Talking Florida Gators recruiting in hoops and football: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk Florida Gators recruiting for both basketball and football as the staffs are out evaluating players this spring.

Andrew Spivey and Zach Hughes first break down the recent offers from Gators basketball coach Mike White and how the 2018 class is shaping up so far.

Andrew closes out the podcast by breaking down each position for football and who they main targets are at each position as the Gators start to get visits set up for this summer.



Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here, and we’re joined by my man, Zach Hughes. Zach, we appreciate you coming on. Going to do a little special recruiting podcast. Talk some hoops and talk some gridiron. How you been, man?

Zach:                        Absolutely, man. I’m doing great. Just enjoying this time of the year. Recruiting’s really picking up, I know, for the both of us. On the football side, and just getting done with the April eval recruiting period, where coaches can go out and watch some of these AAU tournaments. It’s been real interesting, and it’s been a great evaluation period for the staff to go out and see a lot of the top targets. Things are really heating up now.

Andrew:                 Everyone, I think, kind of knows the football recruiting process in general. Break down for me the way basketball is. What is it with the basketball? Are they going to the schools now that the basketball season’s over? Is it more going to AAU tournaments? What’s the staff doing to evaluate these guys?

Zach:                        They’re allowed to go to the schools. Obviously, there’s some dead periods in there, but during the summer, the first two sessions of the big shoe company circuits, like Under Armour and Adidas and the Nike UIBL, they can go to the first two sessions. They can’t go to another one until July. Until then they’ll just be doing a lot of evaluation and all that kind of stuff. They’ll still be able to keep in touch with them. July is when they’ll be able to go see them again.

The Florida staff was all over at the first two session of the main circuits of Under Armour, Adidas, and Nike, and were able to see a lot of the top guys on their board. Also, 2019 guys. We saw a lot of 2019 guys get offered through the evaluation period, and also a couple of ’18 guys. They’re obviously putting a lot of work in. They’re doing a great job so far through this AAU period.

Andrew:                 Let’s go dive into that a little deeper here. We know they’ve got the 2017 class pretty much wrapped up. Do you think that’s wrapped up? Do you think that’s done?

Zach:                        I do. Obviously, they’re waiting to see what Big John does, if he’s going to come back next year or if he’s going to leave, but I do think, even if he does leave, that there is a possibility that they keep that scholarship for the ’18 class, because the ’18 class is loaded. They’re in a great position with a lot of prospects.

One of our questions, I’ll go ahead and kind of get into that, because that kind of deals with what you’re asking me, is Sid Wilson, who is an ’18 recruit recently reclassified 2017, and we’re in his top six. A lot of people, we had a question with him reclassifying to 2017, what does that look for us as far as being able to pick him up if Big John leaves? Obviously, he would have to leave for that to even be under consideration, but, like I said, I do think that we may save that. Sid is actually on an official to Yukon tonight and tomorrow, and then this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, he’ll be at St. Johns. I think there’s interest there, but I do think he ends up elsewhere. I don’t think he’ll be that much in play for us. I think the ’17 class is kind of set in stone right now.

Andrew:                 Okay. You go on to look at the ’18 class. It’s a big class overall for them. I know they’ve sent out a couple of recent offers. Kind of give me a recap real quick of what the ’18 class is starting to shape up to be, some of the guys that they maybe have a good shot at.

Zach:                        I’d say the main two guys that I think are the priorities, that kind of everything may revolve around what they do, is Devon Dodson, point guard out of North Carolina, and also local prospect Nassir Little. What those two guys do will kind of be the basis of what the class looks like. I know Devon, Florida’s in a good position with him right now. He recently took an unofficial a month or so ago. The staff’s built a great relationship with him and his family. I think Florida is in a pretty good position there. Top 40 point guard, very explosive. He’ll be a kind of guy that will come in, and the staff would want the ball in his hands early. He’d just be a great playmaker, and very explosive on both ends of the floor.

Nassir, things are getting interesting with him. A lot of people thought he may have already committed by now. A lot of fans may be getting little worried about him. Things are getting interesting with him, because he’s starting to get a lot of interest from the Blue Buds. I know Kentucky and North Carolina were watching him very closely at the last session two of the Adidas Uprising Gauntlet. They were watching him. They are now putting him on their boards. Things will be interesting to see with him. Things are starting to get a little more cloudy as to what he’ll do, just because a lot of bigger programs are starting to show a lot of interest in him.

Those two guys I feel like are the priority. Some other guys, in state point guards, Elijah Weaver and Michael Devoe. Also, Khavon Moore. He’s a 6’9” forward from Georgia. He’s a guy that can play all four positions. He can honestly play guard spots and forward spots, very versatile. Can dribble. Also, can finish in open court. I think those are some guys to keep an eye on.

Andrew:                 Overall, when you look at what it is next year, what do you think is the numbers they want to hit? Do they want just one point guard? How do you think?

Zach:                        They’re for sure looking to get a point guard. Like I said, Dodson would probably be the priority there, but between Dodson, Weaver, Devoe, and also Alex Lomax from Memphis. Between those four guys, I think one of those would be one of the guys in the class. Then, like I said, they want to add an explosive athleticism on their wings, so a Nassir Little would fit that spot perfectly.

What it looks like now is there would be three for sure spots next year, with Chiozza and Igor, and then if Big John comes back. Like I said, I think they could still possibly keep his scholarship for next year. That’s three, and then you always have that possibility of a transfer or something. I would say, if I had to guess, I would say four would be the number again. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was five, but three guaranteed right now, and I would probably say that number ends up being four.

Andrew:                 Before we move on to football, let me ask you about Big John. That’s kind of the million-dollar question right now, whether he’s going to come back. You and I have talked about it. We say, he has a torn ACL, probably a good idea for him to come back. Without saying too much, what are you hearing on that? What would you put the chances of him coming back?

Zach:                        I just feel right now he’s very torn. I still feel like he’s still trying to weigh his options and figure out what’s best for him. I have heard that his rehab is going great. He’s putting a lot of work in, and his body is starting to recover. He’s getting better each day. Also heard, if he were to come back, wouldn’t be too out of the question to see him maybe on the floor by December. That’s if he comes back.              He’s still deciding what would be best for him and his future. We’ll probably hear more from that in the next couple days. Be on the lookout for that.

Andrew:                 I think, me personally, on the outside looking in, I think that’s a big decision for Florida next season. When you look at the team different with Big John at the beginning of the year, and then you look at what happened at the end of the year, you can definitely tell that there was a big difference.

Before we end this, you look at Mike White and what he’s doing. How overall would you assess things? I think, when you look at White, the overall viewpoint of Mike White changed a ton when he signed Stokes, and when the team made that run to the Elite 8. It was just a big change. You talk to these guys. How do they like Mike White? How do they like his staff? He’s a young guy. What’s the relationship like there?

Zach:                        All the guys that I talk to, they speak really highly of him. He does a great job keeping up with them. He has a great staff, who’s young and energetic. One of the main words I always hear is energy. They do a great job of relating to the prospects.

Also, one of the things that I hear a lot is that they do a great job of connecting with the families. The staff’s not just focusing on these kids, but they’re really reaching out to the families and checking on them, building a relationship with them. From what I’ve talked to with recruits, they really like that, and they admire that. That the coaching staff isn’t just recruiting them, but they’re making it a family thing where they’re building relationships with moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. Just doing a great job of selling the brand of Florida, and just being personal and making it a family atmosphere.

One big thing, also, when talking to a lot of these prospects is they love the family atmosphere at Florida and the program that they have. That’s just kind of what I’ve been hearing. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve been hearing on the recruiting front. The staff, tons of energy. They’re always recruiting. Each day, they’re always hitting guys up and just they realize that recruiting is the lifeline of a program. They’re always recruiting, and they’re doing a great job of it.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. Zach, before we let you go, I’ll pump you up a little bit. Everyone give him a follow @ZachGHughes on Twitter. He’s always on there pumping out the latest offers and all the big news and all that stuff. As always, he’s on the Gator Country message boards. Zach, we appreciate it, and we’ll talk to you very soon.

Zach:                        Absolutely, man. Thanks for having me on.

Andrew:                 You got it, man.

We’re back. That was some good stuff from my man, Zach, over there on basketball. If you haven’t checked it out, check him out. Probably the only guy on the only site doing basketball recruiting. Quite frankly, Mike White and his guys have been kicking ass on the trail and doing well.

Let’s move on to football. That’s what everybody wants to talk about, everybody wants to hear about. We had the news of Joe Milton going to Michigan last weekend. Everyone kind of wanted to know what that meant. It was pretty simple overall, and that is that Florida was really not interested, I guess would be the best way to say it, with Joe Milton. There was a lot of question marks going on with him, and they went ahead and focused on Justin Fields, and then Jarren Williams out of Central Gwinnett. Both of those guys are possibly going to visit, and looking forward to visiting this summer.

You have Jarren Williams, who recently decommitted from Kentucky, is now looking at Kentucky and Florida. Has got a few other schools in the mix as well, but those look to be the two main contenders. Then you have Justin Fields committed to Penn State, and he’s continuing to keep his eye open at schools like Florida. Auburn and Georgia are also a little bit in the mix. Don’t really see those two. I think if a flip happens for Fields it’ll be to Florida. The biggest key there is, like I said, to get him to come down to campus, get his family on campus. If that happens, then you kind of go from there.

That’s really where it is. People continue to say, why is that? Why focus on those two and not the in state guy in Joe Milton? That’s simple. Joe Milton’s a guy that is going to need a few years to polish himself off and to make himself to be a quarterback in the SEC or the Big Ten or whatever conference that may be. Right now, Florida’s still looking for that quarterback. When you think about the possibility Malik Zaire comes in and is your starter this year, and that’s a very big possibility, then what do you have? You have two guys in Franks and Trask, and then Jake Allen, so really three guys that are not any experience.

When you look at a guy like Fields, or a guy like Jarren Williams, you want to have someone that can come in and compete. The realm of possibility of a freshman coming in and starting at quarterback is not out of the blue anymore. I mean, when you look at teams around the country, look at Alabama last year in particular. They had a starter as a freshman as well in Jalen Hurts. Got them all the way to a National Championship. You want to have those guys that can come in and compete, and that’s what Justin Fields, and even a guy like Jarren Williams, is able to do. Those are the two to really keep an eye on this summer.

Going to go kind of position by position real quick. Won’t make this very long, but when you look at the running back position, you got Iverson Clement. That’s your guy who’s committed out of Jersey. He’s really recruiting the heck out of guys all across the country. You see him on Twitter trying to get guys to come up on June 10th. That’s the big weekend. He’s trying to get Jacob Copeland, Shaquon Anderson-Butts, Kyle Pitts, the tight end out of Pennsylvania, Micah Parsons is the defensive end. He’s really trying to get a lot of guys up. He’s a guy that I feel is pretty solid in his commitment, and making another trip this summer. Is someone that I think flies under the radar a little bit of how good he really is. I think he’s a very elusive guy, is a guy that can make some guys miss, and is a pure athlete. When you look at what Florida has now, they have more of the power mix. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all for them.

When you look at the guys that they’re after, they’re looking at Asa Martin, the running back out of Alabama. They’re looking at Dameon Pierce, the running back committed to Alabama from Georgia. A few other names, like the Lavonte Valentines of the world, the Jashaun Corbins, that’s committed to Tennessee. Several names still out there, but right now I would say the two focuses on Asa Martin and then Dameon Pierce. Both of those guys are scheduled to visit this summer.

Pierce is very shaky in Alabama. I would say that it’s probably Georgia or Florida that will be the team for him. The one thing to remember is Georgia was last to offer, but Pierce does go to Kirby Smart’s old high school. That’s always going to play a part of things for him.

Asa Martin is really Auburn, Florida, or Alabama. Possibly wants to go out of state and make a decision this summer. I think it probably comes down to Auburn or Florida, with right now Florida having the leg up on that. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, if one decides to make an announcement before the other one, does the other one bump it up, or what really kind of goes on.

When you look at the guys, they’re a little bit different in weight, about the same height. Asa Martin’s a 6’, 193 pound guy. Then you look at Dameon Pierce, 5’11”, 210. Pretty similar in height. Pierce is a little bit bigger, little bit stockier guy, but both very good backs.

We’ll move over to receiver now. You already have Jalynn Williams committed to Florida. That happened very early on. Then you have Corey Gammage is also committed. Then there’s several targets still out there for Florida. When you look at the guy like Shaquon Anderson-Butts out of Pennsylvania that we talked about a second ago, you look at Jacob Copeland still out there. Big name, one of the best receivers in the country, out of Pensacola. You still got a guy like Marquez Ezzard, out of Stockbridge, Georgia, that’s looking really hard at Florida. Then you still have to kind of look at guys like Anthony Schwartz. He’s more of an athlete, but a guy that continues to set the world on fire on the track. Wouldn’t rule out a guy like Warren Thompson either. He’s a guy that is continuing to talk to Florida. Looks like Florida State’s going to be the school for him.

Still several big targets out there for Florida at that position. It’s going to be a position that Florida’s going to be able to be very picky with as they get into the summer months, especially when you see a guy like Copeland’s going to go all the way to January. He’s a guy that you take no matter what. It’ll be something to watch there. Again, I think Florida’s doing a good job at the receiver position.

I know people have kind of talked about why take Corey Gammage so soon, but when you look at him, he’s a 6’2”, 188 pound guy, and I think his stock continues to rise throughout the process. Even a guy like Jalynn Williams, when you see his athletic ability, not only on the football field, but on the basketball court. Is a guy that has a lot of athleticism. As we continue to talk about year in and year out, Florida’s done a good job of reamping that receiver position.

To move on to tight end a little bit, you got Jalen Goss is the offensive lineman that committed as the blocking tight end more so. That’s going to pretty much stay solid. Now they’re looking for a complete tight end, and really the guy to focus on the most is Kyle Pitts that we talked about a second ago. Iverson Clement’s trying to recruit him. He’s going to come down on June 10th. 6’4”, 234 pound tight end out of Warminster, Pennsylvania, Archbishop, former high school of former Gator Colin Thompson, who had to leave because of his foot injury. He is a guy that is a really good guy. Can really run for a guy his size. Had a really good opening regional. Didn’t make it to the opening yet. Had a really good opening though.

Malcolm Epps, tight end out of Texas is another guy that Florida is doing a good job recruiting. I think he’s a little bit more of a long shot that Pitts is. Epps is a big guy too, 6’6”, 225. Decommitted from Alabama earlier. Is a guy that says he’s going to visit this summer as well. Those two guys are guys that Florida is really in on. I think Pitts is more of a realistic option, but overall either one of those guys would be a good complete tight end for Florida, to go with Goss, who’s going to be more of a blocking guy, more of an extra offensive lineman. That’s something Florida’s really been missing.

To finish off the offensive side of the ball, we go to offensive line. The same names are out there. You’ve got Richard Gouraige out of Tampa. You’ve got Nick Petit-Frere out of Berkeley Prep out of Tampa. You have William Barnes out of Apopka. You have John Campbell. You continue to go all the way down this list. Florida really can be picky with the offensive line position, because it’s a position they need to do good at, have a good year at, especially with Brad Davis now taking over that position.

I think overall, you’re in a good spot with that position. You just really want to see some of those guys to make a decision and to come on board, now that you’ve got those guys. You don’t want to continue to wait until January and February to get those guys to commit. You want to go ahead and get them. That way if something out of the blue happens, and they were to go elsewhere, you’re not left flatfooted.

The one thing I will say with that is Florida has several targets in their back pocket if they were to miss out on those four, but those four are the big name, in state guys that they’re really focused on. Brad Davis doing a really good job of narrowing it down and hitting those four as in state guys. A rare year where you have four guys that are really good players.

The one guy I will add that is coming in this summer is Jamaree Salyer out of Atlanta. Big five-star offensive guard, 6’4”, 305. Most expect him to go to Georgia, but he says he’s going to come visit this summer, and that will be a big visit for him as well. Outside of those four in state guys, that’s probably the top out of state guy to watch as we go into the summer months.

We’ll move on to the defensive side of the ball. We’ll start off with defensive tackle. That’s the position that probably has the most question marks about it. I say question marks about it in that there’s not a ton of targets that Florida’s in good shape for. It’s kind of a year in, year out kind of deal. The one guy that is starting to look harder at Florida is Rick Sandidge out of Concord, North Carolina. Florida and Florida State both did really good of recruiting him while he was on campus there in the spring break. He hit all three of the Florida schools. That’s a guy that no rush for him to make a decision, but it’s someone that’s Florida’s continuing to work hard.

Couple more name they’re continuing to work hard is Brant Lawless out of Nashville, Tennessee. Committed to Tennessee. I personally think that one’s going to be tough to flip. Then you got the Miami commit out of American Heritage, Nesta Silvera. Big 6’2”, 300-pound guy. Again, I think that one might be tough to flip, but we’ll see where that goes. Then they offered last weekend, Dennis Briggs, is a guy that’s a defensive end/defensive tackle guy. I think Florida can land him as well, but he says Rumph’s talking to him about playing end and tackle. It looks like he’s going to be a guy that moves around a lot, so not a true defensive tackle. Again, I think defensive tackle will be a position that we’ll really find out who the top targets are this summer when Florida has camp, and they get those guys in for camps. That’ll be something to watch this summer.

When we go to defensive end, a guy that I think is not talked about enough that Florida has a really good chance with is Dante Stills out of West Virginia. 6’4”, 265-pound guy. Going to visit this summer as well. Likes Ja’Juan Seider a lot. Likes Rumph a lot as well. Florida’s in really good shape with him, Dante Stills. Another guy they’re in good shape with, Malcolm Lamar, out of Armwood. Is a guy that Florida’s been recruiting really hard. Florida’s in really good shape for him as well. He’s going to visit this summer, and may make a decision this summer as well. That’d be something that’d be good for Florida to kind of get the ball rolling. 6’5”, 256-pound guy out of Armwood there. Those two are the guys that I kind of feel Florida’s in the best shape with.

To rattle off a couple names that Florida’s recruiting, you got Coynis Miller out of Birmingham. You have Brenton Cox that’s out of Stockbridge. You’re still recruiting him, despite him being committed to Ohio State. You have Micah Parsons out of Pennsylvania. They’re still recruiting. He’s going to come down in June, June 10th. He’s good friends with Justin Fields and Iverson Clement and those guys. They’re still recruiting him. Caleb Tanner out of Georgia, they’re still recruiting him. Again, there’s several options at defensive end. It’s just more of who’s going to jump on board to get things rolling.

To move on to linebacker, a position they really only need two guys at. A couple names that they’re really recruiting hard is Channing Tindall out of South Carolina, and then David Reese, out of Fort Pierce. Those are two guys that they’re focusing on a ton. Both of those guys do say they’re going to visit this summer. Tindall looks to be leaning more towards Georgia right now, because of his stepdad being a big Georgia fan, but Florida’s continued to stay on that. Florida’s made up a lot of ground on David Reese. Tim Skipper’s doing a good job there. That’s one to watch, for sure.

A couple more names they’re recruiting is JJ Peterson out of Moultrie, Georgia. They’re still recruiting Quay Walker out of Cordell, Georgia. His teammate, Markaviest Bryant, went to Auburn, but they’re still recruiting him as well. That’ll be something to kind of watch to see. If Bama fills up with some of their other targets, does that push him to Florida? Where does that go? Those four names are the names that I say to focus the most on at linebacker. Again, two is kind of the number they would like to get in this class.

To round off this breakdown of the recruiting board, let’s go to defensive back real quick. They already have Divaad Wilson and CJ Smith committed at the position. Divadd’s more of a corner. CJ Smith’s more of a safety. They’re continuing to recruit Patrick Surtain, probably the top corner in the country, out of American Heritage, and his teammate, Tyson Campbell. They’re recruiting both of those guys really hard. They’re recruiting Jamien Sherwood, the safety out of South Florida. They’re recruiting him very hard. They’re still recruiting Tyreke Johnson a little bit. Is a guy that wants to play safety, but a lot of teams see as more of a corner. He wants to play safety, and that’s something a lot of teams are continuing to watch.

You’ve got Gurvan Hall that’s committed to Miami. They’re still recruiting him very hard. Jordan Miner is a safety/corner out of Tampa. They’re still recruiting him hard. With the DB position being the position they really need to get four guys on, they’ve got several guys. Then the guy that they probably have the best chance with is safety Amari Burney, who will decide on June 1st, out of Clearwater. Florida/Ohio State, really like Florida’s chances there. Could be good news on June 1st.

That kind of wraps up. I know I’m very longwinded, and that was very quick going through the recruiting board. Just wanted to make a special podcast where we got you caught up on both football and basketball recruiting. As always, check me out @AndrewSpiveyGC on Twitter. We’re @GatorCountry on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Like I said, Zach is @ZachGHughes on Twitter. Check us out.

If you haven’t become a member of Gator Country yet, what are you waiting on? That’s my first question for you. Second question is if you need a coupon code, come check us out, because we’ve got a lot of special things going on. We’re trying to do a little bit of everything. As always, if you have any suggestions for us on things you’d like to see us do better, see us do different, just let us know. We’re always open for option.

As always, guys, we appreciate it. Check us out. We’ll be coming at you this summer with a lot of camp stuff, from both basketball and football. That’s the good thing we’ve got going. Zach’s going to be doing basketball camps. I’m going to be doing football camps. We’ll be ready to go. Again, we appreciate it so much. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you guys next time.

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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, 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.