Podcast: Chris Clark preview Florida Gators vs. South Carolina

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as Chris Clark of Gamecock Central joins us to help preview Florida Gators vs. South Carolina.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Clark the tough questions about South Carolina as they come into Gainesville with a 5-3 record.

Andrew and Nick also continue to breakdown the game, plus talk about the quarterback situation after Dan Mullen talked on Monday about the status of the starter for Saturday’s game.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, it’s Carolina week. It’s Willie Muschamp week and going to have a special guest come on in a few minutes. My buddy, Chris Clark, from Gamecock Central going to come on and talk a little bit about this game. Nick, it’s such a huge game for both teams. Both teams, I think, well, I wouldn’t say both teams. Florida, I think Florida is about where many people expected them to be, but many people expected South Carolina to have a better year this year, and they’re not.

Nick:                         I think Muschamp’s first year you had Jake Bentley, who graduated high school early, and there was a lot of thought that season, we’re going to take our lumps this year, but in two, three years’ time we’re going to have this veteran quarterback with three years of experience. We’ll get back to those Spurrier days. You look at it right now, South Carolina is 5-3, 4-3. Just gave up 700 yards of offense last week but were able to pull out a win there. To me, it’s interesting to see where that South Carolina fanbase is, because they got a little spoiled by Spurrier.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think it’s like you said, you’re in Year 3 of Muschamp, and let’s call it what it is. Looks like the same crap that was going on in Gainesville.

Nick:                         Well, yeah.

Andrew:                 Again, it’s one of those things. We say it about Feleipe, and we’ll say it about Willie, and that is they are what they are. You can try to dissect it and say what they are, but they are what they are. Willie Muschamp is not a very good head football coach, and we talked enough about Franks on Monday to know what that is.

Again, I think it’ll be interesting. I want to talk to Chris here in a second and just kind of get his thoughts about that, because I think it’s one of those things where it’s where do you go? If you’re South Carolina, do you expect better? I mean, your fanbase does, but this was supposed to be a team that was competing with Georgia to be the best in the East. Let’s face it, they’re fourth or fifth in the East.

Nick:                         Well, media was wrong. Media is as usual.

Andrew:                 What did I tell you in Atlanta? South Carolina would not be #2.

Nick:                         I was not a believer in South Carolina, but I don’t think anyone was a believer in Kentucky.

Andrew:                 No. Not at all. Let’s go. Let’s talk to Chris here and get his thoughts on this team. He does a good job. We’ll talk to him about it, and we’ll come back. We’ll talk about what Chris says and break down the rest of this game this weekend.

Guys, we’re back with my man Chris Clark from Gamecock Central. Chris, thanks for coming on. First thing first, how are things in Carolina this year? Nick and I were talking about this in our intro. You guys expected a better year in Columbia. How are fans taking this season as a whole?

Chris:                       Well, it has been an interesting one. I think there’s some frustration on the part of the fanbase with how South Carolina has lost some games, and then some of the games they have lost, just the way that the season has gone. I mean, I don’t think anybody in the fanbase would have been completely just blown away, floored, shocked, whatever adjective you want to use if you would have told them South Carolina is not going to beat Georgia this year. They’re just still better. I don’t think anybody would have been shocked.

That said, I think people expected South Carolina to have a better chance in that ballgame. They did not play well. Georgia dominated stretches of that football game, and I think that was probably the most disappointing part. Plus just knowing at that point, if you don’t win that game, if you don’t catch Georgia early, and you can’t beat them at home, you’re probably not going to be able to try to make that move and go win the East.

Then on top of that, you lose to a Kentucky team who is a good football team. They’re a pretty good football team. You lose to them on the road. I think more frustrating than actually losing that game was the fact that it came after four straight losses to Kentucky. It took that streak to five, which is just unfathomable at South Carolina. Unfathomable almost anywhere. You guys in Florida know about that. That was a tough one to swallow.

Then the Texas A&M game is one, again, at home, where South Carolina has a chance to beat an opponent that’s ranked at the time, and they just start so slow. They come back and tie the game up, but they just can’t get it done. I think that, just combined with the way that this team has played at times, has gotten some folks off kilter and had some folks concerned. Some of it is understandable, but you guys in the media, fellow media members know this, people will start extrapolating that to just everything and sort of lose sight of other good things that are done. It has been an interesting year here for sure. I think there has been some rightful disappointment in where this team is at at this point.

Andrew:                 I think, Chris, a couple things. I think when you look at the record, and they’re 5-3, the Marshall win would have been 6-3. That gives you a chance to win seven, eight, nine ballgames at the end, and that’s a good football season for a lot of teams. I think the biggest thing for me, Chris, that I have to ask you is the recent struggles on defense. The Ole Miss game you give up 44. You gave up 35 to Missouri. Is that a little bit cause of concern for fans? That’s Muschamp’s calling card on defense, and to give up points on defense so much.

Chris:                       Oh, absolutely. It’s been a big concern. It’s been a topic of conversation, and it’s something that’s definitely affected them all season. It has been somewhat surprising. I think there are a few things that you can chalk it up to. I don’t think Will Muschamp has forgotten defensive football at all. That has been, like you said, Andrew, he’s taken criticism over the years for offense, and a lot of that, of course, was deserved, head coaching decisions, whatever it may have been, but the one thing we know the guy knows how to do is recruit, develop, evaluate defensive talent, scheme it up, put his guys in good positions. He’s done that all his career.

Now, one thing you have to look at is he’s been a lot of schools, like a lot of the most successful defenses, they happen to have really good players. It’s not rocket science. The best defenses tend to have the best players, and also really good coaches. They’re still not there yet. I mean, what it was in Year 1, what it was in Year 2, what it is in Year 3, I don’t think it’s what it will be in Year 5 or 6. I think some South Carolina fans are frustrated with that, because they feel like it should be faster, but I think they lose sight of this is South Carolina. There’s nothing in the trophy case in terms of conference titles. This isn’t a program that you can bottom out at, meaning three wins in 2015, and then you can just go and just turn it around in a couple years. Especially when your rivals around you are improving, when Clemson is at its peak as a program, when Georgia is right back at the top, and you’re in the Southeast in the SEC where competitive recruiting is tough.

That’s one answer. They’ve got to just continue putting their heads down and recruiting. They lost some guys, like Sky Moore, Dante Sawyer, Chris Lemons, who were senior football players who did a really nice job for them and were really good at creating turnovers. That’s been the biggest difference this season and last in the defense. South Carolina was the best in the SEC in creating turnovers last year. They were in the top 10, maybe even top 5, in turnover margin nationally last season. They haven’t been able to buy one this year. Part of that, you lose a couple key personnel guys, but it’s the same coaches. It’s a lot of the same players. You need a little bit of luck forcing turnovers. They haven’t had it.

They’re struggling with some depth. They still haven’t had what they wanted at safety in terms of actual play, but now they’re down. Literally they’re missing four safeties right now. Two guys who started the beginning of the year haven’t returned, and they just lost two backups for the season in the Ole Miss game. Still not where they want to be there, and that has been a concern. They have been better on offense in terms of actually just giving people more to look at, having more explosive capability, making bigger plays. They’ve been better in that regard.

Nick:                         Before, I wanted to get to the offense a little bit, I mean, overcoming giving up almost 50 points last week and still getting a win, but what does it look like at safety now?

Chris:                       Yeah, man. That’s one of the big questions. They’re missing a couple grad transfers that had come in. JT Ibe and Nick Harvey, those guys have been out a while. Ibe with a knee, Harvey with a concussion and concussion protocol. They’ve been out for several weeks. Jamyest Williams, who can play nickel or safety has been playing safety lately. He went down with a shoulder injury. Javon Charleston, who’s a key special teams player, former walk-on and also backup safety, went down with a foot injury. So, they’re out.

Right now, honestly, guys, it looks like a couple freshmen there. One true freshmen in RJ Roderick, who played almost 70 snaps against Ole Miss, and then Jaylin Dickerson, who is a guy that the staff likes as a redshirt freshman, but he’s missed a lot of practice time during his career with a shoulder injury. Then he had a hamstring in preseason and has been playing special teams in the last several games. Got his first career game action against Ole Miss, and he’s going to be playing a lot more going forward. That’s really it. I mean, they’re sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of the depth there. Roderick and Dickerson are capable players. They just haven’t played a ton of football. They’re coming along, but there’s just no depth to speak of behind those guys right now.

Andrew:                 Chris, if I’d have told you at the beginning of the year Will Muchamp, who is a defensive guru, and Florida, who consider themselves DBU, are both scraping the barrel for defensive backs, we’d have both laughed at each other.

Chris:                       Yeah. There’s no doubt. Look, some of it, you can point to recruiting. A lot of fans that’s one of the criticisms. Why are there not more really good safeties on this roster? Because people feel pretty good about the corner position, even though they are starting two seniors right now, but they got Jaycee Horn, who’s probably one of the better freshmen in the country, to be honest with you, at the corner position. They got Keisean Nixon and Rashad Fenton back there. Rashad Fenton can slide over and play some safety situationally too, by the way.

I mean, when you lose four guys, that’s going to be tough on any team, anybody. Ibe was a starter at the beginning of the year. Harvey was a starter at the beginning of the year. They’re out. Williams and Charleston are out. That makes it difficult, I mean, on anyone, especially for a program trying to still establish itself like South Carolina, and still trying to do a better job recruiting and getting the kind of depth that they need. It is what it is.

It is interesting. That is an interesting balance, like you said, Andrew, with Florida and South Carolina both trying to sort of build up. I think it goes back to recruiting. That’s one of those things you go to do, but then at the end of the day, you got to have guys stay healthy. That’s just one of the things that’s a little bit out of your control at times.

Andrew:                 Completely agree. Chris, let’s go to offense for a second here. What are the keys for South Carolina in this game? Florida, it depends on what Florida team shows up on the defense line as to whether they get pressure or not. They had games where they get a lot of pressure. They’ve had games where they haven’t gotten pressure. The last three games they haven’t gotten a lick of pressure. For South Carolina, specifically up front, how are they doing this year? What are the keys for South Carolina on offense to moving the ball?

Chris:                       Well, the offensive line, in my opinion, is the most improved group on this squad. They haven’t been perfect, by any means. They’ve actually been battling some injuries too. Their starting left tackle, Dennis Daley, missed the Ole Miss game. I imagine he’ll probably miss the Florida game. So, they moved some guys around there. They’ve got a nice blend of experience and talent. I mean, they’ve got a fourth-year junior. They’ve got a couple seniors up front that they start. Their top tackle backup is also a senior. Dylan Wonnum is a really talented freshman, former four-star guy out of Georgia. He’s taking the starting right tackle job, and then Sadarius Hutcherson is a third-year player at offensive guard who’s really been a good one for them as well.

That’s been a good group. They’ve done a good job at getting a hat on a hat, the run game. They’ve done a really good job in pass protection. It seems like more of the breakdowns this year, when there has been sacks or pressures on the quarterback or hits that Jake Bentley have taken, have come more from tight ends or backs. The offensive line has really done a nice job under Eric Wolford.

When this team’s struggled, they’ve been turning the ball over. You saw it, like to open the game against Georgia. They opened in five wide, and they’re moving the ball. They’re around, probably on their own 40 or so, and then they just have a pass, a little pass to the flat just goes off the running back’s shoulder pads, and Georgia returns it for a touchdown. They never recovered. Kentucky, Jake Bentley had maybe the worst game of his career, aside from maybe the Florida game at home last season. They had four turnovers. Bentley threw three interceptions and got hurt in the game. Again, the turnover margin, that’s been huge for this team.

When this team is at its best, it’s balanced. They’re able to run the football. We saw that against Tennessee some. We saw it, they did a great job running the ball against Ole Miss, even though they were banged up some. And when they’re hitting plays downfield. They’ve got some guys in Shi Smith and Deebo Samuel and Brian Edwards who can really stretch the field. They can make yards after the catch. When they’re getting in rhythm, and they’re able to establish some tempo after they hit a big play and move the chains, that’s really when this team is at their best. They’ve shown that in flashes at times. They haven’t done it against a really, really good defense yet. Ole Miss, you guys have probably watched them on film. They’re pretty poor.

Nick:                         They don’t really even pretend to play defense.

Chris:                       They don’t. They’re not very good tackling. They make no bones about it. I mean, they’re just not very good back there. South Carolina hit them for some big plays in the run game and in the pass game.

Really, if they’re taking care of the football, this is a team that can move it. This is, for the first time since Will Muschamp has been at South Carolina, I think they’ve established the identity that he wants, and that’s a team that can get explosive plays, that can run the football better. They at least have the capability to, and they can hit those explosive downfield passing plays and stretch the defense more. They haven’t always been that team, but they’ve shown flashes of that. That’s really what he wants to be, and they are actually a team that I think you have to prepare for a little bit defensively now.

Andrew:                 Let’s go to defense. We all know Muschamp is going to play that man press coverage, and he’s going to be aggressive. How has the team been as far as getting pressure on those guys? Is the lack of safety play, or not lack of safety play, but lack of players at the safety position, changing the way Will Muschamp calls his defense?

Chris:                       Yeah. I mean, that’s really going to be the curious thing. Now, against Ole Miss, when they got down so many players, and they were down to Dickerson and Roderick in the game, they actually shifted strategies to where they were playing more man. Now, I don’t think that was because they felt better, per se, about their personnel, but they just felt like they had to do that, because of what Ole Miss was doing. They were sort of sitting back early in that game. They were actually playing more zone, and Ole Miss was hitting some plays. They wanted to have zone eyes on Jordan Tamu, the Ole Miss quarterback.

But they decided in the second half and later in that game, look, we’re going to have to send some pressure at times. We’re going to have to play more man to man, because they were getting time, and they were finding holes in the zones. Ole Miss has got really good receivers, of course. They played more man coverage and did a much better job. I think Ole Miss in the fourth quarter had 16 total yards. I think they had 600 the other three quarters. They adjusted strategies, and they did a much better job.

I think it will depend on the game plan. Obviously, for South Carolina, depending on who starts at quarterback. If it’s Feleipe Franks, they’re going to want to sit back and let Franks throw the ball and let him miss some throws, because, honestly, guys, he’s shown that he’ll do that. He’ll miss open guys, even on some routine throws. What their strategy will be for that, I’m not quite sure. I think certainly they could opt to play more man coverage in this game, if they feel good about their personnel back there.

As far as pass rush, they’ve gotten DJ Wonnum back. He returned against the Tennessee game and got SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week right after that performance. He’s been huge just in terms of setting the edge in the run game. Had a big fumble recovery against Ole Miss, when they were driving down to go score early in that game. He’s been huge for the defense. They’re still coming along there. Still not where they want to be in terms of depth.

Really, forcing turnovers I think is going to be a point of emphasis for this team going forward. It has been, but they need to make more of those happen to become better statistically on defense.

Andrew:                 Last thing, Chris, before you get you out of here. I guess, this game will be decided by what, in your opinion?

Chris:                       That’s a good question. I think it’s turnover margin, honestly. I don’t think either of these teams are going to really be in position to go light up the scoreboard in this game. For South Carolina, if you go down on the road, wherever it may be, whether it’s Kentucky or down in the Swamp, anywhere on the road, if you go turn the ball over three times and can’t force any yourselves, you’re going to have a very difficult time winning. I think that’s been a key statistic for them at times this season. I think they have the capacity to move the football through the air, running it some. I think they can make enough defensive plays to win this game, that they have the capability to do that. So for me, it’s just forcing Florida into some mistakes, whether it’s Franks back there, whether it’s Trask. Trying to bait those guys, pick off a ball or two, and just stay in the positive in the turnover margin. If they can do that, their chances, I believe, go way up.

Andrew:                 I’m sending all my hate mail to you by saying Franks is going to start at quarterback. People in the Swamp and Florida fanbase do not want to hear that, Chris.

Chris:                       I can understand why. I’ll be glad to collect your hate mail, be your personal mailman. It’s no problem. Doesn’t bother me. You go for it.

Andrew:                 Lordy. Chris, we appreciate it so much. Tell everybody where they can find your work. We’ll get you out of here.

Chris:                       Check us out on GamecockCentral.com. Daily coverage, in-depth coverage of Gamecock athletics and recruiting. On the Rivals.com network. Always appreciate you guys having me on.

Andrew:                 You got it, Chris. Take care, man. Good luck the rest of the way. We’ll talk to you soon.

Chris:                       Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

Andrew:                 Nick, good stuff from Chris. We always appreciate talking with him during South Carolina week. Not too many people, if there is anyone better to talk South Carolina. He’s kind of a do it all guy, recruiting, football. You name it, he does it over there in South Carolina.

Some good points, Nick. I think it’s something a lot of people fail to realize, and it’s kind of starting to show with Kentucky this year. When you’re patient and allow a coach to build things up, good things can happen. Now, we’ll see what Kentucky does next year without Benny Snell and Josh Allen, but people were wanting Mark Stoops to be fired last year. They cap him and look what happened. They’ve been able to do okay this year. I mean, not just do okay. They’ve been doing great for Kentucky standards. I think that has to be remembered for a little bit for South Carolina. I think, had Will Muschamp not failed so miserably at Florida, people wouldn’t be as hard on him at South Carolina.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think so. Part of a question I had to get into you. I’ll ask you after. I think, because of the spectacular fashion that Will Muschamp failed, and it’s kind of like Ron Zook. I’m not going to put Urban Meyer into the same legend status as Steve Spurrier, but you had to follow a guy that left you some pretty big shoes to fill. You were following national championship coaches.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say. You were putting trophies in the case.

Nick:                         Right. I mean, that’s a hard act to follow. Will Muschamp came, and he was the Gainesville boy. There was a lot of excitement. Then the first year was fine, to be expected. A lot of people said Urban Meyer left the cupboard bare, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but it got so bad so quick. That was really toxic there, especially towards the end. I think that spectacular failure that he had at Florida, people are probably leery or wary of is that happening to us at our school now?

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. I think what Chris said is a good point. You have to build depth there. For me, I think what’s concerning to me is you look at some of the guys that Will got in his first few classes at South Carolina on defense, and those are the guys that are kind of falling. Those are the guys that are kind of allowing things to happen. Just not a typical Will Muschamp defense. Only eight sacks this year as a whole. They’re giving up 28 points a game. Giving up some pretty spectacular yards on offense, I mean on defense. It’s just not a typical Will Muschamp team, in my opinion. I think that, while I think South Carolina fans should give him some time, I do think there is a little bit of err on the side of concern, just simply for the fact that you’ve had three years, four years of recruiting, and it’s there.

At the end of the day too, Nick, I think this is the question I have for you. What are realistic expectations for South Carolina?

Nick:                         I don’t think that they have realistic expectations. I think the expectation should be to go to a bowl game. Maybe sneak in a nine-win season.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say, a nine-win season and going to a bowl game. I think that’s what it should be, should happen. You competing for the East every year, in my opinion, is just not realistic expectations.

Nick:                         Yeah. Muschamp’s first year they finished 6-6, 3-5 in the SEC. Then they lost the Birmingham Bowl. Last year they were 9-4, or 8-4 in the regular season, and then won the Outback Bowl, finished 9-4, 5-3. This year, 5-3, 4-3, with their last SEC game coming up. I think that’s what people will look at is 3-5, 5-3, and then if you lose this week, 4-4 in the SEC. No way to spin it, Will Muschamp is not on a hot seat, I don’t think.

Andrew:                 Oh, no. No. But here’s the thing that you have to remember, and no offense to South Carolina, but they’re the little brother in the state.

Nick:                         Oh yeah. They still have to play Clemson later this year, and that’s not going to be a pretty game.

Andrew:                 It’s the same thing with Auburn, with Auburn and Alabama, with an in-state rivalry. You don’t beat Clemson, or you don’t start getting some leverage against Clemson, they’ll get you out of there and hope to go find that guy that can knock Clemson off. Now, I don’t know if there’s any coach that can go to South Carolina and knock Clemson off their pedestal, but after so long of a period of time it becomes that is the pressure of the fanbase, the pressure of the boosters. It’ll be something that will be interesting to see.

Nick:                         I wanted to ask you this question. I wanted to ask you, more hated in Gainesville, Will Muschamp right now or Feleipe Franks?

Andrew:                 Probably still Will Muschamp. This is what’s weird to me.

Nick:                         Maybe hate is a bad word.

Andrew:                 Well, no, I get what you’re saying. I think a lot of people do hate Feleipe. Again, I don’t think the word, I mean, you shouldn’t hate the guy. I mean, the guy does what he can do. I think dislike is the question. I thought you were going to ask me, more hated Will Muschamp or Jim McElwain, and I was going to say there’s no question it’s Jim McElwain.

Nick:                         Yeah. No, not that one. I know that one.

Andrew:                 I would say this. I would say the better argument is more hatred, Will Muschamp or the quarterback position? Probably the quarterback position. I don’t know. There’s still a lot of hatred for Will Muschamp. I don’t know if it’s hatred so much being the word as it is people just don’t like they guy, and they just laugh at him.

Nick:                         Muschamp?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Maybe not if he beats you this week.

Andrew:                 Well, yeah. I mean, I don’t know. Dan Mullen was asked that on Monday, Nick, and you have the context of that probably better than I do, but someone asked if there was more pressure to win the game because it was Will Muschamp, and he kind of laughed and said he just wanted to win the game.

Nick:                         Yeah. It was really just the question was kind of in terms of your legacy at Florida, is it more important to beat the coach or the coaches that have come before you? Obviously, that was a question for Muschamp when he was playing South Carolina, because he was playing Spurrier, but Muschamp does not have the same weight at the University of Florida that a Steve Spurrier does.

Andrew:                 Right. I get that. The thing that people will always remember about Muschamp is how bad things got and how bad things fell. I do think Will Muschamp does kind of get a little bit of a pass now that Mike Kent showed up in the weight room.

Anyway, let’s move on a little bit, Nick. You go into this game. South Carolina, giving up 27.9, 28 points a game, scoring 31 points a game on the year. Decent pass rush. Not really. They’ve only gotten 12 sacks. Excuse me. I have that backwards. They’ve gotten 15 sacks and given up 12 in the game. They’re rushing the ball decently, for the most part, with Rico Dowdle, he’s got almost 500 yards in the game. Then Jake Bentley is still being Jake Bentley, where he’s decently accurate, 62%, 13 touchdowns and eight picks on the year.

Nick:                         Coming off his most productive day of his career against that Ole Miss team, which we talked about.

Andrew:                 You and I would throw for 500 against that team.

Nick:                         I’d throw for something.

Andrew:                 Exactly. It goes back to what we say, Nick, you better get pressure.

Nick:                         Yeah. You need to get pressure, but now you’ve got a quarterback who absolutely is mobile. If you get yourself out of position, I can foresee a Kentucky scenario, where you’ve got a quarterback running for 100-something yards.

Andrew:                 I think what you have to do here is you have to go back to playing that good fundamental defense of staying in your gaps, staying in your lanes as a linebacker, and forcing Bentley to stay in the pocket to where you can collapse the pocket. Then you have to remember that Bentley is going to try to get the ball out of his hands quickly. If you don’t get to the passer, get your hands up, because that’s what he’s going to do. Deebo Samuel is a guy that if he throws a little crossing route or throws a little screen pass to him, he can take a one-yard throw 50 or 60 yards for a touchdown. You go into this game, and you’ve got Chauncey Gardner who’s questionable for the most part, so you kind of lose a nickel there, or that star position that Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham call it.

You have to be playing fundamentally good ball. You and I talked about this, I think it was after the Vanderbilt game, Nick. I may be wrong. We thought the defense had taken a major step forward in playing fundamentally good ball. The last two weeks they’ve been the opposite. Vosean Joseph has been the opposite of what he’s been. Chauncey Gardner is going back to being bad tackling Chauncey Gardner. The safety play tackling has been atrocious at times. The defensive ends staying in contain has been atrocious at times. That’s something that I think has to go back to what it is.

I get it. Everyone makes fun of Grantham. 3rd and Grantham, whatever it may be. If you don’t play your assignment football, I don’t care if you’re Todd Grantham, if you’re Will Muschamp, if you’re T Rob, whoever you are, your defensive call doesn’t matter if your team doesn’t play disciplined football.

Nick:                         Nope. You’re 100% correct about that. I think this is a game where you might have thought Will Muschamp’s defense versus Florida’s offense. I think it’s actually kind of the opposite way around now. Sorry. I meant Dan Mullen’s offense versus Will Muschamp’s defense. I think, when you look at this South Carolina team and the injuries they have and what they’re looking like as they come into town this week, I’m more concerned about what does Todd Grantham and what does this Florida defense that’s been gashed the last two weeks, what are they going to do against Jake Bentley and a Will Muschamp offense that might be the best offense he’s ever had? Deebo Samuel, I know he’s missed all of last year, and if you look at the numbers he really isn’t having a crazy good year, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a guy, like you said.

Andrew:                 He’s electric.

Nick:                         If the ball is in his hands, he can go get six.

Andrew:                 He’s an electric guy. The thing with him is not only on offense, but don’t kick him the ball. On kickoff, don’t kick the man the ball.

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 You want to go ahead and kick it on out of the endzone.

Nick:                         Just go ahead and kick it as far as you can.

Andrew:                 Kick it out of the way. Listen, I’m not sitting her telling you Deebo Samuel is a Heisman trophy winner, but I’m telling you Deebo Samuel is one of the better guys you’ll face on the year as far as playmakers. He’s a guy that when he touches it, like you said, he can go get six in a heartbeat for them. It is kind of weird that we’re not talking about Will Muschamp’s defense or Dan Mullen’s offense in this game, but it very well could be decided by that.

The key for me, Nick, is going to be who runs out and takes that snap under center. Dan Mullen on Monday didn’t commit either way. To me, this is me, you may have a different opinion, and I’m going to ask you that. To me, it sounded like he was going back to Franks.

Nick:                         I would say yes, he’s going back to Franks. I say that because I think he kept going back to the guy that gives us the best chance to win. I don’t think that’s Feleipe Franks, but obviously Dan Mullen does, because that’s who’s started every game this year. I would say yes going back to Franks, but I would say a shorter leash, certainly a shorter leash than he’s had to this point. I mean, it took not a great game against Vanderbilt, not a great game, bad game against Georgia, and then took another really bad start to get him on up out of there. So, I think the leash will be shorter, but I wouldn’t, and I’ve been waiting for Kyle Trask, but if you’re waiting for Kyle Trask, I wouldn’t necessarily hold my breath.

Andrew:                 This is what I will say as well. I don’t think Emory plays in this game. I think they’re saving Emory for FSU and the bowl game.

Nick:                         Okay. I would not play him, I don’t think, versus Idaho. I would rather get him experience against this defense, but a caveat to that is you’re still trying to win a game. I say the bowl game. The bowl game, for me, is 100%, because you’ve got all those practices leading up to it. You can really kind of get him ready. You’ve got how many bowl practices? 13, 15?

Andrew:                 13.

Nick:                         13 bowl practices to really get him ready to go in there and have the best possible game he could have with getting 13 practices. You can go ahead and unleash him as a starter if you want to in that game, or play him starter kind of reps, because of all that time you have leading up to it. So, to me, the bowl game is 100%.

Andrew:                 You’re not going to convince me though that playing Emory Jones doesn’t give you a good chance to win. I understand what you’re saying, but you’re not going to convince me of that. For me, having a package for Emory Jones in any game is better than what we’re getting. Again, I’m not sitting here telling you, me, I’m not telling anybody that he needs to be the starting quarterback, but anyone trying to tell me that he doesn’t give this team a better chance to win the football game being in the game, to me isn’t telling the truth. Again, that’s just my opinion.

There’s just something about having that dual-threat guy back there. I get that they want to redshirt him, fully do. It may be that they play him this week and not in the FSU game. I think one game is going to be the bowl game. There’s just, for me, if it is Kyle Trask, Emory Jones is a perfect supplement to him. If it’s Feleipe, you might get some positive plays finally out of Emory if he’s in the game. For me, I’ve seen enough of Dan Mullen to know that when he makes a package for a guy it’s a successful package. Just my opinion.

Nick:                         If I tell you, and I think you agree, 100% you’re playing in the bowl game as Emory Jones.

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         What’s the one other game you would play him in?

Andrew:                 I have him in Florida State, because it’s a rivalry game. I think Dan Mullen understands that FSU game is a must-win. You have to win that game. There is no questions about that. You have to win that football game. Don’t try to spell me on this that it’s another. No. It’s not another game. That is a game you must win. Not for the record, not for anything except for recruiting. You must win that football game for recruiting. Understand that. Recruiting. That is the only thing that matters about. Recruiting. You cannot lose to a terrible Willie Taggert football team. I don’t know what the future holds for Willie Taggert. I know that this year is a bad year for him, and if you lose to him, that just sends shock waves in recruiting to let people know that as bad as Willie Taggert is his team is still better than Dan Mullen’s team.

Nick:                         I hear that. You got him playing the last two games.

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         I’d say that’s fine. I’d be totally fine with that.

Andrew:                 I’m in the same boat you are, in that I truly believe Kyle Trask should play, but I do believe Feleipe Franks is your starter on Saturday.

Nick:                         Yeah. I just think that the way it is. I certainly don’t agree with it, but I don’t get paid $6 million to make that decision.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         I’m not saying that I know better.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say. I can’t say that I know better either. I can’t say that I know exactly what happens in practice. I mean, we hear things, but it doesn’t matter who you talk to, they’re always going to put their spin on what it is. No matter what it may be, everyone has their favorite that they want. If you talk to this source, he’s going to tell Kyle did okay, and then he’s going to have bad things to say about Feleipe. It doesn’t matter. That goes with any source you talk to.

Nick:                         Everyone has an agenda.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let me ask you this, Nick. It’s a topic of conversation. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I do want to spend some time on this. There’s the rumor going around about Feleipe in the locker room, and the locker room being divided, everything else. Dan Mullen denied that on Monday. I will say this, and that is, sorry, Dan, but you also said Brad Stewart wasn’t suspended against Georgia, so you lost your credibility there. How bad is the locker room?

Nick:                         I think Feleipe was, has been a popular player in the locker room.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I don’t know if I’m buying into as bad as people kind of made it on social media, but I certainly don’t think if I’m on your team and we’re losing a game, especially the way we’re losing, and you get pulled, and you laugh about it, to me that means you don’t care about me. You don’t care about the team. You think so highly of your own self that now they’re definitely going to lose, because they took me out of the game. That’s not a thought process that would sit right with me if I was on the team, and if I was a competitor. I have been in Feleipe Franks’ corner in saying that this year I felt like he didn’t have that attitude. In past years he wanted to win and wanted to be the reason they won. I thought, at least from talking to him and talking to people around the team, that he had kind of matured past that and gotten over that a little bit.

Andrew:                 I do too, but that whole smirk on the sidelines and laughing on the sidelines. Nick, I get it. Everybody is different. They handle losses differently. I don’t know about you. I get pissed off. That’s just me. If I’m losing something, I’m pissed off. There’s no smile, smirk, whatever. There’s probably rated R language being said by myself. Come watch a Braves game with me, and you’ll hear that. I don’t know.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think it’s as bad as people are saying it is, but I do think that there’s slowly become a drift, I mean a rift, between quarterbacks in the locker room of guys wanting to see a change. People are saying everyone hates Feleipe in that locker room. I know that’s for a fact a total lie. Total lie. You and I talk to players, and they like Feleipe. Now, is that to say they like how he’s playing? No. Guys don’t hate Feleipe. He still has a lot of friends on this team. I do think that there is starting to become a little bit of a rift between wanting to see a change at quarterback. Some of the young guys want to see their man Emory play. Some of the other guys want to see Kyle play. Then some of them think Feleipe is the guy that gives them the best chance to win.

The thing Dan Mullen has to fight is this, and that is he didn’t recruit a lot of these guys. A lot of those guys don’t have to be, I mean they should be, but they’re not going to be loyal to him on who he picks as quarterback, simply because of what it is. Then when you’re 6-3, it kind of makes things all worse.

Nick:                         Fans will run with stuff like this, just because they’re angry about the loss, angry about stuff like that. In the day and age that we live in, if you read it on Twitter, it’s true. Then it gets spread on Facebook, and you text your group chat. Now everyone thinks the thing they saw on Twitter, by somebody who may have a source, may not have a source. Listen, you and I, traditional media, are not the only way to get your news now.

Andrew:                 No.

Nick:                         People have friends on the team. They have student managers. So many ways that information gets out now, but it doesn’t mean it’s all right. It doesn’t mean it’s all true.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. Again, I wasn’t privileged to be in the locker room on Saturday to see exactly what happened, to hear exactly what happened. I’ve heard my side. Nick, you’ve heard your side of the story. We do know there was something that went on, but everything we’ve heard is it’s over with and done with. I do think that you are in a situation where …

Nick:                         Here’s this. Listen, people fighting, football players fighting each other after a loss, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the locker room. That doesn’t mean the team is breaking. That’s just you’re coming off of a testosterone filled environment experience, and, yeah, I 100% get that these guys are pissed off and tempers can flare.

Andrew:                 Right. Same thing like fighting in practice. To a certain extent, it’s good for you. What I was saying was I think you’re a point now where it’s a big turning point one way or the other. A loss on Saturday and that FSU game may be a loss now. You really need a good game on Saturday, and you really need to bring the team kind of back together like they were before the Georgia game. Again, we say this every year, but you have a lot of guys who won’t be there next year, either leaving early, graduating, transferring, all that. What do they play for the rest of the year? Now, you and I will say they’re playing for what they put on tape. Jim McElwain always said that, and that was one of the things I always agreed with him. You can’t lie, and you can’t take away, what you put on tape on Saturdays.

Nick:                         Tape don’t lie.

Andrew:                 These seniors and these guys that are Draft eligible, and I’ll say this, Nick. There’s not a guy on this team that can quit. There’s not a guy on this team who has enough on tape right now that can say I’m the #1 Draft pick, or I’m a first-round Draft pick for sure. Nobody. That includes Jachai Polite. After LSU, you and I would have said he was a definite first-round pick. Now I say, who knows? They all have stuff to put on tape, and they all need to get better, so they can’t take plays off, but that mindset does creep in.

Nick:                         That’s why I don’t subscribe to the, I see fans all over the country saying the team quit.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         They didn’t care. I don’t think there’s anybody, maybe a player or two, but overall, because of that, the guys at the University of Florida, 90%, 85% of them, have dreams and aspirations to join the NFL, and they get that. They might get frustrated and take a play off or take a play off because they’re tired, but there’s not wholesale quitting going on.

Andrew:                 No.

Nick:                         Cool, man. I don’t like losing. I mean, I don’t like losing two games in a row or three, four games in a season, but whatever. This is a means for me to get to where I want to go, which is the NFL, so I can’t look like crap on Saturday. The team might look like crap, but I can’t.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         At some point, you say play for the name on the back of the jersey. Have some pride in yourself.

Andrew:                 Right. You’re never going to convince me guys like Cece quit, or a guy like David Reese quit. You’re never going to convince me that those guys quit. Never, ever, ever will you convince me of that.

Nick:                         They might be having bad games. There might be a good scheme to take them out of games, but I agree with you. You’re never going to convince me that those guys are quitters and that they’ve quit at any point really.

Andrew:                 Never. Anyway, Nick, we’re running out of time here. Tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here, and we’ll see everyone on Friday as we bring you some predictions for Gators and Willie Muschamp in what our man Chris Clark called the Average Bowl.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. Search @GatorCountry wherever you listen to your podcast. Subscribe. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it so much. Check us out on Gator Country. We’re taping this on Tuesday. You’re listening to this on Wednesday, so there was Gator basketball on Tuesday night. Check us out. Our man Eric has got basketball covered. Baileigh as well. That and recruiting. Check us out. As always, guys, chomp, chomp and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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