care of business. Swept a really good Mississippi State team, who hasn’t been swept at home.
Nick: It is so hard to sweep at home, baseball or softball. To do it on the road is very impressive.
Andrew: That was the thing. You went out and swept a team who hadn’t been swept at home in two years. Mississippi State is a team who’s on the rise, a team who a couple years ago that was an easy, go out to Starkville and you were going to sweep them. Mississippi State came into the weekend #22 in the country, but ninth in the SEC. That’s what’s crazy. Ninth in the SEC, but 22 in the country.
Nick: Like you said, a very good program in Mississippi State. Good for the girls. Good for the girls who, still a great a team, but maybe have struggled at times more than maybe even you expected, or they expected themselves to. That’s a huge confidence boost.
Andrew: It’s like you said just a second ago. This team has struggled at times. I think they’re still a team who is very inconsistent. When you’re looking at two more SEC series to go, that’s not something you really want to say about a team. Also, when you have a pitcher in Kelly Barnhill out there, most of the time when she’s out there one or two runs is going to win a lot of games. We’ll talk softball and baseball here in a minute, Nick.
Let’s start talking a little recruiting. Let’s start with some football new. Post spring always brings the news out, always brings the transfer news out. That’s exactly what we got. Quarterback Jake Allen announced he was transferring away, and then McArthur Burnett announced he was transferring away. I would say neither are really surprises. Both were down on the depth chart. I personally didn’t know if Jake would transfer. I thought he would try to ride it out, but not surprising. Best of luck to those two guys, especially Jake. Jake’s a good dude and works hard.
Nick: Obviously, being from the same area and knowing Jake a little bit, knowing people who know him and worked out with him back home in South Florida, where we’re both from, there was some optimism from Jake that he could be a fit in Mullen’s offense. Obviously, we’ve talked about it extensively. The prototype is a Dak Prescott, a Tim Tebow.
Andrew: Cam Newton.
Nick: But you’ve seen Mullen work with Alex Smith. Alex Smith is not the same type of runner that Tebow, Cam, and Dak are. There was some optimism from Jake Allen’s camp, some people in his camp, close to him. There was optimism that he could fit into it, but I think the way that we saw the reps shaking out throughout the spring it was probably made pretty clear even before exit interviews with the coaches that there’s not a lot of opportunity here, based on what we’re doing, your skillset, and what you’re going to be asked to do on the offense.
The responses that Jake got on our message board and on social media, I think everyone kind of knew that. When you’re a competitor like Jake Allen, and somebody who wanted to play for the University of Florida, and who loved the University of Florida as much as he did, it was a dream come true for him to put on the orange and blue. You’re not going to give up on dream until you really see the writing on the wall for yourself.
Andrew: Right. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s a logjam now a little at quarterback. You look at Feleipe and Kyle are the guys that are taking reps, and I think that you and I can both agree here that while both of those guys are going into the season as the starter, the belief is that Emory Jones will be ready for the 2019 season and be the guy that will be ready to kind of take the reins away. So where does that leave Jake, who would then be a redshirt sophomore, in the mix of things?
Like you say, I think there was optimism that he could fit into the system, but at the end of the day, Jake’s more of a pro style quarterback, and a guy that fit McElwain’s offense, but I don’t think fit Mullen’s offense. Again, that’s no disrespect to Jake. There’s a lot of good quarterbacks that don’t fit Mullen’s offense.
Nick: Certainly. It’ll be interesting to see where Jake goes. Maybe somewhere closer to home. I think he’s a player at a smaller school who could have a ton of success. Interesting to see where he’ll end up. It certainly, to me, this was a mutual kind of deal where there’s no hard feelings. We’ll help you in any way that we can.
Andrew: I think now that raises the question of do you go take two quarterbacks? That is the question that a lot of people have asked me. I think you now lean towards possibly taking two quarterbacks in the class, especially because I think that there may be some hard feelings on whoever loses out between Trask and Franks at quarterback in the fall. So maybe one of those guys potentially leaves as well. I do. I think that opens up the question of possibly taking two quarterbacks now, with one already being committed in Jalen Jones.
Nick: What’s the difficulty in that? We’ve talked about it a ton when we’re looking at quarterbacks, taking two in a class. It’s not like receiver. You’re not playing three, four, five guys at a time. It’s not like running back, where you might have three guys get carries. It’s not like defensive back, where you could have six guys on the field at one time. What’s the difficulty in taking two? What do you tell two? What do you tell that second quarterback? We’ve got this Jalen Jones kid, and by everyone’s measure right now you look at Jalen Jones, and you’re thinking that’s a prototype Mullen quarterback. So, what are you telling the next guy?
Andrew: I think that’s your question. It’s a situation where you got Emory, and you have Jalen coming in. Your second quarterback has got to be willing to come in and compete there. It’s a thing where knowing that if I don’t beat out Jalen Jones or beat out Emory, I’m riding the bench. I do think that. Also, you have to overcome the whole factor of was I Plan B for Mullen? I think that’s a tough sell, but, again, I think you can maybe go out and sign a guy that was maybe middle of your board per se and get him to come in just for depth. Also, listen, Mullen has produced some very good quarterbacks. I think you would agree me in that if you’re a good quarterback you’re three and done.
Nick: Yeah. I guess it would just be getting over that, especially if you’re a freshman. Now you’re thinking in this class, at least in my mind, they’ve got Emory Jones, who is Mullen’s guy. He’ll be a sophomore when I come in as a freshman. So there will be two freshmen, a sophomore, and then a couple redshirt sophomores.
Nick: That’s, to me, in my mind where that becomes the hard sell. Now, are you taking just another guy?
Andrew: And wasting a scholarship. Right. Exactly. That’s your question. That’s where you have to come about and look at things. I mean, look at Newton and Tebow. You go through the list of guys who’ve been on campus. What was it? Newton, Tebow, and Brantley all five-stars on campus at one time. If anybody can do it, Mullen can. Again, I’m not ready to say for sure they take two, but I think it’s starting to lean that.
Now, Nick, and this leads into McArthur Burnett transferring. No surprise at all McArthur Burnett transferred out. Really never came into his own. Had some off the field issues and things like that. It does start to lead to concern of depth at the position, at DB, now. You’re looking at waiting till some of your freshmen come in in the summer. It’s definitely something that’s now becoming, I think, something you have to look at hard. You’re needing depth with experience there, even though I don’t think McArthur Burnett was going to give you quality minutes, but he was still a depth piece there, especially in practice.
Nick: We were on McArthur Burnett transfer watch.
Andrew: Two years ago.
Nick: Two years ago. Yeah. Not a surprise, especially when Florida’s continued to recruit the way they have at that position. There was really no spot for him to make an impact, other than special teams.
Andrew: He was a guy that played offense and defense in high school and played more offense, and just really never adjusted at defense. With the off the field things going along with it, it just kind of made it tough. It was definitely a move that I think we all kind of seen coming. I’ll be honest, Nick, in saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not a couple more that potentially move on, just for the simple fact that you have the meeting is just slipping my mind here, Nick. Your closeout meetings for the spring.
Nick: Exit meetings.
Andrew: Exit meetings. There you go. I don’t know why I couldn’t think of that. Exit meetings. When the exit meetings come about, they kind of find out it might be best for me to move on, and they’ll move on. As Mullen continues to talk to these guys, that could happen. Again, a lot of these guys moving on just simply aren’t fit for either Grantham’s 3-4 defense or Mullen’s offense.
Nick: Right. I think the change on defense with Grantham is easier than the change on offense, in terms of personnel. Either way, the writing was there for McArthur Burnett. Another guy I think at a smaller program might do well. Yeah. The writing was there. He wasn’t going to play much this year or any year, and Florida continues to get guys. We’ll get into it when we get into a little bit of recruiting, but still recruiting that top upper echelon of guys who are ready to play. Florida’s recruiting DBs that have no intentions of being here longer than three years. I don’t expect CJ Henderson to be here for four years. I don’t expect Marco Wilson to be here for four years.
Andrew: Are you breaking news here?
Nick: Breaking. Marco Wilson probably not staying for his senior season. The guy that started every game during his freshman year, probably not going to be here for four years.
Andrew: And claimed that he didn’t play very well last year, which was pretty interesting there, Marco. High expectations for you, buddy. Yeah. Recruiting, it’s the never-ending recruiting cycle has started. Florida is now out on the road and recruiting during the evaluation period. On Friday Charlton Warren was in Carolina, seeing the #1 athlete in the country in Quavaris Crouch, out there visiting him. Florida’s out in St. Louis today. They’ll save most of their instate visits for when spring practice starts, the 1st of May. They’ll start that then, in May.
Right now, they’ll kind of use these first week to two weeks of hitting out of state guys. We’re taping this on Monday, and Larry Scott is out in St. Louis visiting a couple guys. They’ll be out in Cali later this week. They’ll just kind of being doing their out of state first visits. They get two visits. One is supposed to be to check out academics. The other is supposed to be to check out athletic. We both know they do both at the same time for two visits. They’ll visit one right now, and then they’ll come back later and check out guys for spring practice. Then they’ll start the instate visits when they’re able to get out there and watch practice.
A lot of that is because they can see so many schools in the state of Florida is a day in their area, and also there’s a lot of guys that are instate that are maybe fringe guys. We need to see him in practice before we offer, that kind of stuff. They want to see these guys twice in practice before they make a move.
Nick: How important is this? As someone who covers recruiting, how much stock will you put into this process? Obviously, you talk to tons of high school coaches, tons of seven-on-seven coaches and position coaches and guys that are around these players. How much stock do you put into who are these guys going to see? I know everyone made a lot about the last coaching staff not trusting recruiting sites and their stars and going out and finding their own guys. Then you find out a lot of times those lower star guys maybe just aren’t panning out. What will you learn, I guess is what I’m trying to say. What will you learn from where these guys are going and who they’re seeing? What do you learn from this as somebody who covers recruiting?
Andrew: I think the biggest thing that we’ll kind of see is the board will kind of take more of a shape at the end of the year, when they offer some of these fringe guys or they don’t offer some of these fringe guys. It’s kind of you either get offered now, or you get offered at the summer camps, and if you don’t get offered that, the chances of you getting offered are low, unless you just have a bang-out senior year when senior film comes out in October and November.
You learn a lot about where the board will take place. One thing, Nick, that I’ve learned from this staff is they’re going to be everywhere. They’re going to see everybody. I don’t think you can say they’re going to see one guy more than another, because they can only see two. Pretty much anyone they’re even thinking about talking to they’re going to see twice. That’s just Mullen’s way of doing things, especially with his assistant coaches there working hard and that kind of stuff. Anybody visited or they’re going to be talking to or on the board they’re going to see twice.
You don’t see a lot. You don’t learn a lot. You do kind of see how these coaches develop that relationship with these guys as they set up visits for the summer. A lot of these guys are starting to set up official visits, that kind of stuff, so you’ll learn a little bit more about that. You’ll hear a lot about how these coaches are building relationships even more now, because they’re seeing these kids. They’re able to talk on the phone more with them now that spring practice is over with. You learn a lot about who they’re going to offer on those fringe guys. Again, Florida’s already got well over 150 offers out, so you wouldn’t expect a ton of offers. You’ll see more underclassmen offers come out over this next month, month and a half.
Nick: Where does that stand, just from an offer standpoint?
Andrew: It’s up there.
Nick: Compared to Mac, compared to other schools.
Andrew: That’s what I was going to say. I think last year, Nick, I told you this number about a month ago. I need to go back and look at it again. At one point in the middle of the spring Mullen had offered 168 guys, and Mac had only offered 153 at the end of the cycle. So, it’s definitely a bigger board than Mac had. Listen, we say this all the time. Maybe we shouldn’t say it a ton, but an offer doesn’t mean anything anymore. An offer is just an offer.
Nick: It’s expected almost.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s expected. Maybe we shouldn’t just completely trash an offer, because an offer is still big, but if you offer someone, and they come on campus and you don’t like them, you just don’t take them. I don’t understand. Why not get the offer to get them at least on campus and see? A lot of times with Mac and his staff, they would like someone, they would talk to him, and they would say we may end up liking this guy at the end of the cycle or whatever. We’re just going to kind of keep him warm with no offer. A lot of these kids get their feelings hurt, and, again, I don’t blame them, if Florida’s the last to offer. A lot of times that would bite them in the butt.
Mullen instead is just offering them. Not telling the kids, but probably sitting in his staff room saying, we’re going to offer him just so they can say they have a Florida offer, but at the end of the day, if we don’t like him, we’re just not going to take him. Again, I don’t see a problem with that. I think it’s a good idea.
Nick: I think it kind of sucks for the kids, but in some aspect you’re getting what you want.
Andrew: The kids know it too. That’s the thing. These kids know that they can’t commit. One of the coaches told me a couple years ago. I’m not going to name drop, but he told me he always told his kids when they got an offer from a big school to say, “Can I commit?” You would be able to find out straight up then if that was a committable offer or not. Now, the kid was not going to commit, obviously, to every school that offered him, but his seven-on-seven coach told him, “You should always ask the coach, can I commit today if want to?” That was something that I think a lot of these kids should probably do.
It would probably cut down on the offers that are extended, maybe. Like I said, 168 offers out. They got 21, 22 spots in this class. Obviously, 140 of those guys aren’t going to be able to be commits. Again, it’s just a situation where what does an offer really mean? It doesn’t. Why not offer him if he’s a fringe guy?
Nick: I guess that’s what I was saying. I don’t like that offers mean nothing, but if that’s where it’s at now, you’re not the only one doing it. If you’re putting yourself behind an eight ball because you think we don’t like doing it that way, then you’re not going to recruit with the best of them. You’re not going to have a job.
Andrew: Exactly. That’s the thing. Is it a dirty business? Sure. College football recruiting is a dirty business, but you better do it if you want to be up there. Again, it’s a little different for the instate schools, instate prospects. Alabama doesn’t do it with the kids in Alabama. Florida doesn’t do it. Florida State doesn’t do it. You can’t just offer instate guys as easily, because then you run the risk of burning that school forever. If one of those kids, I’m just going to throw out a school, at Gainesville High School gets an offer, and he tries to commit and he doesn’t, in five years if the next Tim Tebow comes through there, that coach may remember that. You have to be a little bit more hesitant with instate guys than you do out of state guys.
Still, it’s a situation where if they’re even close to it you offer and get them on campus. A lot of guys are now getting offers to come to camps basically. If you come to camp, and you suck, we can’t renege on your offer, but your offer is not committable.
Nick: When was that huge switch?
Andrew: I would say probably over the last four or five years maybe. I guess, really when it became popular, Nick, I guess I’m aging myself a little bit here, aging us a little bit, but I can’t really remember exactly when. A couple years ago when Twitter became the thing of announcing your offer on Twitter. It was the cool thing to be able to announce I got an offer from the University of Florida. I’ve got an offer from Florida State, whoever it may be. That was the cool thing to do.
Once that happened, that’s when things kind of got there, because kids were noticing I didn’t get an offer. Willy Taggert over at Florida State was also noticing that, so he’d be like how come Florida didn’t offer you until this date, but I offered you on this date? Florida would do the same thing. We offered you on May 1st, but Florida State didn’t offer you till July 31st. Why was that? Because they didn’t like you as much. All that stuff goes about. Listen, every college football team in America has people working Twitter and social media and that kind of stuff. They’re taking notes on that kind of stuff.
Nick: That’s what I was saying before. Even if you don’t like the spirit of it or the process, you’re putting yourself behind an eight ball if you don’t do it.
Andrew: Yeah. Again, it’s one of those things where if you’re going to win and win at a big level you got to be willing to do it. I’ll say this, and I know a lot of people are going to disagree with me here. I don’t really care to hear about it. Mac was a good person and a good guy, and he didn’t believe in the dirty processes of the recruiting business. I think that kind of hurt him a little bit, and it showed.
Nick: Yeah. Certainly not as hands on, in my estimation, as Mullen has been.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. Again, it’ll be big. Everybody keeps asking me when is the next commit going to be. I do think that Florida gets a commit here fairly soon from a big-time player. Of course, we won’t name drop that or hint on that or anything like that. That’s his spotlight to have, but I do think Florida gets a guy, and it’ll be a big one that I think a lot of people will be excited about.
Then you kind of go into a little bit of a lull here where kids are starting spring practice. When that happens, you won’t see as many commits take place until the summer months come about. Still, I understand people are wanting more commits and all that good stuff, but patience is there from the staff. I do think things are heading in the right direction.
Nick: That’s the big thing, I think, people watching now and being impatient. Like you said before, you get that offer, and you’re giving an offer just to, I’m there. People can’t say we’re interested. No, you cannot commit now. We want to see you. Whether it’s we want to see your first half senior highlights, we want to see you in person, we want to see you come to camp, whatever the case is. Getting those out there. I think it’s more important how you close than how you start. Do you want Florida’s class to be full by September 1? I would probably say no.
Andrew: Right. Again, I say this. Listen, I understand people want it, and they expect it, because Willy Taggert’s gotten commits and everything else. He’s gotten a lot of guys that Florida wouldn’t take. Our good buddy, Dan Thompson, said it best on Twitter on Monday, and that is Florida is still a 4-7 ballclub here that hasn’t done much and hasn’t done much on offense lately. You have to change things. That’s Mullen’s objective. I do think Mullen is doing that.
Nick: We said that with Mac that first year. It’s going to be a lot of wait and see. You’re selling me some stuff, and I want to see it.
Andrew: Again, that’s not an excuse, I promise you guys. That’s fact. Kids see that. As much big game as Mullen talks, and like I said, I believe Dan Mullen is the guy that can take Florida back and will get Florida back. I don’t think he does it Year 1. I don’t expect Florida to be playing in the national championship in 2018. I do expect Florida to be better, and I do expect things to be on the rise for Florida. Again, I do think Mullen is the guy that gets you back into that national prominence, but you have to show it. Recruits see that. Like it or not, Florida State’s been there and been doing well, even though they didn’t have a good year last year.
Nick: Yeah. Still, Florida State’s not too far removed from that national championship. You saw what winning the national championship for them, and then getting to play in another championship game and getting to play in the playoff what that does for recruiting. That is huge for recruiting. You cannot minimize. Look at Clemson’s recruiting since they won a national championship.
Andrew: Right. It’s there. Nick, let’s talk diamond sports now. Baseball and softball are first place in the SEC. Saw a stat on Monday that Florida is the only SEC team to win every series so far in SEC play. As my man Bobby Cox used to say, “You win every series, you’re going to be pretty damn good.”
Nick: I don’t appreciate you bringing the Braves into this, but the Gators won 15 of their last 18. The only team in the SEC to win every series. They did that by winning the first two in Kentucky. Kentucky at the time, I don’t have the rankings pulled up in front of me right now, but at the time was the #9 team in the country. Had one bad trip, really one bad weekend on the road at Alabama. Florida’s 15-3 out of their last 18 games. They scored 6.5 runs per game last week, and really kind of rolling along. You did see Jonathan India lose his streak at 24 games. Tim Olsen, I know you’re listening to this, Timmy. Thank you for taking some time to talk to me today. That story will coming out soon about Tim Olsen’s 29 game hitting streak in 2000, and Jonathan India’s streak of 24 games this year.
I think the biggest question for me, I want to get your opinion, because I know you’re watching baseball as well, what do you do on Sundays? Now, you’re getting solid starts. You got a great start Jackson Kowar. His last two starts have been great. Brady Singer is Brady Singer. He’s going to do what he does. He threw a gem on Thursday night.
Tyler Dyson has struggled in SEC competition. He’s got a 6.95 ERA. Hasn’t lasted more than 4 1/3 innings against an SEC opponent. Has given up 29 hits and 17 earned runs in 22 innings pitched. Then the most concerning thing is VELO is down. Walks and hit by pitcher are up. He’s hit and/or walked 25 guys in 22 innings, and that’s how you get removed from a Kevin O’Sullivan pitching rotation is by walking and hitting guys. To me, Dyson goes out there on Saturday and only throws, he gets into the third inning, but really just two plus innings, and then you have to turn to a freshman in Jack Leftwich. It’s something I’ll ask Kevin O’Sullivan on Tuesday. Is it a thought that you’re going to have to make a change?
Andrew: Yeah. To go back real quick, Kentucky debuts this week at 14 in the rankings. Dropped from 6 to 14.
No. I’m with you. I’ve seen enough of Leftwich to know that I think he can handle it. Nick, I know you’ll agree with me here. You need to go into post-season play with a little bit of confidence, and you need a third guy, especially in the first two rounds. You absolutely need it in Omaha, but it’s very important in the first two rounds as well. Maybe sending Dyson to the pen a little bit and getting him not to focus on the VELO as much as he is.
Going into the season, I told you a story about what Preston Tucker said. He was saying that Dyson might be the best pitcher on the staff. Maybe the expectations for Dyson have just gotten the best of him. Maybe going to the pen a little bit and just settling down would be best for him, because I think you would agree with me when I say this, there is no question Dyson’s got the stuff to be the guy. It’s just now it’s about going out and performing.
Nick: The expectations, I mean, before the season came out, like you said, Preston Tucker told you. Kevin O’Sullivan said it to us on the record and off the record that he might be the best one of the three. He’s still a kid who didn’t really pitch until his senior year, and then last year really only pitched out of the bullpen. This is a whole different beast when you’re talking about an SEC schedule, being that Sunday guy. A lot of times this year Florida has won the first two games in the series. Now he’s the guy that this team is coming out trying not to get swept.
Andrew: That’s tough.
Nick: Yeah. There’s a lot of pride on these SEC teams and rivalries, and a lot of guys are trying to get drafted. You have a bad Friday, Saturday, you’re coming out swinging a hot bat and looking to get on a pitcher early. A lot of factors that go into it, and we’ve certainly been spoiled watching Florida the last three, four, five years. Dane Dunning was a first round pick, and he was pitching out of the bullpen on the weekends, not even starting.
The expectations, for sure, are sky high. When the early 2019 projections came out for the draft, he was the #1 player overall. Obviously, had a great end to the season. Pitched fantastically against Wake Forest. Pitched great against LSU in the College World Series in that deciding game. For whatever reason, maybe it’s fatigue, he pitched in the summer after a full season in college and jumped right back into it. Maybe some fatigue. To me, it’s concerning that velocity and the control are down. To me, maybe that’s arm fatigue. He’s still super young to be worrying about arm fatigue, but to me the concerning part is the velocity is down and the command’s not there.
Listen, Jack Leftwich, we were joking with Jackson Kowar. When the new stadium plans came out, we told Jackson, “If you don’t leave this year, and then redshirt next year, you could open up Friday night in the new park.” He laughed and said, “Maybe I’ll think about it.” Jackson Kowar is going to be a millionaire by the time the draft comes around, so that’s not going to happen. Jack Leftwich is probably going to be your guy on Friday night to open that new ballpark. Certainly not out of the realm or crazy to think, he’s a freshman. You’ve got Tyler Dyson, you can’t start him. Jack Leftwich is a potential first round pick in two years.
I think it’s a serious question. I don’t know if they’ll make the move this week, but if Tyler Dyson goes out and has another two or three inning this week. He’ll pitch Saturday against Auburn, and that’s a tough Auburn lineup. To me, I don’t know how you don’t start thinking about it.
Andrew: My thing, Nick, is maybe you start him this weekend at home to get him accustomed, before you go to A&M. That’s a tough environment to play. Again, this is a good Auburn lineup. That’s a really good Texas A&M team too. Outside of Florida, Texas A&M might be the hottest team in the country. I want to say they were eight out of nine or something like that lately, and then they lost a game. I think it was to Arkansas. It’s a question I think you have to have.
To talk about VELO for a second. That’s a million dollar question right now with Matt Harvey of the Mets. I was reading an interview they had with him. They were talking, and they said he’s just focused on now trying to get his VELO up that now he overthrows. Maybe that’s a question for Dyson. Maybe he’s trying to get his VELO up, so he’s overthrowing. You and I both know when you overthrow nothing good happens in baseball. Maybe that’s a question.
One thing that is not a question, Nick, is the lineup. I think I told you at the beginning of the year, 1-9 is difficult to pitch.
Nick: That’s the biggest difference with this Florida baseball team is how long the lineup is. You’re looking at guys like Blake Reese, he’s hitting .330 on in the year. He’s come down to just under .300. The lineup 1-9, there’s really no easy out. You’re starting to see freshman Brady Smith, he’s getting more play. I think he’s hitting better than Keenan Bell right now. Seeing him play at first base a little bit more.
You can’t say enough about Will Dalton, who’s only a sophomore, and what he’s brought to the lineup. He leads in the SEC with 45 RBIs. Leads the SEC with 15 homeruns. He’s hitting, I think he had five hits. He was only 5 for 19 last week, but three homeruns and a triple in five hits. We kind of joked that 60% of Will Dalton’s hit this year have been for extra bases, which is crazy. Had a huge week last week. Had nine RBIs in the two wins against Kentucky with two homeruns. He had 10 RBIs in the week total. He’s been fantastic.
Austin Langworthy hit .357 last week. It’s just up and down the lineup guys are hitting. JJ Schwarz, you saw him an opposite field homerun. I know it’s a 310 porch down there in right field at Kentucky, but we’ve said it for four years now with JJ. When he is hitting best, it’s when he’s letting the ball travel. Let the ball get deep, and hitting the ball with authority the other way. You’re starting to see him get back to that this season. Red hot. Then you started to see him pop up, that little pop up to short, or that little pop up to second base. Even a high pop up to medium center field. You’re saying, he’s trying to pull off on the ball. He’s trying to pull everything, and he’s getting back to that letting the ball travel.
There’s just nowhere to turn in the lineup. One, you’re start Liput. Maldonado is not hitting as great as he did last year this season. Liput, Maldonado, India, who’s probably hitting better than anyone in the country. Then after him it’s Dalton and Schwarz. That five is ridiculous. Then Langworthy, who hit .357 last weekend at six. Smith at seven. Then you got Reese and Horvath. There’s just no easy out.
I remember my first couple years we would joke about Florida had like a black hole. If the inning started, if the fifth batter or the sixth batter made an out, let’s say in the third inning, just chalk the fourth up as a loss, because seven, eight, nine or six, seven, eight weren’t going to get you anything going. You can’t say that about this lineup.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s the thing. That’s the progress of this team. They’re so deep. You talk about JJ. Now with the way baseball is, and it’s very big on the whole numbers and the shifts, where the hole is in the batter’s swing. You better be able to hit to all parts of the field. You better be able to hit all pitches, and you better be able to cover all parts of the plate. If not, they’re going to focus on that part of the plate, and they’re going to throw you nothing but that. They’re going to throw you sliders away if you can’t hit a slider away. You can’t hit a fastball inside, they’re going to pound you with fastballs inside. The Saber metrics of baseball is just there. I think that’s what has made JJ rise up a little bit. You’re not seeing as many swing and misses from JJ as there is.
The guy you didn’t even talk about is Jonathan India. Holy cow, we were just talking off the air. He’s rose to a potential first round draft pick. Had you told me at the beginning of the year he was a first round draft pick, I would have told you you were crazy.
Nick: He’s a guy who was probably fourth to sixth round, which is nothing to sneeze at. Fourth to sixth round pick before the year. Now being talked about as potentially the first college position player taken in the draft. He’s hitting .420. I’ll give you the stats he leads the Gators in. Average, .420. Runs, 46. Hits, 57. Leads in triples with three. Second in homeruns, only to Dalton’s crazy ridiculous 15. Leads in total bases with 110. Leads in slugging, .840. If the season ended today, Jonathan India would have the highest slugger percentage in a single season in Florida Gator history. Talking about guys, Preston Tucker, Brad Wilkerson, Zunino. Also leads the team in 34 walks.
Going back to what you just said, the Scouting Report and the metrics in baseball now are in such a way, and they’re so detailed. Jonathan India can’t hit this pitch. So what are you going to give him? I’m going to give him a steady diet of exactly that. It might be the book on JJ Schwarz is he’s going to chase out of the zone. You’re going to try to get him to chase out of the zone.
Jonathan India, that mature approach that he’s taking, I think where you really see it is those 34 walks. You saw it on Saturday night, or on Thursday, when the streak ended. You saw it. He’s in his last at bat. It’s the ninth inning. He’s 0-3, and he knows this is my last chance to extend the streak. We talked to him after the game. He knew the streak, knew that at bat. It’s 3-0. He had gotten three breaking balls. He gets a fastball that’s not a good pitch to hit. It’s knee high, on the black, on the outside. He takes it. If that’s me, I’m swinging so far away from the ball, just so I can get another pitch. Here’s a strike. Here’s a strike. Just give me another pitch to hit, because I’m trying to get this streak. He takes it. Next pitch is a ball in the dirt. Eats it. Takes his base.
Knowing very well that it’s not a good pitch to hit. I’m going to hurt my team, even though we’re winning. I’m going to hurt my team by swinging at that. That mature approach that he’s had, and you see it with the walks, 34. He’s also gotten hit by eight pitches, which gives him a ridiculous on base percentage of .551.
Andrew: Yeah. Not too bad. Florida goes into the weekend with a four-game lead in the SEC in baseball, and they go into softball two series left. They also have a lead. They have a two-game lead in the SEC over Georgia, who lost their #1 pitcher for the year, so that kind of hurts them a little bit.
Nick: The crazy one with baseball is they have a three-game lead over the entire SEC, not just the East.
Andrew: In softball, they just do one SEC. They don’t split it up. Florida has a two-game lead in the SEC, with just two series to go. They get Florida State this week at home, as they try to split the Sunshine Series with Florida State, as they drop the game on the road to Florida State earlier this year. Then they go to LSU for the weekend. LSU is 9-8 on the year, nothing to sneeze about. 35-11 overall. Nothing to sneeze about, but Florida has done well against LSU.
It’s a Florida team, like I said, in softball, who’s inconsistent at times at the plate. Barnhill is still Barnhill. Ocasio is a little inconsistent at that second spot in the rotation. She’s either really good, or she gives up more contact. So, it’s one of those things where it’s either really bad contact, or they’re hitting the ball hard. Nothing against Ocasio. It’s who she is. She gives up contact. She’s a contact pitcher.
It’s a Florida team that I think are still trying to figure out the identity, but a team that is still 41-7 on the year. While I say they’re inconsistent, they’re still finding a way to win the game. That’s Tim Walton’s game.
Nick: I guess we can have maybe the same conversation that we did with Dyson. Is there a chance where you start sticking with Barnhill, or is that not something you would see Tim Walton doing?
Andrew: He’s trying to throw Natalie Lugo, the freshman, more, and she’s done well. Her and Katie Chronister are still a little bit of a ways away. Again, I think that you still go with Ocasio in that two spot. She really only pitches once a weekend, and Kelly Barnhill has the other two. You don’t want to wear Barnhill out. I do think it becomes a little bit of a question when you get to Oklahoma City, as long as things go well. Maybe you go Barnhill back to back. Maybe, with the days off a little bit more. Walton loves to have a rotation. That’s something he’s big on.
Nick: It’s something we’ve harped on so much.
Andrew: That’s what I was going to say. He’s kind of the guy who led that way of having more of a rotation. Now, a lot of teams have a rotation, but before it was if you have one girl to rely on, that’s who you’re going to go with. Walton kind of got away from that. Again, I think it all goes back to the bats. Florida’s a very patient team, at times too patient. That’s kind of where they got to go. They have two series left in the SEC. They go to LSU. Excuse me, LSU comes to Florida. Then they go to Missouri the following weekend to end the SEC. It’s kind of crazy. They’re going to go to Columbia for the final series of the season, and then they have to go back to Columbia for the SEC Tournament. They’ll probably just stay out there. Kind of weird. Two straight weekends in Columbia.
Nick: I don’t like either Columbia.
Andrew: It might be a little cold up there.
Nick: Yeah. I’m heading to Chicago for a wedding that I’m in, and I’m not looking forward to the cold. Highs of 51, so not great for me.
Andrew: Probably good chance of snow and all that good stuff.
Nick: Let’s not even talk about that.
Andrew: Nick, let’s get out of here. Running out of time. We’ll get out of here.
Nick: Real quick. Baseball hosts Mercer on Tuesday night, and then it’s a Thursday, Friday, Saturday series with Auburn. If you have the opportunity to go to the Thursday night game, it’s at 7:00PM. It’s going to be on ESPNU. Go see Brady Singer and Casey Mize. These will be the first two college pitchers drafted this year. It’ll be a quick one. Don’t worry about the game being long. With these two guys on the mound, it’ll be a quick game. Thursday, Friday, Saturday against Auburn. 7:00PM, 6:30, 6:30, and 6:00PM on Tuesday against Mercer.
Andrew: It should be a good one. That Auburn team is really loaded. My South Alabama Jaguars took them to the tenth, and Auburn hit a three-run homerun to win the game. Yeah. We’ll see. Tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out, and we’ll see everyone on Friday.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can also find it on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe, and have it pushed to your phone every time a new podcast goes live. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Find me and Spivey on Twitter @NickdelaTorreGC, and @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go. Guys, as always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.