The Florida Gators will start fall camp on Thursday and report to camp on Wednesday which means that football is officially back.
Gator Country will break down the Florida Gators football team in a two part podcast series which we will break down into offense and defense.
In this edition, Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down the offensive side of the ball that has a lot of question marks heading into the 2015 football season.
* * * TRANSCRIPT:
Andrew: Hello, Gator Country. It is finally the start of football in less than five days, six days, August 5th, next Wednesday. Players are starting to report to campus for fall camp, and it’ll no longer be talking season. It will be football season. Nick, how excited are you that it is finally football season? No more talk.
Nick: I am ready. I had a lot of fun covering the baseball team on their journey that got them all the way to Omaha, but there’s nothing quite like football season, and August 5th, Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, players report. Then a week from today they will strap them up, and football will be back officially. Both of us had said the start of football season in our minds is SEC Media Days, but now we got pads, and we’re going to start hitting people.
Andrew: It kind of seems, maybe it’s because you and I had softball and baseball. We had such a long run, but it didn’t seem like the off season was so long this year. Maybe it was the coaching search and all that good stuff, but it kind of seems like football season got here sooner than expected.
Nick: I don’t know about that. It definitely felt like a long time, but it did help that we had the long runs with softball, softball going all the way to the World Series, going back to back, and then baseball coming just short in Omaha, but absolutely having other successful teams to watch definitely made the off season go by a little bit quicker. It’s still not fun though.
Andrew: No, it’s never fun, but it just kind of seemed like it bypassed a little bit sooner. That spring to now kind of seemed like it was a lot faster than it is. Somebody told me today that Saturday was August 1st, and I was like, what? August 1st? Where did July go? Seems like just yesterday you and I were packing for Media Days. Let’s just kind of dive in here. We had the chance last weekend at Friday Night Lights. We kind of seen some guys that maybe we haven’t seen since the spring come out on the field a little bit. Some guys are looking good. The team seems to have a lot of momentum going in its favor. The hype is there again. The excitement’s there again, and finally it seems exciting for football season. I don’t think that you could say that the last three, four years.
Nick: There’s definitely a level of excitement that is surrounding Coach McElwain and the program, and I guess the last time fans were this excited was probably coming off of the Sugar Bowl season, even though the Sugar Bowl was a game everyone wanted to forget, but that was the year where everyone says Florida was a game away from a national championship. So heading into that next season fans were excited. Fans were definitely not this excited following the four and eight season, my first season. There’s definitely a level of excitement. People are ready, and bring on New Mexico State.
Andrew: Exactly. Even though the season probably won’t be as good as some people would like for it to be, I think that you will see a turning point. I’ve already seen it in recruiting, and that has to filter onto the field. As you start to see some young guys get out there. I hate to call this a rebuilding year, but it is. Mac’s going to have his guys, and you’ve got to think that he’s going to give his guys, which is the freshman class, every opportunity to succeed for the future this year.
Nick: You know what, if you don’t to do it I will. This is an absolute rebuilding year, and it might be a rebuilding two year process. For as much talent as Will Muschamp left, Vernon Hargreaves and a lot of the players in the secondary I love, Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor, Duke Dawson, Alex Anzalone. There’s a lot of question marks on this team. To say that this isn’t a rebuilding year I think would just be looking through some orange and blue glasses, but the excitement’s there. Maybe in year one where, I don’t want to say Jim McElwain gets a full pass, because if the Gators go 4-8 he’s not getting a pass on that, but a respectable season, anything above six wins I think you get a pass if you’re Jim McElwain, just because of the situation that you walked into. So why not put some of those freshman out there? If I can lose five, six games this year and the fan base will understand what we went through, why not get those freshman valuable playing time, because that will make us better next year?
Andrew: I guess when I say rebuilding year, I hate to call any year a rebuilding year, because it basically says that you’re okay to lose, and I don’t think anybody’s okay to lose. When I say rebuilding year I don’t mean that they’re throwing in the white towel saying, we’re going to go 0-13 as long as Jordan Scarlett and whoever else, Antonio Callaway, everybody gets on the field as freshman. We tell the seniors to kiss off, and they’re done. That’s why I kind of say it’s not a rebuilding year. I think that they will try to do as much as they can. I think that maybe the better word is showing progress. I think that’s what needs to happen this year for recruiting, for next year. 16,17 that’s the years that Florida should contend to get to Atlanta, not 15.
Nick: Right. I think Florida’s at least one year away before contending to get to Atlanta, but still you can still be excited about where the program is headed, and it’s like you said, we’re looking to see progress this year.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, if Florida goes out and wins eight games this year, and I know we’re getting off topic here, but let me get this point across real quick. If Florida wins eight games this year, seven games this year, you know the talent next year offensively is going to be better than talent offensively this year. So I think that that will show improvement that guys will start to want to come to the team, so that’s where I look at it as show what you can do this year, show your offensive what you can do, then go get the piece that’s needed to add to the puzzle.
Nick: Right. I think there is no way that the offense doesn’t get better. I think the offense absolutely gets better in 2016, just based on Mac and Nuss being offensive guys being able to get their guys in to start running what they want, because I don’t think they’re going to be able to run everything they want to on offense based on the personnel they have this year. So as you start to get an influx of more of your players that Florida’s recruiting guys to play a certain style of offense, and once you get more of them on campus it opens up more of what you want to do, and I think you’ll see that progress go forward.
The only question in my mind is, and we’ll save the answer to that for our defensive preview, which will be the next podcast, is you have to spend so many scholarships rebuilding this offense, you can’t forget and neglect the defense. Florida has for the last decade has had incredible defenses, and you can’t let the mountain of work you have to do on offense start to hinder the defense. You have to try to balance those. Where there might have been an imbalance towards the defense the past four or five years, you need to find a balance between offense and defense.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t want to say that there was an imbalance last year at all, because I think when you look at signing day Chris Williamson, Cece were the two big ones that they landed on signing day, and those were both defensive guys. Then you turn to the offense, of course they got Scarlett and Ivey and Callaway, but that was kind of a balance, and I think that you’re even seeing that a little bit in this class is that it’s split.
Anyway, I think as we go into the offense I think one key standpoint that nobody’s talking about that McElwain can show this year, and I guess I’ll go ahead and talk about it real quick is Jake McGee. I think that Jake McGee is a guy that when you start to go back and you start to look at McElwain’s offense you always find a tight end, whether it was Preston Dial at Alabama, whether it was Colin Peak at Alabama, you can go on and on. There was always that big tight end that was your goal line guy. I think that that’s where Jake McGee can come in. Maybe the roster behind Jake McGee’s not there, but if you get Jake McGee to have a big year, then you’re attractive to the Isaiah Knotts, the Nick Eubanks, the big tight ends in the country that are looking at McElwain to show me what your offense is really about as far as tight ends go.
Nick: Absolutely. If you look at a guy like Preston Dial, at Alabama you probably would have thought the way they’re using him and how productive he is this might be an all pro kind of guy in the NFL. The talent level, no disrespect to him, was just not there, but at Alabama he was used excellently, and if you can use anyone on Florida’s roster in that kind of way it’s going to be Jake McGee. Jake McGee has more physical tools as far as being an offensive weapon, as far as catching the ball, running with the ball, things like that. Dial’s probably a better blocker, maybe a little bit better down in the goal line where there’s a threat of him blocking or passing, where McGee you’re more worried about him catching. It is encouraging to see that you have somebody on that roster, and like you said, it obviously will help recruiting if you can start showing tight ends, don’t worry, we’re not going to be just moving defensive ends to play this position. We actually want a tight end, a big body guy who can do both things, and we’ll prepare you for the NFL.
Andrew: Exactly. Let’s just get to the point here. I know we were going to talk about offense in this, so let’s go. Let’s start with the quarterback position. I’ll let you go first before.
Nick: Let’s start. I think we both have heard, there were some reports out there. We both have heard good things about Luke Del Rio and how he’s worked throwing, but Luke Del Rio’s on his third school now. He already got a waver so that he could play at Oregon State. It is very unlikely that the NCAA will grant him that exact same waver just because a coach was fired to play this year at Florida. If he was eligible, if Del Rio was eligible this year, you might be talking about a three way quarterback race. I know ESPN did a story about that, but he’s not eligible. I really doubt that he will be eligible in 2015, so it comes back to our two quarterback race between Will Grier and Treon Harris.
Andrew: You and I talked to several people around the program that dealt with Treon and dealt with Will Grier. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought this was a shoe in Will Grier was going to win the job. Then as I was talking to couple people in south Florida they made a good point to me when they say Treon’s a guy that gets guys around him better. If you hear McElwain, McElwain continues to use, and I’m not going to quote him word for word of what he said, because I don’t remember, but he said something about we’re looking for a guy that makes people around him better. When he says that it almost to me says you guys are giving Will the job, don’t forget about Treon. When that quote is said it almost is basically Treon’s like intro of I make guys around me better, and so the more I look at this the more I think maybe this is a closer race than I’m letting on, and maybe that I’m letting myself believe because of what I believe in Will Grier. So it’s going to be interesting for me to see what happens with the quarterback battle, but now I start to wonder if it’s not a lot closer than I expected it to be.
Nick: I think you really hit the nail on the head there, and that’s something that McElwain keeps saying is that we want the quarterback to be able to affect the guys around him and make them better. So to me that could be taken the way that you took it. It could also be taken as a message to Will. Players read. Players are on Twitter. They see stories. They know what writers are saying. They know what fans are saying. It might be a message to Will in saying, listen, you might be ahead. Obviously Treon missed some time in spring. You might be ahead in your mind, even on the coach’s board you might be ahead, but when camp starts on the 6th if Treon is making the players around him better, even if we view his skill set to not really be a great fit for what we want, if he’s going to elevate the game of the other 10 people around him, we’ll make him the starter, even if you think and we think you’re the better quarterback.
It’s not just being a great quarterback. Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl, and being from south Florida Dan Marino in my opinion is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL. I think McElwain is right. It’s not just about how hard can you throw? How well can you throw deep ball? Can you throw that slant? How’s your ball spinning on that 10 yard out? It’s what can you do to make the receivers better, to make the running backs better, to make the center have to make less calls because you’re identifying things and picking up blitz pickups and picking up different things in coverages? Can you make the people around you better?
If that is something that Treon does, he could win the starting quarterback job. Based on what we saw in the spring, which I will continue to say was a very small sample size, Will Grier to me was a better quarterback, but you can’t take away the fact that Treon was trotted out, down 9-0, in Neyland Stadium 100,000 people. Coming from Miami Treon Harris has played in some hostile environments, but if you asked him I bet you he’d say that’s right up there with any of them, if not at the top. He leads drives down the field for a touchdown, a field goal. Florida comes away with a win in Tennessee to keep that winning streak, pushes to 10. So there is something to say about a quarterback that can lift his team up, and if the team believes in a quarterback it’s going to help their confidence and help their play on the field.
Andrew: Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head here in that you think about Will, and Will in my opinion is probably the smarter quarterback of the two, and that’s no disrespect to Treon Harris, but Treon Harris has always been an athletic guy that’s kind of just did his thing and the offense have been built around him. Will’s a son of a coach as well, as Treon is, but Will has learned the offense, and I think that Will might be more of the mental cape of that. Let’s just face it, Florida’s going to have a young center, whether it’s Tyler Jordan or whether it’s Cam Dillard, whoever it is they’re going to have a young center, so a smart quarterback with a young center is going to be needed. So that is my question for Treon is does Treon step up to be the mental quarterback that Will is, or does Will step up to be the quarterback physically that Treon is? Both of them have something they have to prove this fall camp, so who wins out? I think that’s the biggest question mark. For me, I had strictly just written Treon off from things we had seen in the spring and heard in the spring, but I think now it’s time that it’s a real battle here. When McElwain says he hasn’t picked a quarterback he’s probably telling the truth.
Nick: Yeah. I’m still going to lean to say that Will Grier is leading this race. It’s definitely not over. I think you will see both quarterbacks in the first game. I think you’ll see both quarterbacks in the second game, and like we’ve said in previous podcasts, you really lock down a starter when you go on the road to start SEC play against Kentucky in Lexington.
Andrew: If I was picking a quarterback right now I’d say Will Grier as well. I’m simply just saying that my comments for the last four months may have been off track just a little bit by saying that Will was the clear cut favorite to win the job.
Nick: You’ll back off yours a little bit. I will still stick to mine and say that Will is the guy. That’s what makes it fun. We will not always agree, and maybe once we get closer to the season our weekly podcast will do a little betting and we’ll figure out some way to keep track of all of it.
Andrew: Real quick to finish this, Tebow. I hate to use that reference. It’s the most overused reference, but he maybe not been the guy that was the practice guy that or that, and maybe that’s Treon. Treon might just be a winner on game day, as you’ve seen at Tennessee last year. Simply put, Florida needs a guy that can win football games right now.
Let’s go to the running back position real quick. Not a lot to talk about here. It’s Kelvin Taylor. He’s going to be the starter. I think we can both agree on that Jordan Scarlett’s going to be the number two guy, and then probably number three will be a battle between Cronkrite splitting time and Adam Lane there, and whoever else, Johnny Wholestaff.
Nick: The only thing with me is that maybe the staff could, if they wanted to, create some separation with Cronkrite and Scarlett by possibly redshirting Cronkrite. I think we both agree that Jordan Scarlett, in my opinion Jordan Scarlett is already the best running back on the roster as far as all around total everything, total package, what he brings to the game. So maybe you can get some separation by redshirting Cronkrite if you can get enough from Adam Lane. It remains to be seen if there will any kind of disciplinary action from McElwain for that stupid little dine and dash that Lane was involved in, but you do have a very formidable one, two punch with Kelvin Taylor and Jordan Scarlett there. Not much to talk about. Two very good running backs, and I think a future All SEC kind of beast in Jordan Scarlett.
Andrew: Yeah. The one thing I will say about Kelvin Taylor, and I mentioned this yesterday in the post that I made, I’ve seen a difference. A couple times I’ve seen Kelvin Taylor around campus this summer I’ve seen a different Kelvin Taylor in that it doesn’t seem like he’s worried about the fun part of college life. It really seems like he’s focused in on football, and I think a lot of that has to do with Tim Skipper. I’ve seen those two interact a little bit at camps, and it definitely seems like Skipper is a better fit for Kelvin Taylor. Brian White was more of the let’s go have fun. I’m going to dance with you and act stupid. Tim Skipper’s a guy that you’re coming here to work, let’s work. I think that that’s going to be there, so I think you will see a different Kelvin Taylor. I love Jordan Scarlett, and I think both of them are right there, and I think Scarlett ends up probably being the better back of the two, but I do think you’ll see a different Kelvin Taylor this fall.
Nick: I hope so. It might be to the point where we’ve talked about before, maybe Kelvin comes in feeling a little entitled after being the man since he was in eighth grade, in high school, and situation where everyone’s talking about [INAUDIBLE] I don’t like what’s happened in the past couple years. [INAUDIBLE] Change the end result.
Andrew: Yeah. Again, I think that Kelvin has to get to the point where he realizes I’m ready to be a man, and I’m ready to prove how good I am. I’m ready to prove I was the five star. Jim McElwain will hopefully do that for him with the offense and go forward. Let’s move to the receiver position, the most unquestionable position in probably the entire country is who’s going to play? We know Demarcus Robinson’s going to play there.
Nick: Let’s get that off the table. Demarcus Robinson will be starting wide receiver for Florida, and then it gets tricky.
Andrew: I think Demarcus Robinson was named the sixth best receiver in the SEC by McElroy yesterday on SEC Network, so that was funny. Opposite of him I think you will get Ahmad Fulwood. I think Ahmad Fulwood is slowly but surely is going to do his simple little things, but I’m going to throw you out a wild card guy. We all know Brandon Powell’s going to play, but I’m going to throw out Antonio Callaway. I mentioned him yesterday.
Nick: I don’t think that’s a wild card. I think you and I have both said that, and both expect him to be.
Andrew: But I mean a wild card for the people who maybe have not followed along with us a little bit.
Nick: What’s wrong with them? They should be following along.
Andrew: You know, we’re nationally televised hosts now on iTunes, so maybe the first time listener is listening in to us, and I’m saying I think Antonio Callaway plays. You and I both saw him this weekend, and have seen his Vine. It’s like, wow. He’s gotten big. He’s not the little scrawny speedster guy that he was when he signed in February. He’s gotten in that weight room a little bit. He dunked the ball with ease the other day, made it look easy. I guess it’ll be interesting for me to see does McElwain maybe slide him out to that Z to where he’s an outside receiver now and maybe they go Robinson, Callaway, Brandon Powell, and just forget Fulwood all in general? Because Callaway is a bigger guy that can play that outside position. So maybe the three of them together end up being your one, two, three punch.
Nick: I absolutely think so. This is all about not saying, guy’s only 5’10”, 5’11”. He might be listed at 6’ if they took his measurement in cleats. Don’t care. Throw the measurements out. What is he doing between the white lines? Can he make our team better? If Antonio Callaway isn’t your prototypical 6’1”, 6’2” outside receiver, but he has a skill set that can make you better when he’s on the field, then you find a way to get him on the field, whether it’s in the slot, in the back field, returning punts, returning kicks. You find a way to make it work.
Andrew: Florida’s not in the best position here to say you’re 5’11” not 6’ you’re not playing.
Nick: Yeah. Florida’s not in the position to be picky and tell kids, you’re not the prototypical size for this position, so we got to find you a different position.
Andrew: The thing for me with Ahmad Fulwood is this. He has all the potential in the world, it’s just the light has never went on up top, and I wonder if it comes on. Maybe Kerry Dixon helps that. To be fair to a guy like Fulwood, to other guys, they haven’t had a receiver coach. I will say that helps him come in to play better, but I think if we’re just sitting here naming three guys we expect to play I think you have to say Robinson, Powell, Callaway is the three guys that come to New Mexico State. You should see those guys as probably the three leading receivers from the receiver position.
Nick: It’s really the fun thing about the wide receiver position is it’s wide open. Nobody has been eliminated from contention here. Could it be Alvin Bailey? I’m trying to throw out some obscure names.
Andrew: Let me do this for you, Raph Andrades. I think both of us can agree that he’s probably not going to be a factor.
Nick: He will be a factor on special teams.
Andrew: Alvin Bailey, I don’t even know if he’s out of jail yet.
Nick: He was released.
Andrew: He was released, so he’s somewhere in Gainesville. Okay. Callaway I think we can all agree is going to play. Fulwood we’ve talked about him. Kalif Jackson, I think he’s headed for a redshirt year, agree or disagree?
Nick: I agree.
Andrew: Then you go to Latroy Pittman. Latroy Pittman’s going to find a place on the field somewhere. He’s going to be a blocking guy. He’s going to find a way on the field.
Nick: He does that. He just finds a way to have some kind of roll every year.
Andrew: Then we go to Brandon Powell. I think Brandon Powel we both will agree is going to find a place to play and will be fine.
Nick: I think Brandon Powell is going to be featured.
Andrew: That’s what I’m saying. I think he finds a place, whether it’s the inside receiver, the outside receiver, the running back position, wherever he is he’s going to find a place to make plays from. He’ll be probably Florida’s best playmaker. I’ll just be honest. I think he’ll be Florida’s best playmaker. Demarcus Robinson we talked about him. Valdez Showers, I think he’s just kind of a special teams guy right now.
Nick: Yeah. He’s kind of stuck behind. He’s in the same role as Brandon Powell, but Brandon Powell just, as far as being a football player we’ve both talked about Valdez Showers is a great athlete. Brandon Powell is a better athlete and a better football player. He’s kind of stuck behind B. Pow there in that role that they were working out both guys at in the spring.
Andrew: Then to name the final three receivers, Sousa, Chris Thompson, and CJ Worton. I think CJ Worton’s probably the most likely out of the three, but then you got to CJ Worton again, and now he’s kind of stuck behind Brandon Powell. So it’s like what do you do with him there? Worton has had some, I guess, bright spots last year before breaking his hand. So we’ll see where that goes. I think we can just agree that the receiver position will be better. It’s just who steps up outside of Robinson, Powell, and Callaway. Is it Fulwood? Is it Pittman? Is it a guy like Chris Thompson who has a lot of speed? Is it a guy like CJ Worton? I think that’ll be the biggest question mark.
Nick: Right. It’s going to be fun. I really like Powell. I really like CJ Worton. There’s guys. There’s talent on the roster. Despite what the past numbers show there is talent. We talk about even a guy like Latroy Pittman, he’s going to find a way to make whatever impact he can. I think Brandon Powell’s a guy that is featured by Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, and a guy that’s electric with the ball in his hands. They’re going to find ways to get the ball in his hands, whether he is, not comparing him to Percy Harvin, but kind of in a Percy Harvin role where you’ll see him everywhere. You’ll see him lined up outside, in the slot, in the back field. He’ll be a motion guy, pre snap, just finding ways to create mismatches, because if you get the ball in Brandon Powell’s hands in space and a linebacker’s covering him, you better find out who the guy behind the linebacker is, because the linebacker’s not stopping him in space.
Then I think Ryan Sousa is headed for, obviously he redshirted last year, I think he’s still a guy that’s developing. I think Chris Thompson could find a role, maybe as a deep threat. We saw Alvin Bailey get the flea flicker in the Orange and Blue game. That’s a role with Chris Thompson’s speed, a little bit bigger guy than Bailey is at 6’, maybe something there for him. CJ Worton, still love him. Still think he’s one of the best, if not the best, technical receiver, and by that I mean hands, route running, blocking, a combination of everything. Whereas obviously Demarcus Robinson is the best receiver, just not the most technical receiver.
Andrew: Did he pay you to say that so he wouldn’t hit you in the face?
Andrew: Maybe. Okay. Let’s go to tight end here.
Nick: We can zoom through tight end. We already talked about Jake McGee.
Andrew: Yeah, not much about that. McGee.
Nick: We already talked about Jake McGee, and then after Jake McGee you’re really only going to have two guys really competing after that, and that’s going to be C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby. Both of them, the thing with me is both of them have a very similar skill set. They’re not blockers. They’re both pass catchers, and they’re both 6’4”. We’ve seen C’yontai in person a lot, talked to him a lot through the recruiting process. He’s very tall. DeAndre Goolsby’s just as tall. Goolsby definitely has more size packed on to him. He’s almost at 250 pounds, where C’yontai’s around 230. Guys like Moral Stephens, Camrin Knight, Bair Diamond, I really don’t see them factoring in too much here at tight end. It’s kind of those three.
Andrew: Yeah. With C’yontai I think that C’yontai’s a guy that Mac will feature some, split out into what I like to call the split out tight end position, which is the Y, the flex style. I think that’s where you’re going to see C’yontai, McGee, do a lot at, and then I think that you will see a lot of Goolsby on the play action from the end line. I have heard that Goolsby’s blocking has gotten better, and that should be good. At 250 pounds he should be able to block somebody. I think that that’s it. I think you look at C’yontai more as your better receiver from a split out position, and Goolsby more of a better receiver from in line. My question for Goolsby is can he run routes? In the Alabama game he looked like a lost puppy trying to run routes. That’s my biggest question.
Nick: Yeah. Very valid questions. I think it still somewhat remains to be seen how those two will be used, but as far as the skill set, I think you’re kind of right on there as far as C’yontai is more athletic, definitely a guy that with his leaping ability at 6’4” is a guy that should be able to be factored in as a goal line threat.
Andrew: Exactly. Let’s go to the big boys like myself here and go to the offensive line. Here’s my take on the offensive line, and this is that this might be where the rebuilding, the whatever you want to call it, starts. I want to start on Mason Halter real quick. Everybody talks about Mason Halter, and you hear a lot of he’s an FCS guy, this, this and that. I talked to a couple people that are friends with some offensive linemen, and they continue to tell me that the one thing Halter’s brought is leadership. He’s a leader off the field to these guys, and that’s the biggest thing. For me that is worth Mason Halter’s scholarship to Florida, whether he produces at Florida or not. He’s the leader that Florida hasn’t had. DJ Humphries was not a leader. Max Garcia was. So maybe he’s the guy that replaces Max Garcia as that leadership. Again, I think that that’s the biggest point of having a guy like Mason Halter at Florida.
Nick: Yeah. Here you go. I’m going to run through my starting five, and then I’ll tell you why having a guy like Halter is important there. From the left, I think David Sharpe is your starting left tackle. Moving inside, left guard, Trip Thurman. I think Tyler Jordan, everything you and I have both heard is that he was brought in, obviously, to be the center, but that getting in in that summer A session a couple weeks even before everyone else really helped him as far as developing, and it’s going to be up to him, but if he can start at center from day one, and everyone knows how I feel about starting freshman on the offensive line, but I’m going to put a couple of them there.
Jordan at center, and then you put Halter at right guard. We’ve seen, some people will get on me about this comparison, but you saw how Tyler Moore transferred from Nebraska where he was freshman all Big 10 to Michael Sam’s highlight tape in the SEC. I think being able to slide Halter, who was a tackle at Fordham, being able to slide him into guard, and then you put Martez Ivey at right tackle.
This gets your best five offensive linemen on the field at the same time, and what it also does is put your two veteran guys in the middle. So now you’ve got a sophomore in Sharpe, but he has a redshirt senior next to him. A freshman in Tyler Jordan, and he’s got two seniors next to him. Then a freshman over in Ivey at right tackle, and he has a senior next to him. What you’re doing is, yes we’re young, but we think this is our best five, and even though we’re young we’re filling in the gaps with guys who can be able to communicate, guys who have been there before, guys who have experienced this, and we think that they will be able to help those young guys.
Andrew: Yeah. You and I got to see Tyler Jordan up close last couple days, and he’s gotten big. He’s gotten really big, and I don’t mean fat big. I mean he’s gotten muscle build, and he is a big guy. He’s always been smart. He’s a smart guy as it is. He’s been in there since summer, and he’s probably been learning the playbook since February when he got it from McElwain. So that’s not there. I think that having Trip Thurman at guard maybe that helps Thurman stay healthy a little bit more at guard, because he’s not snapping the ball and then having to take an initial shock from there. He’s prepared for it, and having Halter there and Martez Ivey at right tackle I think that’s good to go there.
The thing I have with Sharpe is Sharpe’s gotten big. How will he go against those fast end rushes of the Nkemdice’s of the world, the Lorenzo Carters of the world, the Jordan Jenkins? Those are not easy guys to block when you’re not very good at moving outside. We’ll see how it works, but if I was there I’d agree with you, and if I was saying who was sixth on the rotation I’d say it was freshman Nick Buchanan.
Nick: Absolutely. Nick Buchanan. First off, Nick Buchanan is winning me over. The kid is just full of swag, shows up in glasses to Friday Night Lights, great socks on. Everyone knows my affinity for socks. Nick Buchanan has the swag of a cornerback on the offensive line, and if he can play some ball too that’s not bad either. Another thing though is that we heard Halter came in and learned the playbook right away. So this is a kid who knows I have one year. He didn’t come in and say, let me check out Gainesville. He came in with a working mentality ready to go to work, learned the playbook faster than probably anybody did when McElwain and Nussmeier brought it in. Props to him. He is going to start. He will play this year, and I think, like I said before, the transition from FCS to FBS I think moving him inside will help him.
Andrew: I agree. I think that’s the case. I think when you look at that offensive line you’re not going to look at that offensive line and say that’s an All SEC offensive line, but when you look at that offensive line compared to what we were thinking about a couple months ago when you were thinking it was going to be Sharpe, Riles, Thurman, Mike, who am I missing? Ivey. When you compare those five compared to the other five it’s like, this is a lot better. You feel more comfortable with this, and then a guy like Nick Buchanan being your sixth guy. In my opinion TJ McCoy’s a guy that probably finds a way to get in there and get some meaningful snaps at center, in maybe that New Mexico game or East Carolina game possibly, and is your second guy there.
Then you still have guys like Harkless. You still have guys like Andrew Mike and Riles. Who am I missing here? Harkless, Travaris Dorsey. You still have those guys that can get in there and compete to be on that second team. Right now I think you feel good about your five, and then your sixth guy being Nick Buchanan. I think that that’s the guy that you’re really looking to say now I have three guys for the future in Ivey, Jordan, and Buchanan that you’re feeling really good about, and those are three guys that are going to be on campus for three more years.
Nick: Right. The guys you were naming as backups they’re guys that if you throw them in the starting lineup you’re probably thinking I don’t know, but as backups you think they’re serviceable. If they’re called upon they can be serviceable at times, you’re just not that comfortable with them being in the starting rotation.
Andrew: Agreed. I think we kind of hit on the offense in general. I think the offense will be better. I think that you start to look at some of your keys of going in of how the line meshes, and I think probably the biggest key is how does a guy like Tyler Jordan, if he ends up starting at center, how does he do calling the plays, remembering the plays, and how does connect with Treon Harris or Will Grier, guys that he hasn’t given a snap to in live game action or practice action yet?
Nick: Yeah. That’s kind of, I think it will be all right, especially if Tyler Jordan wins that starting job. You’re getting a New Mexico State team who has a very undersized defensive line. They have one player, one starter, that’s over 250 pounds on the defensive line. So that’s kind of get the butterflies out in that first game. It goes back to what we said in the beginning, which was McElwain’s going to get a little bit of leash, a little bit of rope this year, almost a pass. Why not take some lumps this year when you’re expected to and get a guy like Tyler Jordan that valuable playing experience? Let Tyler Jordan get punched in the mouth and experience some failure, because both of us know him. He’s not the kind of player that will lose confidence because of that. He’s the kind of player that will get punched in the mouth and get angry and want to become better so that it doesn’t happen again.
Andrew: Agreed. I think that it’s a good thing. I think they’ll be fine. I think that you’ve seen these guys. I don’t want to bad mouth anybody, but when you look at the three centers of McCoy, Jordan, Cam Dillard is there really a separation there? I mean, I can’t see a separation there. Cameron Dillard’s a great guy, a great person. I’ve been able to deal with him several times, but he hasn’t made great strides. McCoy’s a freshman and Jordan’s a freshman. Throw one out there, and you kind of pick who’s better out of the three. Neither one of them have experience, and none of the three have experience playing in game action. So whoever it’s going to be.
Let’s also remember this. They’re going to get a taste of blood in fall camp. They’re not going against some slouch defensive line. Tavin Bryan, Mr. Wyoming Man’s going to be willing to punch somebody in the mouth. Brantley and his wild self’s definitely going to be that, and Bullard’s a man as it is. Then you start to look at your linebackers who are going to smash them in the mouth. They’re going to get plenty of practice in fall camp.
Nick: You’re jumping a little bit ahead here. We will get to the defense.
Andrew: Absolutely. I’m just saying we think about New Mexico, but we have to also remember that August 5th compared to what’s the first game? 31st? Am I accurate there?
Nick: First game is September 5th.
Andrew: Okay. My mind’s gone. Anyway, so that’s a month that they have of smacking each other in the mouth. They’ll be fine. Nick, let’s sign off on the offense here. We’ll be back later on with the defensive side of the ball. I like to score points. So we could offense and then just shut up for the rest of the time, but some people like to close down. Nick, say your words. Let’s sign off this bad boy.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Nation.
Andrew: Stay tuned, Gator Country.