Florida Gators basketball tourny preview and more: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we look at the Florida Gators basketball team’s draw in the NCAA tournament and how they match-up.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down what the Gators need to do, plus they look at week two of the Gators spring football practices.

Andrew and Nick also talk about what’s going wrong for the Gators baseball team, plus what is going right for the softball team this year.


NCAA bb Preview


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, March Madness is officially here. It got underway Sunday night, and the Gators are back in the tournament for the first time in what? Three years now?

Nick:                         Has it already been three years?

Andrew:                 Yeah. They missed it in 2015. Missed it in 2016. First time in three years. Seems like not too long ago they were making it to the Final Four with Will Yeguete and those guys.

Nick:                         Florida will, I guess, kind of return home in a sense, to Orlando, a place that they played earlier in the year as they were beginning their nomad season, while the O Dome was getting renovated.

Andrew:                 They played what seemed like …

Nick:                         They played three games at the Wide World of Sports, back in Orlando.

Andrew:                 Seemed like they played all around the state, and they did, something that was brought to my attention, they did play in 2014 in Orlando for the NCAA Tournament. Going back there. When you look at the teams that are in Florida’s bracket, East Tennessee State their first round opponent, UNC Wilmington, and then Virginia, you would think Florida should be definitely the beneficiary of home court advantage.

Nick:                         Orlando is a huge hub for Florida Gators fans. Lot of alumni, lot of boosters live there. That stadium, that arena, will be packed with Gator fans. Eastern Tennessee is 25-7 on the year, and I’m sure they’ll have some people coming down. It’s their tenth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, so I’m sure they’re excited, but Orlando’s just I expect that arena to be orange and blue from top to bottom.

Andrew:                 I mean, for me, and I was talking with this earlier on Monday with someone, and I said, “It’s kind of tough to judge Florida right now.” They lose two to Vandy, and they lose the game to Kentucky. Part of me thinks, Vandy just has Florida’s number, and Kentucky is Kentucky. Most people, if you would say you split with Kentucky each year, most Florida fans would be happy with it. Part of me looks at a Florida in a way of, “Okay, they’re struggling,” and then part of me looks at it and says, “Well, they’re really not. They played the team that has their number, and they played Kentucky.” Is that kind of where you look at it as well, Nick? What’s your mindset?

Nick:                         You’re saying that Florida is only in the same breath as Kentucky in the SEC?

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s kind of what I was saying. It’s tough for me to say Florida is struggling and be 100% correct, because if they don’t play Vandy they’re not struggling. Chance are they’re not going to play Vandy in the NCAA Tournament.

Nick:                         I think the team has definitely looked different since losing John Egbunu. Let’s just face it. The SEC is not very good at basketball. What did they get six teams in? Five teams in?

Andrew:                 Five, yes.

Nick:                         Five. I still don’t think they’re very good. I don’t expect an SEC team, outside of maybe Kentucky, and I don’t even think Kentucky is that great when you come into it. I don’t expect an SEC team to win it all, but I think, if you look at where Florida is as a five seed, and the kind of season that they had, they’ve exceeded any expectations that I had for them. I’m sure they’ve exceeded any expectations that you had for them, and probably any expectations most fans had.

The fact that fans are getting mad about Florida going one and done in the SEC Tournament is probably a testament to that, of how good of a season they had, because as fans go you probably didn’t come into the season with very high expectations, or expectations at all, but the way that Florida goes winning throughout the year, goes on a little winning streak, and the way that they looked, I think you start to raise expectations. You hit a point in the year where you had four losses, and it was Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, who was great, Duke, who’s playing probably as well as anybody right now in the country, outside of a Villanova.

Andrew:                 South Carolina.

Nick:                         South Carolina on the road. That point of the year is when you probably start raising expectations or building expectations in your mind, but I think Florida, for me, has exceeded any expectation that I could have put on them heading into the year.

Andrew:                 I’m with you. That’s kind of where I look at it. When you look at this team, you don’t have that go to guy. It’s Kevaughn Allen, but Kevaughn doesn’t shoot like he should. He doesn’t shoot his way out of slumps. He doesn’t shoot a ton, and then you miss that inside presence. For me though, this team goes and comes with Kasey Hill. Good Kasey Hill, Florida wins. Bad Kasey Hill, Florida loses. I know people laugh at that, but it’s the truth. If you tell me on Thursday good Kasey Hill is going to show up, I’m picking Florida to win big. If you tell me bad Kasey Hill is going to show up, I’m thinking maybe this is the 13-4 upset that happens every year. For me it all boils down to that.

When you look at East Tennessee State, Nick, they’re averaging 79 points a game, almost 80 points a game. Giving up 69 points a game. Vice versa, Florida is getting 78 points a game and giving up 66. Kid Palm has them as the fourth best defensive team in the country. When you look at this bracket, for me, Florida should beat East Tennessee State, and then we’ll see what happens with that Virginia/UNC Wilmington. I know some people have Wilmington upsetting Virginia. If Florida and Virginia go at it, you might be looking at a 30-29 basketball game, two defensive slobberknockers.

Nick:                         That’ll be interesting. That’ll be an interesting round of 32 matchup.

Andrew:                 Like I said, I think it’ll be interesting to see how Florida responds from that one and done. You always hear, “You don’t want to come in on a big winning streak.” Okay. Now Florida gets to come in on a losing streak. It’ll be interesting to see where that goes about.

I have Florida coming out of this bracket, Nick, and beating Virginia. I actually have them beating East Tennessee State and then beating UNC Wilmington. I have them coming out, and then losing to Villanova.

Nick:                         Yeah. Florida, this region that they’re in is rough. If you make it out into the championship of your region …

Andrew:                 You’re playing Duke.

Nick:                         If you make it into the semi-final of your region, you’re playing the best team in the country. Villanova’s probably been the best team in the country the entire season, and then if you somehow manage to beat them you’re playing a Duke team that just swept through the ACC tournament, who’s finally starting to get a little healthy. It’s not an easy road for a Florida team that is not playing its best basketball at this time.

Andrew:                 I will say this. Like I said, I have Villanova beating Florida. I do think that a team like Villanova is better for Florida to face than a Gonzaga or a Kansas, who have big men. With Villanova it’s going to be a guard game, who has the better guards? If you want to look at the bright side of it all, you can look at that Villanova is a guard play team for them.

I said it, and I don’t think you can say it enough, and that is Kevaughn Allen’s got to shoot, and he’s got to shoot a lot. You kind of get the sense that he feels bad that he shoots a lot, but you almost want to tell him, “Take 20 shots. It doesn’t matter.” A couple weeks ago, he shot six times and had 29 points. What happens if he does get 15 shots a game?

Nick:                         I think Mike White would love for him to take 15 shots a game. I think it comes down to Kevaughn. It comes down to him being aggressive, which people have been begging for for two years now really. Can he do it? Can he be that kind of assertive leader? I think you saw him start to do it a little bit last year towards the end of the season, but really, I’m sitting in the baseball press box Friday when they were playing, and Graham Hall, who has grown up in Gainesville, he covers recruiting now for the Gainesville Sun, is sitting there and goes, “Of course, there’s six seconds left, tie game.” He goes, “It’s going to be a Kasey Hill, an awkward Kasey Hill shot, probably a drive to the basket, taking a contested layup and miss it. We’ve seen this story before.” That’s what it is.

Kasey Hill, for sure, has had probably his best season. Four years probably hasn’t panned out as what you thought he was going to be as a McDonald’s All-American, but you’ve seen that story before. You kind of know what you’re going to get from Kasey Hill, and it’s sporadic. You need Kevaughn Allen to step up, and you need him to realize his potential, I think.

Andrew:                 Right. It’s interesting you say that talking about Kasey Hill getting the last shot. I want to see Kevaughn Allen take the shot there, to be the guy that says, “Give me the ball. Let me see what I can do.” With him, you have to respect not only can he drive to the basket, but, in my opinion, he probably has the best jumper on the team, and you would like to see what happens there. Kasey Hill is just, he’s going to drive out of control to the basket. 90% of the time he’s going to miss it, and that’s just going to be what it is. Would like to see what would happen with Kevaughn taking that shot at the end of the game.

Like you said with Kasey, he has had a great year, or had a better year for him, but, man, look back four years ago when Billy Donovan landed him and Chris Walker. You’re thinking, “He just landed two of the best prospects Florida’s ever gotten.” Neither one of them has really turned out to be that five star guy.

Nick:                         You’re thinking Billy finally signed some one and done guys. That’s what you’re probably thinking. Chris Walker should have been a four year guy, and Kasey Hill is a four year guy.

Andrew:                 Right. Just never panned out, and I think that might be one of the things that people look at when they say five stars don’t always pan out, because that was two of the top 20 guys in the country coming out of high school. Dominated on the AAU circuit. I remember when Kasey Hill committed people were going crazy about how Billy Donovan signed the best point guard he’s ever signed. I can name about four or five that have been better for Florida.

Real quick, Nick. Let’s go through our bracket. Who do you have winning it all?

Nick:                         I honestly haven’t even filled out a bracket yet.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I don’t even think I filled out one last year at all.

Andrew:                 I filled it out. If you haven’t joined our one on Gator Country, let us know. Get in on our bracket. We’re giving a month away free. Shoot me a message, and I’ll invite you. Personally, Nick, I have Kansas beating Duke in the championship. I wanted to say Gonzaga was going to beat Duke, but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Nick:                         Who do you have coming out of each bracket?

Andrew:                 I have Kansas coming out. I have Duke coming out. I have North Carolina coming out, and let me pull this up real quick. Oregon. I have Kansas playing Oregon, and Kansas going. I have North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Duke. That’s my four.

Nick:                         I pulled one up. I’m going to have Villanova getting into the final in the East. I would love to see a Villanova/Duke matchup. I think Villanova’s probably one of the best teams in the country, and then you have a team in Duke that if they win three games they’ll be on an eight game win streak, at least, heading into that.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I think out of the West, I think Arizona’s playing well, but I’m going to take Gonzaga to go there. I think Florida State is an interesting matchup with FGCU. Dunk city playing well. Wins their conference to get into the tournament.

Andrew:                 Florida State not playing well.

Nick:                         No. Florida State not playing well down the stretch. I think UNC comes out of the South, and Kansas. I’m going to with, what is that? Three #1 seeds, four #1 seeds? I’m picking all #1s in there, and I’ll go with Kansas over Villanova.

Andrew:                 Okay. The only difference we have is I have Duke, and you have Villanova. I think the only difference is that is Duke’s inside game versus Villanova’s outside game. If Villanova’s hitting three balls, good luck. If Duke’s able to go inside, good luck there. That’s there.

We’ll move on a little bit. Football is back, Nick. Tuesday/Thursday this week of practice. For me and you both, we talked about this, be interesting to see where this team is. Who has taken football serious? I know we’ve all see it on Twitter where Tyrie Cleveland, McArthur Burnett, Joseph Putu, basically you name it, they’ve been out there practicing on spring break, going through drills, that kind of stuff. Putu was with Keiwan Ratliff. I noticed Vosean Joseph and Antonio Callaway were with Jake Allen working out.

It looks like a lot of guys took it serious. I think it’ll be interesting to really see Tuesday, to kind of hear your impression, Nick, of how the opening of practice goes. Is it a lot of energy out there, or is it going through the motions?

Nick:                         Something different, I remember last year during the off season there weren’t a lot of pictures or videos of guys posting online of workouts and stuff like that. I remember Jalen Hurd. Jalen Hurd was famous among Tennessee fans for posting jumping onto treadmills that are going 24 miles an hour, and him running at these crazy speeds, him lifting and doing stuff. I remember Florida players tweeting or saying things about we don’t have to prove that we’re working out by posting it to Instagram or Twitter or anything. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just saying that that’s not what we’re doing.

I saw a lot more of that, I think, this spring break. It was a lot of there is no spring break, with Jawaan Taylor, who was down in Miami. Vosean Joseph and Antonio Callaway were down in Miami. I saw them working out with Jake Allen, who will be an incoming freshman. Really interesting to see maybe a change of philosophy. I know the team got together on Sunday night for a dinner. They got SEC East Championship rings, which I want to talk to you about, and it’ll be interesting to see. You can tell. One week out of the gym, and I can tell a difference in performance. We’ll be interested to see which guys look like they spent a week on the beach with cocktails or in the club, and who spent the week working out.

Andrew:                 That’s kind of what we talked about the week before last. Really just to see who takes it serious. Like I said, there was nothing wrong with some of these guys enjoying spring break, going out or relaxing on the beach, whatever it is, but it was also interesting to see who was taking it serious as well. This week is when it kind of becomes real. You got to put the pads on a little bit, and some popping goes on. For me, Nick, this is when I’m going to be able to tell a lot more about the team, and I’m sure you as well. See how the offensive line does. How has Brad Davis’ philosophy with the offensive line changed?

Nick:                         Pads are on too.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Just that month period that he’s been on campus. How is Randy Shannon’s defense looking differently? Will there be more blitzing? Will it be more press coverage? How will that go? How has Corey Bell with his DBs? I think you’ll be able to tell so much more with it, but for me the most important thing I want to see is to see that offensive line just getting nasty up front.

Nick:                         You continue to see how, who is it? Continue to see what happens inside at guard with Fred Johnson, Brett Heggie. Is Heggie pushing to get into a starting role? What is that looking like?

Andrew:                 Exactly. You and I talked about it before. It’s nothing against Fred Johnson. It really isn’t. Not picking on him at all. He just is too big to play inside. He doesn’t bend. I say too big, that’s wrong. He doesn’t bend well enough. To be too big is not the proper way to say it. He just doesn’t bend well enough inside. For me it’ll be interesting to see if someone takes over. For me, I think it’s last resort Fred Johnson staying there, and it’s best if he’s your backup tackle. Whether it be Brett Heggie or Nick Buchanan, whichever one of those guys outperforms, I think best case scenario for Florida is one of those guys stepping up and playing inside.

Nick:                         You need somebody to step up and play inside. I think you probably feel as good about the offensive line as you have since you’ve been in your position, if you’re Jim McElwain. Looking at four guys really coming back. You hope that you’ve found your center in TJ McCoy.

Andrew:                 You got to feel better at left tackle.

Nick:                         I think so.

Andrew:                 Even with just the limited snaps you’ve seen Martez at left tackle, you have to feel better. I mean, David Sharpe just never panned out to be that left tackle you thought he would be. In my opinion, I feel better about left tackle now with just the limited snaps I’ve seen with Martez.

Nick:                         Yeah. Might need to ask the outgoing coach, position coach, why he didn’t feel the same.

Andrew:                 We can ask him a lot of questions, like why he recruited so badly, why Alex Leatherwood’s playing at Alabama, why this, that, and the other. It is what it is. Again, we’ll see where that goes. I still think that there’s a question mark with Tyler Jordan. Mac’s called him out several times on it. For me, it’s going to be interesting to see how he responds. If he doesn’t respond, are we talking about Fred being that right guard, and then Buchanan and Heggie and Jordan all battling for the left guard position? I don’t think we can rule out that he’s going to be locked in as a starter just because of that.

Nick:                         No. You don’t need to figure anything out definitively, but you would like to have a good plan moving forward. You would like to know kind of, we’ve got these three spots set in stone. Unless something crazy were to happen, these three spots are set in stone, and we have a good idea of how we think the other two are going to shake out, or we have four spots set in stone, and we have a good idea of the fifth spot. That’s really what you’re looking for in spring.

There’s so much time left, six months left, or just under six months left, until you’re playing real games again. It’s kind of like you don’t need to know. Like you and I were talking before, you don’t have an opponent Saturday, so it’s not like there’s top secret stuff going on right now. You are looking at a situation where you’d like to have some piece of mind and kind of a clear plan looking forward.

Andrew:                 You would like to say, “Here’s what we’re going to go into fall camp looking like.” Like we say all the time, fall camp you can lose a job and win a job, just like you can in spring, but you would like to be able to go in there and have the summer working out with say your starting five. Just like you would like to have, you want to have an idea of who your quarterback is going to be. The quarterback job is not going to be won until fall camp publicly, but you would think Mac, Nuss, and the offensive staff would have a pretty good idea of who, at the end of spring, is going to be their starting quarterback, if there was a game April 7th that meant something.

Nick:                         That won’t be named though publicly.

Andrew:                 That’s what I’m saying, but privately they’ll have a pretty good idea. If they don’t, something’s wrong.

Nick:                         There’s only 12 more practices, and then the spring game, to figure it out.

Andrew:                 We’ll see. That’s where it is. You’ve got to figure in what happens if Malik Zaire comes in. Where does he figure into the mix with that? You have a lot of what-ifs coming up for that. This week, Nick, anything in particular you’re looking at besides offensive line?

Nick:                         Definitely for the first day, first two days, we only have one day of open practice, Tuesday, so this week Tuesday I’ll be looking at offensive line and defensive line, just because it’s the first day with pads back on. I actually need to make sure that they’re in full pads. If not, I’m still looking for another guy to step up at receiver. I think people kind of, at least on our website, kind of got it misconstrued a little bit when we weren’t mentioning Dre Massey. I wrote a story, and I didn’t really mention Dre Massey as a guy that I’m looking at right now. It’s just because he’s still coming back from an injury. He’s not playing right now. He’s going through stuff on the side. Can he be that third guy? Maybe.

Andrew:                 I think he is that third guy. I think it just depends on how healthy he is. For me, and I think you would say this as well, you’re looking for that other outside guy.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think Massey is a slot receiver, an interior guy. You’re looking for another guy outside. Not really many options to be looking at, so it comes down to Josh Hammond. Take advantage of the opportunity that is presenting itself to you. Can you do that? I think Massey is a good player. I’ve only seen him really return a kickoff. That was all we saw from him last year. Staying healthy, and is he going to be the player that he was, that Florida thought he would be, coming back from an ACL injury?

Andrew:                 Right. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how maybe him and Brandon Powell get used at the same time.

Nick:                         I’m over it.

Andrew:                 I’m over the hype of Brandon Powell as well, but what I’m saying is do they have some packages where they’re both in there together? Does poor Brandon Powell not have to run 500 miles a game in motions? Is that Dre Massey?

Then, for me too, it’s who’s going to be that freshman receiver from last year? Is it Josh Hammond or Freddie Swain? Who makes that next step up? I feel like both guys did okay their freshman year, but neither one of them were threats, in my opinion. I know both of them had a couple touchdowns. Freddie Swain, I believe he had a touchdown in the SEC Championship game, right? I believe so, right, Nick?

Nick:                         I think so.

Andrew:                 I can’t remember. Anyway, what I’m saying is I just feel like you’re still looking to see who that outside receiver to step up is going to be. Massey’s going to play. He’s going to get a lot of playing time. He’s going to get a lot of touches. He’s going to get a lot of action, not only at receiver. I think he’ll be a wildcat quarterback some. I think he’ll play a little running back. Definitely be a return guy. I just don’t think that there’s a guy that’s stepped up to really be that threat, outside of Callaway and Cleveland, at that X and Z position.

Nick:                         Another thing I just thought of while you were talking, we’re not going to be able to answer it in the spring, but I’m very interested, Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier talked about how they were going to use Dre, talked about all these different packages, and he has this versatile wrinkle. Then, in one of his only press conferences early on, McElwain makes reference to all the pages that you rip out of the playbook when Massey goes down on that first play. I want to know if that’s an excuse, if that’s an excuse for how bad your offense was last year. Well, we worked all year on this, then all of a sudden that’s taken away. I want to see if that’s an excuse. How do you use him when he comes back?

Andrew:                 I’ll be critical here, Nick, and I’ll say it like it should be. If your offense is based off of wrinkles with Dre Massey, you don’t have an offense. I say that, and I say that with the utmost respect to Jim McElwain and to Doug Nussmeier. It’s time that you have an offense built around a real quarterback. Do you want to have a package for Dre Massey? Sure, and you should. Do you want to have a package where you move him around at wildcat quarterback? Absolutely. That’s changing directions. It’s changing things up.

I just don’t believe that you base your, your offense should not be predicated on a package built around trick plays to be successful or not.   Do I believe Mac that he had to pull out a lot of plays for Massey? Yes. I do. I also believe that that wasn’t the real reason your offense sucked.

Nick:                         That’s kind of what I was getting at. You just kind of kicked the door down there.

Andrew:                 I think it’s safe to say that. I don’t think that that’s being too harsh. I don’t think that’s being too critical. I think if you asked Mac to be realistic with you he’d probably agree. Publicly he’s going to say that, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all say things publicly to cover up, but I just don’t think that that’s the real reason.

Nick:                         That’s what I was getting at. We’ll have another podcast that we’ll doing coming up Thursday, and we’ll talk about what happened Tuesday, as well as preview, or get more into the tournament, assuming Florida wins. I think we all assume Florida wins. I think we’ve got a lot to talk about on the diamond. Maybe not as much to talk about with the softball girls on the diamond, because they’re getting the job done. Maybe some more to talk about with baseball.

Andrew:                 Nick. Here it is, Nick.

Nick:                         You came out on Twitter. I was going to bring it up. You came out on Twitter and dropped some bombs.

Andrew:                 I’ll be very honest with you, Nick. I’m going to say it. Nick, you can call me out if I’m wrong here, but I feel like that I’m very educated to talk about baseball, just like you are. I don’t hide the fact baseball is my favorite sport. I love football, but could watch baseball all day long. I think it’s time to start worrying about this baseball team. You and I said it early in the season. You don’t get upset about a February loss. It’s not even the loss that I think you start to worry about. You lose those two to Florida Gulf Coast. I think it’s a very good Florida Gulf Coast team.

Nick:                         Florida Gulf Coast is 50-2 on the year. People are saying it’s an embarrassing loss. Florida Gulf Coast is having an incredible season. There’s a lot of people that don’t watch baseball at all, and then see, “You lost to a mid-major team? That’s embarrassing.”

Andrew:                 Mid-major in baseball is not the same as football.

Nick:                         Not the same at all.

Andrew:                 With the scholarship limits you’re going to have good players go. I mean, when you look at Florida Gulf Coast, they may have arguably one of the top five pitchers in major league baseball came from there, Chris Sale. That’s there.

Nick, it’s just the way they lost is my opinion of why this is bad. The offense is struggling, and it’s not improving.

Nick:                         Right now Florida has three guys hitting over .300. Only one of them is an everyday player. I think two of them should be everyday players. Dalton Guthrie has started and played in all 17 games for Florida at shortstop. He’s hitting .328. Keenan Bell right now leads the team with a .353 average. He’s played in 12 games, with 9 starts. Ryan Larson is hitting .333, that’s only 15 at bats though. He’s 5 for 15. Hit two homeruns on Saturday to help Florida not get swept on Saturday to lose their first series of the year. I think Keenan Bell is a guy that has to be in the lineup. Nick Horvath is 4 of 22 on the year. I think he’s going to be overmatched when you get into SEC pitching. It’s just the team.

There’s also a lot of guys that I saw this week, and the game Sunday was moved to Saturday, so there was a double-header Saturday. I saw guys take a lot better approaches to the plate, even if it didn’t come to fruition. JJ Schwarz probably hit four balls this week that if the winds not blowing in are out of the park homeruns, or hit balls really hard right at guys. He’s only hitting .234 on the year, but I think he’s starting to come around. He’s taking a better approach at the plate. The first week of the year I mentioned, JJ took the ball the opposite way, took a ball up the middle. He’s taking the balls where they’re getting pitched.

Then he didn’t hit a homerun, and I started seeing him swing it long and get slow, kind of thinking, “Got to hit that homerun. Got to get a homerun under my belt. Should be hitting homeruns. This is my draft year.” You start putting pressure on yourself. This week, after hitting a homerun, who was it against? Against Florida Gulf Coast, in the ninth inning, to lead off that ninth inning, I think that kind of took the monkey off his back, and I started seeing better approaches from him throughout the weekend.

Florida simply needs to find a lineup and stick with it. Right now, you don’t take Deacon Liput out of your lineup. You can’t do it. You got to have a guy at second base that you can count on, and people were saying, “You need to sit Liput. You need to sit JJ.” If Florida’s going to win a national championship, if Florida’s going to win the SEC, if Florida’s going to do all the things that they set out to do, that people expect them to do, you don’t sit these guys. These are guys you need to have them figure it out. You need to have them figure it out, whether it’s maybe sit them for a game, but these are guys that you need in your lineup. You need them to start hitting.

Right now, Deacon Liput .211. Had some good at bats over the weekend, but he’s been benched a couple times and been pulled out of games for having a bad approach to the plate. He’s a draft eligible sophomore. This is a huge year for him. The way he’s hitting the ball right now it’s just the same approach. Falling down to a knee, just swinging out of his shoes. He got much bigger over the off season. He hit the ever loving crap out of the ball in the fall and the spring when I’m out there watching scrimmages. Led the team in homeruns during their fall and spring practices. Maybe that’s not your game. That doesn’t have to be your game. Hit the ball into the gaps, and he’s a great defender. He’s starting to take his at bats out in the defense with him. You can’t have that.

Also, a guy that I was very high on, Austin Langworthy, really starting to struggle. Now hitting .222. He’s 10 for 45. Still only slugging .400. Fifteen walks is still very good, especially for a freshman to have that kind of eye at the plate. Austin Langworthy’s an everyday guy.

As you get into now, Tuesday, FSU. The new #1 team in the country. They’re playing as hot as anyone. They lost their first ACC game on Friday. Bounced back and outscored Boston College, I think, 25-2, 25-3. Playing on Saturday, and then you go to face Auburn. Auburn’s got two dynamite guys that will throw on Friday, Saturday. That first month that we talked about feeling out, that’s over. That’s over now. There’s going to be 10 guys, maybe 11 guys, that are going to be playing. Everyone else, you had your chance this first month. That’s it.

Andrew:                 Right. That’s what I was saying. I think that’s why there is reason to be concerned. You’re heading into SEC play. What you thought was a tough nonconference schedule just got extremely tough.

I’m going to throw a couple numbers at you, Nick. This is what I think is concerning for me. JJ Schwarz, 15 strikeouts to just 9 walks, .329 on base percentage. When you look at Deacon Liput, 7 walks and 13 strikeouts, a .297 on base percentage. For me, those are the numbers. You can throw me the batting average all you want, and the batting average means a lot, don’t get me wrong, but when you start to look at the on base percentage and the strikeout to walk ratios, that’s where it’s becoming an issue that you’re starting to get concerned about. When you look at this team overall, Nick, just a .342 on base percentage. That’s not good. You’d want it to be around .450 on the year.

What do you think, Nick? You’re saying you think Keenan Bell and Ryan Larson get in the starting lineup? Who do you think they replace?

Nick:                         Keenan Bell, right now you also look at Mike Rivera. Mike Rivera wholeheartedly struggling at the plate.

Andrew:                 He’s a bulldog though. I don’t think you can replace him.

Nick:                         He’s one of my favorite players. Mike only hitting .185. Mike only has 14 total bases. There’s guys on the team, a team that’s not hitting well, that have more hits than Mike has total bases on the year. On base percentage is .214. It’s terrible. Worse than the team. That’s your catcher. Mike Rivera is going to catch, probably going to have to start hitting ninth until he gets out of this funk, and Rivera’s a guy that led the team for most of the year in homeruns, nine homeruns. It’s not his game, but he had that power surge as a sophomore, and none this year. Three extra base hits in total for him. Rivera’s your guy behind the plate.

Keenan Bell can play right field, can play left field, and can play first base. You find a spot for him in the lineup. JJ Schwarz can play first base. Not very great. You saw the scouting report that Seton Hall had. Friday night, they don’t try to run at all when Mike Rivera’s behind the plate. JJ comes out for the first game Saturday, with Jackson Cower throwing. They try to steal four bases. Successful on three of them, or successful on two of them. That’s the scouting report.

When you get into the SEC play, they know this Gator team. They’ve played these guys now two years in a row. This will be the third time around. You’ve got to have Mike Rivera catching. That means you got to figure out what you’re going to do with your DH spot and what you’re going to do in the outfield. I think if Ryan Larson, as a senior who’s hitting okay right now, he’s struggled. He’s only started three games this year. He’s really struggled with SEC pitching the past three seasons. I don’t know if that’s your go to guy.

I think you have Keenan Bell in the outfield. Nelson Maldonado’s earning a spot in the outfield as well. Maybe you’re DHing JJ or you’re DHing Keenan to get Langworthy, who’s your starting left fielder, he started 15 of the 17 games, to get Langworthy into the field. I think your outfield needs to be Langworthy, Reese, and Bell or Maldonado, three of those four, with Bell DHing or playing first base when he’s not playing in the outfield. You got to get those guys in. I don’t see it being Ryan Larson yet, and your infield doesn’t change, outside of first base, which we just mentioned and just talked about.

Look at Auburn. Auburn’s Friday night and Saturday night guys have given up three runs in 51 innings, three earned runs in 51 innings. Keegan Thompson has been incredible. Kasey Mies has been great, and really that pitching staff, when you go on the road to start at Auburn, if Florida doesn’t find some momentum against a very good pitching staff at FSU on Tuesday, and you go into that Auburn series flat on the road, you’re going to be in for a long weekend at the plate.

Andrew:                 Exactly. While we talk about that, baseball slipping a little bit, my oh my, has softball turned it up, Nick. It’s not something that other teams are wanting to see right now. After that loss to Maryland, Florida’s reeled of 14 straight in softball. Went out and won two in a row to open SEC play. They play Monday night against Missouri. We’re taping this Monday afternoon. Delanie Gourley almost threw her second straight perfect game against Missouri on Saturday, without a Texas Leaguer single she throws a perfect game.

This team, Nick, is starting to find its mark at the plate. We talked about this for a while, Janelle Wheaton needed to get it going at the plate, and she has gotten it going. The average still .216 on the year, but it’s improved by 60 points over the last two weekends. It’s one of those things where when you look at 51 at bats it’s going to take a little bit to get it up where she wants it to be.

This team is just really playing well, and it all starts with pitching, and it all starts with Kelly Barnhill. Just a .25 earned run average so far this year. 56 innings pitched. She struck out 110 batters already.

Nick:                         Filthy.

Andrew:                 It is filthy. You look at this team overall, Nick, .64 earned run average, and the highest earned run average on the team is Delanie Gourley, who has a perfect game and a one-hitter under her belt. Good luck.

Nick:                         Those are some nasty women.

Andrew:                 Nasty. Only given up 20 runs on the whole entire year.

Nick:                         20 runs you said?

Andrew:                 20 runs in 23 games.

Nick:                         That’s a recipe for winning baseball, or winning softball games, right there.

Andrew:                 Twelve complete games, and 15 shutouts.

Nick:                         What do they have coming up this weekend? They’ll play Monday, but by the time people are listening to this that’s over, so what do they have coming up this weekend?

Andrew:                 They’re going to play a midweek game against North Dakota State, and then they travel up to South Carolina. South Carolina is probably one of the down teams in the SEC overall. When you look at the SEC they’ve got eight teams ranked, and another one in Arkansas that was right outside of the rankings. It’s a sport that’s really loaded, just like it is in baseball, but South Carolina is not very good on the year. They’re 1-2 in the conference. 18-7 overall, but just not a team that you expect to battle Florida this weekend. Florida should do well.

It’s like we talk about with baseball, Florida will go and come on their pitching staff. If the pitching staff’s doing well, they’re going to win a lot of games. The hitting for softball is getting better, but you don’t expect Florida to win too many games in blowout fashion, or not blowout fashion, in high scoring games. They’re going to win with pitching, and that’s what they’re doing so far.

Nick:                         Any concern, I know I talked about it last year with the baseball team, any concern that that style of winning starts taking its toll on you over time? It’s putting more gray hairs on my head. It’s just the stress and never having a win come easy. It’s like each week you’re like, “Woo. Another 1-0 game.”

Andrew:                 I say that, and I kind of say that tongue in cheek a little bit, but when you look at Florida’s wins, they’re not exactly nail-biters. The Sunday night game was a 1-0 game that they won, but you look at the last few games, 6-0, 7-4, 9-4, 4-0, 17-0, 8-0. Not too many nail-biters there. It seems like Florida has one or two really good innings on offense, and then they kind of, what’s the word I’m looking for? Complacent. They get complacent a little bit. There’s not too much worry for me with this softball team right now. They’re hitting their stride, and watch out the rest of the SEC.

Two teams to watch out for though are Auburn and LSU. They played some nail-biter games this weekend. Auburn took two out of three, but the two losses for LSU were 5-4 and 5-4. SEC is loaded. Expect Florida to be right at the top.

Nick:                         Predictions for the week. Record.

Andrew:                 4-0.

Nick:                         4-0 this week. I expect Florida, it’s going to be a tough week. I think Florida will beat FSU. They’ve kind of had FSU’s number Tuesday, but I think they’re going to drop the series at Auburn. It is an incredible matchup Friday, Friday pitching, but I expect Florida to drop two of three, go 1-2 this weekend. I think a 2-2 week for Florida, who dropped from #2 to #5 in D1 baseball rankings after their week last week. They were 2-2 last week.

Andrew:                 My South Alabama Jaguars did put an L on Auburn’s record.

Nick:                         They did.

Andrew:                 South Alabama’s not playing well, but midweek. Nick, we’re running out of time here. Tell the people where they can find us. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday. Stay tuned for basketball, football, softball, recruiting. Big weekend for recruiting coming up as well. Tell the people where they can find us, Nick.

Nick:                         As always, www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. On social media, you can find us @GatorCountry on Twitter and Facebook. You can find us @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. As always, the podcast is on iTunes. Go ahead, leave us a rating. Subscribe. Never miss an episode there. You can follow me and Andrew on Twitter, @NickdelaTorreGC, @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. As always, if you’re still looking to come on over, we extended the coupon deal a little bit. Let us know, and we’ll get you onboard. Like Nick said, follow us all. Got a lot of stuff coming. David Bowie, photographer, will be down in Orlando with Baileigh. If you’re down there, say hey to them. Let us know how we’re doing. Like Nick said, give us a rating. As always, guys, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.