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    Mar 18, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida Gators forward Justin Leon (23) reacts after making a three point shot during the first half against the Virginia Cavaliers in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sweet 16 preview and more
for the Florida Gators: Podcast

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  • Sweet 16 preview and more for the Florida Gators: Podcast
Written by Andrew Spivey, March 22, 2017, 0 Comments,
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GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we’re joined by Zach Hughes who helps us recap the Florida Gators basketball team’s Sweet 16 berth, plus preview the game against Wisconsin.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Hughes what it’s going to take for the Gators to beat Wisconsin and also how the Gators big men are playing lately.

Andrew and Nick also recap the Florida Gators football team’s latest practices, plus how the diamond sports did this past weekend on the road.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, busy weekend for the Gators, softball, baseball, football, recruiting, and Sweet 16 birth.

Nick:                         Yeah. Some drama. I feel like the first day of the tournament was a chalk, not too much excitement, and then the round of 32 happened. Down goes Villanova, #1 seed. Down goes Duke, #2 seed, and really Florida’s path, I think they were probably in the second toughest region, their path to the Final Four may be a little easier now. Not to take anything away from a very talented Wisconsin team that they’ll play Friday in Madison Square Garden.

Andrew:                 It was blowout city in Orlando. First Xavier blows out Florida State, and then Florida turns around and blows out Virginia. Didn’t see that coming in both of them. Now, I expected Florida to win the game. Didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was, and definitely didn’t think Xavier was about to blow out Florida State like they did.

Nick:                         No. Florida State just big fat egg.

Andrew:                 Yeah. We’re going to be joined by our new guy, new basketball guy. Zach Hughes is going to come on. Little background on Zach, he coached basketball while in college at the University of Mobile down in Alabama, and moved on after being a GA there, and is going to write for us. Do some basketball. Do some basketball recruiting. Help with some football as well. Nick, I know you and I are excited to have him on. We don’t like basketball very much.

Nick:                         Not that we don’t like it. Neither of us grew up playing basketball. You and I don’t like talking about things that we don’t know. We know softball. We know baseball. We know football. Just like to be informed on what we talk about, and when you talk about someone who’s been a graduate assistant coach, he’s been around the AAU circuit. He’s been around recruiting. Knows the ins and outs, and I think we’re going to have a very educated voice talking to you guys about basketball now.

Andrew:                 And basketball recruiting, which everyone likes. We’ll get to him in a second, Nick. I wanted to recap everything. Football had a weeklong practice last week. Had one on Monday as well. They got out and got in full pads. Your baseball team lays an egg, gets swept up in Auburn, and softball continues on that train there, Nick.

Nick:                         Tim Walton’s squad is just motoring through. Florida really struggled with the pitching, and they’ve got some issues going on now.

Andrew:                 We’ll dig into that more here in a second, after we talk to Zach about basketball. We’ll dig into that, and we’ll dig into a little bit more of what Jim McElwain said on Monday about the football team. We’ll get into more of recruiting, as there’s a big Junior Day coming up. Nick, without further ado, let’s go to our man, Zach.

Welcome back, guys. We’re with my man, Zach. Zach, tell everybody what makes you a basketball guy, and what you just a great Alabamian.

Zach:                        What’s up, everybody? Like you said, I’m Zach Hughes. I’m from Montgomery, Alabama. I went to University of Mobile. It’s an NAIA school in the great Mobile, Alabama, of course. Home of Andrew Spivey. I worked for the basketball team for four years, student assistant. Actually, had some injuries, so I had to play about 10 games towards the end of the season there. I got to get on the court, went from coach to player. Had experience there, then during my four years there I did some AAU, coaching some AAU ball. I’ve just been involved with the game my whole life.

Andrew:                 How many dunks did you have, and don’t like to us.

Zach:                        Man, probably couldn’t even touch the net, to be honest with you.

Andrew:                 You at least joined the crew of Nick and I. We can’t touch it either.

Nick:                         I can touch the net. Speak for yourself over there.

Zach:                        I could probably touch the net with some help.

Andrew:                 I need somebody to put me on their shoulders to dunk. Zach, I know we talked a little bit last week. We were talking about the Sweet 16, and you had some of the keys that were big for the Gators. Most of those, with the exception of KeVaughn Allen, were pretty much spot on. KeVaughn, we don’t know what’s going on with you, big dog. Let’s talk real quick. What did you see last weekend? I said, and I’m not afraid to say it again, I think Saturday’s game against Virginia might have been their best all-around game of the year. What did you see last weekend? What were the successes? What’s something maybe they can improve on down the stretch here?

Zach:                        I think they did a great job going into both games of just pushing their tempo and making the game go in the direction that they want to play it. I know ETSU, they like to play the same type of style, defensive pressure, translate that into offense, which is going to come down to the players, both teams trying to do the same thing, but who has the better players playing at the better time. We saw that Florida got that done.

It was going to be key in the Florida/Virginia game, the tempo, because both teams total opposites. Virginia wants to slow you down and make you score in the half court. They play that pack line defense, forcing you to shoot shots, which made me nervous, considering Allen and Barry’s struggles from that game. We were going to have to rely on those guys getting hot, but we say that Florida really controlled the tempo and made it an up and down game. I think that was the key facts there.

Andrew:                 What did you think of Gorjok Gak’s performance? I’ll be honest, I said it on a radio show yesterday, he kind of reminded you of an old-school Joakim Noah the way he was running the court.

Zach:                        Yes.

Andrew:                 Was very pumped up. Him and Haynes both, I thought, played really well. Overall opinions of what you saw out of Gak?

Zach:                        I think he was huge. I think his minutes in the ETSU game were big, but, more importantly, I think his performance in Virginia was very huge. He was running the court, getting some put backs, getting some good position, just doing those little things. I think, obviously we’ve seen him move, take Rimmer’s minutes in the rotation, but I really like what I see from him so far.

He’s going to have to come in and play against Wisconsin, because Wisconsin their keys are their big guys. Ethan Happ is 6’10”, and Nigel Hayes, who I feel like that dude’s been there for like 10 years for Wisconsin, he’s a big guy, weighs about 240. They’re going to try to win the game from the post. I think, considering foul trouble and things that could happen, he’s going to have to come in and play a big role for us.

Nick:                         I think right now, maybe you’ll agree with me, everything you’re getting from Gak, and it’s Gak, Spivey, anything you’re getting from him is kind of just the cherry on top. You really didn’t expect much from him this year, and it’s been nice to see, especially as the tournament comes along, and probably because of Egbunu’s injury, Gak really starting to be able to come in off the bench and, like you said, provide energy, run up and down the court, and give you a little production.

Zach:                        Yeah. He’s been huge. I think, like I said, if Hayes and Leon, if they get in foul trouble, he’s going to have to come in and be physical and provide a presence down low for us.

Andrew:                 With Leon, I joked with someone the other day. I said, “He’s kind like the Will Yeguete of this team.” He’s that tough guy that, it doesn’t look pretty. Let’s just be honest. He looks like he’s trying to shoot a three ball, and that’s not very pretty, but it goes in. You and I even talked about this a little bit on Saturday, and that’s that he’s kind of that heart and soul of the team, in that he’s just that guy that is the motor, the guy that’s going to be tough down the stretch. What are you seeing from him, and what’s your kind of impression of that as well?

Zach:                        Absolutely. I really do think that he is kind of the glue guy of this team, like you said. I don’t think we’re going to get that kind of offense production from him consistently, obviously, but anything you can get from him on that side of the ball is going to be key. He had a double-double last game, 14 points, 10 rebounds.

I think the key for him is going to be the way that he’s going to guard Nigel Hayes. He’s going to have that assignment, I think. A lot of people have kind of been asking what are the matchups going to look like, and I think he’s going to have the assignment of staying on him. I think, if he can kind of slow Nigel Hayes down, who Nigel Hayes was the reason that they beat Villanova by that nice move on the post, but he’s going to have that assignment. We’ll see how he can play against Nigel Hayes.

Andrew:                 Nick and I talked about this the other day, and that was that maybe Villanova was the easier matchup for Florida. You say that tongue in cheek, because they were the defending national champions, but that was going to be a guard oriented game with Virginia. Do you see that as well that maybe Wisconsin might be a tougher matchup as far as keys go?

Zach:                        Yes. As Villanova and Wisconsin game was kind of getting down to the wire, I was kind of sitting there hoping, after watching it, I was kind of hoping, maybe we want Villanova to win this game, because their matchups work better for us. They’re a smaller team, and they kind of match up a lot better, because, like I said, Wisconsin they rely on their bigs and size advantage. They’re going to look to slow the game down too, so a key is going to be how can we get in there and set the tempo early.

Andrew:                 Looking at that game ahead of time, what are the keys for Florida in that game? What is it going to take for Florida to pull that out? Is it going to be the play of Gorjok and Kevarrius inside? What’s it going to be?

Zach:                        I feel like the main thing looking at this is Wisconsin does a great job of getting opposing bigs in foul trouble early. That’s kind of one thing that they hang their hat on is they attack early and try to get opposing bigs in foul trouble early. That’s going to be a big thing that we’re going to have to do is try to play clean good defense without fouling, because we can’t really afford for Hayes and Leon to get in foul trouble early. That’s going to be what Wisconsin’s looking to do. A big key there is going to see how we play that and are able to counteract that.

Then, I think, we’ve seen these huge games from Robinson and Chiozza, and Leon last game. First game it was Robinson and Chiozza. Second game it was Leon and Robinson. Sooner or later we’re going to have to have Allen and Barry step up, at least one of them. Early last game Allen, he was very aggressive, came out first possession, shot a three, but I like when he started attacking a little bit more. I feel like he needs to start the game off looking to attack, and then kind of play from the inside out. When you start out just shooting the ball, and you’re in the slump, you try to just shoot your way out of it. I think he needs to play from the inside out.

I think Allen and Barry are going to have to, one of them’s going to have to step up. Like I said, I don’t think Leon is going to have that same type of production.

Nick:                         It’s been kind of cool to see how Leon has played, especially in the last game, and Devin Robinson’s really probably playing his best basketball right now, but I think, like you said, you’re going to need KeVaughn Allen to step up at some point. When you’re in a shooting slump, like you said, is the best way to maybe even just drive and get fouled? Go to the line. See something. See the ball go through the net, just to see it. Don’t try to shoot your way out of a slump by posting up in the corner and just chucking up threes. Do you think he just needs to, maybe Mike White needs to draw some stuff up where KeVaughn Allen, the ball’s in his hands, and he’s getting a chance to drive, take a couple high percentage shots early?

Zach:                        Yeah. I think that’s going to be key is getting him some things set up early, giving him some good positions and good looks to where he can maybe take a shot off of a screen coming into the mid post type deal, or just getting him set up to where it’s a high percentage look. It’s a shot in his area of strength, or just him being aggressive, because I feel like he’s just going to have to go see the ball go in early. Last game it was huge. I know Barry’s been in a slump, but when he made that three towards the end of the game I feel like that was huge for him to at least see the ball go in. I expect him to play much better next game.

Andrew:                 Moving out from Florida, before we let you go. Overall, just opinion of the tournament. Nick and I said this just a second ago, first round, maybe an upset here or there. The second round, Duke goes down. You got Villanova going down. Arkansas almost takes down North Carolina. What are you thinking about this tournament? Who do you got going on now that Duke’s out? Who do you like going forward?

Nick:                         What does your bracket look like? We’ll do that quick. How’s your bracket?

Zach:                        For my bracket I have three of the four teams left.

Nick:                         That’s good.

Zach:                        I’ve got Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke. Duke messed me up the other night.

Andrew:                 You and I’ve got the same Final Four.

Zach:                        Great minds think alike.

Andrew:                 There you go.

Zach:                        To me, it’s these teams that are coming in the tournament playing real hot, they’re kind of the ones that have been struggling. It’s these teams coming in that have been struggling, like South Carolina losing three of the last six. They’ve been struggling scoring the ball, and they scored 65 in the second half against Duke the other night. They scored 93 their first game. Also, Florida, two losses to Vanderbilt and playing best ball of the season so far right now. Duke, they were coming off a great run. Won their tournament, and then lost to South Carolina.

It’s a lot of these situations where these teams that are coming in struggling, those are the ones making the runs. These teams coming off these great runs towards the end of the season, they’re the ones that are getting put out here early.

Andrew:                 I’ve got to ask you, before we let you go. You were in Greenville to watch that game.

Zach:                        I was.

Andrew:                 How anti-Duke was that place?

Zach:                        It was basically a home game for South Carolina. Then you had all the North Carolina fans sticking around after their win against Arkansas, cheering for South Carolina. Then even the Arkansas fans were booing Grayson Allen. It was crazy, the atmosphere. That was one of the loudest places I’ve been in, and just seeing all these people, three different fan bases just cheering against Duke.

Andrew:                 Nothing wrong with that. Zach, we’re going to let you go. We’re going to get you back soon. We appreciate it. Tell everyone where they can find you on Twitter, real quick, and then we’ll get you back on the podcast very soon.

Zach:                        Absolutely. You can find me @ZachGHughes.

Andrew:                 There you go. Zach, we appreciate it so much. Everybody keep checking out his stuff. He’s going to have tons of recruiting stuff as soon as the season is over with. Hopefully that’s after a championship, but whatever it’s after, it’s after. We appreciate it, and we’ll talk to you soon, Zach.

Zach:                        All right, guys. See you all.

Nick:                         Thanks, Zach.

Andrew:                 All right, Nick. We’re back. Great stuff from Zach. He knows more than you and I do. Glad to have him on, and glad to have him on the team.

Nick:                         Yeah. Especially from someone who’s very familiar with college basketball, recruiting, and I know there’s a lot of, I think Florida even before Mike White took a lot of heat for not getting those McDonald’s All-American and those one and done players, but I think what we’re really seeing right now is Mike White and Dustin May and the rest of his coaching staff are finding guys that fit into their system and fit into what they want to do. You look at Justin Leon, Canyon Barry. Who’s the other senior transfer?

Andrew:                 Not Rimmer.

Nick:                         Not Rimmer, but those two specifically that are really buying in, and it’s kind of like what, I think, was it Frank Martin who said, “They’re really playing through Mike White’s eyes? They’re playing like him.”

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I think that is evident right now, and look at the NCAA. If it was all about stars and McDonald’s All-Americans, you’d have a four team tournament, and you’d have UNC, Duke, Kentucky, and maybe one other team play every year. That would be your kind of four every year, but it’s not. Look at Villanova. How many McDonald’s All-Americans does Villanova have? I don’t think any.

Andrew:                 The thing, credit to Mike White, is he did get a big time guy in Stokes this year. That was a big pickup. You see what Keith Stone was able to do before he got sick. You saw what Doc is able to do inside. You’ve been able to see all these guys that have been able to produce. I think it’s interesting what you say about what Frank Martin said. I think that’s true. Mike White wants to run a system that is upbeat, up tempo, shoot the ball, be unconscious, have no memory of bad shots, and just play fast and play with defense.

It doesn’t take an All-American to play great defense. It’s kind of like playing offensive line or defensive line in football. That is that the better man, the man that wants it more is going to win that battle. That was very evident against Virginia on Saturday.

Nick:                         You were getting contributions from more than player. You’re getting contributions from team, and I think some of what they lost at some point in the season, that defensive intensity, that’s back. Virginia’s not a very good offensive team, but you hold a team to 39 points you’re playing some defense. I think they’re really buying in, and how long was that winning streak they had?

Andrew:                 Nine games.

Nick:                         Nine games. People probably thought they peaked too early, but it looks like Florida struggled towards the end of the year, losing three of the last four, but it looks like they’re starting to play, or getting back to playing their best basketball. Certainly at the right time.

Andrew:                 I think it’s one of those things where you kind of look back at what happened in the ’07 year with Noah and those guys, and that was they faltered down the stretch and regained it at the right time. That’s exactly what this team’s doing. No way am I comparing the two teams. I’m just saying that you have to always remember that that team did struggle and then peaked at the right time, and that’s kind of what this team is doing as well.

Let’s move away from basketball, Nick. Let’s go to some football. Not too big of news from Jim McElwain on Monday. Did announce that Brandon Sandifer has transferred. You and I talked about this, I think, at the beginning of spring, and that was he was a guy that just hasn’t got in shape. Nick Buchanan has does much better, but Sandifer had not.

Nick:                         My dog, Heavy Chocolate, still a little too heavy.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Let’s talk about the offensive line. You and I posted a little bit about this on Gator Country the other day. The guy that’s surprising the people the most is Brett Heggie. I think it was you and I that talked about it last fall in that we thought Brett wouldn’t play, he would redshirt, but that he was always going to be one of the toughest guys. What has that guy been eating? He is huge.

Nick:                         He always looks angry.

Andrew:                 Maybe I should ask what he hasn’t been eating.

Nick:                         Yeah. He’s a big guy. I think he’s really going to push. Right now I don’t think the coaching staff is particularly thrilled with Fred Johnson, and that leaves a …

Andrew:                 A guard spot.

Nick:                         That leaves a guard spot open. It leaves a door cracked, and I think Heggie’s trying to squeeze that big frame through the door. Right now, I think if you look at Fred, he played okay inside, really struggled outside, but I think you’re looking at a position where Florida’s got pretty much, I think, have four offensive linemen. You’re looking for that one last spot. You’re going to need somebody to be a swing man, probably a swing man at tackle.

Andrew:                 I think that’s Fred.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s what I was getting at. I think that’s what we’re seeing. I think you’re seeing, “Hey, our best five might include Brett Heggie. We need that swing man outside, so let’s get him out there.”

Andrew:                 I think Fred’s that guy. You and I have talked about this a ton, and that was that we just didn’t know if Fred was ever going to be able to bend well enough to be a guard. It’s nothing against Fred at all. It’s just he’s a bigger guy.

Nick:                         He’s a big dude.

Andrew:                 He’s a big dude. I like Heggie playing guard. I was really impressed with him at the Under Armour game with his ability at center to really hold blocks. I don’t think that’s a bad move for him at guard, and I think it would be something where you would have a guy that’s at guard, and if something did happen to TJ McCoy you could easily slide him into center for that. That’s something even a guy like Max Garcia talked about. Being able to play that multiple positions, being a guard knowing the center’s game, is huge, because you know what all the calls have to be. You’re not going to be unsure of what it is. I personally think it’s a good move.

Overall though, and several people have told us this, and you’ve told me as well, and that is that the offensive line is a different position with Brad Davis coaching it. That is an aggressive, mean bunch of you-know-whats playing the position, and that’s exactly what Jim McElwain wanted, and he’s getting it.

Nick:                         I’ll tell you this, they’re low on numbers right now. You’ve got 12 scholarship offensive linemen. That’s it, and they’re not all even practicing. Antonio Riles is out there. He kind of looked sad yesterday. He looked sad on Monday having to watch all of these guys go through practices, go through drills, and he’s kind of just sitting there absorbing and taking in. Not necessarily new techniques, but Brad Davis’ coaching style, so that when he’s ready and physically able to get back in it won’t be new to him.

My other question is where does Riles slide in there? I don’t know if he’s a starter, but is he a guy that they keep inside? Do they try him outside? Really you’ve only got Martez and Jawaan that you feel really comfortable with right now at tackle. Like we said with Fred, is he a swing tackle, or do you leave him inside?

Andrew:                 You know my opinion. I don’t even know why you’re asking.

Nick:                         I don’t know.

Andrew:                 I don’t even know why you’re asking. You know my opinion. There’s no sense in me answering it. You know my opinion. I’ll continue to state that opinion, and that is that Antonio Riles is a defensive lineman. I just don’t see him making an impact on the offensive line. Sorry, Antonio. I know he doesn’t like to hear that from me, but truth’s truth. That is what it is. I do think a guy like Kadeem Telfort is a guy that could help out.

Nick:                         He’s a tackle.

Andrew:                 A tackle. I still, Kavaris Harkless can do it. Still not sold on him being that guy. Tackle’s a low spot. It is what it is. Tackle’s a low spot. Outside of Fred, outside of Kadeem, those are your two backups.

Nick:                         Barring injury, I guess that will be the question is what comfort level you have if that’s all you have. I’m not saying that those are bad guys, but you’ve seen Florida go down for offensive linemen. We’ve seen Florida’s offensive line go down, kind of like flies, in recent history.

Andrew:                 Ivey’s a guy that hasn’t been able to stay healthy for an entire season. Being that was at guard though. Less toll on your body on the outside than it is on the inside. Maybe that’s something that is looked at as well.

Another thing, Nick, and this is something that I wanted to talk about, and that is the energy level that Ja’Juan Seider added to the running back position. You see him interacting with Scarlett and Perine on Twitter. You see him interacting with those guys, and, Nick, you had the chance to talk to the running backs on Monday. Overall, though, and I am the biggest Tim Skipper fan there is out there, Tim Skipper did great with these guys as well. Ja’Juan Seider’s bringing energy, like Tim Skipper did. I just think now it’s evening out. You got Skipper bringing that energy to the defense, Seider bringing it to the offense. Any time you get a new coach, they’re going to bring different techniques to the table. Running backs seem to really be taking up Ja’Juan Seider.

Nick:                         Yeah. Like you said, every coach can have a different technique, or even just a different way of getting the same technique across, a different way of coaching it. I think right now you’re getting an excitement level from the running backs just with a new voice, and it’s nothing against Tim Skipper.

We talked to Lamical Perine yesterday, and Skipper was his main recruiter. That’s a very strong bond that those two guys have, and Perine said, “I was sad that he wouldn’t be coaching me specifically anymore, but we still talk on a day to day basis.” They love Ja’Juan Seider, and I was telling you like this. It’s almost kind of like T Rob, and McElwain got a kick out of it when I said this. I said, “What is it about Ja’Juan Seider?” I said, “He doesn’t dress like you, kind of dresses more like the kids. Seems to have a pretty impressive sneaker collection. It just seems that he gets it with the kids, and that he’s really kind of earned their respect quickly.”

Andrew:                 I see what you’re saying.

Nick:                         McElwain joked, he asked if he should dress more like Coach Seider, and I would love to see that. Love to see Mac in some Js.

Andrew:                 With his goatee?

Nick:                         Yeah. He can keep the goatee.

Andrew:                 He looks like a mountain man. He looks like a guy from Montana now. It is. It’s kind of like what we talked about with recruiting, and that is that the younger you are, and it doesn’t have to be young coaches. There’s a lot of older coaches that are able to get along with these kids, to build that relationship. Guys like Seider, guys like Skipper, that are able to talk the same voice. When I say talk the same voice, I mean understand their lingo. Seider wearing Jordans. Most every high school kid is wearing Jordans or talking about Jordans shoes, or the jump man. The jump man’s the big thing. That’s what they’re able to talk about. That’s what relates to them. That’s what it is.

By the way, Nick, we all got to see Ja’Juan Seider knows how to recruit by his Twitter profile the other day. He can recruit. Give the Will Muschamp line.

Nick:                         I think it was Will Muschamp. Muschamp made a joke one time about, “I look at my assistant coach’s wives, and if they have an attractive wife I know they can recruit.”

Andrew:                 There you go. Exactly. Anything else you want to add, Nick, on the football side, before we move on to other things?

Nick:                         I like both quarterbacks. You and I kind of talked about it, I think Feleipe Franks is more of a high risk, high reward kind of guy. I think he’s someone who will throw a lot of interceptions, but also throw for a ton of yards. He’s got an arm that he trusts a lot, and one that there’s not really a throw that he’s going to look and say, “I don’t think I can squeeze it into that area.” I still think Kyle Trask throws the prettiest ball of the team, and his accuracy is on another level right now.

I think really what will separate them is leadership and being able to be a leader of men. You’re talking about two guys who haven’t really played competitive football since they were in high school, and now they’re going to be leading guys who are older than them, leading their peers. You need a strong voice to be able to do that. I think that’s really what is separating them right now, and probably the biggest ground where Kyle Trask needs to make up room.

Andrew:                 Exactly. There’s still a lot of people that believe Kyle Trask could be the better quarterback. It’s just going to depend on that, whether or not he does that. Couple things real quick. On Friday podcast we’ll talk more about recruiting. There’s a big weekend coming up this weekend for Junior Day. Nick, we’ll spend a lot of time Friday on recruiting. Spent a ton of time on basketball today.

Real quick, we got about 10 minutes left here. Baseball got swept, Nick. The bats just aren’t coming around. I’ll say it for you, buddy. I think it might be a long year for you on the baseball diamond if things don’t change, and change quickly.

Nick:                         They can’t hit. They really can’t hit right now. Give Auburn credit. Casey Mize is a very good pitcher. He’s having a great season as a sophomore. Keegan Thompson, who’s a junior, he pitched with those guys on Team USA over the summer. He’s having a great year. Florida just can’t hit, and the biggest takeaway I got is Auburn’s not a great hitting team. Florida was supposed to be.

You look at Auburn’s approach. Two strikes, they’re choking up, shouldering swings. Almost trying to just slap the ball, put it in play. Florida, no matter what the count is, if I cover the scoreboard, and let you watch a swing you would say, “It was 3-1. He was sitting dead red for a fastball.” It’s like, “No. It was 0-2.” That’s still the swing he’s taking. Every swing that Florida’s taking right now looks like they’re waiting on a 3-1 fastball, and they’re trying to hit it 500 feet dead pull. There’s just really no approach.

I think it’s gone on to the point where I kept saying to people, “Hey, calm down, it’s early. It’s early.” I think that the slumps have started to last a little bit longer, and there’s so many guys on this team, Liput, Schwarz, Rivera, Larson, Guthrie, even Kolozsvary, all of these guys have MLB dreams.

Andrew:                 Dreams.

Nick:                         They’re starting to press because that streak, because that cold streak has lasted for so long.

Andrew:                 I’m looking for a positive here, and that is that the pitching is there. The pitching is going to be there. If the bats can find a way to pick it up some, there’s plenty of time. Plenty of time. Florida is, barring a catastrophic continuous getting swept, they’re going to make the NCAA tournament. Once you get in the NCAA tournament, anything can happen. Like you said, pitching is always going to be there. Do you see lineup changes needing to be made, or is it basically these are the guys that are going to hit?

Nick:                         People keep saying this to me. You got to sit JJ Schwarz.

Andrew:                 You can’t.

Nick:                         You can’t. If Florida is going to go back to Omaha, if Florida’s going to have a chance in Omaha, you need JJ Schwarz in the lineup. You need him hitting close to .300. You need him hitting homeruns. You need him hitting doubles and driving in runs. You can’t sit him. You can’t. You sit him, and you have Mike Rivera, so then you’re starting Mike Rivera at DH, Keenan Bell at first. You’re trying to figure out who’s playing in the outfield. Austin Langworthy out with a broken hamate bone in his hand. Mike Rivera’s hitting .180. Deacon Liput’s hitting .203. It’s not just JJ.

Is JJ hitting the ball well? No. It’s weird, because I see him kind of doing something in one game. He might have only gone one for four, but he lined out twice, had good at bats, shortened his swing up, was taking the ball where it was pitched. Then in the next game he strikes out four times. Right now JJ Schwarz has more strikeouts than hits, so do three other guys on the team. Shake up the lineup, yeah, but the problem is you keep shaking up the lineup, and no one’s hitting. You are doing things, and Florida’s getting unlucky. Sully’s trying to take the thinking part out of it, and they’re doing some bumper hits, hit and runs, stuff like that.

Florida had a hit and run on Saturday. Andrew Baker’s on first base. He’s probably the fastest kid on the team. A line drive to center field. Baker’s already rounding second, because of how fast he is, when the ball is caught. Center fielder could have jogged the ball in. Baker was gone. It’s stuff like that. That ball finds grass, Baker’s on third, maybe at home. Stuff like that. When it’s going bad, it seems to continue going bad.

I think it’s going to be bad again this weekend, unfortunately, with LSU coming in. Their three guys right now, their three starters are combined 11-1. Led by Jared Poche.

Andrew:                 Save the LSU talk for Friday. You got Stetson on Tuesday night. Real quick, we got two minutes to go.

Nick:                         Nate Brown’s starting tonight, the freshman. Had a really good outing last week against Florida State.

Andrew:                 Got a couple of seconds here left. Softball went out and swept South Carolina.

Nick:                         Softball update. Softball won. They scored a lot of runs, and they struck out a lot of girls.

Andrew:                 6-0, 13-1, and 10-0 was the count. Threw another no-hitter this past weekend, and the earned run averages continue to just drop, and the bats are coming alive. Really since they went out to California the bats have come alive, and the bats are hot as a firecracker right now. Wednesday night they play USF, before hosting #4, Auburn, this coming weekend, on that Saturday, Sunday, Monday. We’ll talk more about that, but that’s a must-see series. Nick, real quick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is on iTunes. Go to the podcast store. Subscribe. Leave a rating. Leave a comment. Let us know how we’re doing. On social media it’s @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. If you still want to join us, give us a holler. We’ll get you a coupon code. Come join us up and join the best there is. Now we got basketball going. We got everything you can ask for. We’ll see you guys on Friday. As always, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

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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GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we’re joined by Zach Hughes who helps us recap the Florida Gators basketball team’s Sweet 16 berth, plus preview the game against Wisconsin.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Hughes what it’s going to take for the Gators to beat Wisconsin and also how the Gators big men are playing lately.

Andrew and Nick also recap the Florida Gators football team’s latest practices, plus how the diamond sports did this past weekend on the road.

TRANSCRIPT:

 

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, busy weekend for the Gators, softball, baseball, football, recruiting, and Sweet 16 birth.

Nick:                         Yeah. Some drama. I feel like the first day of the tournament was a chalk, not too much excitement, and then the round of 32 happened. Down goes Villanova, #1 seed. Down goes Duke, #2 seed, and really Florida’s path, I think they were probably in the second toughest region, their path to the Final Four may be a little easier now. Not to take anything away from a very talented Wisconsin team that they’ll play Friday in Madison Square Garden.

Andrew:                 It was blowout city in Orlando. First Xavier blows out Florida State, and then Florida turns around and blows out Virginia. Didn’t see that coming in both of them. Now, I expected Florida to win the game. Didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was, and definitely didn’t think Xavier was about to blow out Florida State like they did.

Nick:                         No. Florida State just big fat egg.

Andrew:                 Yeah. We’re going to be joined by our new guy, new basketball guy. Zach Hughes is going to come on. Little background on Zach, he coached basketball while in college at the University of Mobile down in Alabama, and moved on after being a GA there, and is going to write for us. Do some basketball. Do some basketball recruiting. Help with some football as well. Nick, I know you and I are excited to have him on. We don’t like basketball very much.

Nick:                         Not that we don’t like it. Neither of us grew up playing basketball. You and I don’t like talking about things that we don’t know. We know softball. We know baseball. We know football. Just like to be informed on what we talk about, and when you talk about someone who’s been a graduate assistant coach, he’s been around the AAU circuit. He’s been around recruiting. Knows the ins and outs, and I think we’re going to have a very educated voice talking to you guys about basketball now.

Andrew:                 And basketball recruiting, which everyone likes. We’ll get to him in a second, Nick. I wanted to recap everything. Football had a weeklong practice last week. Had one on Monday as well. They got out and got in full pads. Your baseball team lays an egg, gets swept up in Auburn, and softball continues on that train there, Nick.

Nick:                         Tim Walton’s squad is just motoring through. Florida really struggled with the pitching, and they’ve got some issues going on now.

Andrew:                 We’ll dig into that more here in a second, after we talk to Zach about basketball. We’ll dig into that, and we’ll dig into a little bit more of what Jim McElwain said on Monday about the football team. We’ll get into more of recruiting, as there’s a big Junior Day coming up. Nick, without further ado, let’s go to our man, Zach.

Welcome back, guys. We’re with my man, Zach. Zach, tell everybody what makes you a basketball guy, and what you just a great Alabamian.

Zach:                        What’s up, everybody? Like you said, I’m Zach Hughes. I’m from Montgomery, Alabama. I went to University of Mobile. It’s an NAIA school in the great Mobile, Alabama, of course. Home of Andrew Spivey. I worked for the basketball team for four years, student assistant. Actually, had some injuries, so I had to play about 10 games towards the end of the season there. I got to get on the court, went from coach to player. Had experience there, then during my four years there I did some AAU, coaching some AAU ball. I’ve just been involved with the game my whole life.

Andrew:                 How many dunks did you have, and don’t like to us.

Zach:                        Man, probably couldn’t even touch the net, to be honest with you.

Andrew:                 You at least joined the crew of Nick and I. We can’t touch it either.

Nick:                         I can touch the net. Speak for yourself over there.

Zach:                        I could probably touch the net with some help.

Andrew:                 I need somebody to put me on their shoulders to dunk. Zach, I know we talked a little bit last week. We were talking about the Sweet 16, and you had some of the keys that were big for the Gators. Most of those, with the exception of KeVaughn Allen, were pretty much spot on. KeVaughn, we don’t know what’s going on with you, big dog. Let’s talk real quick. What did you see last weekend? I said, and I’m not afraid to say it again, I think Saturday’s game against Virginia might have been their best all-around game of the year. What did you see last weekend? What were the successes? What’s something maybe they can improve on down the stretch here?

Zach:                        I think they did a great job going into both games of just pushing their tempo and making the game go in the direction that they want to play it. I know ETSU, they like to play the same type of style, defensive pressure, translate that into offense, which is going to come down to the players, both teams trying to do the same thing, but who has the better players playing at the better time. We saw that Florida got that done.

It was going to be key in the Florida/Virginia game, the tempo, because both teams total opposites. Virginia wants to slow you down and make you score in the half court. They play that pack line defense, forcing you to shoot shots, which made me nervous, considering Allen and Barry’s struggles from that game. We were going to have to rely on those guys getting hot, but we say that Florida really controlled the tempo and made it an up and down game. I think that was the key facts there.

Andrew:                 What did you think of Gorjok Gak’s performance? I’ll be honest, I said it on a radio show yesterday, he kind of reminded you of an old-school Joakim Noah the way he was running the court.

Zach:                        Yes.

Andrew:                 Was very pumped up. Him and Haynes both, I thought, played really well. Overall opinions of what you saw out of Gak?

Zach:                        I think he was huge. I think his minutes in the ETSU game were big, but, more importantly, I think his performance in Virginia was very huge. He was running the court, getting some put backs, getting some good position, just doing those little things. I think, obviously we’ve seen him move, take Rimmer’s minutes in the rotation, but I really like what I see from him so far.

He’s going to have to come in and play against Wisconsin, because Wisconsin their keys are their big guys. Ethan Happ is 6’10”, and Nigel Hayes, who I feel like that dude’s been there for like 10 years for Wisconsin, he’s a big guy, weighs about 240. They’re going to try to win the game from the post. I think, considering foul trouble and things that could happen, he’s going to have to come in and play a big role for us.

Nick:                         I think right now, maybe you’ll agree with me, everything you’re getting from Gak, and it’s Gak, Spivey, anything you’re getting from him is kind of just the cherry on top. You really didn’t expect much from him this year, and it’s been nice to see, especially as the tournament comes along, and probably because of Egbunu’s injury, Gak really starting to be able to come in off the bench and, like you said, provide energy, run up and down the court, and give you a little production.

Zach:                        Yeah. He’s been huge. I think, like I said, if Hayes and Leon, if they get in foul trouble, he’s going to have to come in and be physical and provide a presence down low for us.

Andrew:                 With Leon, I joked with someone the other day. I said, “He’s kind like the Will Yeguete of this team.” He’s that tough guy that, it doesn’t look pretty. Let’s just be honest. He looks like he’s trying to shoot a three ball, and that’s not very pretty, but it goes in. You and I even talked about this a little bit on Saturday, and that’s that he’s kind of that heart and soul of the team, in that he’s just that guy that is the motor, the guy that’s going to be tough down the stretch. What are you seeing from him, and what’s your kind of impression of that as well?

Zach:                        Absolutely. I really do think that he is kind of the glue guy of this team, like you said. I don’t think we’re going to get that kind of offense production from him consistently, obviously, but anything you can get from him on that side of the ball is going to be key. He had a double-double last game, 14 points, 10 rebounds.

I think the key for him is going to be the way that he’s going to guard Nigel Hayes. He’s going to have that assignment, I think. A lot of people have kind of been asking what are the matchups going to look like, and I think he’s going to have the assignment of staying on him. I think, if he can kind of slow Nigel Hayes down, who Nigel Hayes was the reason that they beat Villanova by that nice move on the post, but he’s going to have that assignment. We’ll see how he can play against Nigel Hayes.

Andrew:                 Nick and I talked about this the other day, and that was that maybe Villanova was the easier matchup for Florida. You say that tongue in cheek, because they were the defending national champions, but that was going to be a guard oriented game with Virginia. Do you see that as well that maybe Wisconsin might be a tougher matchup as far as keys go?

Zach:                        Yes. As Villanova and Wisconsin game was kind of getting down to the wire, I was kind of sitting there hoping, after watching it, I was kind of hoping, maybe we want Villanova to win this game, because their matchups work better for us. They’re a smaller team, and they kind of match up a lot better, because, like I said, Wisconsin they rely on their bigs and size advantage. They’re going to look to slow the game down too, so a key is going to be how can we get in there and set the tempo early.

Andrew:                 Looking at that game ahead of time, what are the keys for Florida in that game? What is it going to take for Florida to pull that out? Is it going to be the play of Gorjok and Kevarrius inside? What’s it going to be?

Zach:                        I feel like the main thing looking at this is Wisconsin does a great job of getting opposing bigs in foul trouble early. That’s kind of one thing that they hang their hat on is they attack early and try to get opposing bigs in foul trouble early. That’s going to be a big thing that we’re going to have to do is try to play clean good defense without fouling, because we can’t really afford for Hayes and Leon to get in foul trouble early. That’s going to be what Wisconsin’s looking to do. A big key there is going to see how we play that and are able to counteract that.

Then, I think, we’ve seen these huge games from Robinson and Chiozza, and Leon last game. First game it was Robinson and Chiozza. Second game it was Leon and Robinson. Sooner or later we’re going to have to have Allen and Barry step up, at least one of them. Early last game Allen, he was very aggressive, came out first possession, shot a three, but I like when he started attacking a little bit more. I feel like he needs to start the game off looking to attack, and then kind of play from the inside out. When you start out just shooting the ball, and you’re in the slump, you try to just shoot your way out of it. I think he needs to play from the inside out.

I think Allen and Barry are going to have to, one of them’s going to have to step up. Like I said, I don’t think Leon is going to have that same type of production.

Nick:                         It’s been kind of cool to see how Leon has played, especially in the last game, and Devin Robinson’s really probably playing his best basketball right now, but I think, like you said, you’re going to need KeVaughn Allen to step up at some point. When you’re in a shooting slump, like you said, is the best way to maybe even just drive and get fouled? Go to the line. See something. See the ball go through the net, just to see it. Don’t try to shoot your way out of a slump by posting up in the corner and just chucking up threes. Do you think he just needs to, maybe Mike White needs to draw some stuff up where KeVaughn Allen, the ball’s in his hands, and he’s getting a chance to drive, take a couple high percentage shots early?

Zach:                        Yeah. I think that’s going to be key is getting him some things set up early, giving him some good positions and good looks to where he can maybe take a shot off of a screen coming into the mid post type deal, or just getting him set up to where it’s a high percentage look. It’s a shot in his area of strength, or just him being aggressive, because I feel like he’s just going to have to go see the ball go in early. Last game it was huge. I know Barry’s been in a slump, but when he made that three towards the end of the game I feel like that was huge for him to at least see the ball go in. I expect him to play much better next game.

Andrew:                 Moving out from Florida, before we let you go. Overall, just opinion of the tournament. Nick and I said this just a second ago, first round, maybe an upset here or there. The second round, Duke goes down. You got Villanova going down. Arkansas almost takes down North Carolina. What are you thinking about this tournament? Who do you got going on now that Duke’s out? Who do you like going forward?

Nick:                         What does your bracket look like? We’ll do that quick. How’s your bracket?

Zach:                        For my bracket I have three of the four teams left.

Nick:                         That’s good.

Zach:                        I’ve got Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, and Duke. Duke messed me up the other night.

Andrew:                 You and I’ve got the same Final Four.

Zach:                        Great minds think alike.

Andrew:                 There you go.

Zach:                        To me, it’s these teams that are coming in the tournament playing real hot, they’re kind of the ones that have been struggling. It’s these teams coming in that have been struggling, like South Carolina losing three of the last six. They’ve been struggling scoring the ball, and they scored 65 in the second half against Duke the other night. They scored 93 their first game. Also, Florida, two losses to Vanderbilt and playing best ball of the season so far right now. Duke, they were coming off a great run. Won their tournament, and then lost to South Carolina.

It’s a lot of these situations where these teams that are coming in struggling, those are the ones making the runs. These teams coming off these great runs towards the end of the season, they’re the ones that are getting put out here early.

Andrew:                 I’ve got to ask you, before we let you go. You were in Greenville to watch that game.

Zach:                        I was.

Andrew:                 How anti-Duke was that place?

Zach:                        It was basically a home game for South Carolina. Then you had all the North Carolina fans sticking around after their win against Arkansas, cheering for South Carolina. Then even the Arkansas fans were booing Grayson Allen. It was crazy, the atmosphere. That was one of the loudest places I’ve been in, and just seeing all these people, three different fan bases just cheering against Duke.

Andrew:                 Nothing wrong with that. Zach, we’re going to let you go. We’re going to get you back soon. We appreciate it. Tell everyone where they can find you on Twitter, real quick, and then we’ll get you back on the podcast very soon.

Zach:                        Absolutely. You can find me @ZachGHughes.

Andrew:                 There you go. Zach, we appreciate it so much. Everybody keep checking out his stuff. He’s going to have tons of recruiting stuff as soon as the season is over with. Hopefully that’s after a championship, but whatever it’s after, it’s after. We appreciate it, and we’ll talk to you soon, Zach.

Zach:                        All right, guys. See you all.

Nick:                         Thanks, Zach.

Andrew:                 All right, Nick. We’re back. Great stuff from Zach. He knows more than you and I do. Glad to have him on, and glad to have him on the team.

Nick:                         Yeah. Especially from someone who’s very familiar with college basketball, recruiting, and I know there’s a lot of, I think Florida even before Mike White took a lot of heat for not getting those McDonald’s All-American and those one and done players, but I think what we’re really seeing right now is Mike White and Dustin May and the rest of his coaching staff are finding guys that fit into their system and fit into what they want to do. You look at Justin Leon, Canyon Barry. Who’s the other senior transfer?

Andrew:                 Not Rimmer.

Nick:                         Not Rimmer, but those two specifically that are really buying in, and it’s kind of like what, I think, was it Frank Martin who said, “They’re really playing through Mike White’s eyes? They’re playing like him.”

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I think that is evident right now, and look at the NCAA. If it was all about stars and McDonald’s All-Americans, you’d have a four team tournament, and you’d have UNC, Duke, Kentucky, and maybe one other team play every year. That would be your kind of four every year, but it’s not. Look at Villanova. How many McDonald’s All-Americans does Villanova have? I don’t think any.

Andrew:                 The thing, credit to Mike White, is he did get a big time guy in Stokes this year. That was a big pickup. You see what Keith Stone was able to do before he got sick. You saw what Doc is able to do inside. You’ve been able to see all these guys that have been able to produce. I think it’s interesting what you say about what Frank Martin said. I think that’s true. Mike White wants to run a system that is upbeat, up tempo, shoot the ball, be unconscious, have no memory of bad shots, and just play fast and play with defense.

It doesn’t take an All-American to play great defense. It’s kind of like playing offensive line or defensive line in football. That is that the better man, the man that wants it more is going to win that battle. That was very evident against Virginia on Saturday.

Nick:                         You were getting contributions from more than player. You’re getting contributions from team, and I think some of what they lost at some point in the season, that defensive intensity, that’s back. Virginia’s not a very good offensive team, but you hold a team to 39 points you’re playing some defense. I think they’re really buying in, and how long was that winning streak they had?

Andrew:                 Nine games.

Nick:                         Nine games. People probably thought they peaked too early, but it looks like Florida struggled towards the end of the year, losing three of the last four, but it looks like they’re starting to play, or getting back to playing their best basketball. Certainly at the right time.

Andrew:                 I think it’s one of those things where you kind of look back at what happened in the ’07 year with Noah and those guys, and that was they faltered down the stretch and regained it at the right time. That’s exactly what this team’s doing. No way am I comparing the two teams. I’m just saying that you have to always remember that that team did struggle and then peaked at the right time, and that’s kind of what this team is doing as well.

Let’s move away from basketball, Nick. Let’s go to some football. Not too big of news from Jim McElwain on Monday. Did announce that Brandon Sandifer has transferred. You and I talked about this, I think, at the beginning of spring, and that was he was a guy that just hasn’t got in shape. Nick Buchanan has does much better, but Sandifer had not.

Nick:                         My dog, Heavy Chocolate, still a little too heavy.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Let’s talk about the offensive line. You and I posted a little bit about this on Gator Country the other day. The guy that’s surprising the people the most is Brett Heggie. I think it was you and I that talked about it last fall in that we thought Brett wouldn’t play, he would redshirt, but that he was always going to be one of the toughest guys. What has that guy been eating? He is huge.

Nick:                         He always looks angry.

Andrew:                 Maybe I should ask what he hasn’t been eating.

Nick:                         Yeah. He’s a big guy. I think he’s really going to push. Right now I don’t think the coaching staff is particularly thrilled with Fred Johnson, and that leaves a …

Andrew:                 A guard spot.

Nick:                         That leaves a guard spot open. It leaves a door cracked, and I think Heggie’s trying to squeeze that big frame through the door. Right now, I think if you look at Fred, he played okay inside, really struggled outside, but I think you’re looking at a position where Florida’s got pretty much, I think, have four offensive linemen. You’re looking for that one last spot. You’re going to need somebody to be a swing man, probably a swing man at tackle.

Andrew:                 I think that’s Fred.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s what I was getting at. I think that’s what we’re seeing. I think you’re seeing, “Hey, our best five might include Brett Heggie. We need that swing man outside, so let’s get him out there.”

Andrew:                 I think Fred’s that guy. You and I have talked about this a ton, and that was that we just didn’t know if Fred was ever going to be able to bend well enough to be a guard. It’s nothing against Fred at all. It’s just he’s a bigger guy.

Nick:                         He’s a big dude.

Andrew:                 He’s a big dude. I like Heggie playing guard. I was really impressed with him at the Under Armour game with his ability at center to really hold blocks. I don’t think that’s a bad move for him at guard, and I think it would be something where you would have a guy that’s at guard, and if something did happen to TJ McCoy you could easily slide him into center for that. That’s something even a guy like Max Garcia talked about. Being able to play that multiple positions, being a guard knowing the center’s game, is huge, because you know what all the calls have to be. You’re not going to be unsure of what it is. I personally think it’s a good move.

Overall though, and several people have told us this, and you’ve told me as well, and that is that the offensive line is a different position with Brad Davis coaching it. That is an aggressive, mean bunch of you-know-whats playing the position, and that’s exactly what Jim McElwain wanted, and he’s getting it.

Nick:                         I’ll tell you this, they’re low on numbers right now. You’ve got 12 scholarship offensive linemen. That’s it, and they’re not all even practicing. Antonio Riles is out there. He kind of looked sad yesterday. He looked sad on Monday having to watch all of these guys go through practices, go through drills, and he’s kind of just sitting there absorbing and taking in. Not necessarily new techniques, but Brad Davis’ coaching style, so that when he’s ready and physically able to get back in it won’t be new to him.

My other question is where does Riles slide in there? I don’t know if he’s a starter, but is he a guy that they keep inside? Do they try him outside? Really you’ve only got Martez and Jawaan that you feel really comfortable with right now at tackle. Like we said with Fred, is he a swing tackle, or do you leave him inside?

Andrew:                 You know my opinion. I don’t even know why you’re asking.

Nick:                         I don’t know.

Andrew:                 I don’t even know why you’re asking. You know my opinion. There’s no sense in me answering it. You know my opinion. I’ll continue to state that opinion, and that is that Antonio Riles is a defensive lineman. I just don’t see him making an impact on the offensive line. Sorry, Antonio. I know he doesn’t like to hear that from me, but truth’s truth. That is what it is. I do think a guy like Kadeem Telfort is a guy that could help out.

Nick:                         He’s a tackle.

Andrew:                 A tackle. I still, Kavaris Harkless can do it. Still not sold on him being that guy. Tackle’s a low spot. It is what it is. Tackle’s a low spot. Outside of Fred, outside of Kadeem, those are your two backups.

Nick:                         Barring injury, I guess that will be the question is what comfort level you have if that’s all you have. I’m not saying that those are bad guys, but you’ve seen Florida go down for offensive linemen. We’ve seen Florida’s offensive line go down, kind of like flies, in recent history.

Andrew:                 Ivey’s a guy that hasn’t been able to stay healthy for an entire season. Being that was at guard though. Less toll on your body on the outside than it is on the inside. Maybe that’s something that is looked at as well.

Another thing, Nick, and this is something that I wanted to talk about, and that is the energy level that Ja’Juan Seider added to the running back position. You see him interacting with Scarlett and Perine on Twitter. You see him interacting with those guys, and, Nick, you had the chance to talk to the running backs on Monday. Overall, though, and I am the biggest Tim Skipper fan there is out there, Tim Skipper did great with these guys as well. Ja’Juan Seider’s bringing energy, like Tim Skipper did. I just think now it’s evening out. You got Skipper bringing that energy to the defense, Seider bringing it to the offense. Any time you get a new coach, they’re going to bring different techniques to the table. Running backs seem to really be taking up Ja’Juan Seider.

Nick:                         Yeah. Like you said, every coach can have a different technique, or even just a different way of getting the same technique across, a different way of coaching it. I think right now you’re getting an excitement level from the running backs just with a new voice, and it’s nothing against Tim Skipper.

We talked to Lamical Perine yesterday, and Skipper was his main recruiter. That’s a very strong bond that those two guys have, and Perine said, “I was sad that he wouldn’t be coaching me specifically anymore, but we still talk on a day to day basis.” They love Ja’Juan Seider, and I was telling you like this. It’s almost kind of like T Rob, and McElwain got a kick out of it when I said this. I said, “What is it about Ja’Juan Seider?” I said, “He doesn’t dress like you, kind of dresses more like the kids. Seems to have a pretty impressive sneaker collection. It just seems that he gets it with the kids, and that he’s really kind of earned their respect quickly.”

Andrew:                 I see what you’re saying.

Nick:                         McElwain joked, he asked if he should dress more like Coach Seider, and I would love to see that. Love to see Mac in some Js.

Andrew:                 With his goatee?

Nick:                         Yeah. He can keep the goatee.

Andrew:                 He looks like a mountain man. He looks like a guy from Montana now. It is. It’s kind of like what we talked about with recruiting, and that is that the younger you are, and it doesn’t have to be young coaches. There’s a lot of older coaches that are able to get along with these kids, to build that relationship. Guys like Seider, guys like Skipper, that are able to talk the same voice. When I say talk the same voice, I mean understand their lingo. Seider wearing Jordans. Most every high school kid is wearing Jordans or talking about Jordans shoes, or the jump man. The jump man’s the big thing. That’s what they’re able to talk about. That’s what relates to them. That’s what it is.

By the way, Nick, we all got to see Ja’Juan Seider knows how to recruit by his Twitter profile the other day. He can recruit. Give the Will Muschamp line.

Nick:                         I think it was Will Muschamp. Muschamp made a joke one time about, “I look at my assistant coach’s wives, and if they have an attractive wife I know they can recruit.”

Andrew:                 There you go. Exactly. Anything else you want to add, Nick, on the football side, before we move on to other things?

Nick:                         I like both quarterbacks. You and I kind of talked about it, I think Feleipe Franks is more of a high risk, high reward kind of guy. I think he’s someone who will throw a lot of interceptions, but also throw for a ton of yards. He’s got an arm that he trusts a lot, and one that there’s not really a throw that he’s going to look and say, “I don’t think I can squeeze it into that area.” I still think Kyle Trask throws the prettiest ball of the team, and his accuracy is on another level right now.

I think really what will separate them is leadership and being able to be a leader of men. You’re talking about two guys who haven’t really played competitive football since they were in high school, and now they’re going to be leading guys who are older than them, leading their peers. You need a strong voice to be able to do that. I think that’s really what is separating them right now, and probably the biggest ground where Kyle Trask needs to make up room.

Andrew:                 Exactly. There’s still a lot of people that believe Kyle Trask could be the better quarterback. It’s just going to depend on that, whether or not he does that. Couple things real quick. On Friday podcast we’ll talk more about recruiting. There’s a big weekend coming up this weekend for Junior Day. Nick, we’ll spend a lot of time Friday on recruiting. Spent a ton of time on basketball today.

Real quick, we got about 10 minutes left here. Baseball got swept, Nick. The bats just aren’t coming around. I’ll say it for you, buddy. I think it might be a long year for you on the baseball diamond if things don’t change, and change quickly.

Nick:                         They can’t hit. They really can’t hit right now. Give Auburn credit. Casey Mize is a very good pitcher. He’s having a great season as a sophomore. Keegan Thompson, who’s a junior, he pitched with those guys on Team USA over the summer. He’s having a great year. Florida just can’t hit, and the biggest takeaway I got is Auburn’s not a great hitting team. Florida was supposed to be.

You look at Auburn’s approach. Two strikes, they’re choking up, shouldering swings. Almost trying to just slap the ball, put it in play. Florida, no matter what the count is, if I cover the scoreboard, and let you watch a swing you would say, “It was 3-1. He was sitting dead red for a fastball.” It’s like, “No. It was 0-2.” That’s still the swing he’s taking. Every swing that Florida’s taking right now looks like they’re waiting on a 3-1 fastball, and they’re trying to hit it 500 feet dead pull. There’s just really no approach.

I think it’s gone on to the point where I kept saying to people, “Hey, calm down, it’s early. It’s early.” I think that the slumps have started to last a little bit longer, and there’s so many guys on this team, Liput, Schwarz, Rivera, Larson, Guthrie, even Kolozsvary, all of these guys have MLB dreams.

Andrew:                 Dreams.

Nick:                         They’re starting to press because that streak, because that cold streak has lasted for so long.

Andrew:                 I’m looking for a positive here, and that is that the pitching is there. The pitching is going to be there. If the bats can find a way to pick it up some, there’s plenty of time. Plenty of time. Florida is, barring a catastrophic continuous getting swept, they’re going to make the NCAA tournament. Once you get in the NCAA tournament, anything can happen. Like you said, pitching is always going to be there. Do you see lineup changes needing to be made, or is it basically these are the guys that are going to hit?

Nick:                         People keep saying this to me. You got to sit JJ Schwarz.

Andrew:                 You can’t.

Nick:                         You can’t. If Florida is going to go back to Omaha, if Florida’s going to have a chance in Omaha, you need JJ Schwarz in the lineup. You need him hitting close to .300. You need him hitting homeruns. You need him hitting doubles and driving in runs. You can’t sit him. You can’t. You sit him, and you have Mike Rivera, so then you’re starting Mike Rivera at DH, Keenan Bell at first. You’re trying to figure out who’s playing in the outfield. Austin Langworthy out with a broken hamate bone in his hand. Mike Rivera’s hitting .180. Deacon Liput’s hitting .203. It’s not just JJ.

Is JJ hitting the ball well? No. It’s weird, because I see him kind of doing something in one game. He might have only gone one for four, but he lined out twice, had good at bats, shortened his swing up, was taking the ball where it was pitched. Then in the next game he strikes out four times. Right now JJ Schwarz has more strikeouts than hits, so do three other guys on the team. Shake up the lineup, yeah, but the problem is you keep shaking up the lineup, and no one’s hitting. You are doing things, and Florida’s getting unlucky. Sully’s trying to take the thinking part out of it, and they’re doing some bumper hits, hit and runs, stuff like that.

Florida had a hit and run on Saturday. Andrew Baker’s on first base. He’s probably the fastest kid on the team. A line drive to center field. Baker’s already rounding second, because of how fast he is, when the ball is caught. Center fielder could have jogged the ball in. Baker was gone. It’s stuff like that. That ball finds grass, Baker’s on third, maybe at home. Stuff like that. When it’s going bad, it seems to continue going bad.

I think it’s going to be bad again this weekend, unfortunately, with LSU coming in. Their three guys right now, their three starters are combined 11-1. Led by Jared Poche.

Andrew:                 Save the LSU talk for Friday. You got Stetson on Tuesday night. Real quick, we got two minutes to go.

Nick:                         Nate Brown’s starting tonight, the freshman. Had a really good outing last week against Florida State.

Andrew:                 Got a couple of seconds here left. Softball went out and swept South Carolina.

Nick:                         Softball update. Softball won. They scored a lot of runs, and they struck out a lot of girls.

Andrew:                 6-0, 13-1, and 10-0 was the count. Threw another no-hitter this past weekend, and the earned run averages continue to just drop, and the bats are coming alive. Really since they went out to California the bats have come alive, and the bats are hot as a firecracker right now. Wednesday night they play USF, before hosting #4, Auburn, this coming weekend, on that Saturday, Sunday, Monday. We’ll talk more about that, but that’s a must-see series. Nick, real quick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is on iTunes. Go to the podcast store. Subscribe. Leave a rating. Leave a comment. Let us know how we’re doing. On social media it’s @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me @NickdelaTorreGC, and him @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. If you still want to join us, give us a holler. We’ll get you a coupon code. Come join us up and join the best there is. Now we got basketball going. We got everything you can ask for. We’ll see you guys on Friday. As always, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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