GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the defensive side of the ball for the Florida Gators spring ball that starts on Wednesday in Gainesville.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down each position on the defensive side of the ball and explain what the strengths and weakness are at each position.
Andrew and Nick also recap the Gators softball and baseball teams weekends, as both teams swept weekend play, plus we breakdown the basketball team.
ANDREW: Hello, Gator Country. What’s going on, my friends? Joined by my man, Nick de la Torre. Nicholas, successful weekend on both of the diamonds, and Gators still sitting #1.
NICK: Sitting #1 in the baseball field, softball field, even basketball got a win. Got a win on the hardwood this weekend. So all around it was a good weekend for the Gators.
ANDREW: I think the only thing, women’s basketball lost to a really good Kentucky team in the quarter finals in women’s basketball, but they should still be a top five, six seed there. Lacrosse got another top 10 win, and then also gymnastics got a win. Bridget Sloan got a perfect 10. Successful weekend around Gator sports. Nick, news flash. Softball team’s still rolling, and they actually got better this weekend.
NICK: How does one get better?
ANDREW: When your team is stroking 10, 12, 14 hits a game. In the final game on Sunday against FAMU, Florida played seven innings in that game and had 17 strikeouts, including the last eight outs were strikeouts.
NICK: That’s not bad.
ANDREW: No. Not bad at all. The team that everyone thought was struggling, you remember that team, Nick? The offensive team that was struggling, remember that?
NICK: Yeah. The Gators softball can’t hit, right?
ANDREW: Everybody on the team except for one person is now hitting over .300.
NICK: That’s how you get it done.
ANDREW: That’s how you get it done. The power numbers everybody was worried about? They’re coming around as well. Janell Wheaton stroking five homeruns this weekend. Big power numbers for that. Let’s talk football first. I know that’s what everybody wants to hear. Did the offensive preview on Friday, and we’ll do defense today. Just so we don’t get the question, I don’t know about you, Nick, but I’ve gotten the question 100 times, why didn’t we talk about this freshman or that freshman? This is spring preview. Talking about what’s going to happen starting Wednesday in Gainesville. Not what’s going to happen in the fall.
NICK: Listening comprehension.
ANDREW: Sometimes it’s not the best quality for some people, but it is what it is.
NICK: Why don’t we do this. We’re going to do defense today, but why don’t we just run through—
ANDREW: Hold up. Breaking news. We’re doing this on Sunday afternoon, and the Lakers beat the Warriors? Are you kidding me? Holy cow. Steph Curry must not have played very much.
NICK: Yeah. We’re going to start talking about the Warriors, the end of their season with their seventh loss of the year.
ANDREW: It is the end of the season. Gator fans have poisoned my brain with thinking one loss, but go back to your point.
NICK: Let’s run through real quick. The punter depth chart is Johnny Townsend. Johnny Townsend will be the Gators punter next year. Punt man. Punters are people too. You also have a redshirt freshman walk-on, Jon Gould, that will serve as his backup, but that is your punter. That is your depth chart. That is it, Johnny Townsend. That’s all you need. Then you get into kicker. A lot of people think it’s Eddy Pineiro’s job to lose, but there are three kickers. You have Austin Hardin, Eddy Pineiro, and you can’t forget about little Georgie Jorge Powell.
ANDREW: I think it’s Eddy Pineiro and the rest. If Eddy Pineiro is not kicking the ball, then Jim McElwain’s whole recruiting season has went plop, because he wanted the kicker. He got the kicker. I think, we talk about kicker, and we talk about it where I know somebody’s going to say, why are you spending so much time on the kickers? Since Caleb Sturgis Florida’s kicking game has been atrocious.
NICK: There is not a Gator fan that has watched the past two years that says, why are you spending so much time on the kicker?
NICK: They understand.
ANDREW: What I’m saying is I think it’s very important for Pineiro to have a good spring, just in some live action. What’s going to happen when he has Chris Thompson, when he has Antonio Callaway. Not Antonio Callaway, because he won’t be, but another guy that’s coming off the edge blocking the field goal? What’s he going to do? When he has big Caleb Brantley up the middle trying to jam it, does he freeze up or not? So far everything looks good, but we’ll see.
NICK: That’s the big thing. You can kick a 99 yard field goal with nobody in front of you, that doesn’t count in the game. You’ve got to do it with kicking it over those big uglies, and those 6’6” offensive and defensive linemen that are going to be on the kickoff, the field goal team. It’s really nice to see that Eddy is working. You love to see all your players working. He’s been practically living in the indoor practice facility working his craft, but you’ve got to see it. First, you’ve got to see it when there’s live action, even though it’s only going to be a scrimmage, only in the spring, and then, of course, you’re going to need to see it once the games mean something in the fall. Based on the way Jim McElwain talked, I would be shocked, I don’t know what Austin Hardin can do to win this job, but I wouldn’t discount Jorge Powell. Maybe both Powell and Pineiro have the same kicking coach, and I think Powell certainly won the job over Hardin before his injury.
ANDREW: Jorge Powell is not the starting kicker for Florida. You can just hang that money up.
NICK: I like Eddy. I just think that he’s an unknown.
ANDREW: Unknown, whatever. Unknown with one arm and one toe is better than what Florida has right now. I will say this. I do think Austin Hardin probably keeps his kickoff duties.
NICK: Pineiro has a big leg too.
ANDREW: Sure. We’ll see. I can’t talk kicking no more. I can’t. I can’t, Nick. We’re got to go somewhere. You want to start DBU, or do you want to start with the big hosses up front?
NICK: Let’s start with DBU, because you’ve got some players there, but is it still going to be DBU? I think that’s going to be the question.
ANDREW: Is it going to be DB who?
NICK: Yeah. I think the question is, not saying that they are, that Florida isn’t, or that they won’t be. Just saying that you’re losing Keanu Neal. You’re losing Vernon Hargreaves. Who’s picking up the slack there? Marcus Maye returns. That’s huge at safety. Quincy Wilson returns. Jalen Tabor returns. Those are your two starters on the outside. You’re replacing Brian Poole at nickel. Duke Dawson’s going to start there in the spring. You have Chauncey Gardner. It’s DBU at the start, last spring, a year ago at this time, DBU was loaded with Porter and JC Jackson. There were more players than you had positions for. Right now it’s kind of there’s some kids that were highly recruited, have a lot of potential, but it’s kind of just potential right now.
ANDREW: It is, but for me it’s this. If Florida stays healthy, they’re DBU. I say that in Jalen Tabor is a monster. End of discussion. Quincy Wilson is a guy that I can see having a monster year, because he’s slept on. He’s a kid that’s motivated by that kind of stuff. I could see Duke Dawson having a decent year coming up this year. Then you look at the freshman in Chauncey Gardner there. You look at Marcus Maye, the improvement he made from his redshirt sophomore to junior year was really good. Now can he take that next step up and be even better? That for me is the biggest question mark.
For me it’s who starts opposite of him, and then who is that next guy in line? Is it a Kylan Johnson? Is it Nick Washington or Marcell Harris? Who is that second guy there? Then who’s the guy that’s going to rotate in there? There’s a lot of questions. Does Duke Dawson work more at safety and Chauncey work more at nickel? I could see that being an option as well. If you’re starting next year with Nick Washington or Marcell Harris opposite safety with Marcus Maye, I don’t know too many Florida fans that are going to be excited about that. I don’t know how you can be excited about that.
NICK: I first want to mention that Quincy Wilson played more than a month last year with a sports hernia, had to get surgery on that after the bowl game. I still, even with that, I think Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson both have better seasons than Vernon Hargreaves. Duke Dawson, there was some stuff where I think mentally Duke struggled with kind of being jerked around, and coming in and playing corner. First game of his career he gets a pick six. Then being asked, we need you to play safety. Okay, that’s fine. Then coming in, new coaching staff comes in. No, we don’t see you as a safety. You’re going to play nickel. Now it’s kind of just being jerked around. I think starting the spring as the starting nickel, I think that’s going to do wonders for Duke mentally, and I think that’s the biggest hurdle with him is just being confident and trusting the coaches around him that he’s not going to be continually moved back and forth.
ANDREW: I’ll just say what you don’t want to say here. Duke Dawson has to be ready to play wherever he wants to play, and he has to get off the sulk train. I know that’s kind of harsh to say, but you and I both heard there was some lack of practicing because he was upset. You’re a junior now. There is no time to sulk, be upset. If you’ve got to play running back, you’ve got to play running back right now.
NICK: That’s true. Time is running out. I think it’s a good spot for him at nickel. He’s a physical guy. I think he can matchup very similar to how Brian Poole was able to there, and Chauncey Gardner’s another guy. I know Gardner’s a safety, probably can play nickel or outside corner, but when you look at the safety position with Nick Washington, Marcus Maye, Marcell Harris, and Kylan Johnson, maybe Gardner will get some looks at safety in the spring to see if it’s something he can handle, because Washington and Harris both showed last year that they can be very suspect in coverage, and Kylan Johnson we haven’t really seen much of him after taking a redshirt last year. Also, Johnson a guy that big enough, maybe we’ll see if he gets looks at linebacker. Not sure about that yet, but Gardner, if Duke Dawson’s able to lock down that nickel spot, maybe Gardner’s a guy that can go and play safety.
ANDREW: Maybe. I don’t know. Like I said, would it surprise me if Duke started off at safety and Chauncey started off at nickel? Not at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if it started out the other way. I’m not saying either way. I don’t know. Personally I think Chauncey’s a better nickel, and Duke’s a better free, or a better strong, but then again I don’t know. Duke’s been suspect in coverage, and at times Chauncey’s been shown to be a little suspect in coverage in high school ball. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.
NICK: DBU, I was very impressed with Gardner, obviously. I don’t want to keep mentioning them, Tabor and Wilson, very impressed with them. Chris Williamson is a guy.
ANDREW: He’s athletic as hell.
NICK: Yeah. Didn’t see much from him, but looks the part. He’s very long, sort of lean, will look leaner to you if you’re only seeing him on TV. In person he’s filled out more then he’ll appear on TV. Sort of like a Nick Washington. Nick Washington is very big in person. Interesting to see what kind of impact Williamson can have. Last year Florida really rotated those three guys with Tabor, Wilson, and Hargreaves. Is there another person that can fill in and make a three man rotation, or is it kind of just going to be Jalen, Quincy, you’re going to need play 60 snaps, 70, 80, 90 snaps, however many they play on offense you’re going to play? There’s no time for breaks. To me, it could still be DBU. Aside from Marcus Maye, I have a gigantic question mark at safety, and I have a question mark after Tabor, Wilson, and Dawson in those three outside and nickel, cornerback spots, with Gardner being a guy who I think is going to contribute and play a lot as a freshman.
ANDREW: I’m a little bit higher than you are with Chris Williamson. I think he’s athletic enough and can play that outside corner. He’s really long guy that I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to be really good. The thing is really and truly Florida’s numbers at safety right now, and really corner, are down until the fall when they get guys. Then you’re talking about a guy like Joseph Putu, that Juco guy. Can he come in and play right away at safety next year? That’s a guy that we’re still waiting to see what he does when he comes in, and then when you do have the two high school safeties that come in and add a little bit more depth, but the spring really you’re probably going to have four safeties on your team.
NICK: Putu is really kind of the big unknown. 6’2”, 195, very big kid, but widely unknown. I have no idea really what to expect from him when he gets to campus, safety, corner, where will they find a spot for him?
ANDREW: I’m telling you guys now, Nick, I’ve told you before, people are going to be very shocked come the fall with Jawaan Taylor and Quincy Lenton. Just go ahead and mark it down.
NICK: There’s going to be opportunity.
ANDREW: We’ll talk more about it, but one of those guys are playing next year.
NICK: You just yelled at people for asking about kids who aren’t here.
ANDREW: No. I just said we’re going to talk more about this later, but don’t be surprised when it comes. Let’s go to linebacker real quick. Linebacker, Anzalone, my question with Anzalone is this. How much does he practice this spring? Do they kind of go light with him? In my opinion that’s what happens. Mac will probably say he’s going to be limited in contact a little bit. Then you’ve got Jarrad Davis there. What will Daniel McMillian do? Then freshman, David Reese, also.
NICK: Last year after Anzalone’s injury Florida kind of just gave up on playing three linebackers for the most part. Not entirely, but for the most part. If you give up on that this year, that’s Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone playing. I don’t trust Daniel McMillian in coverage. I don’t trust him at anything outside of really just saying go rush the passer. I really don’t trust him to be a linebacker in Geoff Collins’ defense. Matt Rolin came on towards the end of the year. Very excited to see what David Reese can bring, a kid that reminds me, just based on his high school film, a lot of Antonio Morrison. I’ll be interested to see if he has that kind of instinct when the game picks up and the game starts moving faster. Then Rayshad Jackson, a guy who redshirted last year, but really looks the part. He’s a big guy, somebody who is kind of following Antonio Morrison closely at practice, and we’ll see what he picked up on during his redshirt freshman year. You do have I think a scary lack of depth at the position.
ANDREW: You know a guy you missed—
NICK: But if healthy, Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone are two of the best linebackers, make two of the best groups in the country.
ANDREW: A guy that I think came on really last year at the end of the year, and someone that I’m high on out of high school, was Matt Rolin. I think Rolin had a decent last few games of the season, and he’s a guy that could potentially play that outside linebacker position that Florida’s going to need here. McMillian’s there as well. You can put McMillian, those two guys there, and then maybe even Rayshad Jackson goes there a little bit, or maybe he slides inside. I think a lot of the spring is going to be is David Reese ready to go, or is David Reese a guy that we’re not going to be able to count on? Florida needs to be able to count on Reese to go, unless they just feel really good that Vosean Joseph is going to come in for middle, because Jeremiah Moon’s an outside linebacker all day.
NICK: Rolin only played, first got action against Florida Atlantic, FAU, assisted on one tackle. Had eight tackles in the SEC championship game, and then two tackles against Michigan. He did come on. It was kind of Jim McElwain seemed exasperated every time he was asked about him, but to see him getting time at the end of the year maybe that is him earning favor with the coaches towards the end of the season. Maybe that will carry on into this season. I do agree with you. The big thing is I don’t think either of the linebackers coming in are going to be ready to play as freshmen. So if you’re going to get a freshman contribution it’s what do we see from David Reese this spring?
ANDREW: Right. The thing is this. Where do you put Vosean anyway? Is he more of an inside guy or an outside guy?
NICK: He’s a redshirt guy.
ANDREW: Right, but what I’m saying is even if he does come in ready to go, is he a guy that’s big enough to play inside, or is he a guy that still has to play outside? I can tell you Jeremiah Moon’s playing outside linebacker. He’s a long athletic guy. Do I think Moon could get some playing time on rush downs? Sure. Absolutely. He’s very good rushing the passer, but, again, it’s not an outside linebacker question. It’s who backs up Anzalone and Davis?
NICK: What happens, Alex Anzalone has struggled with injuries, what happens if he goes down?
ANDREW: You’re in trouble.
NICK: How much does he contribute this year in spring? Do the coaches hold him back?
ANDREW: You hold him back, in my opinion.
NICK: You would hold him back? I think it would behoove Florida to hold him back.
ANDREW: You would do what?
ANDREW: You got a dictionary in front of you?
NICK: That’s a very normal word. You can look it up later after the podcast. Don’t worry about it. It would behoove Florida to go easy on Anzalone, because one, maybe he gets through his spring uninjured. That’d be nice. Two, it would also put more on the other guys. That means more reps for Rayshad Jackson inside or outside. More reps for David Reese as a freshman. More reps for Matt Rolin. More reps for Daniel McMillian. Lord knows, Daniel McMillian needs those reps.
ANDREW: Here’s the thing with Daniel McMillian. I know you’re tough on him, and I’m tough on him as well, but he has Antonio Morrison problems. That is don’t ask him to cover, because when you ask him to cover bad things are going to happen. I mean, it just is.
NICK: They’re not in the same caliber.
ANDREW: I’m saying it’s the same problem. They both have the same problem, and that is do not ask those guys to cover, because bad things are going to happen. Daniel McMillian is just not that guy. He’s just not a cover linebacker.
NICK: Somebody’s got to be in this linebacker corps though.
ANDREW: I think you go back to more of the dime. Florida’s going to play a ton of dime, and I think you play a ton more dime here, and that’s where you see Duke Dawson becoming that guy like a Keanu Neal that is your safety that drops down, or your dime backer.
NICK: Yeah. Still concerns.
ANDREW: There’s concerns. I’m not trying to say that there’s not concerns there. I’m saying there is a light at the tunnel. I mean, there is some bodies there. It’s about kind of developing those bodies. I mean, Rayshad Jackson played a little bit. We’ll see where that goes. David Reese is the key right now. I’m telling you.
NICK: Lot to ask for a freshman.
ANDREW: That’s why you early enroll.
NICK: Obviously a smart kid. Was planning on going to Michigan, very good school. Ends up Florida, very good school.
ANDREW: He’s very smart. He made the right decision.
NICK: Very smart. Very smart kid. You need to be a smart kid to play linebacker, especially inside. Let’s move on. You want to split the defensive line up into ends and tackles, just to make it less confusing?
ANDREW: Yeah. Let’s go with the big boys inside, and then we’ll go D end. I’ll run through the D ends, and you can run through the D tackles. At D end you’ve got the freshman, Jordan Smith, early enrollee. You’ve got Jabari Zuniga. Did I say that right? I think I did.
ANDREW: I don’t know. Who cares? Sorry, Jabari. You got Bryan Cox. Keivonnis played a little bit inside and outside. Then you have Cece, and that’s it really. Kind of low numbers at D end right now.
NICK: Luke Ancrum.
ANDREW: He’s more of a tackle last year. He played more inside than he did outside, and I’m just going to go ahead and tell you, Cece Jefferson’s playing the Jon Bullard role. He’s going to be inside and outside.
NICK: When I wrote the list down before we started I actually put Cece down at both defensive end and defensive tackle, with a little star there to make sure that we mention that. That’s what he’s being built for is what Jon Bullard did. Jon Bullard didn’t really want to do it his sophomore year. I think Cece is fine with doing it. In my opinion, similar players. Both have some good get off, bigger guys, and we’ll see how Cece handles playing more inside. He played inside some last year, mainly played defensive end, but did slide down every so often. We’ll see how he handles definitely a more expanded role and playing multiple positions.
ANDREW: Then you got Sherit and you’ve got Justus Reed at that rush end position.
NICK: Your boy, Jordan Sherit.
ANDREW: Jordan Sherit actually did impress me some last year. I give Jordan some props. He had a good year, and he proved me wrong.
NICK: He turned it on towards the end of the year. I still don’t see targeting on that tackle, on that sack, which should have ended the game.
ANDREW: Right. Nick, I was very hard on Jordan heading into the season, and I’ll be the first to admit, and I’ll admit right now that he had a really good year, and he showed me some things that I didn’t think he had. Justus Reed at times had some showing of some good ball. Justus much like Duke Dawson. It’s time to turn on. It’s time to go. Those two guys really with Cece playing some outside, and then we can’t forget about Bryan Cox. Bryan Cox has had some really good moments, and then kind of dived back down. Then Jabari, who’s a guy that we’ve all been high on, how does he really go at the end now that he’s a redshirt freshman? How does he go at end? Is he a guy that does with Cece, that rotates a little bit, or is he a guy that is strictly at end? I think he’s a perfect strong side defensive end.
NICK: Jabari Zuniga.
ANDREW: That’s not how you say it.
NICK: That’s how you say it.
NICK: That’s not how you say it.
ANDREW: Jabari and I have a connection with that. We have a connection.
NICK: You should just stick to calling him Jabari.
ANDREW: I do call him Jabari.
NICK: One name, like Madonna. He’s just Jabari.
ANDREW: He’s just Jabari. Jabari, what’s up?
NICK: I don’t see him playing inside really, whether it’s weak side or strong side. Maybe you can flip flop them.
ANDREW: My boy is 265 pounds already.
NICK: I’m saying if you’re going to move him. When you start building different personnel packages, maybe you say we’ll have a bigger line, and you’ll flip him to one side, and you’ll have a line with Joey Ivie, Caleb Brantley, Cece, and Jabari. Maybe you can flip him. I just don’t see him sliding inside. I see him more of as an end.
ANDREW: Yeah. I don’t know. Then inside at tackle though, good problem to have. There’s some good bodies inside. You got Brantley, who I’m telling you guys is going to have a Jon Bullard type of year. You got Joey Ivie back. You’ve got little Ivie back as well. Then Taven Bryan. I hate to say it this way, but it is what it is. Taven Bryan is kind of like Tennessee football. They get the hype in the off season, and just don’t produce in the season. It’s time for Taven to bring whatever he’s doing in the off season that is impressing everyone to the season. It’s just you see glimpses of it. You had a glimpse in the game where he was injured. Was it the Florida State game, Nick? What game did he hurt his ankle in? He had a good play in one of the later games of the year, and then was injured. He needs to continue to show that improvement throughout the thing. Basically it’s going to be Caleb Brantley and whoever’s beside him. Probably going to be Brantley Ivie are two guys starting, unless a guy like Bryan or Ancrum or someone else just has a monster off season.
NICK: I think Taven got hurt in the FAU game.
ANDREW: Okay. It was one of the games.
NICK: Then he didn’t play against Florida State, and he didn’t play against Alabama.
NICK: His freshman year was mono or strep, ended up having to have his tonsils and his adenoids taken out, and was very sick. That’s why he had to take the redshirt last year. Chris Rumph nicknamed him, coined the phrase the Wyoming Wild Man. Then just really didn’t get to see a whole lot of him or a whole lot of production. Just 10 tackles on the year, and only three solo. It’s kind of time. Obviously, Joey Ivie and Caleb Brantley are your starters.
NICK: But you have to have a healthy rotation. Thomas Holley, nothing is guaranteed. The injuries he’s gone through, Coach Rumph said it last year, just Thomas Holley being able to go through practice and workouts is amazing based on the back and the hip injuries that he’s had. He was able to play last year. How much is he going to be able to play or be an impact this year? You just can’t count on him.
ANDREW: Here’s the deal. You’ve got to—
NICK: You can’t count him out, as he’s not going to play, but you can’t count on him to be a big impact. You need somebody else to step up.
ANDREW: You’ve got to have an eight man rotation. Nine is great, but you’ve got to have eight. Let’s just nitpick here. Pick your eight defensive linemen that are going to play. We’re on Khairi Clark. We didn’t even mention Khairi Clark very much, but Khairi Clark had some success.
NICK: He’s coming into that nose tackle. If you look at Alabama they’ve always got that big man-eater, glass eater, fire breather, nose tackle, and Khairi Clark’s kind of growing into that, in my opinion.
ANDREW: He’s got about 60 pounds to catch Terrence Cody.
NICK: Nobody’s going to catch Terrence Cody. Terrence Cody would eat Khairi Clark for a light breakfast.
ANDREW: And you and I for desert.
NICK: Khairi Clark’s a big boy.
ANDREW: Let’s just go through this. I think we can say Clark will be in the rotation. Brantley will be in the rotation. Joey Ivie will be in the rotation. Bryan Cox will be in the rotation, and Cece Jefferson. That’s five that I think are pretty much locks to be in the rotation. You look at a guy like Taven Bryan, would he probably get in there? Probably so. That’s six. Now what are you looking at? You’re looking at really needing a guy either like Keivonnis Davis, Luke Ancrum, the younger Ivie, or Jordan Smith, or one of the freshmen, to really step up in the fall to get that eight man rotation.
NICK: I don’t know about Andrew Ivie. I agree that you need that eight man rotation. Don’t know about Andrew Ivie. Again, he is a young guy, and I’ve given other guys, younger guys, the benefit of the doubt. I just don’t like offensive linemen, defensive line. Now he’s defensive line. Now he’s offensive line. I don’t like the flip flopping back and forth. To me that means the coaching staff really had doubts about a position, and when you go from defensive line to offensive line, that’s not a good thing.
ANDREW: I’ll say this. If he plays as hard as his brother does, he’ll be alright. 300 pounds, he’s a guy that you’re thinking should be good enough to go inside. Then you don’t want to get ahead into the fall, but when you do look at the fall, you got a guy like Clayton that is going to be a guy that probably gets some Cece Jefferson style play where he’s in there on second and third down where it’s pass rush situations, go get the quarterback. You’re looking at that. I say you can pretty much pencil him in to get playing time, because they like to get that rusher. Now you’re looking at where am I getting my seven this spring? Can I get to eight possibly? Ancrum, Keivonnis Davis, they both played a little bit last year. Maybe they turn it up this spring. They are just sophomores.
NICK: I think in talking about Antonneous Clayton, which we shouldn’t be, because he’s not here in the spring, I do think if you’re able to strip down, think of it as a plate, and you’ve got this Thanksgiving plate, and you got your mashed potatoes. You got your macaroni and cheese, your turkey, your stuffing, your dressing. If you can just take all of that off and leave one thing on that plate, and say, here’s a turkey on your plate. I just need you to do this. So when you’re talking about a guy coming off the edge, and playing just as a rush end, like we just need you, when you’re in the game, your goal is to do this one thing. Don’t worry about what the play is. You’re doing this every time you’re playing. That’s going to help somebody get on the field.
ANDREW: Right. That’s what I’m saying. We won’t talk too much about that.
NICK: Real quick, I don’t know if we have or not, Bryan Cox, Jr.
ANDREW: I talked about him.
NICK: Guy that I think you’ll see him playing strong side defensive end, maybe even some of that rush linebacker when Florida goes into a heavier set.
ANDREW: I just need to see consistency out of Bryan Cox. It’s pretty simple in that he’s a guy that has really good games, Tennessee game two years ago, and then he has some games where he just disappears. It’s kind of like Caleb Brantley was two years ago, and it’s like when am I going to see you become the guy that I know you can be, the guy that you show all the time? Once he does that, then I think he’ll be well. Quick note, Tuesday Coach Mac talks with everyone, gives a pre-spring update, and then practice starts on Wednesday. We’ll have all that coverage. Nicholas, are you there? Did we lose Nicholas?
NICK: Nope. I’m here. You might lose me on Tuesday, because Tuesday I’ve got Coach Mac, and then Florida will play at UNF in Jacksonville. Then on Wednesday, for the first day of spring practice, I’ll be out there on the practice fields, and then I’ll be at the Mack right next door for a second game with UNF.
ANDREW: Let’s recap the diamond sports real quick. Florida had two games against UCF. We talked about those last week. Florida didn’t exactly make it easy against Dartmouth, but a sweep is a sweep, and the Gators move on. I didn’t get to see it, because Florida was playing softball as well, but give me a rundown on how the pitching staff looked. It looked like Logan Shore had a good one, but it looked like the next two kind of struggled a little bit.
NICK: Logan Shore unbelievable outing, seven innings, one hit, no runs, no walks. He hasn’t given up a run in 17 1/3. A.J. Puk was better through five innings, gave up two runs. Alex Faedo really struggled on Sunday, but he came into the game after two unbelievable starts, one against Florida Gulf Coast, and then one in Miami where he threw seven no hit innings at Miami. He gave up a three earn today over just five innings, so a little struggle with the starting pitching. Kirby Snead struggled a little bit out of the bullpen. JJ Schwarz had a .500 weekend. Deacon Liput continues to destroy the ball. He has reached base safely in all 13 games of his collegiate career. To me, all in all, I think people need to relax about A.J. Puk. He’s not leaving the starting lineup. He’s not going anywhere. He’s going to figure it out. He started slow last year. This Florida team is 12-1. They got two games against UNF. Harvard comes in next week. Then Florida State SEC play. The season within the season, SEC play, is almost here.
ANDREW: SEC play does start for the softball team next weekend. They got it really good, #3 ranked Auburn Tigers. This weekend, Nicholas, guess what? Another sweep, my good friend. Another sweep it was. You laughed at me at the beginning of the podcast when I said they got better, but this team really got better this weekend, and I know it’s crazy to say, but when you look at their hitting wise they had struggled a little bit heading into this series. Then this series they put up 9, 10, and 11 in back to back to back games. Then they put up just four against Florida A&M, but in the Sunday game when they only put up four, in the last game they struck out a program best 18 hitters, including Delanie Gourley striking out 13, a career high.
NICK: She was just mowing through the Rattlers on Sunday. Pretty impressive numbers. How did Barnhill close the game out?
ANDREW: Barnhill closed the game out with just five batters, five strikeouts. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.
NICK: Did she do it on 15 pitches?
ANDREW: I believe it was 21. Let me just read you this. This is the pitching stats, Nick. You can appreciate this. I know you will, because you appreciate it like I do. Aleshia Ocasio in 11 appearances is 7-0 with two saves. Has a .41 ERA. Okay? Delanie Gourley, who was supposedly Florida’s third best pitcher, in 11 appearances, 8-0 with a save, .50 earned run average. Kelly Barnhill, 7-0 in 10 games, with a save, and a 1.05 ERA. Together they have 185 strikeouts in 134 innings pitched.
NICK: Those numbers are like hard to wrap your mind around.
ANDREW: You’re thinking, I sent out a gif, however they’re saying it nowadays, on Sunday, and you were laughing about it when I said Illinois State went through four pitchers in a game. Four pitchers in a game. Florida doesn’t even have to go to their bullpen, but Walton does it just to keep them going in the game. It’s just becoming crazy to see, because Florida’s worst hitter on the team heading into the season was supposed to be Aubrey Munro, and she’s just hitting a cool. 308 right now, and has already driven in 10 from her eight hole.
NICK: Florida got some hits on Sunday, but they might need to go over and rub the bats of the softball girls and bring some of that back over.
ANDREW: Maybe so. Taylor Schwarz maybe can go and let JJ rub the bat, but she needs the glove, because she’s struggling in the field. Heading into the season the worst she had had over a weekend was two errors in a weekend. This weekend she had four. Not a good weekend for Taylor. Easy ground balls. I don’t know what’s up with that. Overall it’s just this team is just crazy good 1-9. I mean, when you’re looking at the nine hole hitter hitting .390, what are you supposed to do? Where do you go?
NICK: You go home.
ANDREW: Yeah. You go home. 22-0 right now for the Gators. Quick thing, Florida Tim Walton is now 697 career wins. Probably he’ll get to 699 with a double header against South Dakota on Wednesday, and then they head to Auburn Saturday, Sunday, Monday, that new SEC network schedule. Chance to get #700 in Auburn.
NICK: That’s pretty cool. I think it’s cooler when you reach milestones at home, but still.
ANDREW: There’s no way they could have done it different.
NICK: That’s a gigantic milestone.
ANDREW: They haven’t lost, unless you wanted to go out to Auburn and get swept, which I personally don’t, because I don’t know if I could handle that.
NICK: That’s true. You’ll have a preview, but this is not an easy weekend for Florida. These Auburn girls can hit.
ANDREW: They kind of remind me of some past Florida teams, in that they’re just a team that just hits for power, hits for gaps. They don’t play small ball. I love small ball. I think small ball is great. They just don’t play small ball, and it’s a team that I think it’s one of those teams that Florida could go in there and shut them out three consecutive games, because of their pitching and because Auburn doesn’t do the little things, or it could get in there and then play shootout ball. Florida’s not afraid to score 10 or 11 runs. In my opinion, you’re either going to see Auburn score a lot of runs, or probably get shut out in the game.
NICK: I’ll get into your prediction for the series later on.
ANDREW: Hold on one second. This is what I wanted to hit on real quick. I just ran this number while we were doing it. Tim Walton, heading into the season had 675 wins in 13 seasons. He was only averaging 52 wins a season. Impressed or not impressed?
NICK: I mean, Florida only plays 56 a year in baseball. I don’t know how many games you play in softball before the preseason tournaments.
ANDREW: Is it 54? I believe, or 53? 53 or 54 before. Florida’s had three 60 win seasons under Walton.
NICK: That is super impressive.
ANDREW: Not too bad. Basketball, like you said, Nick, goes out to Missouri, gets a huge win, and I was hard on this team last week about not playing hard. They played hard and played really good ball on Saturday. Chris Chiozza finally came back, and after the game they found out they are now the #8 seed, and get the easier side of the bracket. They don’t have Kentucky. They have A&M. Not saying A&M is easier, but have A&M, and that should be a little bit better for this team.
NICK: A&M tied for the first place with Kentucky.
ANDREW: Florida went out to A&M and should have won the game. They haven’t stood a chance with Kentucky in the two games.
NICK: No. Certainly not. Florida’s going to be a road NIT team.
ANDREW: I’m calling it now. Florida’s going to win two games at the SEC Tournament, and they’re going to find a way to get in the tournament as a nine or ten seed.
NICK: I say no.
ANDREW: Quite frankly, I didn’t ask you.
NICK: Florida will be playing a road game in the NIT.
ANDREW: Quite frankly, I didn’t ask you, and quite frankly I really didn’t even want your opinion. I just started to go ahead and get my opinion out there. So that’s there. Quick note, Jake Allen, congrats to Jake Allen. Got invited to the Elite 11 out in Oregon this summer. I know that’s something he worked hard for, and congrats to him for getting it. Kadeem Telford also was MVP at the offensive line at the Miami opening. So two 2017 Gator commits out of the three they got had really good days on Sunday down in Miami at the opening regional.
NICK: As always, go Raiders, STA pride. You go, we go. Congratulations to Jake Allen.
ANDREW: That’s right. There’s only going to be one place for spring ball, Nicholas. We’re dominating the diamond sports, the gif game’s coming around for myself. Yours is there already. I think we might as well just go ahead and dominate spring football. Tell the people where they can find that domination.
NICK: Looking forward to it. On Twitter, @NickdelaTorreGC, @AndrewSpiveyGC. GatorCountry is the Twitter handle for the site. We’ll have, as always, pictures, edits, videos, tweets, updates, breaking news, all the coverage you need for spring football that begins Tuesday and Wednesday.
ANDREW: That’s right. Tell anybody you know, if you’re listening to this, and you’re not a subscriber, hit me up. Hit Nick up. If you’ve got a friend that’s there and wants to get on, hit us up. I guarantee you you won’t find better coverage of spring football than Gator Country. Come join us and have some fun with us. Gif game might be cool, but we’re even cooler on the message board. I can guarantee you we’re cooler than two people, Nicholas, any guesses?
NICK: Two football coaches.
ANDREW: That is right. Mr. Mark and Butchy Butch Jones, we’re definitely cooler than those guys. Until Wednesday guys, we appreciate you guys, and we’ll see you on Gator Country.
NICK: You stay classy, Gator Country.