Podcast: Previewing Florida Gators spring football

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview Florida Gators spring football that starts on Monday.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre recap what Dan Mullen had to say on Monday, plus we talk about recruiting and the latest surrounding the Gators recruiting efforts.

Andrew and Nick also talk about how the baseball and softball seasons are going for the Gators.


Previewing Spring Practice


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Andrew Spivey here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we’re back. Had a little hiatus, but we’re back and ready to go. Things are good again, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Nick:                         Yeah. Recharged the batteries. You and I have had a lot going on with stick sports. Football season ended, and we kind of had a little bit of time before we get into these seasons where there’s 50+ games, and we’re busy. Lot to talk about. We talked to Dan Mullen on Monday. Spring football is less than a week away, and I got record breaking stuff going on over on the baseball diamond, and the softball girls just had a sweep. So, lot of stuff going on in the spring, as always in Gainesville.

Andrew:                 Yeah. The Gators #1 or #2 in recruiting, depending on which rankings you look at, so things are good. I guess we’ll start right there. I mean, Nick, the Junior Day list on Saturday was insane. People were asking me, when was the last time that you seen a list this big, and I’m like, been a long time, buddy. Been a long time, guys. You look at the names that were in town. You start with the big defensive lineman, Tunmise out of IMG, one of the top guys in the country. Then you go to the receiver, Jacorey Brooks out of Booker T. down in Miami. I mean, the list goes on and on. It was a really, really good day for the Gators. They only picked up one commitment, the big tight end out of Jacksonville, Nick Elksnis, is I believe how you say it. Of course, I’m sure I butchered that. Big tight end. That was Brewster’s second tight end commit in a week, after picking up Gage Wilcox.

Nick:                         So, he’s done. He’s done now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. He’s done.

Nick:                         Now go hit the road with the other guys. Help them out, because, shoot, your position’s locked up for the year, for a couple years probably. Shoot.

Andrew:                 Yeah. The good thing for Brewster is he’s really good in Tampa and has done well in the state. The biggest thing I heard overall after Saturday was he was recruiting everyone. We’ll see how big of an impact he is. I’ll say this, and this is no disrespect to anyone else on the coaching staff, but Tim Brewster’s a difference-maker on the trail.

Nick:                         Yeah. We kind of asked Dan about that, and I think one of the most–it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, but he said about Tim, he goes, “Tim’s never walked into a room and left with less friends than he came in with.” Some of the players, I was out there doing some interviews with the first group that came in, and I think that’s really what all the kids kind of said. It was just this is my first time seeing him in person, but I felt like I’ve known him. I felt like I’ve known him forever. I think he just maybe has that kind of personality that is just endearing right away. He’s a big personality and a loud guy, and he’s boisterous, and he’s fun. It really resonates with not just his peers, because I think he’s well liked among coaches, but I think it really resonates with the kids. It’s tough. We’ve talked about that a lot. You’re a 40-year-old man, and you’ve got to find common ground and relate to 16, 17, 18-year-old kids. It’s not an easy job, but Tim Brewster makes it look easy.

Andrew:                 Brewster’s one of those guys that if he’s on your staff you love him. If he’s on an opposing team, you can’t stand him.

Nick:                         Like Kevin Garnett.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         If you were a fan of Minnesota, or if you were a fan of Boston later in his career, you love Kevin Garnett. As a Heat fan, I couldn’t stand the guy. He retired, and I said, now I can like you again.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I was not about it early on. You can tell that. It was so much fun for me. People are like, Nick, tell Tim to unblock me. I’m like, nope. Y’all hated him, and you said whatever you said to get blocked when he was at FSU. You got to deal with it now. It seems like he’s unblocking a bunch of people now.

Andrew:                 Shoot, I was one of the ones.

Nick:                         Were you blocked?

Andrew:                 No. I wasn’t blocked, but he was the one that put out the Clyde Pinder tweet. When Florida offered Clyde Pinder late in the process, he tweeted something along the lines of we recognize talent before them. Don’t go somewhere. I remember tweeting something in the regards of that’s not how it always works for you, because it wasn’t. It’s just, again, that is what a good recruiter does. I think that he’s going to be a difference-maker for them. Like I said, he added Nick, tight end, 6’6”, 220, out of Jacksonville. Plays for former Jags great Mark Brunell over there. Then you have Gage Wilcox, who’s a little bit different. 6’4”, 228. Little bit smaller in stature than Nick, but both guys that I think are what Brewster and Mullen are looking for, those guys that are going to be mismatches. Overall, this class is doing really well. We’ll get into that a little bit more over the next few weeks. Again, #1 or #2 in the recruiting rankings depending on who you follow and all that good stuff.

Nick:                         You’ll have a ton of stuff throughout Spring Camp, because that’s a time where you get guys coming onto campus. I’ve always said I love that this coaching staff, some coaches might change the way that they handle or talk to players, depending on who’s there at practice. This coaching staff, they don’t change. It’s kind of like, this is how we practice. If you come here, this is how we’re going to talk to you, how we’re going to treat you, what a day-to-day is going look like for you, and if you don’t want to be coached this way, that’s fine, but we’re not changing, because this has been successful for us.

I like that Florida has guys come out to practice, and I’ve never seen anything be handled differently. You could have the #1 recruit in the country out there, and they’re not going to. If the #1 recruit in the country is an offensive tackle, and Richard Gouraige blows an assignment, John Hevesy’s going to be down his throat, because that’s John Hevesy, and that’s the way he coaches. It doesn’t matter. We’re not going to try to be nice because we got somebody on campus. You’ll have updates, I’m sure, all throughout spring, because they’ll have a bunch of visitors throughout Spring Camp.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It works. Shoot. You think Nick Saban changes his for somebody either?

Nick:                         No. I mean, that’s the thing. A recruit comes and watches practice, and you do it all differently, then they get on campus, and this is not what I saw.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Where is this from? In the day and age that we’re in now, you can, he called me a name. I’m transferring. All right. You’re eligible.

Andrew:                 Yup. Anyway. That’s that. Like you said, spring ball’s right around the corner. Nothing big from Dan Mullen on Monday. It’s a week before spring practice. He hasn’t seen anything except for a bunch of guys be in the weight room. One thing that did stand out to me though was the potential for Trey Dean to move to Safety. I think we’ve all be in agreement that that’s probably where he’s going to make the most money at in the NFL, so I’m glad to see that that’s a move that they’re potentially willing to make this year.

Nick:                         So, Trey Dean, from what I was told, and I think you were told the same thing, was asked last spring, try out at safety. He just said no, don’t want to do it. It’s hard, because he was thrown into the fire to start as a freshman.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         When Marco went down. That was Week 3, or Week 2. Week 2 against Kentucky. It was like, you’re in. You’re starter now. I think the expectations from the way that he played as a freshman were sky high, and then he moves to a new position. Star’s not easy. You have so much responsibility. When you’re playing outside, it’s you’re either covering this patch of grass, or you’re covering the guy in front of you, and that’s it. It’s easy. There’s way more to think about at star. I think that was a wakeup call for him, because he did not play well. Corner’s have big egos, and I think his was damaged a little bit last year, especially when you’re not getting it done, and not only are moving Marco Wilson over to now start at star, but that doesn’t mean you’re starting outside. You’re coming off the bench now.

So, when I talked to him in the locker room after the Orange Bowl, I think he was very introspective. He even said then, right after the season. I asked him, “Where do you want to play next year?” He says, “I mean, I want to play at corner. I don’t think they’re going to put me at star. I want to play at corner, but if they need me at safety, that’s something I would do.” I think just in the span of eight months from telling them no, I won’t play there, to right after the season ends being like, yeah, I can do that, I think that shows a lot of growth and maturation to me.

So, my question is where does he go? Because it won’t be star. That experiment, we saw it, and it failed. But where will it be? I think you will see him at safety in the spring, because this is the time to learn it. You don’t not practice it in the spring, and then fall comes around, first games comes, and go, why don’t you slide back there and try safety?

Andrew:                 Yeah. Again, I don’t think that that’s a bad move. Listen, I understand the narrative out there that if you play corner, you’re going to make the big dollars over safeties. I get that, but also go ask Marcus Maye. Go ask Marcus Maye how good it is to be able to play multiple positions. Go ask some of those guys that have come through. Go ask Brian Poole, those guys that are versatile guys. I don’t look at it as a negative for Trey to move to safety, and I’m glad that he’s buying into if they need me at safety that’s where it is. Listen, you want your best players in the secondary, and name me the top three players in the secondary, and I’m going to name you Marco, Kaiir, and Trey Dean.

Nick:                         Yeah. When you look at the safety spot too, you’re looking at who? Obviously, you get Donovan Stiner back, but who fills in in in that second role?

Andrew:                 Davis has been a guy who has been up and down, battled tons of injuries. You got Brad Stewart.

Nick:                         Brad Stewart did not have the season that I think anyone thought he would last year. I think before the year, if you would have polled the fanbase, they would have said I want Brad Stewart and Shawn Davis starting. Obviously, like you said, Shawn’s battled the injuries. Brad had the suspension early on. It’s just a position that I think, I mean, I think Donovan Stiner will be, when they take the first snap out in 11 on 11 in spring, I think Donovan Stiner’s back there. I don’t know who’s next to him, to be honest with you right now.

Andrew:                 Again, and this is not disrespect to Donovan Stiner. It’s no disrespect to Brad. This is no disrespect to Shawn Davis, but again, is Trey Dean a better player overall than those guys? In my opinion, yes.

Nick:                         Here’s the thing for me. I just said nice things about Trey, and I think he’s getting more mature. If you thought that star was hard with the responsibilities, it’s just as hard at safety. So, if you’re going to go and make a position change from corner to safety, you have to be committed in the film room. You just said it. How talented is he? He’s unbelievably physically gifted and talented. So, for me you got to take that. You can’t rely just on your athletic ability. You’ve got to put the time in.

Andrew:                 Right. I would say this.

Nick:                         You got to put the time in in the film room.

Andrew:                 I would say this. I agree with you that it is equally as challenging. I think there is some different challenges, per se, as in your responsibility is do not let anybody get deeper than you. At star, you’ve got to worry. Is somebody getting to the left of me? Is somebody getting to the right of me? Is somebody getting deeper than me? Is somebody getting underneath me? I think that there’s different challenges. Listen, it don’t always work out. Chauncey Gardner is the biggest one. Was a terrible safety.

Nick:                         To use baseball as an analogy, it’s like playing outfield versus shortstop. In outfield, just don’t let the ball get behind you.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Ball gets behind you, there’s no one there. At shortstop, it’s there’s everything. Everything is in front of you. It’s behind you. You’ve got a lot to go. I think that was a really big learning moment for Trey last year, because I think he thought, I’ll be fine, I got this. Then it started, and it was like there’s a lot more going on than I was ready for. Like I said before, the time to figure that out is in the spring. The time to figure that out is not in the fall when the game’s count.

Andrew:                 Right. Let’s move on a little bit. Let’s talk about some of the guys who’ve looked, and I always say this, and I always say this kind of tongue in cheek, because it means absolutely nothing, but the weight gains this off season. That’s something that’s come up a little bit with Scott Cochran leaving Alabama. Dan Mullen said that. Everyone’s after Nick Savage. He’s one of the better Strength and Conditioning coaches in the country. Man, two guys that stood out to me the most, well, really three guys, Jacob Copeland, Zach Carter, and Ethan White. Those three guys, the transformation in their body in just two months is unbelievable.

Nick:                         Yeah. I remember everyone freaking out. I didn’t think Savage was ever going to leave, but, shoot, if anyone can get you to leave, it’s probably Nick Saban, right?

Andrew:                 Money talks.

Nick:                         Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an unprecedented move for Cochran really. Going from just being a Strength coach to now you’re Special Teams Coordinator.

Andrew:                 Let’s hit on that in a minute. Give me your thoughts, and then let’s hit on that.

Nick:                         For me, for Savage, there is really no, you can’t say enough. There’s really not enough that you can say about Nick Savage and what he’s done. Sure, Florida’s had the injuries, but we’re talking about in the past when Florida’s had the injuries and everyone wanted to fire everybody, Nick Savage has these guys ready to play. You’re never going to get to a game where you look across the field and think Florida’s just not as big. They just don’t look as big as the team that they’re playing against.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         We had that. Remember being at the SEC Championship game?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         We looked at Alabama, and we’re like, shoot, it almost looked like varsity versus JV.

Andrew:                 FAU-Florida.

Nick:                         Right. You’re never going to get that with a Nick Savage workout program. It’s really incredible to see the transformations. I mean, there’s not enough you can say about it.

Andrew:                 Not to get off subject, but Zach Carter’s first off the bus.

Nick:                         There’s a lot of guys that would be first off the bus, just depending on what day of the week it is. You got a bunch of guys you can send off the bus first, but Zach is a monster.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let’s move on. We’ll talk about that. Let’s talk about that Scott Cochran move a little bit. I was talking to some people that were around the program. Apparently, there had been some heat on Scott Cochran ever since he had talked about going to Ole Miss with Lane Kiffin. There was some heat because Bama had started to have more injuries in the past year to two years than they’ve ever had. A lot of it was being blamed on Cochran and how he was working the guys out. Some people were complaining that he was overloading the guys. I heard some people say that he was loading up the squat racks too much. Apparently, Saban was riding him a little bit more.

This is my question. This is my question about the whole move, and that is Scott Cochran was great, because of what he did. He was able to be around the guys 365 days a year. He was able to motivate them. He was able to do all that. He’s motivating one position now. No offense, but how are you going to go, for instance, let’s just use Gage Wilcox, the tight end, a guy that Cochran’s going to go recruit. What do they got in common? What are they going to talk about?

Nick:                         About eating weights.

Andrew:                 Yeah. But Cochran’s not the workout guy no more.

Nick:                         Yeah. I don’t know. You’re going into kind of unprecedented territory there, because you don’t know what he’s going to be as a coach.

Andrew:                 As a recruiter.

Nick:                         On the trail as a recruiter. Yeah. I mean, he’s a high energy guy.

Andrew:                 But what does that get you? In coaching. You know what I’m saying? As Special Teams coach, what does that get you? What’s he going to do, scream at Evan McPherson to kick it deeper?

Nick:                         I don’t know. I don’t know how technical he’ll be with punters and kickers.

Andrew:                 Can you imagine Jeff Dillman being the Special Teams coach?

Nick:                         Absolutely not.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s what I’m saying. To me, it’s Kirby Smart being Kirby Smart, and that is finding a way to flip off Nick Saban, but I think at the end of the day, Nick Saban’s going to be the one flipping him off saying, well, you know, good luck.

Nick:                         Yeah. It’s certainly a question. We won’t really find out, because special teams, say whatever you want about them, and I know I’ve become the punting guy, but it’s not a problem until it’s a problem. You’ve got the long snapper that has a 17-year career in the NFL, and then he has one bad snap in a playoff game, and it’s like no one ever notices special teams until it costs you a game. So, we won’t really know until special teams either costs them a game or helps them win a game. We won’t know.

Andrew:                 I mean, at the end of the day, here’s the thing too. It’s a group effort.

Nick:                         But like you said too, it’s not just how are you coaching your special teams. It’s also what are you doing on the trail?

Andrew:                 I mean, who’s he going to recruit? You know what I’m saying? What is he going to do? Let’s just say his area is, I don’t know, North Carolina. What’s he going to go tell a kid in North Carolina to get him to come play for him? I’m the greatest special teams coach. Coach, you were Nick Saban’s Strength and Conditioning coach. What’s he know about kicking?

Nick:                         Yeah. And he’s never had to go out on the road. I mean, Nick Savage will interact, and the Strength coaches will interact with guys when they’re on campus, but how do you go into a living room and talk to mom, talk to dad or uncle or whoever’s there? How do you handle that and the daily constant communication to build those relationships? Maybe I think kind of like you, where maybe it’s just thumbing your nose at Nick Saban, more so than making maybe the best decision.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         We’ll see.

Andrew:                 I don’t know. I think it’s stupid, in my opinion. That’s just me. I mean, no offense. I love Nick Savage, and I think Nick Savage is an incredible Strength and Conditioning coach, but that’s what he is. I mean, it’d be like, let’s just take, for instance, Dan Mullen. Would you want Dan Mullen, or not Dan Mullen, because that’s not fair. Christian Robinson. Would you want Christian Robinson to leave coaching linebackers to be your Strength and Conditioning coach?

Nick:                         Or even like when, who was it? When Grantham was talking, when Grantham was being mentioned at different schools. It’s like, all right, I wouldn’t say comfortably that Grantham would take Christian Robinson, because that’s his guy, but are you ready to make him your Defensive Coordinator right now?

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Just because of age. I’m not saying, I think Christian Robinson will be a Defensive Coordinator or even a head coach, if that’s his aspiration, at some point, but at his age right now, are you ready? Especially in your first time being a head coach, are you ready to make that your call right now?

Andrew:                 Exactly. Yeah. Any final thoughts on spring ball? Spring ball starts a week from yesterday. Well, we’re taping this on Tuesday. Y’all are listening to this on Wednesday. So, it starts on Monday. Gators will have a few open practices, and we’ll be out there getting all that stuff covered on that. That’ll be when we can really start to really talk about it. There’s just not too much to talk about now. Obviously, Dan Mullen’s going to say every position is up for grabs. Yada, yada, yada. Any final thoughts on that before we go talk some stick ball?

Nick:                         I want to see how do you replace … Here we go. My questions. I’ll put questions, and then we’ll come back, and we’ll answer these throughout spring ball. These are some questions I’ve got in my mind. I’ll have a story up about it. You can read it up on the website. For me, it’s O-line. Dreadful run blocking last year.

Andrew:                 Awful.

Nick:                         How do you get better in that aspect? Wide receiver. You lost a ton. You lost a ton at wide receiver. Not just from a production standpoint, but also from a leadership standpoint. Who’s stepping up there? Need to see that leadership from a guy like Tre Grimes. Maybe Kadarius Toney. Where’s his mix? How does he fit in as well? Linebacker. Replacing David Reese is going to be Houston, Miller. Does Mohamoud Diabate kind of slide inside? He kind of gives you, or would give you, almost like an Alex Anzalone type of guy inside, not your prototypical middle linebacker. But Florida got exposed sometimes in the passing game, so who fills in there at linebacker? Then star. Who’s filling in at star, and what’s the move at safety?

Andrew:                 There you go. My other question is this, and that is who emerges at running back?

Nick:                         Yeah. You got like six guys. Is it Lorenzo Lingard? Is Malik Davis back and healthy? Do we see the flashes we saw as a freshman? Is it Damien Pierce, who I think the world of? Iverson Clement. Nay’Quan Wright. We were talking about Nick Savage’s transformation pictures. I just saw his, and he looks like a monster too. There’s no clear lead for me at running back. That’s wide open.

Andrew:                 Exactly. All right. Let’s move across the street here. Perfect. Undefeated. Best team in the country right now. Sully’s got the boys rolling. Before I let you talk about, because you follow this team, I’m going to give you an outsider opinion. I’ve watched a few games, followed your stuff. To me, this is one of the more complete teams Sully’s had. Not only that, but this might be the scrappiest bunch of kids Sully’s ever had.

Nick:                         I’ve said that they play, if you’ve ever had like a little brother or little sibling, and you’re playing basketball with your little brother, and you’re not really taking it serious, because he never beats you. Then all of a sudden, he beats you in a game.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         You come back. That next game, the next time you guys are playing, he’s not scoring a point. He’s not getting near the bucket. I’m going to throw. I will play dirty. That’s like the attitude that I see from Florida. I saw it very early on. They were playing against JU, and they’re talking smack. They’re into it. They’re yelling at the dugout. I’m like, this is like normally the kind of intensity that’s reserved when you’re playing FSU, when you’re playing …

Andrew:                 In Omaha.

Nick:                         Playing in Omaha. They had an NCAA Regional type of intensity on a Wednesday night against JU, and they’re up six runs. I’m like, these guys are playing pissed off. They’re playing like every team that they’re facing embarrassed them last year, and that’s what I really think they’re playing. They’re playing with a huge chip on their shoulder. They’re just into it every game. There’s no point, they were down seven runs, and I watched them score one, scored one, and all of a sudden, it’s 7-3.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         You score three runs in the sixth. Now it’s a one-run game. I’m thinking, shoot, they’re back into it. Control+Alt+Delete. Delete my story, and we’re starting over. To your point about being the deepest team. I thought coming in, when you looked at the roster, last year it was such a sophomore and freshman laden team. I want to tell this story. My dad, when we were playing Little League, he drafted a team. It was a 12 and under league, and you just get assigned a random team. The team we were assigned only had three players, only three 12-year-olds left over. So, when the draft came, you can pick 10, 11, 12-year-olds. He picked all 11-year-olds. I was 11 at the time. We took our lumps. We took our lumps that first year, but then the next year comes around, and we’re all 12, and we’re the best team in the league. We go 29-0.

I think that’s what I feel like Florida’s going through right now. Last year they took their lumps. It was a lot of freshmen, lot of sophomores, and they’re better for having gone through and taken those lumps. It might have been fun to watch. I mean, I’ve covered over 500 games since I started covering the team in 2013, and it wasn’t fun to watch that team last year. I don’t think they had a lot of fun, but they’re making up for it.

I think they had the experience of last year, and like you said, there’s a lot of juniors. They’ve got seniors making an impact, with Austin Langworthy and Kirby McMullen, two junior pitchers on Friday and Saturday night. Freshman Josh Rivera. Nathan Hickey’s the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week. Rivera was SEC Freshman of the Week in the second week of the season. It’s just a really deep team, and I think you’re seeing the experience from seniors and juniors, along with the sophomores that had to take those lumps and were forced into action and starting early as freshmen. They’re better for it as sophomores this year.

Andrew:                 Leftwich and Mace, that’s two guys you like to roll out there. Big test this weekend though. Georgia comes to town. Emerson Hancock, a guy who a lot of people protect as a top five pick, maybe even the #1 overall pick in the country for the MLB Draft here coming up. That’s a Friday night guy for Georgia. That should be a fun one.

Nick:                         Yeah. Florida is good. Obviously, they’re 16-0.

Andrew:                 They’re not going undefeated.

Nick:                         Yeah. People are asking me, is this team better than the team in ’17? I’m like, the team in ’16 was better than the team in ’17. The team in ’17 just happened to win it all.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         That’s how baseball goes. Listen, no one’s going 56-0. Jordan Butler said to me, maybe we’ll just win them all, or whatever. That’s not going to happen. To me, it’s how long can this streak last? How much does it start weighing on you? This team just continues to play loose. They’re a lot of fun to watch. If you haven’t been, and I know me and you are huge baseball guys. You maybe even more than me. I mean, you’re watching AA baseball games in Mississippi during the year. I’m not that dedicated to it. Your team’s also a lot more fun to watch than my professional team, that’s for sure. To me, it’s really interesting to see how they’ll handle a long season, because it is a very long season. How they handle it. You’re going to go through ups and downs. They haven’t faced a ton of adversity yet. How will they handle it when they face their first real big adversity throughout the year?

Andrew:                 Like you said, there’s going to be highs. There’s going to be lows. They’re going to go on a losing streak.

Nick:                         Especially because now we’re getting into SEC play, like you said. Emerson Hancock’s no slouch, no joke. Where are you?

Andrew:                 He can humble you really quick.

Nick:                         SEC play can humble you really quickly. You need Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich to be Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich. You need them to be those frontline starters that they have the potential to be.

Andrew:                 Right. They can humble you really, really quick. FSU comes to town. Well, Tuesday night. You guys are listening to this on Wednesday. Right across the campus though, softball. FSU comes to town on Wednesday. Get out and check out the ladies.

They’re 21-4. It’s been a season of ups and downs for this team. The days of having that one dominant pitcher for the Gators is over with. It’s not there this year. There’s no Kelly Barnhill to roll out there three times a game. There’s no Stacy Nelson or Hannah Rogers. It’s more of a pitching staff this year. It’s slowing coming along. The freshman, Rylee Trlicek, is doing really well. Natalie Lugo has really kind of come into her own as well. As a junior, you expect that from Lugo, but it’s been a process of really building this team up.

They started off and got humbled very quickly by Michigan, 11-2 out in Tampa. Then they went out, and they lost to UCLA, who at the time was #1 in the country, 5-4 in extra innings. Then they lose two out of three to Louisiana Lafayette, and you’re like, uh-oh. Two out of three to Lafayette before SEC plays comes. Then they go out and sweep Auburn and play really well. It’s a team that I think is getting better. We always say this. It’s a long season. Game 1 is not what you’re going to be at the end of the year. Florida’s getting better on the diamond.

Nick:                         I mean, you’re not wrong when you say it, but just the expectations of what Tim Walton has built. You said it’s been an up and down year, and they’re 21-4.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         21-4 is really good.

Andrew:                 Right. Yeah.

Nick:                         It’s just where the expectation level is.

Andrew:                 Most teams would take that in a heartbeat. Here’s the thing for me. This is what I tell people all the time. 21-4. That’s really good. Florida’s playing really good ball. There’s some holes in this team as well. 21-4. There’s some highs, and there’s some lows. This is a team that I think that what we see even this week, when they play Florida State on Wednesday night, what you see then and what you see at the end of the year’s going to be totally different. This is a team that is continuing to get better, a team that’s continuing to grow. It’s with anything, softball, baseball. It all starts in the circle or on the mound. If you got good pitching, going to be really good. If your pitching stinks, chances are you’re going to be really bad.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think it’s new for Tim, because he’s such a good recruiter. Like you mentioned, all the girls before in Stacy and Barnhill. He’s kind of just rolled in, and you’ve had that one girl. You know, every four years you get that one girl who can pitch for you on Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon, if you need her to. It’s probably a learning process. This first month of the season, like it is in baseball, and like it is in softball, it’s kind of a learning process.

Andrew:                 Feeling out process.

Nick:                         Yeah. You find out what you have, because you can only learn so much through inter squad. Until the pitches are coming from other people, and you’re playing other teams, and the crowds are there, you don’t really know how people are going to react. That first month of the season is really a learning process. I think it’s probably new for him to actually have to use a staff, because you’ve had that girl, where you didn’t really need to rely on three, four, five girls to be in the circle.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Again, it’s a good year. They’ll be competing to get back to Oklahoma City, just the guys will be competing to get back to Omaha. That’s where it is. That’s kind of it, Nick. Just kind of get caught up on this episode. We’ll be back here on Friday. We’ll dive more into spring practice, kind of go position by position on what we’re kind of looking at. Then we’ll preview the diamond sports for the weekend. Any final thoughts before we get out of here?

Nick:                         Yeah. One. Florida, obviously when you’re listening to this you’ll already know, the stat will already be updated, but Florida’s won–this is just an incredible stat–11 straight games against FSU. They’ve won 16 of the last 17, and they’ve swept the last four season series against the Noles. The only loss was that one Super Regional where they lost and ended up still coming back and knocking the Noles out of the NCAA Tournament. Amazing to me. This is the first time Mike Martin won’t be coaching. It’s Mike Martin, Jr. now. If you haven’t started following the stick teams, I know we’re baseball guys, but we’re understand that it’s not for everyone, but the baseball team I can speak for is a lot of fun to watch. They’re not going to go 56-0, but they’re a lot of fun to watch.

Andrew:                 Take out your anger on Mike White and the basketball team and watch some diamond sports. It’s always good. Quick note, basketball will be in the SEC Tournament starting on Thursday. On Friday we’ll let you know what’s going on for them for the weekend. Nick, if that’s it, tell everyone where they can find us. We’ll get out of here, and we’ll see everyone on Friday.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast wherever you consume your podcasts. Just search Gator Country. 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. As always, guys, go Braves and chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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.