Podcast: Previewing Florida Gators vs Vandy with Adam Sparks

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we continue to preview the Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt game on Saturday in Nashville.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre are joined by Adam Sparks of the Tennessean to get his thoughts on the game and the keys for both teams.

Andrew and Nick also continue to breakdown the game and give you their keys, plus they talk more about recruiting for the Florida Gators.

TRANSCRIPT

Andrew:​What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, it’s Wednesday before Vandy. Nick, I hate to say this, but I hope the players aren’t acting like us and just kind of going through the motions this week.

Nick:​Who’s going through the motions?

Andrew:​You know what I mean. It’s not a built-up week for us. We’re not building it up even more so than it is. Hopefully, the team is taking a different approach.

Nick:​I think that’s what they’ve been kind of working towards ever since Mullen got here. I’m starting to get tired of hearing it, but it’s every week is we’ve got to be better this week than we were last week. It’s coach speak, but it’s also very true. Each week, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. That’s kind of the mentality that a lot of coaches have. That’s the mentality that Dan Mullen has. Did you get better at practice today? No. I didn’t get better. I stayed the same. Well, you didn’t stay the same, you got worse, because we only have a certain number of practices, and if you’re going to take one off and just coast through it, then you got worse, because you need to be getting better every single day that we have practice. Especially seniors, have the season is gone. Blink of an eye, it’s only October 10th, and half the season is already gone.

Andrew:​Right. I say this in Mullen’s defense. I do think that, and you and I agree with this, because we preached it all last year, the team has to learn to be physical week in and week out. I mean, there was every week you and I talked about which team comes out of the tunnel onto the field. Is it a physical team, or is it the we can get away with thinking we’re better than the other team? That’s why I kind of agree with Mullen in that. You have to practice harder. I don’t know so much if they practice harder or practice the same, but I think it’s a mentality of Dan wants them to keep pushing. I’m cool with that, knowing what we’ve seen in the past, and that past is a team who has not been physical for the most part. While I think it’s coach speak in a way, I like that it’s coach speak in a way for that.

​I think that we’ve seen this team get more physical as the year went on. I think the Tennessee game was a step in the right direction. I think the Mississippi State was a huge step in the right direction, and then I think the LSU game was another huge step in the right direction. From seeing them give up no sacks, and Feleipe had plenty of pressure that he could have been, but the aggressiveness of the team in general was just so much better. You got to do that against the Vandy team, who is not a very good football team. We’re going to bring on Adam Sparks here in a second to get his thoughts on that. Nick, I think you agree with me in that if this team comes in just walking around, you’re in trouble.

Nick:​Yeah. We’ll talk to someone covering Tennessee soon, Adam Sparks at the Tennessean. He’ll kind of preview that. But it’s easy to kind of walk through. It’s Vanderbilt. It’s a small stadium. It’s not going to be packed. You’ve played in three crazy environments that kind of give you that juice to feed off of, whether it’s boos from Tennessee and Mississippi State or 90,000+ at Florida. It’s different when you walk into Vanderbilt, and the stadium only seats 40,000, and then there’s only 25,000 there. Then the game is at 11:00am Central Time.

You’ve physically probably beaten yourself up starting back with Nick Savage’s workout program to the physicality of the last three games, and you’ve got a bye week. You’re thinking almost like, thank you, schedule maker. You gave us like two bye weeks, because we get this 3-3 Vandy team, and then we get a full week off. So, this is nice. We’ll talk to Adam, and he’ll tell you why you can’t afford to do that against Derrick Mason teams.

Andrew:​Exactly. Nick, let’s to go to Adam real quick. We’ll talk to him, and then we’ll get back.

Nick:​We’re joined now by Adam Sparks. Adam covers Vanderbilt for The Tennessean. He lives in one of my favorite cities in all of the world, in Nashville, Tennessee. Adam, how are you?

Adam:​Hey, guys. Real good. How y’all doing?

Nick:​Doing well. I am looking forward to Nashville. Since we have a bye week, I’m not even leaving until Monday. I’m going to spend an extra day in Nashville.

Adam:​It’s a good place to be, especially this time of year.

Nick:​Oh yeah. I’m crossing my fingers for fall. We don’t really do fall in Gainesville. We do hot and less hot.

Andrew:​And you’re running away from a hurricane.

Nick:​Yeah. We’re currently in hot, and I’m getting away from a hurricane. Good timing on the trip.

Andrew:​Adam, just give a quick overview of the Vandyseason as a whole. A lot of people, including myself, I’ve only really paid attention to two games, the Notre Dame game and then the Georgia game. Notre Dame game was a very close game, and then Georgia was a blowout game. Overall, how has the season been for Vandy?

Adam:​It’s been a weird one. I think fans’ expectations have gone really high and really low. It’s been a rollercoaster. Not so much of the wins and losses, but just how they came. If you went back to the preseason and said, where is Vandy going to be at the midpoint, I would say I think 3-3 is a reasonable goal, and that’s exactly what they are. The way they got there was they blew out Middle Tennessee. They blew out Nevada. Both of those could have been close games, so hopes were high. They nearly pulled off the upset at #5 Notre Dame. Okay, the expectations have grown even more.

They laid an egg against South Carolina. That was really the one that turned a lot of fans to more disappointment. They barely beat Tennessee State, an FCS team. Then they could have been competitive with Georgia. They had a couple of drives that stalled inside the 10-yard line early on. They could have led that game going into the half, instead couldn’t finish them off. Had field goals and had an 81-yard drive that they did nothing on. They got blown out in the second half by a much better team.

So, the overall result is I think where Vandy should be. The way that they got there, I think, has added a lot of pessimism around the program. I don’t know that you can gain as much out of this Florida game, but I think a reasonable person looks at the second half of the season and says, a bowl is still possible, because the West division games are at Arkansas and Ole Miss. You can be in either of those games. You could win either of those games if you play well. Then Missouri and Tennessee are winnable games if you play really well.

Florida, I thought maybe this was a barometer game a month ago. I’m not so sure now, because Florida’s defense has really found its rhythm.

Nick:​Talk about luck of the draw. With Florida playing LSU last week we were talking about they had to play Georgia and Florida in their cross-divisional games. That’s a nice draw for Vanderbilt, getting Arkansas and Ole Miss, two teams who just look lost this season. I think it’s a funny thing that you say that. It’s funny how games go can affect the fans. Like you say, you think, if you ask me after six games and Vanderbilt’s 3-3, I say that makes sense. Then just kind of the ebbs and flows of the team and how they played week to week can really change that perception.

​I think it’s kind of where Florida is. If you would have asked Florida fans before the year, I think maybe some fringe fans would have said 5-1. I certainly wouldn’t have said 5-1. I thought Florida would be, at best, 4-2 heading into this week. It always seems to be a game that Florida struggles with, no matter who the coach is, especially when you look at it’s going to be an 11:00am kickoff Central Time. What is it, do you think, about Derrick Mason and his teams that kind of gives him success, if not outright winning against Florida, but always kind of making it at least a close game?

Adam:​I think there’s a few things. I think a lot of them have to do with Florida. The past few years Florida’s offense is not what it was a decade ago, obviously. There’s been a lot of quarterback issues. Derrick Mason at his heart is a defensive guy. This is his first year since 2014 that he hasn’t been his own coordinator. He hired a new defensive coordinator this year. He is a defensive guy. He loves to get in games that are just grudge matches, and he loves to get into games if the opposition has some questions at quarterback. They may have some skills and the skillset and some things they can do, but if your quarterback is not one of your best players on your team, Derrick Mason’s defense can do something with that.

I think that’s been more of the issue the past few years. Florida has had quarterback issues coming in. Their offense has been mediocre. That’s the kind of games that Vandy wants to play. Vandy wants to play a 17-13 game. Old Florida that I remember I grew up watching has been so far from what I’ve seen out of these last few Florida teams that that’s why the matchup has been good for Vandy. Florida these past few years is just more of a grind it out type game than they had back in the Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier days.

Nick:​That kind of plays into Derrick Mason and how his teams are.

Adam:​Yeah. That’s more similar to what they are. Just I think Florida has lacked an identity. That’s another thing. They haven’t been great at one thing as much these past few years as the previous years, and that’s why there was the coaching change, obviously. I’m curious to see if this one has more of an identity, if Mullen has fixed a lot of that. I think from what I can see from here there’s a lot of athletes on the defense, and so you can win games with a good defense. Florida has done some of that the past few years. Again, if Florida doesn’t play well offensively, then maybe Vandy can hang in this game like they have the past few.

Andrew:​That’s what I was going to ask. Talked to a couple people about Vandy heading in, and they said that it was actually kind of weird that Vandy is struggling a lot on defense. Do you believe that’s a little bit to do with Derrick Mason not calling the plays? That’s been a staple for Vandy, solid defense. Offense struggled at times, but to see Vandy struggling on defense, to me, is just not what you normally see. I mean, still only giving up 24 points a game, nothing to shy about, but that’s kind of been the holdup, a lot of people say.

Adam:​The defense has been a lot of like what I said, kind of the rollercoaster of the year. They’re good at one thing, and then the next week they’re bad at that very thing. So, against mid-major opponents, they dominated Middle Tennessee and Nevada, but they gave up 27 points to an FCS team in TSU. Vandy’s defense was good in the first half against Georgia, and then they were just on the field too much, so the overall numbers looked bad. South Carolina really was their only overall bad defensive game where all four quarters were bad. Notre Dame they were bad in the first half, good in the second. They’re waiting for kind of a complete performance.

I don’t know that the change in coordinator has as much to do with that. Jason Tarver, who was a co-coordinator with Derrick Mason back at Stanford years ago, he’s been an NFL guy. He was the Raiders’ defensive coordinator. He was at the 49ers for a number of years. They have the same philosophy, so the defense has not changed very much. They’ve had some injuries to key people that’s hurt them a little bit. What they showed in the first couple games was a really good pass rush and a team that could cause a lot of turnovers. That’s the way that they win.

If you look at Derrick Mason’s 2016 defense, when Vandy went to a bowl game, same year they upset Georgia in Athens, that was a team that was disruptive, caused takeaways, that would get in the backfield and make TFLs and sacks. Zack Cunningham was a great linebacker on that team. When they’re good, that’s what they do. They’ve done that early in this year. They haven’t done it since. They don’t have a prayer in most of these SEC games if their defense doesn’t do those types of things.

Andrew:​Let me ask you this. When you look at Vandy on offense, Florida’s defensive line and linebacker group caused a ton of pressure the last few games. Overall, how do you feel on Vandy’s offensive line and their ability to block? Then to switch sides, how do feel about Vandy’s defensive line getting pressure on Florida’s offensive line?

Adam:​Vandy’s offensive line has had a key injury at center the past couple of weeks, and so they’ve had to shift some guys around. Kind of a 50/50 chance if they can get that settled in and get everybody healthy for this week. They’ve been okay protecting Kyle Shurmur.

I think there’s a bigger disappointment in some missed assignments in the run game. This offense, Andy Ludwig, the offensive coordinator, calls it a run to win offense. Their idea is they have three quality running backs that they will kind of roll in that they feel they want to get kind of a rhythm in the run game and use what should be a veteran offensive line. They returned five starters, and they’ve got three good running backs. It just hasn’t materialized. They ran a little bit against Georgia, but they’ve been bad in a couple of other games. That’s really the biggest disappointment, I think, on the offense is that the run game is not where it should be right now.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, he’s a transfer from Illinois. He’s a Nashville guy, former four-star guy. He is a big play guy, averages seven yards a carry, but he’s one of three backs. Most of the fanbase are moaning and groaning at the fact that he doesn’t get the ball more. I tend to think they have a point. We’ll see if he gets more carries in this game. He certainly should, if they have that ability.

The defensive line, also been some injuries there. They haven’t brought pressure. They haven’t been able to bring pressure the last few weeks. Their secondary is good enough to hold up in man to man coverage to some extent, but if they don’t get pressure, and they can’t finish off sacks, I don’t see Vandy really having a chance. They haven’t shown that the last few weeks.

Nick:​That’s something Florida has done pretty well this year, especially last week. I think LSU had gone, I think, 42 games in a row with a sack, and Florida was able to keep FeleipeFranks clean. That’s really why he won the job to begin with, his ability to kind of extend plays. I guess, in your mind, if Vanderbilt is going to win this game, what are some things that need to happen? As I’m looking at it, it’s kind of like you said. I don’t know what to make of this Vanderbilt team. If you look at the Notre Dame game, you say this is a big game. Florida needs to be ready to play. Then you look at the Tennessee State game, and you’re thinking this is your dad’s Vandy.

Adam:​It’s two things. Offensively, they have to finish drives. They’ve moved the ball. They had more yards, they outgained Georgia from I’d say about the first half in that game, but they couldn’t finish off drives. They had issues with turnovers in the red zone against Tennessee State. Vandy, in the past, sometimes Vandy has not been able to move the ball, and they’ve had to win games 13-10 or whatever. That’s not the case with this year. Kyle Shurmur, he’s an NFL caliber quarterback. Kalija Lipscomb leads the SEC in receptions. Jared Pinkney is an NFL tight end. They do have some running game, they just haven’t utilized it well. There are weapons there to move the ball. They just have to finish drives off. Offensively, if Vandycan finish drives in the endzone, not with field goals, then they can win this game.

​Defensively, pressure and takeaways. Again, they haven’t done that lately. I think if they can get in Franks’ face, if they can have some disruptive type plays, and just do something with their defense aside from giving up slow plodding drives that end in a touchdown or field goal. They’ve got to have disruptive plays. They have to have game winning type plays, game changing plays on defense. It’s been bend, don’t break, and then bend and break, so far on the defensive side. If they make those type of plays, a pick six, a few sacks, those types of things, then defensively they’re going to keep them in this game.

Nick:​What have been the problems in the red zone? Just looking at the red zone, only converting I think 50% touchdown, 20% field goal. Only scoring 70% of the time that they’re in the red zone, worst in the SEC. What have been some of the issues there?

Adam:​In the past, this has been a very efficient red zone offense. This year, it’s been different things. Kyle Shurmur threw a pick in the end zone against Tennessee State. Really the bigger thing against Georgia was just bad on short yardage situations. A 3rd and 1 went for -2, a 4th and 1 went for no gain. There’s a lot of people that are upset about how conservative Vandy is with some of their play calling, running the ball when they don’t have to. There’s been a number of things in the red zone there. I think they probably haven’t gotten as creative as they could in the red zone.

What hurts them too is that, again, Kalija Lipscomb is a really good wide receiver. Jared Pinkney is a really good tight end. I think sometimes when they get in the red zone, or when they get in 3rd down situations, Kyle Shurmur knows he can go to one of those two guys, but there’s not as much trust to go with other guys. They have a top ended wide receiver corps, one really good wide out, one really good tight end, and the rest of them are just guys that may be good one day, bad another. They’ve been more bad, because they’re inexperienced. So, I think the lack of targets has just hurt Kyle Shurmur trying to spread the ball around.

Andrew:​That’s a good point, and something that I think, when you look at Florida, you have to wonder about how they’ll do against a good tight end. Linebacker coverage has been something that’s been a little bit suspect. Has been better over the last few weeks but will be suspect. Before we get you out of here, Adam, real quick, if Vandy is going to pull the upset, your key is?

Adam:​Run the ball. Run, run, run. Not necessarily in yards, but run it in key situations. Run well on 3rd and short. Run well for long periods of time. Break some long runs, which would probably be Ke’Shawn Vaughn. They just have to establish a run game to be balanced. They’re good enough to throw it, but they haven’t shown they’re good enough to run it consistently. So, if the run game is there, then Vandy can win the game.

Andrew:​Absolutely. We appreciate you coming on. Tell everybody where they can find your work, and we’ll get you out of here.

Adam:​Online, Tennesseean.com, and you can follow me on Twitter @AdamSparks.

Andrew:​Awesome. Adam, we appreciate it, man. We will talk to you soon. Good luck this weekend.

Adam:​All right, guys, you have a good one.

Nick:​Thanks.

Andrew:​Nick, some good stuff from our man, Adam. Appreciate him coming on and talking Vandy. Nick, I hear that, and I see the stat line and all that stuff, and I hate to be that guy, but if Vandy is coming in and is going to just be able to throw the ball, good luck, because Jachai Polite, Cece Jefferson, and Jabari are all going to get on the plane. All of them are bringing big-time sacks with them. I don’t see Vandy blocking those guys if they’re going to rely on the passing game.

Nick:​Yeah. He’s right. Shurmur is an NFL type, NFL caliber quarterback, but really the biggest difference, I think, in the LSU game was the ability for Florida to either create pressure or make tackles in the backfield. The difference with MSU was Florida being able to get in the backfield, create pressure, get tackles for loss. Those guys right now, CeceJefferson, Jabari Zuniga, and Jachai Polite, they’re playing not only good football, they’re playing confident. They’re playing like their hair is on fire, so that can be a problem. I think that’s kind of why he went back to run the ball. Run the ball. Because he’s a smart guy, and he sees Florida’s strength right now is that defensive line. If you’re going to be successful, you’re going to have to run this ball.

Andrew:​Yes. That’s going to be a key for them. Listen, field goals don’t win this game. If they can’t convert in the red zone, you were talking about the red zone, if they can’t convert in the red zone, good luck.

Nick:​What do you mean field goals don’t win this game? Austin Hardin won one of these games.

Andrew:​You know what I mean.

Nick:​Austin Hardin.

Andrew:​To win the East.

Nick:​50-something yarder too.

Andrew:​Yeah. To win the East. I’m just saying I don’t think field goals win this game for Vandy, because I’m not sure they can consistently drive the field. If they can’t consistently drive the field, then they’re not going to, I just don’t see them winning. Giving up 4.4 yards per carry on the ground, something is not good either. That’s something Florida will come in and look to take advantage of on the road is being able to run the ball.

​That’s kind of where I see this game. Florida being able to kind of control the pace, per se, with running the ball more so in this game than they’ve been able to probably all year. Then being able just to create wreckage on defense.

Nick:​I look at that Vanderbilt team, and it’s kind of like I said to Adam. It’s kind of an enigma. You look at those first couple games, and you’re thinking this isn’t your father’s Vandy. This team can get the job done. Then the rest of their schedule has kind of played out just poorly. If you look at it, what’s his name? I blanked on his name. Lipscomb, who’s their junior widereceiver, he leads the SEC with 45 catches for 496 yards, six touchdowns, having a great year.

But is he neutralized by CJ Henderson? Florida hasn’t done it, but if I’m Todd Grantham, I might just shadow him with CJ Henderson. It’s not something they do. They really have kind of had him play field or boundary and not shadow guys, but if you’re a one-trick team, and we’ve got a guy in CJ McWilliams that was getting picked on, and then behind him is a freshman in Trey Dean, then Brian Edwards behind Dean, why don’t we just put Henderson on Lipscomb the entire game?

​Their running game can be effective, but I’ve gotten so much more confident. Coming into the year, I said, I have huge question marks about the linebackers. It was mainly centered around Vosean Joseph, because of the mistakes he had. For me, I was kind of thinking, how does he fix those? How do you fix not putting yourself in the right position and running out of position? I think he’s kind of contained that speed, and now, instead of running to a spot and then all of a sudden, you’ve gotten there so quickly you don’t have your feet under you and now, all of a sudden, the guy’s made one little cut and you’re gone. He’s done an incredible job this year. National Defensive Player of the Week for his 14 tackles against LSU. I’m so much more confident now with Florida’s linebackers that I don’t know if this Vanderbilt team will be able to run the ball successfully enough to come away with an upset.

Andrew:​I mean, I don’t think so either. I don’t know if they can. Then it goes back to what Adam said, and that is they’re going to try to throw the ball a ton. That’s all fine and dandy. Again, you talk about Lipscomb being good, and Jared Pinkney at tight end is a very good tight end, but you got to have time to throw the ball. I don’t know if you have time to throw the ball when you’re starting to be in passing situations where JachaiPolite, Cece, Jabari just say, forget whatever play action you’re going to throw at me, forget whatever trickeration you’re going to do, I know at the end of the time you’re going to have the ball, and you’re going to have to throw the ball. That’ll be a key that I think that Florida will look at in the game.

​I think, Nick, and I go back to this, and I continue to go back to this, this is just a game where it’s going to be a mentality. If Florida shows up with the mentality that this is an SEC game that they can lose, and have lost in the past, then they should be okay. If they come into this game thinking it’s Vandyat 3-3, we just came off of three wins, we’ll be okay, if they come in with that mindset of they’re going to be okay, then I think that’s where the problem is. I don’t know what matchup you and I can break down on this Vandy team that can say Vandy has the advantage here or advantage there. I just go back, and I think that the question has been answered over the past few weeks, but will it be answered again. That is does the mentality of we have to play good ball to win the game, if that’s how the players are thinking, I think they’ll be okay.

Nick:​That’s probably the struggle of most football coaches. Nick Saban called fricking Arkansas a trap game. I know Arkansas is down, but that’s not really a team, at least when Burt was there. When Burt was there, it wasn’t a team that you would say is a trap game, but Saban called that a trap game. So, it’s something I think college coaches fight all the time.

Because when you’re in the NFL, listen, you’re playing for a paycheck. You can’t afford to take a week off. You look at the way kickers are. Kicker has a bad week in the NFL, you’re looking for a job. In the NFL, when you’re motivated by money, to me you don’t need to try to get up for that, because you’re trying to put food on the table for your family.

In college, there’s so much stuff going around, and we forget about it all the time. These guys have family problems, girl problems, school problems. When you’re 18, 19-years-old, everything is a huge deal. So, there’s so much stuff going on in these guys’ lives that it’s easy to look and say, we just had a really tough stretch, this is just Vandy. I think college coaches are always fighting that in one way or another.

Andrew:​Yeah. Again, I think it goes back to what you were saying.

Nick:​It’s a natural human reaction.

Andrew:​I think too, when you have an atmosphere that has been like the past few weeks, where you have that atmosphere, Tennessee, Mississippi State, those two fanbases pump Florida up on the road because of that. Then we all know how the Swamp was on Saturday. You have to create your own juice in this game. You have to create your own energy in this game. You have to get your own self up for this game, because of that.

​Again, my thing will be if Florida can come out of the gate, put their foot down, get some early points, put Vandy in a hole, you may see Vandy lay down. In any game like this, we talk about this with Tennessee, we talked about this with Colorado State and other teams, and that is the longer you allow a team like this to stick around, the longer they believe. That’s something all good teams are able to do is come out and put their foot on the throat and go. You talked about the Alabama-Arkansas game. It was 28-7 before Arkansas blinked an eye. Georgia was up before Vandy blinked an eye. Those are the games that you have to look at. That will be a key for Florida is to come out of the gate hot.

​In past games, for as long as I can remember, and Urban’s teams struggled with this as well, those early 11:00, 12:00, what we used to call the Jefferson Pilot games, were the games Florida struggled with. Will Florida get over that hump or not?

Nick:​I was reading Adam, who we just had on. He had a story earlier in the week about they did a survey on Vanderbilt stadium, I think last year. Their stadium only seats just shy of 40,000. It’s like 39,000 and change. They’ve only averaged 26,110 in their home games this year. If you’re looking at, they have the smallest home attendance for a season opener since they renovated Vanderbilt stadium in 1981. They only averaged 31,341 last year, but that included home games with a ranked Kansas State at the time, Alabama, and Georgia. I mean, those are three big home games that are going to boost it.

Andrew:​And those fans are traveling in and taking a lot of tickets.

Nick:​Yeah. I almost say it every time I’m up there and take a picture. There’s more Florida fans here than Vanderbilt fans.

Andrew:​I was doing a radio spot, Nick, and I said it was a glorified high school stadium with more seats, and Florida fans would be in the majority up there. Nick, I wanted to get to something. I saved this until we had some time to talk about it later on in the podcast. Something that stuck out to me, and it stuck out to a lot of people, and I’m sure you’ve thought about it as well, maybe not as deep as we’re going to get into it here, because I didn’t at first, until other people made a little bigger of a deal about it. Florida, knock on wood, is in Week 7, and are pretty injury free. Marco Wilson had the torn ACL, and you’ve had some beats and bangs that come along with a season as tough as Florida has.

There’s no how much, because it’s all on Nick Savage. I mean, it’s on Nick Savage, and it’s on luck. Is there one thing you point to, Nick, in Nick Savage’s new workout regiment that is allowing this? I have some thoughts as well, but it’s on Nick Savage. Nick Savage is a major reason as to why the Florida Gators are sitting here, and Dan Mullen every week says, we came out of this game pretty clean.

Nick:​I think a lot of injuries can be just chalked up to bad luck. You’re playing a sport that it’s not just at the college level, it’s at the NFL level, where it’s just violent. Guys are so big now and so fast. I think we’re getting some of these guys, especially when you’re looking at guys in the NFL, and those are the best guys that were playing in college, are just even pushing the limits of how big and how fast the human body can even be. I think when you’re putting a bunch of those guys on a field together and saying, run really fast, and then run into that guy who is as big as you, as fast as you, and just hit him as hard as you can. You’re going to get some of those injuries.

​I think there can be preventative things done in the weight room. Not necessarily just in the weight room, but also when you’re looking at guys’ flexibility and just being limber. I think maybe Nick Savage is doing something in terms of we’re not going to be a big stiff bodybuilder. We need to be athletes. We need to be flexible. When we’re hitting, we’re not a big oak tree, where it’s just going to snap. We need to be able to bend, bend before we break.

​I do think a lot of it is just bad luck, because it’s a physical sport, and injuries are going to happen. Florida, maybe they’ve had so much bad luck in the past that they were just due for a season where they weren’t crushed by injuries. If something bad happens this weekend, Spivey, it’s on you, because you brought all this up.

Andrew:​It’s on me. I wanted to give my take real quick, and that is there is some preventative things you can do. There are some different workouts you can do on the field that can really help guard against some of it. I mean, how many twisted ankles, and listen, twisted ankles are going to happen, but just different things where it’s because maybe the guy was a little tired or maybe the guy was a little out of shape. Let’s just say what it is. There’s preventative things that I think that Nick Savage and his guys can do that help that, for sure. I think that any time you have a workout that is generated around the core parts of the body that are being used in football, you help yourself. ​If you’re working on strengthening the knees, if you’re working on strengthening the hamstrings, that kind of stuff, the core muscles, then I think that helps prevent that stuff.

​We go back to Jeff Dillman, he was doing Olympic workouts that were working on parts of the body that you didn’t use in football. Jeff Kent, he was stretching supposedly. Who knows what he was doing?

Nick:​What was he doing?

Andrew:​He was doing stretches, they said.

Nick:​He was collecting paychecks.

Andrew:​He was collecting paychecks. I don’t know what he was doing. The point being there is certain workouts that you can do to do that stuff. I think one of the biggest keys for me overall, Nick, is just being in tip-top shape, being in shape that when you go in and look at this game, in the fourth quarter Florida is not huffing and puffing and tired. They’re able to be physical. They’re able to have strength throughout the game. I think a lot of people overlook that stuff.

Nick:​Yeah. I think there is something to what you said, as well as to what I said. I think, obviously.

Andrew:​Oh, you’re right. Completely.

Nick:​Some of the stuff is just bad luck. Listen, what could Marco Wilson have done differently to not have his ACL tear? I don’t think there’s anything he could have done differently.

Andrew:​Nothing.

Nick:​So, some of it is just bad luck, but there’s something to it where you look at Alabama, and maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not watching it close enough. If an Alabama fan caught this, he’d say, no, we’ve had this, this, and that. Scott Cochran doesn’t seem to have a lot of guys being injured year after year either.

Andrew:​No. Listen, they had some troubles with knees, tearing ACLs. There’s nothing you can do for that.

Nick:​When I say we see a lot of those soft tissue damages, that’s when I talk about the guys are just bigger than the body is supposed to be and faster than the body is supposed to be. You’re seeing these soft tissue injuries because of that, because the body wasn’t made to hold these superhumans.

Andrew:​Right. The thing that I get is just the little things of being out of shape. When you’re out of shape that kind of stuff happening, for me. I mean, it’s definitely a key of luck. I mean, we talk about this all the time. When you have guys, I mean teams of five and six torn ACLs, that’s just terrible luck. Marco Wilson stuck his foot in the ground the wrong way and tore his luck. He’s probably done that same thing, been through that same scenario, hundreds of times, and will probably do it hundreds of times again in his career and not tear his ACL again. It’s just a terrible luck.

​Again, it does go hand in hand, to some degree. I think a lot of people see that, and it’s key. Again, the biggest thing for Nick Savage has been the mental toughness of this group, this groups’ ability to be in shape for four quarters and to be able to go for four quarters.

​Nick, we’ll move past that a little bit here. Any final thoughts overall heading into this game? I’m being honest with you here and saying that I don’t know how much of a matchup we can talk about, except for mentality.

Nick:​We’ll have to figure something out for Friday. We’ll save that for Friday. I wanted to ask you, and I think people wanted to know, you’ve talked to a lot of guys. What’s the general sense and feeling from recruits coming off of that big win? We talked about the atmosphere, and we talked about it a little bit on our Monday podcast. You’ve still got stories coming out. What’s that general thought of the program, the game, and all of that?

Andrew:​The overall is nothing but positive.

Nick:​It’d have to be after that. I mean, the atmosphere was fantastic. The game was great. That probably played out as well. Unless you go out there, and you dominate LSU and beat them 56-0, which would have been great, but I think everything probably played right into Dan Mullen’s hands.

Andrew:​Listen, don’t shoot me here and talk bad about me when I say this, but if you’re Dan Mullen, you kind of almost like to win that game in the fashion you did, because of the atmosphere. You kept the guys engaged for four quarters. Listen, everybody wants a 56-0 win, that’s all fine and dandy, but when you see the way the crowd was from start to finish it was huge. I put that in my Spivey Senses on Monday where we broke down kind of the insider stuff. Everyone on this team, or in the south endzone on Saturday, was talking about the environment was insane. Some of the best environments that they’ve ever seen. That’s just what the Swamp should be.

Again, I said this on Monday, and I’ll say this again. Did Florida get someone to commit or going to get someone to commit off just that game? Probably not. But they got some people to now look at Florida more. They got guys more interested in them, and got guys probably coming back for more chances to see that. Science says the more times they come on campus, the better chance you got at landing these guys. You had a couple guys who were on official visits. They got to see that environment for three days, and that environment for three days was rocking.

Florida was also able to show some guys just what this coaching staff is able to do. Listen, I am one of the few people who still say that there’s a ton of talent on this team that just needed better coaching. When you look at Jachai Polite, or you look at VoseanJoseph or David Reese or Chauncey Gardner, or really anyone, you see the growth from last year to this year under these new coaching staff. That’s stuff that this coaching staff can point out to guys like Lloyd Summerall, the defensive end from Lakeland. They’re able to show what Moral Stephens and the tight end position can do to guys like Keon Zipperer, the tight end out of Lakeland. They were able to show what Chauncey Gardner was able to do to Lewis Cine, the safety out of Texas. Those kind of things, I think, go more unnoticed than anything. It’s just what these guys were able to see on Saturday. Nick, you will agree with me when I say that putting on tape from last year to this year for some of these guys is night and day.

Nick:​That’s certainly night and day. You start looking at some of those guys, Keon Zipperer, the linebacker class that Florida has already put together. You start looking at next year. I always tell people, don’t look at next year. I know everyone loves to follow recruiting and this and that, but right now Florida’s 5-1, kind of enjoy the season.

But if you look at it, and we kind of have to because of our jobs, tight end is going to be a huge spot, because you’re going to lose Moral Stephens. You’re going to lose RJ Raymond. You’re going to lose C’yontai Lewis. You still got Kyle Pitts, KemoreGamble, and Lucas Krull coming back, but that’s a position you need to get players and talent. Linebacker is a position you’re going to need to refill on, and then defensive back, I think every year Florida probably needs. The kind of guys that Florida is getting aren’t staying at Florida for four years. You kind of need to reup on DB every two years or so.

Andrew:​I say this to people all the time, and have had some people tell me Florida’s 2019 class sucks and this, that, and the other. First of all, the 2019 class doesn’t suck. The 2019 class has a chance to be a top 10 class. Again, is top 10 classes what you want? No. You want top 5, but definitely top 10 is better than you’ve seen. It’s a step in the right direction.

That 2020 class, Nick, is where Saturday might have hit the ball out of the ballpark. We look at the DB out of Jacksonville Trinity Christian, 2020 DB Fred Davis, one of the top DBs in the country. He’s talking about DBU and that kind of stuff. That’s the message that you’re seeing. Guys are relating to the history of Florida more so now than they have in the past. When you start to look at what’s coming up, that 2020 class is one of the better classes we’ve seen in recent years, from top to bottom, in areas that Florida should do well. That’s the Jacksonville area. That’s the Tampa area. That’s the Orlando area. Areas around Gainesville, Ocala. You got some guys down at Vanguard that are very good in Ocala. Those areas that Florida should have very good success at.

Nick:​Poll rating.

Andrew:​Yeah. It’s areas that are full of guys next year, and those guys were on campus on Saturday. I talk about Vanguard, one of the best receivers in the country, Leonard Manuel, is there for next year. That’s the stuff that this class has been able to do. Dan Mullen hit on it on Monday. He said, we’re doing our job on the field. Our coaches and our recruiting staff have to do the job in recruiting. That’s what is happening. Games like Saturday only help those efforts, and it’s huge. Listen, that South Carolina game is going to be a big game, and it’ll be a fun atmosphere. It’s not going to be like LSU. That was why the LSU game had to have such emphasis put on it.

Nick:​Absolutely. It’ll be a big game, South Carolina or Missouri, but the game you wanted those guys to see was LSU. You did not disappoint.

Andrew:​Did not disappoint. Nick, let’s get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday with our prediction podcast. Pick our players, all that good stuff. One last recruiting note, Nick. Emmett Smith’s son was on campus. Got a story up on Gator Country for that. People are getting on EJ for Florida not being his dream school. I tell people all the time, EJ didn’t know too much Florida. All he knows is Dallas, for the most part. So, don’t get on the guy. He has a lot of interest in Florida. Some people were tweeting at him and stuff. I don’t get that point from him. It’s a thing where Dallas is home for him. Gainesville wasn’t home for him.

Nick:​Yeah. Emmett was in Gainesville a long, long time ago.

Andrew:​Yeah. Before you and I. Way before you and I were talking about this team. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everybody on Wednesday.

Nick:​www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. Never miss an episode now. We are everywhere you listen to podcast. Just search Gator Country. Subscribe there. Do your social media thing. Oh, I just blanked there. How many times have I said this? @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me, @NickdelaTorreGC and him @AndrewSpiveyGC. I almost went right into ours. I was like, no, back up. Back up there.

Andrew:​You would think you would know this by now.

Nick:​Shoot. Four years in. I think I’d know it.

Andrew:​Yeah. Guys, we really do, we appreciate it all. Do your social media. If you haven’t joined Gator Country yet, let us know. We’ll definitely get you hooked up. Looking forward to this game. We’ll break it down more on Friday. Then maybe have some special guest for the bye week. If you have anybody in particular you want to hear from, let us know. As always, guys, we appreciate it. As always, go Braves and chomp, chomp.

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.