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    Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain gives out gum to his daughters, a post game ritual for the family, after losing to the University of Michigan Wolverines / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

The state of the Florida Gators
program heading into bowl season: Podcast

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  • The state of the Florida Gators program heading into bowl season: Podcast
Written by Andrew Spivey, December 16, 2016, 0 Comments,
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Gator Country brings you a new podcast to get you updated on everything Florida Gators football and recruiting heading into the bowl game.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down the news of Geoff Collins leaving Florida for the Temple, plus talk about who can take his spot.

Andrew and Nick also talk about the mood around the program and why the Gators are struggling in recruiting.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, little bit of a break, but we’re alive. We’re back. Let’s go.

Nick:                         Ready to go. Bowl game is inching closer, and crazy to think that the football season only has one game left.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I started thinking about that the other day, but your man over here got excited too, because you know what that means? It is less than 60 days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which means life’s fine for me.

Nick:                         We need to talk about your obsession with the Braves. Probably not in this podcast, but we need to have a talk about that, a serious sit down.

Andrew:                 It’s all good. It’s all good. Definitely fine. When it comes to the end of the season, means the normal. Coaching changes, recruiting gets hot. This, that, and the other. It’s all comes about when championship’s over with. Florida got a taste of it on Tuesday when Geoff Collins leaves to go to Temple. I think you and I can agree, no surprise. We thought Collins was going somewhere. Last year it was UCF last year was the hot one. We had heard that Georgia Tech opened, he was going to go to Georgia Tech possibly. So it was just a lot of things, and I think it was one of those things where Collins was ready to go. Temple came about, and he went.

Nick:                         Listen, Geoff Collins, Dan Mullin calls it a lateral move. Geoff Collins is a smart man. He probably had, as most of Florida’s coaches do, aspirations of being a head coach. “Hey, I’m a defensive coordinator. Shoot. Look what Florida has on defense. I might be able to go in there for a couple years and end up with that head coaching job.”

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think that’s, here’s the deal. A lot of people were criticizing Collins because he played a lot of zone. It didn’t matter what he played. That was good. He ran a good defense, in my opinion.

Nick:                         It was an aggressive defense.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         You play some zone to free up being able to bring an extra guy blitzing, and there’s give and take.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say, and then people were, “Well, they should blitz more.” That kind of stuff. Everyone can be criticized. Hell, people get on Nick Saban all the time because he plays too much man, and you’re going to get beat. That’s just part of the nature of the business. I think that it was a good move for him, for sure, and, you know, everyone’s like, “Well, it has to be Randy Shannon get the job.” No, not necessarily. I do think he probably ends up getting the play calling duties. He didn’t call plays, and we’ve heard that he’s wanted to call plays, so I do think that he probably gets the play calling duty, but it opens up a situation where you can be creative with what you do.

Do you go out and hire a safety coach that Geoff Collins was, or do you go out and hire a guy to help Randy with the linebackers? Do you go find a guy to help Rumph with the defensive line? You can be creative there, because Gray can coach all the positions. He did that at Virginia Tech, just doesn’t do it here. Shannon’s done linebackers by himself. Rumph’s done it. So you can be creative. You can go out and find, in my opinion, the best recruiter who’s also a good coach.

Nick:                         Yeah. Don’t need to speculate, but it might be the only coach you’re replacing. I think you and I…

Andrew:                 I’ll go out and say it. It’s not going to be the only coach.

Nick:                         You and I have both said, you can have one coach who isn’t a great recruiter on staff, if he’s a good coach. You can’t really have more than that.

Andrew:                 Your tight end coach most of the time is your best recruiter, and he might be Florida’s worst recruiter. I’ll say it. I don’t expect, I expect there to be a couple more moves. Now, I don’t expect them to come until after the bowl game. We’ll get into that in a second. This is must win territory for Florida for the reason of you just can’t go back with a three game losing streak to end the year.

Nick:                         No. Asked some of the players about that on Thursday. You can’t. Just from a perception standpoint, and I’m not getting into perception of recruiting and stuff like that. It’s just, the whole fan base has really kind of just turned on Mac and on the coaching staff, and are overreacting about recruiting. Why are you overreacting when Shawn Wade says, “I’m still committed to Ohio State?” Why is there a Florida Gator fan freak out? When Alex Leatherwood says, “I’m still committed,” like nothing changed, so why is it now that the coaching staff sucks? Those guys have been committed to those schools for a long time.

Andrew:                 Here’s the deal. Alex Leatherwood’s not even done with his recruiting process. He’s not. I mean, here’s the thing, and we’ll get off track a little bit here. I wanted to kind of address that. You’ve heard that the coaching staff this and that. Is recruiting bad right now? Yes. I give it to you. Recruiting is not where it should be right. Does Mac realize that? Yes. That’s part of his whole preaching of the process. Recruiting’s got to get better. There is no if, ands, or buts about it. Recruiting has to get better, but there’s not one thing that you can pinpoint here. It’s a give or take. Is there some dead weight on staff? Yes. Is there some things from administration standpoint, from a facilities standpoint? Yes. It all ties together. Is winning pretty with offense in there? Yes. Is beating Florida State in there? Yes. Is beating, or coming close to beating, Alabama a part of that? Yes.

Frustration’s everywhere. Fans are not the only ones frustrated. Does the staff get frustrated? Yes. Does Mac get frustrated? Yes. It’s a frustration standpoint, but it’s a process, and I say that it’s a process in that it wasn’t going to change overnight after the SEC Championship game. It wasn’t going to just blink and it be there. I hate to say it, but you’ve got to give it a little bit more time before you see it. Even if Mac does make changes after the bowl game, you’re not going to see the impact pay off right now. It might be 2018 before you see that pay out. It’s not going to be an instant flip for guys, if that makes sense, Nick.

Nick:                         Yeah. I talked to you about this before is that you’re going to have some turnover, but you keep hitting the reset button on things. We talk about how important, the most important thing in recruiting is relationships. Not Clemson building slides and Alabama having waterfalls, and Oregon having a barber shop. Facilities matter, yeah. It’s not the most important thing. Kids are committing to schools, whether you think it’s a good decision or not, based on the climate of coaching, committing to schools based on relationships they have with a certain coach, or a George Wynn type, someone’s who’s working as player personnel. That’s what it is.

So, now you’re talking about 2018 is really the first time that Mac and the staff was going to be on a level playing field as far as those relationships. First year, not a chance. This year, you’re still behind. Next year, three years in, is when you’re probably on a level playing field. You start getting rid of all these other coaches, and now it’s just like, okay, got to restart these relationships with all the kids that were in that coach’s area.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing. I won’t use that as an excuse. Is it an excuse? Yes, but at some point or another it’s about going in and beating someone for that person. I think that is one of the biggest things of why it is with coaching changes. After Leatherwood signs I’ll make a statement about something. It’s not bad or anything like that, but I’ll make a statement after everything is done and he’s signed and in school. I’ll make a statement. Nick, you can remind me of that. It’s a situation of some of these coaches have got to get better with that relationship building. You see guys like Tim Skipper that it hasn’t held him back. You see guys like Randy Shannon. It hasn’t held him back. Now, granted, he has boocoodles of experience there. You see Rumph it started to pay off.

So, it’s not that so much in relationships. I think it’s a little bit of an excuse. It is an excuse, and it is a good excuse, but it’s a little blown out of proportion. Things have to get better. Mac knows that. Everyone knows that. It’s just it’s not a reflection exactly on Mac. Mac didn’t just forget how to recruit. He’s got to surround himself better with recruiters.

Nick:                         Does that fall on him though?

Andrew:                 Yeah, but what I’m saying is it’s not that it’s a Mac thing that kids don’t want to play for Mac, more so than it is they’ve got to get better with surrounding themselves with people. It’s a situation, and I say this all the time, but how does Mike Summers go into a kid’s home and relate to him? I’m 29 years old, Nick. You’re 29 years old, or 27 years old, 28 years old. Summers can’t relate to you and me, more less to an 18 year old kid. I couldn’t sit down and have a conversation with Mike Summers. How are we expecting Alex Leatherwood or Kai-Leon Herbert, guys that are young guys that are way more hip than us, to relate to Mike Summers?

Nick:                         Yeah, that’s part of it. That’s part of it. You can say that about coaches everywhere, but there’s older coaches really everywhere, across the country, that do it. You know what I mean? That can do it, are doing it. So, I don’t know if Mike Summers has been a great recruiter, but every player we talk to that has played for him loves the guy.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing.

Nick:                         I think he’s getting a lot out of what he has.

Andrew:                 I say this all the time. A great coach is only as good as his players, and would Nick Saban go win national championships at Charleston Southern? Probably not. He wins championships at Alabama in large part due to his players. That’s what it is. You can talk about, well, the players like him, this, that, and the other. They do, but we’ve also had people tell us that the players don’t respect the guy.

Nick:                         Summers?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         I think they respect him.

Andrew:                 You know what I’m talking about. You know the conversation that I’m talking about, and we can’t say it, and we won’t say it on air, but you know the conversation that we were talking about, and so that’s that. Let’s go back to the bowl game. It’s big. It’s big for Florida. We talk about that momentum. Like you said, right now it is just so doom around. It’s like a huge black cloud of just negativity around Florida, and I think that the only way to get rid of that is to really win the bowl game. Not to say that that’s going to make a lot of people happy, but at least it is a win.

Nick:                         It’s almost like if Florida wins I think the reaction is, “Oh, you beat Iowa. Good job.” If you lose it’s, “Fire everyone. Burn the program down. Blow up the buildings. Just close down school. Close down the campus.”

Andrew:                 They’re in a no-win situation.

Nick:                         To me it almost is that, but that’s just like where fans are right now. Donovan Peoples-Jones is going to commit to Michigan tonight. We’re taping this on Thursday, and people are going to freak out that he didn’t come to Florida. It’s like, that was a pipe dream. It’s just like the thing you said, it’s just the mood is just this depressed mood. Not even depressed, depressed and angry. It’s just like, I get that you’re a fan, and that you want things to be going better. The answer’s not to fire everyone.

Florida needs to beat Iowa, because you can’t afford to have this season end the way it did last year. You can’t afford to have another blowout loss to Florida State, a blowout loss to Alabama, and then another loss to a Big Ten team, whether the perception of the Big Ten isn’t on par with the SEC is correct or not, this year it might not be. That’s the perception, and you’re not going to beat that perception by losing.

Andrew:                 No, I agree. I always say this, and I mean, you look at Nick Saban’s record in bowl games that aren’t national championships, and it’s not what you would think it would be. He has a hard time getting his guys prepared, I mean, not prepared, but up for the game. I do, I think it’s one of those things where you have to, guys that are going to the NFL are checking out. They just are. What are they playing for? I mean, I know Mac says, “Well, they’re playing for film,” and this, that, and the other. Sure, but it didn’t hurt Vernon Hargreaves, and it didn’t hurt a lot of guys. So, it’s tough. It’s very tough to get your guys up for a game that is basically, I mean, okay, cool, you might get a nice little ring for winning the Outback Bowl, but who gives a damn? That’s like a participation ribbon.

Nick:                         I mean, you don’t care about winning the Outback Bowl. I would like the Gators to win the Outback Bowl, because that means I get a free blooming onion. I’m not really down with coconut shrimp, so I’ve got to get a free blooming onion than free coconut shrimp. I also heard, hello. Remember how you and I both bellyached, bitched and moaned, about no bowl gifts and stuff like this?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         We’re getting some good food in the press box, from what I’ve heard. First off, the Outback Bowl is the longest running name sponsored bowl, and they kind of have their way of things going, but we’re going to be eating Outback in the press box.

Andrew:                 Do we get a bowl gift?

Nick:                         We get steak at halftime.

Andrew:                 I don’t care about that. I want a bowl gift.

Nick:                         Maybe. We’ll see.

Andrew:                 I’d be nice.

Nick:                         Like you said, winning the Outback Bowl, cool, man. The trophy looks cool. No one really cares about the trophy. It’s just you can’t end last season in the same way. It leaves you with a feeling that there’s no progress, that, okay, you won the SEC East title again. So now you’re happy with going and getting your ass kicked by Alabama in the SEC Championship, and once you clinch the SEC East you just let your team check out.

That’s what they said last year. Last year they said, and players said, “I think we checked out after the SEC Championship.” Don’t give me that excuse again if you lose to Iowa, because now that’s a coaching problem, and now that’s on you. So, don’t give me, “I think guys treated this as a vacation.” Well, Coach, that’s on you. You’ve let your guys treat it as a vacation two years in a row. So that’s where I would say, does it matter if you win the Outback Bowl? No. No one cares if you’re Outback Bowl champions. You have to change the narrative that started last year.

Andrew:                 Right. It is. It is a recruiting standpoint as well. You can say, one game, but it’s a standpoint. You’ve got to find a way to get some momentum. I’ve said this in some mailbags and some different things like that, and that is that Florida needs just one positive thing to go their way to get a little momentum going that way. Maybe that’s the bowl game. Maybe. It just it is that thing, and I thought that LSU game was going to be it, but then you get your ass kicked two straight weeks, and it’s like all that momentum was gone. I’ll never say you shouldn’t go to the SEC Championship game. That’s stupid to say that, but it did hurt a little bit that you went in there and got crushed after you had a good win against LSU, which to be fair it’s a thing where you shouldn’t have gotten crushed by Florida State.

I do, I will say this. I don’t think it’s a coaching standpoint of getting the guys ready. I do think there’s some older guys that have checked out. I mean, Nick, how many weeks did you and I talk about when we said, “The game will be determined by how the guys come out.”

Nick:                         Yeah. For a while.

Andrew:                 That should never be a question. Should never, ever be a question.

Nick:                         It seems to be a reoccurring question with this team.

Andrew:                 Every week. Every week it was like, I’ll let you know how this team’s going to be when they walk out of the tunnel. It’s so stupid, because, I mean, you and I were talking about it, and we had people laughing at us at the LSU game, because we were like, “Florida’s going to win this game because of the way they came out.” They did, but that’s a player thing, and so I’m not going to judge the bowl game, I’m not going to blame Mac for how the players come out, because I do think it’s leadership in some older guys that just, quite frankly, don’t give a shit anymore, and so I’m not going to judge that, but I mean, Lord. How do you not come out to play Florida State? How do you not come out to play that game? It’s your arch rival.

Nick:                         Yeah. I forget which player it was that said, “They just wanted it more.” How does that happen?

Andrew:                 How does that happen? Alabama would never just say, “Well, Auburn wanted it more.” What? No. I don’t think so. Can you imagine the Yankees saying, “The Red Sox just wanted it more”?

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 They just wanted it more. How does your arch rival just want the game more?

Nick:                         You can’t. It’s something you can’t ever allow to happen. Maybe that’s just their poor excuse. They don’t want to say what’s really happening. You know what I mean? They don’t want to say what’s really happening or what they really feel, and they think that’s a good excuse. You’d almost rather it be an excuse than be the truth, right?

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. It’s a thing, and I’ll say this. Someone bashed me on Twitter, because I said some of the older guys had checked out, and they were like, “You’re talking about that Teez Tabor and these guys.” I’m not calling any names. I don’t call any names when I do that, because it’s not fair to anyone. They were saying, “You’re talking about this person.” No, I’m not. You don’t know who I’m talking about. You have no damn clue who I’m talking about. There is older guys that have checked out. Some of the Muschamp guys that have no loyalty to Mac have checked out, and we’ll see how they respond after the bowl game. We really will. I mean, it just is a different feeling. How do you get up for basically a scrimmage game? That’s basically what it is. It doesn’t mean anything. 2017 is not determined by this. Nothing’s determined by this.

Nick:                         I think we differ on that, because I think, but I am saying I think it is a coaching problem if you’re continuing not to come out like that, but I am, and I have been the one to say, even sometimes before you, at some point you got to blame the players, and it’s not the coach. At some point it’s execution. At some point, sure, they’re 18-22 year olds, but at some point you have to put the accountability on the players. I almost question when you say senior leadership. If I’m a coach, can I recognize that and say, “Well, if the players aren’t going to do it themselves, then I need to?”

Andrew:                 Yeah. Sure, but someone told me this, and it hit home with me. They said, “Coaching can only do so much as far as motivating guys.” I thought about that for a while, and then it really kind of hit home with me, and that is when Urban was winning games Tim Tebow had the locker room. Those guys were fearful of Tebow. Not in a bad way, but that. Guys like Reuben Foster right now at Alabama. There is guys that are there, and it’s a leadership standpoint, and Jarrad Davis is that leader, but he’s a quiet leader. It just has got to be fixed from within the program. It starts this off season with the younger guys. I do feel like this is a good group of young guys that are going to take it over. I’m interested to see how a guy like Chauncey Gardner does, even a guy like Scarlett. Those guys that are those leaders that do that, and it all starts in this bowl game. Maybe those are the guys that get the young guys to group together and win the bowl game.

Nick:                         Yeah. You need someone, and it might have to be those sophomores, because you’re looking at a lot of these guys, if you’re looking at a lot of these guys that are going into junior, or juniors, they’ve got decisions to make. It might be time for someone. I don’t think a lot of the juniors that have decisions to make will be coming back, so I think if you’re a sophomore, time to step up. Time to realize it’s my time. Sure, these guys are still here, but they’re not going to be next year, and my time to be a leader needs to start now. Maybe I’m even late to the party, my time to be a leader should have started three weeks ago, four weeks ago, but it didn’t, and let me make up for that by starting now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think that that’s very, I think that’s an interesting point that we just kind of hit on is that this is a time for those young guys to really bond together and make that, make something for the off season. It’ll be interesting to see. One news is Appleby starting at quarterback. I think it’s the right decision. Got to win this bowl game, like we say. I think it’s the right decision. What do you say?

Nick:                         I don’t, and/or wouldn’t, have minded playing a freshman. I don’t fall into that, you’re burning the redshirt for a game that doesn’t mean anything.

Andrew:                 I don’t mean that either. I didn’t mean that as in burning the redshirt. I mean in simply that it’s tough to start a freshman against an Iowa defense that’s pretty good. We’re talking about this game means a lot. Do you kind of go with what you know?

Nick:                         Yeah. I get, so I get both sides to it.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I get you need to win the game, go with the guy you know. I also get, the guy you know is not going to be here next year, so why not get a start on next year, because you’re playing in this game, as far as being in the Outback Bowl. To me, I can make an argument for both. Hey, yeah, you need to win this game. From a perception standpoint, you can’t end the season the way you ended it last year. Austin Appleby’s probably your best bet to do that currently.

You also need to focus on next year. You got to figure out who’s going to be your go to guy next year, and it’s not Austin Appleby. He’s gone. It’s probably not Luke Del Rio, whether he stays or goes. He’ll graduate in December, this week or next week, so he can be a graduate transfer somewhere else. I think it’s going to be one of the two freshmen this year, so one of the two redshirt freshmen. See what you have. Talking about being able to have these bowl practices, running with the ones, being able to go into spring practice with a better idea of what you have from those guys. I think that’s important too. So, I think you can make an argument either way, and I’m not sure which one is the right decision to make, after making both arguments.

Andrew:                 Right. I mean, what you said is accurate in that I don’t know if there’s a right decision or a wrong decision. If Franks goes out and tears it up, it’s a great decision. If he goes out there and sucks, guess what? You lost the bowl game, and your team now are going into next season thinking, “Oh, shit, look what we got at quarterback.” The poor guy’s confidence is gone. It’s a double whammy almost in that you hope Appleby just comes out and tears it up, and does things. If something was to happen to Appleby, I don’t see any way you put Del Rio in. I think you burn the redshirt off of Franks and go there.

Nick, let’s turn the table a little bit. You got to go on Thursday to the new O Dome renovations. Tell us a little bit about what you were able to see during that, and what’s your opinion on things?

Nick:                         Well, they didn’t have the basketball court set up, because Florida has their commencement ceremony going on, I think Friday. I think Friday’s the first one, and it’ll go on all weekend and into next week. So they had the stage and all that set up, but it is, the outside looks beautiful. That new grand entrance, and you walk into the grand entrance, and right away there’s this gigantic gator head, which was a funny story. The initial picture that the architect, or the planner, put in they had actually mistakenly put a crocodile head, and luckily someone picked up that it was a crocodile, not a gator. So they fixed that before actually putting the painting in, but there’s a huge gator head.

Everything just looks nice and new, and when you used to walk into the O Dome it was kind of just like you didn’t see much. It was just like concrete until you walked through an orange door to get into the actual arena, and then once you were in the arena it was fine. It wasn’t great. The environment was rarely ever filled up at the top. You didn’t really have great video boards as far as for replays, stuff like that. Now you walk in and immediately everything is nice. There’s easy to find concessions, merchandise. Easy to navigate around, and then when you walk in there’s this, I think it was a $4 million board that has four sides to it. It’s going to sit over the middle of the court. Additionally, four more screens in each corner. To me, that’s a big thing. No matter where you’re sitting to be able to see replays, to be able to watch something on the video board. That’s a huge thing.

The biggest thing, which might get overlooked, or maybe has been overlooked, they put wi-fi receptors, wi-fi antennas, all throughout the stadium, all throughout the arena. To me, that’s the biggest deal, because you’re looking at a fan experience. I talk about coming in, and everything is nice and new, and it’s easy to navigate. That’s important. Then you look at the video boards. That helps fan experience. Then, lastly, fan experience from the aspect of I can still have my phone. I can jump on wi-fi, and it’s going to be reliable, and I can text my friends. I can put pictures on Twitter or Snapchat, on Instagram, on social media. I can do things that I’d be able to do if I was at home watching the game.

I think that’s what you’re trying to combat. You’re trying to combat how do we get people to come out and play, or to watch teams play live, versus watching it from the comfort of their home in their underwear on the coach on TV. You’re trying to mimic as much of that at home as you can in the stadium. I think you’re doing that with the wi-fi and the easy to find concession, stuff like that.

The club section too, that’s going to cost you a pretty penny, but the club section was beautiful as far as having an area where you can go and have, they’re going to have food catered. I think that comes with the seat, so food catered, and I believe alcohol at the basketball games.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Then you have an area to walk into your seats that run baseline to baseline almost. It’s just a really nice seat.

Andrew:                 Let me ask you this.

Nick:                         In Florida style, real quick, nothing is outlandish, but everything is done nicely.

Andrew:                 How did the student section change? Is it still going to be the on top?

Nick:                         The student section, something that they had to, the building is the University of Florida’s, not the University Athletic Association, despite the University Athletic Association footing most of the bill, raising most of the money. So, when they’re dealing with making plans they’ve now changed, the student section used to be bleachers, and those guys would just stand on top of the bleachers. Now everything is chair back. So, there could be some concern about, well what are you doing, is that going to take away from the rowdies? Is that going to take away from them being able to stand up and get loud and make noise, stomp their feet? You don’t really have that much room. You have less room to move when you’re looking at…

Andrew:                 Are they still close to the court though?

Nick:                         They’re still close to the court, but I think they changed, I could be wrong on this. I’m waiting for confirmation as we tape this, but I think they changed the side that the TV cameras will be on.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         So that the rowdies won’t be behind the camera anymore, which is another thing that I think is kind of like, I don’t know if I like that. The staple, the pinnacle are probably the camera crazies, and they’re right up there.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         The camera crazies are right up on top of the court, and they’re nuts, and you see that and think, that’d be really cool. Florida’s a little bit higher up. The crazies were behind press row, or the rowdies were behind press row, so I don’t know. I’ll have to wait and get confirmation, and we’ll talk about that on our Monday podcast.

Andrew:                 Got you. As far as the changes go, in your opinion, thumbs up for everything looking good, or is it one of those Florida didn’t spend enough money?

Nick:                         I mean, you spent $45-$60 million, however much you spend on it.

Andrew:                 Did they go cheap?

Nick:                         I don’t think they went cheap. It’s just, the people at Florida that are making decisions aren’t ever going to put a slide in something.

Andrew:                 They’re never going to put a gold toilet.

Nick:                         Yeah. There’s no gold toilet, but it’s just like, it’s very nice. Everything is, it looks like all of the other buildings as far as like the font and the lines and the colors and the way it’s set up. It just looks very Florida. There’s nothing outlandish. I think it’s very nice. I think the biggest is, like what I said, is not gold toilets, but it’s creating a better fan experience, and how long have people been asking for wi-fi, reliable wi-fi, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium? We’re lucky, being in the media. We always have wi-fi. We need it to do our jobs, but there were times where I would come up in undergrad, and I would tell my parents and say, “I’m going to a game. You won’t be able to talk to me from kickoff until two hours after the game’s over. I won’t get any service.”

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I think that might be the biggest thing.

Andrew:                 Okay. I mean, I think that’s a good point.

Nick:                         That’s something that you’re not going to see. That doesn’t look nice, but as far as a functionality thing it’s huge.

Andrew:                 I mean, how many stadiums have we been to this year, and we’ve set there, and we’re like, can we just get a little wi-fi on the field?

Nick:                         Yeah. Most of them.

Andrew:                 That’s what I’m saying. I mean, Florida State’s was the worst, but, yeah. We’ll see. Florida plays the 23rd, that’s their first game there, and I know they’re on a little bit of a losing streak, but think that this team does have a chance to be good, and to get to the tourney. They went off against a wonderful shooting Florida State team the other night. Good grief, they couldn’t miss, and then the Duke and the Gonzaga teams, they’re just better teams right now. I think it also is something to say in that Florida’s been on the road every game, and you think about that, and it’s tough. It’s tough to play away from home and never to have your crowd behind you, never to be able to wake up in your own bed the night before, going through your own routine. It’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back with their home schedule.

Nick:                         That will be a big thing. It’s less than a week away that they’ll be in there, so it’ll be fun to get back in front of the home crowd. That’s something that I think even maybe more so in basketball is a bigger determining factor than even in football or baseball. I think that it is going to really help Florida. Florida played well at home, or has historically played well at home, and I think you’ll see a little uptick in that.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I agree with you there. It’s big. It is big for that. We’ll see there. Alright, Nick, we’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Monday. Maybe have some coaching search stuff. People’s asked if Nick and I are doing our research on it. Nick and I do our research on this stuff all the time, but it’s simply it’s not going to happen until after the bowl game. That’s what we’ve been told, and this is the rare two weeks that not a lot’s going on, so Nick and I try to take it easy as much as we can.

Nick:                         Yeah, we didn’t mention it, but Randy Shannon will be the defensive coordinator for the Outback Bowl, and Mark DeBastiani, he’s the Gators quality control coach.

Andrew:                 DeBas.

Nick:                         Yeah, DeBas, he’ll work with the linebackers throughout the bowl, while Randy takes on more responsibility, because Collins was calling plays. So, now that will be Shannon.

Andrew:                 Yes, and from everything we’ve been told, Randy Shannon will be your linebacker coach next year. That’s just a thing for this game, so don’t read too much into that. Randy’s a guy that likes to coach his linebackers, and is a fantastic linebacker coach. Alright, Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Monday, and it’ll be holiday week next week.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast, when we get into game week for the Outback Bowl we’ll go back to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but we’re in off season mode right now, so it’ll be Mondays and Fridays. Missed it, as I was traveling last week, but subscribe on iTunes, and never miss a podcast. You’ll get a notification. If you don’t have iTunes, if you’re an Android user, it’s on the website in transcript form and audio. On social media, @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 Real quick, Nick, got to say prayers to the Sager family. Craig Sager passed away. Nick, I know you, like myself, grew up watching TNT, TBS, and Craig Sager was one of the few you knew, always the crazy dress styles. So, prayers to his family during a tough time.

Nick:                         Yeah. Prayers to that family. Cancer sucks. Dan Thompson, our buddy, raises money every year for the Jimmy V Foundation, for his birthday, so ever since Dan has made me aware of that I’ve tried to contribute whenever I can. So, if you’re in a position to do that, it’s greatly appreciated. Cancer has affected, I’m sure, if you’re listening to this, in some form or fashion cancer has affected you, your family, or somebody you know.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Since it’s Christmas time, shoot Nick and I your reason as to why. We’ll give one person a free three month subscription to Gator Country. Tweet Nick and I together the reason why you should do that, why we should do that, and Nick and I will pick a random winner. Sound good, Nick?

Nick:                         Sounds good.

Andrew:                 If you mention the Braves or something in there, chances are you may get picked.

Nick:                         We’re going to have to agree on that, so don’t mention the Braves.

Andrew:                 Or Butch Jones. We can always agree on the brick by brick. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves. We’ll see you guys soon.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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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Gator Country brings you a new podcast to get you updated on everything Florida Gators football and recruiting heading into the bowl game.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down the news of Geoff Collins leaving Florida for the Temple, plus talk about who can take his spot.

Andrew and Nick also talk about the mood around the program and why the Gators are struggling in recruiting.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, little bit of a break, but we’re alive. We’re back. Let’s go.

Nick:                         Ready to go. Bowl game is inching closer, and crazy to think that the football season only has one game left.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I started thinking about that the other day, but your man over here got excited too, because you know what that means? It is less than 60 days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which means life’s fine for me.

Nick:                         We need to talk about your obsession with the Braves. Probably not in this podcast, but we need to have a talk about that, a serious sit down.

Andrew:                 It’s all good. It’s all good. Definitely fine. When it comes to the end of the season, means the normal. Coaching changes, recruiting gets hot. This, that, and the other. It’s all comes about when championship’s over with. Florida got a taste of it on Tuesday when Geoff Collins leaves to go to Temple. I think you and I can agree, no surprise. We thought Collins was going somewhere. Last year it was UCF last year was the hot one. We had heard that Georgia Tech opened, he was going to go to Georgia Tech possibly. So it was just a lot of things, and I think it was one of those things where Collins was ready to go. Temple came about, and he went.

Nick:                         Listen, Geoff Collins, Dan Mullin calls it a lateral move. Geoff Collins is a smart man. He probably had, as most of Florida’s coaches do, aspirations of being a head coach. “Hey, I’m a defensive coordinator. Shoot. Look what Florida has on defense. I might be able to go in there for a couple years and end up with that head coaching job.”

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think that’s, here’s the deal. A lot of people were criticizing Collins because he played a lot of zone. It didn’t matter what he played. That was good. He ran a good defense, in my opinion.

Nick:                         It was an aggressive defense.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         You play some zone to free up being able to bring an extra guy blitzing, and there’s give and take.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say, and then people were, “Well, they should blitz more.” That kind of stuff. Everyone can be criticized. Hell, people get on Nick Saban all the time because he plays too much man, and you’re going to get beat. That’s just part of the nature of the business. I think that it was a good move for him, for sure, and, you know, everyone’s like, “Well, it has to be Randy Shannon get the job.” No, not necessarily. I do think he probably ends up getting the play calling duties. He didn’t call plays, and we’ve heard that he’s wanted to call plays, so I do think that he probably gets the play calling duty, but it opens up a situation where you can be creative with what you do.

Do you go out and hire a safety coach that Geoff Collins was, or do you go out and hire a guy to help Randy with the linebackers? Do you go find a guy to help Rumph with the defensive line? You can be creative there, because Gray can coach all the positions. He did that at Virginia Tech, just doesn’t do it here. Shannon’s done linebackers by himself. Rumph’s done it. So you can be creative. You can go out and find, in my opinion, the best recruiter who’s also a good coach.

Nick:                         Yeah. Don’t need to speculate, but it might be the only coach you’re replacing. I think you and I…

Andrew:                 I’ll go out and say it. It’s not going to be the only coach.

Nick:                         You and I have both said, you can have one coach who isn’t a great recruiter on staff, if he’s a good coach. You can’t really have more than that.

Andrew:                 Your tight end coach most of the time is your best recruiter, and he might be Florida’s worst recruiter. I’ll say it. I don’t expect, I expect there to be a couple more moves. Now, I don’t expect them to come until after the bowl game. We’ll get into that in a second. This is must win territory for Florida for the reason of you just can’t go back with a three game losing streak to end the year.

Nick:                         No. Asked some of the players about that on Thursday. You can’t. Just from a perception standpoint, and I’m not getting into perception of recruiting and stuff like that. It’s just, the whole fan base has really kind of just turned on Mac and on the coaching staff, and are overreacting about recruiting. Why are you overreacting when Shawn Wade says, “I’m still committed to Ohio State?” Why is there a Florida Gator fan freak out? When Alex Leatherwood says, “I’m still committed,” like nothing changed, so why is it now that the coaching staff sucks? Those guys have been committed to those schools for a long time.

Andrew:                 Here’s the deal. Alex Leatherwood’s not even done with his recruiting process. He’s not. I mean, here’s the thing, and we’ll get off track a little bit here. I wanted to kind of address that. You’ve heard that the coaching staff this and that. Is recruiting bad right now? Yes. I give it to you. Recruiting is not where it should be right. Does Mac realize that? Yes. That’s part of his whole preaching of the process. Recruiting’s got to get better. There is no if, ands, or buts about it. Recruiting has to get better, but there’s not one thing that you can pinpoint here. It’s a give or take. Is there some dead weight on staff? Yes. Is there some things from administration standpoint, from a facilities standpoint? Yes. It all ties together. Is winning pretty with offense in there? Yes. Is beating Florida State in there? Yes. Is beating, or coming close to beating, Alabama a part of that? Yes.

Frustration’s everywhere. Fans are not the only ones frustrated. Does the staff get frustrated? Yes. Does Mac get frustrated? Yes. It’s a frustration standpoint, but it’s a process, and I say that it’s a process in that it wasn’t going to change overnight after the SEC Championship game. It wasn’t going to just blink and it be there. I hate to say it, but you’ve got to give it a little bit more time before you see it. Even if Mac does make changes after the bowl game, you’re not going to see the impact pay off right now. It might be 2018 before you see that pay out. It’s not going to be an instant flip for guys, if that makes sense, Nick.

Nick:                         Yeah. I talked to you about this before is that you’re going to have some turnover, but you keep hitting the reset button on things. We talk about how important, the most important thing in recruiting is relationships. Not Clemson building slides and Alabama having waterfalls, and Oregon having a barber shop. Facilities matter, yeah. It’s not the most important thing. Kids are committing to schools, whether you think it’s a good decision or not, based on the climate of coaching, committing to schools based on relationships they have with a certain coach, or a George Wynn type, someone’s who’s working as player personnel. That’s what it is.

So, now you’re talking about 2018 is really the first time that Mac and the staff was going to be on a level playing field as far as those relationships. First year, not a chance. This year, you’re still behind. Next year, three years in, is when you’re probably on a level playing field. You start getting rid of all these other coaches, and now it’s just like, okay, got to restart these relationships with all the kids that were in that coach’s area.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing. I won’t use that as an excuse. Is it an excuse? Yes, but at some point or another it’s about going in and beating someone for that person. I think that is one of the biggest things of why it is with coaching changes. After Leatherwood signs I’ll make a statement about something. It’s not bad or anything like that, but I’ll make a statement after everything is done and he’s signed and in school. I’ll make a statement. Nick, you can remind me of that. It’s a situation of some of these coaches have got to get better with that relationship building. You see guys like Tim Skipper that it hasn’t held him back. You see guys like Randy Shannon. It hasn’t held him back. Now, granted, he has boocoodles of experience there. You see Rumph it started to pay off.

So, it’s not that so much in relationships. I think it’s a little bit of an excuse. It is an excuse, and it is a good excuse, but it’s a little blown out of proportion. Things have to get better. Mac knows that. Everyone knows that. It’s just it’s not a reflection exactly on Mac. Mac didn’t just forget how to recruit. He’s got to surround himself better with recruiters.

Nick:                         Does that fall on him though?

Andrew:                 Yeah, but what I’m saying is it’s not that it’s a Mac thing that kids don’t want to play for Mac, more so than it is they’ve got to get better with surrounding themselves with people. It’s a situation, and I say this all the time, but how does Mike Summers go into a kid’s home and relate to him? I’m 29 years old, Nick. You’re 29 years old, or 27 years old, 28 years old. Summers can’t relate to you and me, more less to an 18 year old kid. I couldn’t sit down and have a conversation with Mike Summers. How are we expecting Alex Leatherwood or Kai-Leon Herbert, guys that are young guys that are way more hip than us, to relate to Mike Summers?

Nick:                         Yeah, that’s part of it. That’s part of it. You can say that about coaches everywhere, but there’s older coaches really everywhere, across the country, that do it. You know what I mean? That can do it, are doing it. So, I don’t know if Mike Summers has been a great recruiter, but every player we talk to that has played for him loves the guy.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing.

Nick:                         I think he’s getting a lot out of what he has.

Andrew:                 I say this all the time. A great coach is only as good as his players, and would Nick Saban go win national championships at Charleston Southern? Probably not. He wins championships at Alabama in large part due to his players. That’s what it is. You can talk about, well, the players like him, this, that, and the other. They do, but we’ve also had people tell us that the players don’t respect the guy.

Nick:                         Summers?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         I think they respect him.

Andrew:                 You know what I’m talking about. You know the conversation that I’m talking about, and we can’t say it, and we won’t say it on air, but you know the conversation that we were talking about, and so that’s that. Let’s go back to the bowl game. It’s big. It’s big for Florida. We talk about that momentum. Like you said, right now it is just so doom around. It’s like a huge black cloud of just negativity around Florida, and I think that the only way to get rid of that is to really win the bowl game. Not to say that that’s going to make a lot of people happy, but at least it is a win.

Nick:                         It’s almost like if Florida wins I think the reaction is, “Oh, you beat Iowa. Good job.” If you lose it’s, “Fire everyone. Burn the program down. Blow up the buildings. Just close down school. Close down the campus.”

Andrew:                 They’re in a no-win situation.

Nick:                         To me it almost is that, but that’s just like where fans are right now. Donovan Peoples-Jones is going to commit to Michigan tonight. We’re taping this on Thursday, and people are going to freak out that he didn’t come to Florida. It’s like, that was a pipe dream. It’s just like the thing you said, it’s just the mood is just this depressed mood. Not even depressed, depressed and angry. It’s just like, I get that you’re a fan, and that you want things to be going better. The answer’s not to fire everyone.

Florida needs to beat Iowa, because you can’t afford to have this season end the way it did last year. You can’t afford to have another blowout loss to Florida State, a blowout loss to Alabama, and then another loss to a Big Ten team, whether the perception of the Big Ten isn’t on par with the SEC is correct or not, this year it might not be. That’s the perception, and you’re not going to beat that perception by losing.

Andrew:                 No, I agree. I always say this, and I mean, you look at Nick Saban’s record in bowl games that aren’t national championships, and it’s not what you would think it would be. He has a hard time getting his guys prepared, I mean, not prepared, but up for the game. I do, I think it’s one of those things where you have to, guys that are going to the NFL are checking out. They just are. What are they playing for? I mean, I know Mac says, “Well, they’re playing for film,” and this, that, and the other. Sure, but it didn’t hurt Vernon Hargreaves, and it didn’t hurt a lot of guys. So, it’s tough. It’s very tough to get your guys up for a game that is basically, I mean, okay, cool, you might get a nice little ring for winning the Outback Bowl, but who gives a damn? That’s like a participation ribbon.

Nick:                         I mean, you don’t care about winning the Outback Bowl. I would like the Gators to win the Outback Bowl, because that means I get a free blooming onion. I’m not really down with coconut shrimp, so I’ve got to get a free blooming onion than free coconut shrimp. I also heard, hello. Remember how you and I both bellyached, bitched and moaned, about no bowl gifts and stuff like this?

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         We’re getting some good food in the press box, from what I’ve heard. First off, the Outback Bowl is the longest running name sponsored bowl, and they kind of have their way of things going, but we’re going to be eating Outback in the press box.

Andrew:                 Do we get a bowl gift?

Nick:                         We get steak at halftime.

Andrew:                 I don’t care about that. I want a bowl gift.

Nick:                         Maybe. We’ll see.

Andrew:                 I’d be nice.

Nick:                         Like you said, winning the Outback Bowl, cool, man. The trophy looks cool. No one really cares about the trophy. It’s just you can’t end last season in the same way. It leaves you with a feeling that there’s no progress, that, okay, you won the SEC East title again. So now you’re happy with going and getting your ass kicked by Alabama in the SEC Championship, and once you clinch the SEC East you just let your team check out.

That’s what they said last year. Last year they said, and players said, “I think we checked out after the SEC Championship.” Don’t give me that excuse again if you lose to Iowa, because now that’s a coaching problem, and now that’s on you. So, don’t give me, “I think guys treated this as a vacation.” Well, Coach, that’s on you. You’ve let your guys treat it as a vacation two years in a row. So that’s where I would say, does it matter if you win the Outback Bowl? No. No one cares if you’re Outback Bowl champions. You have to change the narrative that started last year.

Andrew:                 Right. It is. It is a recruiting standpoint as well. You can say, one game, but it’s a standpoint. You’ve got to find a way to get some momentum. I’ve said this in some mailbags and some different things like that, and that is that Florida needs just one positive thing to go their way to get a little momentum going that way. Maybe that’s the bowl game. Maybe. It just it is that thing, and I thought that LSU game was going to be it, but then you get your ass kicked two straight weeks, and it’s like all that momentum was gone. I’ll never say you shouldn’t go to the SEC Championship game. That’s stupid to say that, but it did hurt a little bit that you went in there and got crushed after you had a good win against LSU, which to be fair it’s a thing where you shouldn’t have gotten crushed by Florida State.

I do, I will say this. I don’t think it’s a coaching standpoint of getting the guys ready. I do think there’s some older guys that have checked out. I mean, Nick, how many weeks did you and I talk about when we said, “The game will be determined by how the guys come out.”

Nick:                         Yeah. For a while.

Andrew:                 That should never be a question. Should never, ever be a question.

Nick:                         It seems to be a reoccurring question with this team.

Andrew:                 Every week. Every week it was like, I’ll let you know how this team’s going to be when they walk out of the tunnel. It’s so stupid, because, I mean, you and I were talking about it, and we had people laughing at us at the LSU game, because we were like, “Florida’s going to win this game because of the way they came out.” They did, but that’s a player thing, and so I’m not going to judge the bowl game, I’m not going to blame Mac for how the players come out, because I do think it’s leadership in some older guys that just, quite frankly, don’t give a shit anymore, and so I’m not going to judge that, but I mean, Lord. How do you not come out to play Florida State? How do you not come out to play that game? It’s your arch rival.

Nick:                         Yeah. I forget which player it was that said, “They just wanted it more.” How does that happen?

Andrew:                 How does that happen? Alabama would never just say, “Well, Auburn wanted it more.” What? No. I don’t think so. Can you imagine the Yankees saying, “The Red Sox just wanted it more”?

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 They just wanted it more. How does your arch rival just want the game more?

Nick:                         You can’t. It’s something you can’t ever allow to happen. Maybe that’s just their poor excuse. They don’t want to say what’s really happening. You know what I mean? They don’t want to say what’s really happening or what they really feel, and they think that’s a good excuse. You’d almost rather it be an excuse than be the truth, right?

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. It’s a thing, and I’ll say this. Someone bashed me on Twitter, because I said some of the older guys had checked out, and they were like, “You’re talking about that Teez Tabor and these guys.” I’m not calling any names. I don’t call any names when I do that, because it’s not fair to anyone. They were saying, “You’re talking about this person.” No, I’m not. You don’t know who I’m talking about. You have no damn clue who I’m talking about. There is older guys that have checked out. Some of the Muschamp guys that have no loyalty to Mac have checked out, and we’ll see how they respond after the bowl game. We really will. I mean, it just is a different feeling. How do you get up for basically a scrimmage game? That’s basically what it is. It doesn’t mean anything. 2017 is not determined by this. Nothing’s determined by this.

Nick:                         I think we differ on that, because I think, but I am saying I think it is a coaching problem if you’re continuing not to come out like that, but I am, and I have been the one to say, even sometimes before you, at some point you got to blame the players, and it’s not the coach. At some point it’s execution. At some point, sure, they’re 18-22 year olds, but at some point you have to put the accountability on the players. I almost question when you say senior leadership. If I’m a coach, can I recognize that and say, “Well, if the players aren’t going to do it themselves, then I need to?”

Andrew:                 Yeah. Sure, but someone told me this, and it hit home with me. They said, “Coaching can only do so much as far as motivating guys.” I thought about that for a while, and then it really kind of hit home with me, and that is when Urban was winning games Tim Tebow had the locker room. Those guys were fearful of Tebow. Not in a bad way, but that. Guys like Reuben Foster right now at Alabama. There is guys that are there, and it’s a leadership standpoint, and Jarrad Davis is that leader, but he’s a quiet leader. It just has got to be fixed from within the program. It starts this off season with the younger guys. I do feel like this is a good group of young guys that are going to take it over. I’m interested to see how a guy like Chauncey Gardner does, even a guy like Scarlett. Those guys that are those leaders that do that, and it all starts in this bowl game. Maybe those are the guys that get the young guys to group together and win the bowl game.

Nick:                         Yeah. You need someone, and it might have to be those sophomores, because you’re looking at a lot of these guys, if you’re looking at a lot of these guys that are going into junior, or juniors, they’ve got decisions to make. It might be time for someone. I don’t think a lot of the juniors that have decisions to make will be coming back, so I think if you’re a sophomore, time to step up. Time to realize it’s my time. Sure, these guys are still here, but they’re not going to be next year, and my time to be a leader needs to start now. Maybe I’m even late to the party, my time to be a leader should have started three weeks ago, four weeks ago, but it didn’t, and let me make up for that by starting now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think that that’s very, I think that’s an interesting point that we just kind of hit on is that this is a time for those young guys to really bond together and make that, make something for the off season. It’ll be interesting to see. One news is Appleby starting at quarterback. I think it’s the right decision. Got to win this bowl game, like we say. I think it’s the right decision. What do you say?

Nick:                         I don’t, and/or wouldn’t, have minded playing a freshman. I don’t fall into that, you’re burning the redshirt for a game that doesn’t mean anything.

Andrew:                 I don’t mean that either. I didn’t mean that as in burning the redshirt. I mean in simply that it’s tough to start a freshman against an Iowa defense that’s pretty good. We’re talking about this game means a lot. Do you kind of go with what you know?

Nick:                         Yeah. I get, so I get both sides to it.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I get you need to win the game, go with the guy you know. I also get, the guy you know is not going to be here next year, so why not get a start on next year, because you’re playing in this game, as far as being in the Outback Bowl. To me, I can make an argument for both. Hey, yeah, you need to win this game. From a perception standpoint, you can’t end the season the way you ended it last year. Austin Appleby’s probably your best bet to do that currently.

You also need to focus on next year. You got to figure out who’s going to be your go to guy next year, and it’s not Austin Appleby. He’s gone. It’s probably not Luke Del Rio, whether he stays or goes. He’ll graduate in December, this week or next week, so he can be a graduate transfer somewhere else. I think it’s going to be one of the two freshmen this year, so one of the two redshirt freshmen. See what you have. Talking about being able to have these bowl practices, running with the ones, being able to go into spring practice with a better idea of what you have from those guys. I think that’s important too. So, I think you can make an argument either way, and I’m not sure which one is the right decision to make, after making both arguments.

Andrew:                 Right. I mean, what you said is accurate in that I don’t know if there’s a right decision or a wrong decision. If Franks goes out and tears it up, it’s a great decision. If he goes out there and sucks, guess what? You lost the bowl game, and your team now are going into next season thinking, “Oh, shit, look what we got at quarterback.” The poor guy’s confidence is gone. It’s a double whammy almost in that you hope Appleby just comes out and tears it up, and does things. If something was to happen to Appleby, I don’t see any way you put Del Rio in. I think you burn the redshirt off of Franks and go there.

Nick, let’s turn the table a little bit. You got to go on Thursday to the new O Dome renovations. Tell us a little bit about what you were able to see during that, and what’s your opinion on things?

Nick:                         Well, they didn’t have the basketball court set up, because Florida has their commencement ceremony going on, I think Friday. I think Friday’s the first one, and it’ll go on all weekend and into next week. So they had the stage and all that set up, but it is, the outside looks beautiful. That new grand entrance, and you walk into the grand entrance, and right away there’s this gigantic gator head, which was a funny story. The initial picture that the architect, or the planner, put in they had actually mistakenly put a crocodile head, and luckily someone picked up that it was a crocodile, not a gator. So they fixed that before actually putting the painting in, but there’s a huge gator head.

Everything just looks nice and new, and when you used to walk into the O Dome it was kind of just like you didn’t see much. It was just like concrete until you walked through an orange door to get into the actual arena, and then once you were in the arena it was fine. It wasn’t great. The environment was rarely ever filled up at the top. You didn’t really have great video boards as far as for replays, stuff like that. Now you walk in and immediately everything is nice. There’s easy to find concessions, merchandise. Easy to navigate around, and then when you walk in there’s this, I think it was a $4 million board that has four sides to it. It’s going to sit over the middle of the court. Additionally, four more screens in each corner. To me, that’s a big thing. No matter where you’re sitting to be able to see replays, to be able to watch something on the video board. That’s a huge thing.

The biggest thing, which might get overlooked, or maybe has been overlooked, they put wi-fi receptors, wi-fi antennas, all throughout the stadium, all throughout the arena. To me, that’s the biggest deal, because you’re looking at a fan experience. I talk about coming in, and everything is nice and new, and it’s easy to navigate. That’s important. Then you look at the video boards. That helps fan experience. Then, lastly, fan experience from the aspect of I can still have my phone. I can jump on wi-fi, and it’s going to be reliable, and I can text my friends. I can put pictures on Twitter or Snapchat, on Instagram, on social media. I can do things that I’d be able to do if I was at home watching the game.

I think that’s what you’re trying to combat. You’re trying to combat how do we get people to come out and play, or to watch teams play live, versus watching it from the comfort of their home in their underwear on the coach on TV. You’re trying to mimic as much of that at home as you can in the stadium. I think you’re doing that with the wi-fi and the easy to find concession, stuff like that.

The club section too, that’s going to cost you a pretty penny, but the club section was beautiful as far as having an area where you can go and have, they’re going to have food catered. I think that comes with the seat, so food catered, and I believe alcohol at the basketball games.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Then you have an area to walk into your seats that run baseline to baseline almost. It’s just a really nice seat.

Andrew:                 Let me ask you this.

Nick:                         In Florida style, real quick, nothing is outlandish, but everything is done nicely.

Andrew:                 How did the student section change? Is it still going to be the on top?

Nick:                         The student section, something that they had to, the building is the University of Florida’s, not the University Athletic Association, despite the University Athletic Association footing most of the bill, raising most of the money. So, when they’re dealing with making plans they’ve now changed, the student section used to be bleachers, and those guys would just stand on top of the bleachers. Now everything is chair back. So, there could be some concern about, well what are you doing, is that going to take away from the rowdies? Is that going to take away from them being able to stand up and get loud and make noise, stomp their feet? You don’t really have that much room. You have less room to move when you’re looking at…

Andrew:                 Are they still close to the court though?

Nick:                         They’re still close to the court, but I think they changed, I could be wrong on this. I’m waiting for confirmation as we tape this, but I think they changed the side that the TV cameras will be on.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         So that the rowdies won’t be behind the camera anymore, which is another thing that I think is kind of like, I don’t know if I like that. The staple, the pinnacle are probably the camera crazies, and they’re right up there.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         The camera crazies are right up on top of the court, and they’re nuts, and you see that and think, that’d be really cool. Florida’s a little bit higher up. The crazies were behind press row, or the rowdies were behind press row, so I don’t know. I’ll have to wait and get confirmation, and we’ll talk about that on our Monday podcast.

Andrew:                 Got you. As far as the changes go, in your opinion, thumbs up for everything looking good, or is it one of those Florida didn’t spend enough money?

Nick:                         I mean, you spent $45-$60 million, however much you spend on it.

Andrew:                 Did they go cheap?

Nick:                         I don’t think they went cheap. It’s just, the people at Florida that are making decisions aren’t ever going to put a slide in something.

Andrew:                 They’re never going to put a gold toilet.

Nick:                         Yeah. There’s no gold toilet, but it’s just like, it’s very nice. Everything is, it looks like all of the other buildings as far as like the font and the lines and the colors and the way it’s set up. It just looks very Florida. There’s nothing outlandish. I think it’s very nice. I think the biggest is, like what I said, is not gold toilets, but it’s creating a better fan experience, and how long have people been asking for wi-fi, reliable wi-fi, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium? We’re lucky, being in the media. We always have wi-fi. We need it to do our jobs, but there were times where I would come up in undergrad, and I would tell my parents and say, “I’m going to a game. You won’t be able to talk to me from kickoff until two hours after the game’s over. I won’t get any service.”

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I think that might be the biggest thing.

Andrew:                 Okay. I mean, I think that’s a good point.

Nick:                         That’s something that you’re not going to see. That doesn’t look nice, but as far as a functionality thing it’s huge.

Andrew:                 I mean, how many stadiums have we been to this year, and we’ve set there, and we’re like, can we just get a little wi-fi on the field?

Nick:                         Yeah. Most of them.

Andrew:                 That’s what I’m saying. I mean, Florida State’s was the worst, but, yeah. We’ll see. Florida plays the 23rd, that’s their first game there, and I know they’re on a little bit of a losing streak, but think that this team does have a chance to be good, and to get to the tourney. They went off against a wonderful shooting Florida State team the other night. Good grief, they couldn’t miss, and then the Duke and the Gonzaga teams, they’re just better teams right now. I think it also is something to say in that Florida’s been on the road every game, and you think about that, and it’s tough. It’s tough to play away from home and never to have your crowd behind you, never to be able to wake up in your own bed the night before, going through your own routine. It’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back with their home schedule.

Nick:                         That will be a big thing. It’s less than a week away that they’ll be in there, so it’ll be fun to get back in front of the home crowd. That’s something that I think even maybe more so in basketball is a bigger determining factor than even in football or baseball. I think that it is going to really help Florida. Florida played well at home, or has historically played well at home, and I think you’ll see a little uptick in that.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I agree with you there. It’s big. It is big for that. We’ll see there. Alright, Nick, we’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Monday. Maybe have some coaching search stuff. People’s asked if Nick and I are doing our research on it. Nick and I do our research on this stuff all the time, but it’s simply it’s not going to happen until after the bowl game. That’s what we’ve been told, and this is the rare two weeks that not a lot’s going on, so Nick and I try to take it easy as much as we can.

Nick:                         Yeah, we didn’t mention it, but Randy Shannon will be the defensive coordinator for the Outback Bowl, and Mark DeBastiani, he’s the Gators quality control coach.

Andrew:                 DeBas.

Nick:                         Yeah, DeBas, he’ll work with the linebackers throughout the bowl, while Randy takes on more responsibility, because Collins was calling plays. So, now that will be Shannon.

Andrew:                 Yes, and from everything we’ve been told, Randy Shannon will be your linebacker coach next year. That’s just a thing for this game, so don’t read too much into that. Randy’s a guy that likes to coach his linebackers, and is a fantastic linebacker coach. Alright, Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Monday, and it’ll be holiday week next week.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast, when we get into game week for the Outback Bowl we’ll go back to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but we’re in off season mode right now, so it’ll be Mondays and Fridays. Missed it, as I was traveling last week, but subscribe on iTunes, and never miss a podcast. You’ll get a notification. If you don’t have iTunes, if you’re an Android user, it’s on the website in transcript form and audio. On social media, @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 Real quick, Nick, got to say prayers to the Sager family. Craig Sager passed away. Nick, I know you, like myself, grew up watching TNT, TBS, and Craig Sager was one of the few you knew, always the crazy dress styles. So, prayers to his family during a tough time.

Nick:                         Yeah. Prayers to that family. Cancer sucks. Dan Thompson, our buddy, raises money every year for the Jimmy V Foundation, for his birthday, so ever since Dan has made me aware of that I’ve tried to contribute whenever I can. So, if you’re in a position to do that, it’s greatly appreciated. Cancer has affected, I’m sure, if you’re listening to this, in some form or fashion cancer has affected you, your family, or somebody you know.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Since it’s Christmas time, shoot Nick and I your reason as to why. We’ll give one person a free three month subscription to Gator Country. Tweet Nick and I together the reason why you should do that, why we should do that, and Nick and I will pick a random winner. Sound good, Nick?

Nick:                         Sounds good.

Andrew:                 If you mention the Braves or something in there, chances are you may get picked.

Nick:                         We’re going to have to agree on that, so don’t mention the Braves.

Andrew:                 Or Butch Jones. We can always agree on the brick by brick. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves. We’ll see you guys soon.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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The newly renovated atrium inside the grand entrance inside the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center- Florida Gators basketball- 1281x854
Renovated Exactech Arena awaits homesick Florida Gators basketball

Baileigh writes that the renovated Exactech Arena awaits the homesick UF basketball team.

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