Podcast: Previewing the 2021 football season for the Florida Gators

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as GC welcomes the newest addition David Soderquist to the team.

Andrew Spivey and David start to preview the season for the Florida Gators as we’re now just over a week until the Gators start the football season against FAU.

Andrew and David also talk recruiting and how things are going for the coaching staff off the field as they head into the 2021 football season.


Andrew:           Welcome back, Gator Country. Brand new exciting podcast, and I’ve got my man David Soderquist. Probably said it wrong, because I’m going to say it wrong. We’re back, and we’re going to start doing this podcast. We’re going to back and doing it two times a week, like before. We’ll be back doing our recaps as always, our previews, bringing on some guests. Doing it in the video format as well, so if you’re just listening to us or reading the transcript, we’re on video as well. David’s coming over. Big fan of David. Joined his podcast a few times. David, first, before we get going, tell everybody a little bit about yourself.

David:               Man, I’m just a crazy guy, man. I’m a big fan of Florida Gators. I don’t walk on crates and bust my face on the concrete, but I definitely love my tailgates and hopefully nobody brings any crates to the tailgates this year. Great Gator fanatic here. I’ve been doing podcasting for a while. Did some over for Chomp Talk, and now I’m over here at Gator Country, and I’m exciting to begin this journey with you, Andrew Spivey, over here. It’s just great to be back in the podcasting world. I took about a month hiatus and kind of twiddled my thumbs there. I was waiting to get back in the podcasting world. Now I’m here with you, Andrew, and it’s great to be a Florida Gator.

Andrew:           Did you see the Oriole? They screenshotted him when the Orioles finally won, and he conquered the crate. That was pretty good. I’ll be honest. I was watching through Facebook, and you get those dumb videos that come through Facebook. It was just some crazy guy, a big guy, an offensive line guy, and he was trying to do it. I thought it was a joke. I didn’t know that it was this new thing going on. You’re not going to catch me walking over no crates. I’m sorry.

David:               No, but I did post a video of Hevesy. If you didn’t watch it, it was like when you go up to the final crate it’s a five star. You come down, it’s a four star. It’s a three star, and he just falls and hits his face. So, yeah. That pretty much just takes up for all the offensive line recruiting that we’ve had here lately.

Andrew:           We’ll get into that, because it’s been a circus. Offensive line has been an adventure. It’s been an adventure for the last three years. Some good news overall. Florida’s done really well in certain positions. Nick Evers looks to be now, I think we all knew Nick was going to be a really, really good prospect and commit for Florida, but it’s looking like Nick’s the guy that Florida’s been missing. Myself, I’ve missed covering guys like Nick who just absolutely love recruiting, who absolutely love the process, who love to talk about the process. Nick, his family is very involved. We all make fun and make jokes, Miss Evers is on him. She is on him. So is dad. If Florida eventually lands Evan Stewart, you can thank Nick and his family. They’re huge in the Evan Stewart thing.

I say this all the time, but you only have a select few guys every year that love recruiting, love to help you get the guys on campus. Nick’s one of those guys. We always talked about Tebow loved in. I’m trying to think back. Nick Washington. He loved to recruit. Nick loves to recruit.

David:               Definitely. If you see it now, Monica Evers just started following me too, so shout out to Monica Evers out there. Finally, I got the follow from her. You could just tell Nick loves recruiting. He loves the sport. He wants a good education and wants to come to the University of Florida. Doesn’t get involved too much into the hype of when people are throwing around bags and all that other kind of stuff, the NIL stuff, all that crap. He doesn’t really get into all of that. He’s just one of those straight up guys that just wants to get an education and wants to play at a good accredited university.

Thank God, his family and his mom and everybody is best friends with Evan Stewart, because right now if you had me to pick where Evan Stewart was going to land, I would pick Florida. I don’t know about you. That’s not me being a homer. I actually think that would happen. You even try to see them getting the Walter Nolen’s recruiting a little bit, which has been kind of funny here lately.

Andrew:           We’ll get into Walter in a second. Even with Nick though, and I’ll be the first to admit, when Nick first committed, I had to go watch some more film of his. I was a fan of his, but I didn’t really know how good of an arm he really had, really what all he brought. Then we got to see him at Friday Night Lights, and the guy’s got a rocket. He throws a really, really good ball. He’s mechanically sound. You can tell that he’s been taught really well. You can just tell that he has the fundamentals to be really good.

Then you put Evan with him, and that’s two really good players who’ve played together for a long time. He’s a winner, everything that goes along with it. The family is all bought in, so you don’t really have to worry about any of the recruiting process there. Again, I think Florida has a winner with Nick. I really do. People’ve asked me, is he going to sit for three years? I don’t think so.

David:               I don’t either.

Andrew:           I’ll be honest. I don’t think so.

David:               When he first committed to Florida, I think he was ranked in the 400s. I looked at his film, and I noticed how he went through his reads really fast, knew where the football was going. Within two seconds that football was gone. It was getting to a receiver, and he was accurate. I was like, how is this guy 400? But I knew it was the beginning of the recruiting cycle as well too, so I knew he was more than likely going to go to camps and increase that recruiting ranking. Now he’s at like 188 in an overall composite. Just goes to show you that Dan Mullen has a knack for looking at talent before it gets developed, I guess, in high school.

Look at Isaiah Bond. Now he’s a top 200 guy. Now I think he’s in the 100s. I always told people, when somebody recruits, look at the film first, especially if it’s in the beginning of the recruiting cycle. Who cares if it’s a three-star. They could wind up a four-star, five-star before the end of the cycle. That’s happened to Gervon Dexter. Gervon Dexter was a three-star, went up to four-star. Now he’s a five-star at the end of the cycle. Proved to be one heck of a defensive lineman there. You never really know with these kids until they go to these camps.

Andrew:           That gets even more particular and more true after what we faced last year. A lot of us didn’t get out on the road. I made this comment to somebody the other day. The guys who are seniors now, we usually would have seen them two or three times. You’d usually seen them in camp as a junior, and then at camp as a senior. We didn’t see that. You missed that, and you missed that evaluation process. I think you’re going to see really as the senior year goes on, even some of these juniors. I look at Aaron Gates who committed to Florida on Thursday. He’s a low ranked guy as well, but when you turn on his film, and when you see him in person, he’s not a low ranked guy.

David:               Right.

Andrew:           He just doesn’t have a lot of film from camps. There’s a lot of people that didn’t camp a lot this year, because they didn’t want to travel, and that’s fine. You shouldn’t punish a ranking, but at the end of the day, you can only rank a kid off of what you’ve seen. I do. I think Nick will be a guy who’s way up there. For instance, Shemar James is another guy. The last ranking that came out he’s close to a five-star now. There’s no doubt in my mind Shemar James is one of the top 50 players in the country.

David:               Oh yeah.

Andrew:           No doubt in my mind, but people are finally able to see it now a little bit more. I think when we look back in December, after the senior years and junior years of some of these guys, I think you’re going to see several guys, not just Florida commits, that rise a little bit in the rankings. And drop, for that matter.

David:               Julian Humphrey had a little bit of a drop though too. It wasn’t a major drop. I think what really happened was a bunch of people moved up, so he had to take the spot below them. I agree with you 100%. I think there’s a lot of these guys in this class that’s going to move up more. Isaiah Bond’s probably going to be one of them. Chandler Smith, with his speed, he probably will move up too.

I just don’t see any of these kids moving up or down, unless it’s like a CJ Hawkins or somebody that really doesn’t have any film, just kind of going into that tight end role, being more of a basketball player kind of guy. You’re not really going to see a big recruiting ranking bump from somebody like CJ Hawkins or anything like that. To have a 6’7” tight end that’s already 220, 230 coming into your class, under the tutelage of the coaching staff and all that, he could be a really good tight end. That’s a tall guy to have as a tight end. Taller than Kyle Pitts. Maybe might not have the wingspan, but definitely a guy that that’s tall can get over those DBs and catch the football. It’s cool to see that.

Like I said before, Dan Mullen sees the talent, I think, before it actually gets developed in high school, and then he can develop it more when it gets to the college level. Sometimes I just don’t look at the stars, but you’ve got to get some of these instate elite recruits. That’s one of the biggest things that I have a knock on Dan Mullen is getting the instate recruits. That’s huge. If you can’t land instate recruits, then you’re going to places like Texas, which he’s done very well in right now, but getting these instate recruits is what really matters. I think that’s the only knock I have on Dan Mullen thus far.

Andrew:           Yeah. I’ve been a critic, and I’ll be the first to admit. Especially at the tight end position. You look at a guy like Jaleel Skinner. You look at Oscar Delp and some of these guys. You want to be able to capitalize off of what Kyle Pitts was able to do, and you weren’t. Is that a slight on Tim Brewster? Is that a slight on Florida? Is that a slight on Dan Mullen? I don’t know that it is one particular person in general, more as a whole. You look at, for instance, last year with what happened at the instate receivers and Agiye Hall. You had several guys, the top guys, who went out of state. Billy Gonzales still got a lot of good players. He didn’t get those top instate guys.

David:               Right.

Andrew:           I think that’s where it has to change. I look at, for instance, next year. Payton Kirkland, one of the best offensive linemen in the country from Orlando. John Hevesy has to land him. Hevesy may not be able to go out of state and land a five-star, but Orlando is your backyard. You should be able to land that guy. Again, I’ve always said this, and you may disagree with this. Florida should never be outside the top five in recruiting.

David:               No, they shouldn’t.

Andrew:           Never. There’s too good of talent in the state of Florida, the state of Georgia. Alabama even. South Carolina’s pretty close drive. North Carolina. They should never be outside the top five. For the most part, you’re looking at anywhere from 8 to 12 recruiting classes. I just don’t know how you make that into a potential every year Clemson-Alabama where you’re in the playoffs, especially with Oklahoma and Texas about to come in. I think at some point things have to jump.

The argument is, you get in the transfer portal. Yeah, that’s true. Okay. You got Demarkcus Bowman, who’s a five-star, but you still are not landing. You went to the offensive line portal. You landed nobody.

David:               You got to think about this too. Other teams are getting into the portal too.

Andrew:           Right.

David:               Look at what Georgia did. They got the corner from Clemson, and then, obviously, the tight end situation to wide receiver probably is not working out there mentally either, but they still pulled two five-stars as well. Those aren’t factored into the recruiting rankings. You don’t really know where Florida should actually be in the recruiting rankings until you look at every team and what they’ve done in the portal. Those guys that are saying, we got all these guys, so really we’re #8 or #7. No, you’re not. These other teams got people out of the portal too. You got to look at what they got too.

Andrew:           Right.

David:               The reason why we don’t have top five classes is because you’re not getting the top talent in your own state. If you got the top talent in your own state, you would have a top five class, easy. Florida pumps out all this talent every single year, and it’s the most talent that you see in the whole nation. It’s Florida. It’s California, Florida, and Texas, pretty much, and then Georgia too. Georgia has a lot of talent as well.

Andrew:           Right. I always was told this. Dominate within 500 miles. Dominate within 500 miles, because you think 500 miles driving 70 miles an hour, that’s six hours, seven hours to get there. That’s drivable for a parent to get there, drivable to get home if you need to get home. Dominate within 500 miles. Really dominate within 250 miles. If you take that 250-mile radius, that includes Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and you’re not doing that.

You look at a guy like Jaheim Singletary from Jacksonville, the five-star corner. Yes, he’s going to visit Florida for the FAU game. Yes, Florida’s in the mix with Georgia and Miami. But when Florida’s going well, there’s no other schools are involved. This is he’s committed. He’s in your class, locked up. Boom, you’re done. It’s not the case anymore, and it’s not going to happen overnight. You wanted to see success on the field, and you’re starting to see some success on the field, but at some point recruiters have to be recruiters.

I know everyone wants to jump and say, Georgia’s the bagman. They got the bagmen. They’re paying everybody. This, that, and the other. The NIL is going to help that. At some point or another, the staff has to overcome whatever it may be. You’re about to have a new football facility. What’s going to be the excuse next? That’s where I’m at. In order to be able to compete for playoffs every year, you have to be top five. At worst, six or seven.

David:               Right. I’m one of those fans that’s not okay with 10-2 and a New Year’s Six Bowl game every year. I want to make it to the playoff. We had a chance last year.

Andrew:           You don’t want Mark Richt 2.0?

David:               No. I don’t. I don’t want Mark Richt 2.0. I think Georgia has that right now, but with better talent.

Andrew:           Right. Exactly. That’s a good point. People always say this. Would you rather have a developer or a recruiter?

David:               Right.

Andrew:           I don’t know that you can choose. I don’t know that you can choose and win. Nick Saban’s both. Dabo Swinney’s both.

David:               I was about to say, you got to have both.

Andrew:           Yeah. You know, the jury’s a little out on Lincoln Riley, but I do think Lincoln Riley can develop guys, but it’s still out there. Urban Meyer was really good at it. Ryan Day’s really good at it. That’s what hurts Jim Harbaugh. He’s a terrible developer. He can recruit okay, but he’s a terrible developer. Kirby Smart’s awful at developing people. Got all the talent in the world. Can’t develop nothing. Can’t win.

David:               Can’t beat Alabama. Can’t beat Florida when they don’t have a defense.

Andrew:           Yeah. Exactly. It’s the same thing with Les Miles. Les Miles can recruit but can’t develop nobody.

David:               Right.

Andrew:           We’ll see. We’ll see. The argument’s out there. I tell fans in general, and we’ll get into this in a minute when we start talking about the season, but this is the year for Dan Mullen to prove it. These are his guys. Every one of these guys that are going to take the field, for the most part, are his guys. There’s a handful of guys that are leftover. These are his guys. Emory Jones is his guy. He wanted him. This is your guy. This offensive line class is your offensive line. This is your guys now. There is no it’s Jim McElwain’s fault for not recruiting anymore, or whoever it may be. This is yours. Your guys. You and Todd Grantham and Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy and Greg Knox, you got these guys.

David:               To make Florida Gators fans feel a little bit better, if you go back and look at Dan Mullen’s classes he had at Mississippi State to now, with getting rid of Jim McElwain’s talent, now you got Dan Mullen’s class, the overall talent level is way better than what he had at Mississippi State. It’s way better than what he’s ever had as a head coach. I’m not saying it was way better when he was an offensive coordinator here. It’s not, but it’s way better as a head coach. Now, some Florida Gator fans are, it’s put up and shut time. I’m one of those guys. These were your guys. You recruited them.

Now I know that you offered a bunch of guys, and they didn’t come, so that’s one of the things, but right now your overall talent is way better. You did lose Kyle Pitts. You did lose Kadarius Toney. You did lose a lot of good receivers, but you got a lot of good receivers back there, a lot of highly ranked receivers, especially #1, Jacob Copeland, out there. Xzavier Henderson. I could go through all the wide receivers’ names. Now really, it’s put up or shut up time. That’s what Florida Gator fans, most of them, especially me, are thinking. We’ll see what the season shakes out with. I’m telling you right now, in Week 1 and Week 2, if there’s any kind of struggles, I’m not feeling confident about Week 3 when it’s coming up.

Andrew:           I’ll ask you that. Is it okay for Florida to finish second in the East?

David:               No. Not with me. No. To me, no. I guess just because what I just laid out. You have a better talent level. Look what you did at Mississippi State. Had #1 in the nation. Had Dak Prescott. It’s a bunch of three-star transfers, four-star guys, maybe a couple five-stars sprinkled in there, but not many, and you did all of that over there at Mississippi State. You came here. Emory Jones is your guy. This is your quarterback. This is your system. You got Demarkcus Bowman back there. We’ll get into this too. A guy that’s had a long touchdown every scrimmage. You got to learn how to utilize your talent. I don’t care about seniority. I want the best guy out there on the field. Period. End of story. That’s just how I am as a fan.

Andrew:           We’ll get into that in a second. It’s going to be a different team. It’s going to be a different style of play, for sure. What you said is kind of where I’m at. I don’t get into preseason rankings. It’s a bunch of crap.

David:               I don’t care about them.

Andrew:           It’s a bunch of people who give educated guesses. Cool. Guess what? Georgia’s got guys who developed. We all talk about JT Daniels being terrible at Florida, but he may be really good. Georgia fans talking about how great he is. He may be terrible again. We all think Bryce Young at Alabama is going to be really good. He may be terrible. We don’t know. It’s tough to say Florida’s predicted to be finishing second behind Georgia. I was one of those bozos up in Hoover who voted for them to be second in the SEC East. For me, you’re taking a step back if you finish second, because of the fact that you got to Atlanta. Your motto all season is you were six points away from beating the national champion. If you don’t win, you take a step back.

Dan Mullen likes to say we’ve been in three straight New Year’s Six Bowl games. That’s fine and dandy, but at the University of Florida that means jack crap to most fans. Playing for the playoffs and winning the playoffs is there. Getting to Atlanta doesn’t mean anything. Winning in Atlanta. Jim McElwain was there twice. Neither time did it look like they showed up, but they were there.

David:               They were there, but they were there with Treon Harris one time, and then the other time they just got blown out. Yeah. As a Florida fan, I don’t care about SEC East titles. I want them to win the SEC Championship. I want to go to the playoff. If you win the SEC Championship this year, you go to the playoff, and, God forbid, you lose in the playoff, I’m not upset. That’s a step forward. As long as we see a step forward, that’s all I care about. Week 3, even if you lose to Alabama, but it’s a close one. It’s the perfect time to catch them off guard. You got them at home. It’s Week 3. They’re starting a new quarterback. It’s the perfect time to beat Alabama.

This is another question that popped up in my head. If you beat Alabama, you win the SEC East, you’re probably going to play Alabama again. Can Dan Mullen beat Alabama twice? That’s the kicker.

Andrew:           Good luck. I don’t know that anybody has. I would have to go back and look. The last few times Saban’s lost and then had to play them, the one that comes back to mind is LSU that year they beat them by a field goal. In the Sugar Bowl Alabama didn’t even allow them to get past the 50, in the National Championship game.

David:               That was a terrible game.

Andrew:           I’ll say this. This is something that I’ve thought about. If you beat Alabama, but you lose to Georgia, and you finish second in the East, is that a now success, because you beat Alabama? While getting to Atlanta has to be the goal, and if you don’t get to Atlanta it’s disappointment, there’s ways to say the program improved. I agree with that, but for me it also stays off the field in this recruiting.

I guess, let’s hit on Walter Nolen real quick, before we kind of move into some prediction stuff. He’s the typical five-star who loves social media. Loves to tweet everything that comes to mind. Obviously, there’s some talk that others are tweeting for him. I don’t know. I can’t confirm or deny that. It may be true. It may not be true. I don’t know. Obviously, he put out a top three on Tuesday of A&M, Tennessee, and Georgia, after saying it was A&M, Tennessee, and Florida about two weeks before that. Then he comes up on Wednesday and says it’s open again. Who knows?

David:               Somebody just wanted some Instagram followers. I think that’s what it was.

Andrew:           What was it? 11,000 and he would commit?

David:               I don’t think I’ve seen a commitment yet, have you? Would that commitment stick? I don’t think so.

Andrew:           Yeah. No, I don’t think so either. Walter Nolen’s a guy that I think Florida needs to land, for a couple of reasons. A, it would be that splash on the recruiting front. I don’t want to say landing Evan Stewart’s not, but you kind of get punished for leading for a kid for so long. Everyone has kind of known Evan Stewart was leaning towards Florida, so you kind of get punished for that. Walter Nolen, for instance, is a guy that you were trailing for for most of the spring into the summer, when you got him on campus. Landing him is huge. Do I like Florida’s chances? Not at all.

David:               No.

Andrew:           Not at all. He plays 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium in Tennessee. I don’t like it, but he’s a guy they need to land. You want to turn it around? You want to be playoff contenders every year? Land Walter Nolen.

David:               This time you don’t have to use McDonald’s bags. You can just go through a business and hand him some money, if you wanted to.

Andrew:           What was it, Ohio State? They’re handing out keys now and taking pictures of it.

David:               Definitely. It’s not like they weren’t doing that before though, right?

Andrew:           No, it was just it was showing up in the parking lot and saying, there’s a car out there that somebody left, and you can have it if you want it.

David:               Walter Nolen’s recruitment’s just been weird. I wouldn’t be surprised if he released another top three in another month, and it wouldn’t be anybody. Then I think he said at one point he was going to commit in August.

Andrew:           Yeah.

David:               I haven’t heard anything.

Andrew:           Before the season.

David:               Before the season. We’ll see. He’s definitely visiting for the Alabama-Florida game. That’s a definite. Right now it is. I don’t know if he’s going to change his mind or not. Looks like he changes his mind every 10 seconds out there. Walter Nolen’s recruitment’s just been kind of weird. I am really confident on Evan Stewart, but Walter Nolen I’m just not. I’m not sold on him yet.

Andrew:           Again, is there one person to blame for it? No, not at all. There’s so many factors working against Florida here. Do you have the right to be upset that you don’t land him? Absolutely. At Florida you should expect to land him. At the same time, there is a lot of factors that go on. Again, are you upset about it? Yes. Are you mad at Dan Mullen or David Turner? Is David Turner a lesser known recruiter, or is Dan Mullen a worse recruiter because of it? I don’t know. I don’t think so. Again, it’s big. It’s big to land him. It’s huge to land him. You’ve got to land one of these guys.

I always say landing Tebow for Urban Meyer started the ripple effect. Who’s going to be that ripple effect for Dan Mullen? Julio Jones was the guy for Nick Saban, and I don’t care what anyone says. Julio Jones was the guy for Nick Saban, because it opened the pipeline. People started to follow Julio Jones, because he was that national guy who everybody loved. Did Nick Saban have to do anything special to land Julio Jones? No, not at all. He was in their backyard. Maybe that’s somebody that Dan Mullen does land, a Jacksonville kid or a Tampa kid, Orlando kid, or whatever it may be. You’ve got to have that signature recruit to get you going again. Walter Nolen could be that guy.

David:               He alludes to the fact that you’ve got to have a quarterback. You have to recruit a quarterback every single year. If he had the same attitude of I’ve got to recruit an elite recruit at least every position every year, we’d be fine. It’s really hard to do sometimes, I guess, but elite recruiters recruit elite. Anyway, we did pick up a commit today, by the name of Aaron Gates, a 2023 athlete. I know he’s a three-star right now.

Andrew:           Something like that.

David:               It’s 2023 though. Plenty of time to up that ranking. I don’t think it’s going to get any worse, if you look at his film. Definitely is good to see that we’ve got a 2023 recruit, especially after getting two top 100 kids in that 2023 class. A good start that we have to this class as well. Unfortunately, we did have a good start to the 2022 class in Sam McCall, and you know how that one went. It doesn’t look too bad right now with the guys that we got in there now, with their rankings climbing up. It’s good to get a good start. You always want to get a start with elite recruits, because other elite recruits want to play with other elite recruits.

Andrew:           Aaron Gates is good friends with Chief Borders from last year. Very close with his dad. Big one. Mac Markway is a big one. Raymond Cottrell’s a big one. Both of those guys are two guys that are really good. It’s not to knock on those guys at all. It’s just you still haven’t found your piper of that class, that lead go-getter of that class. Nick Evers is that guy for this class. Maybe he turns out to be that guy that’s that turning point for Dan Mullen, and hopefully it is. You need that guy in the 2023 class. Obviously, it’ll probably be another quarterback, because you recruit a quarterback every year. Like you said, got to find offensive tackle somewhere.

David:               You need to bad.

Andrew:           Right now, you’re dealing with David Conner and Tony Livingston. Livingston is now telling people he wants to be known as a jumbo athlete. Where’s the kid going to play?

David:               Right.

Andrew:           Tight end? You have one offensive tackle in David Conner, and he’s more of a guard right now. We could talk recruiting all day. It’s got to get better. It does. It has to get better. I don’t know that you can continue to say the results are going to make recruiting better, because results are getting better, and unfortunately recruiting hasn’t gotten better.

David:               Look at Miami. Their results never get better, but their recruiting always gets better. How does that work? Same with Kirby Smart, kind of. Kirby Smart’s been to a national championship. I’ll give him that, but what have you seen come better out of Georgia ever since he’s been to the national championship? Nothing. Same record.

Andrew:           I will say this. For Kirby, and this for me is the biggest thing for Kirby, Kirby has decided he is going to dominate the state of Georgia. You look at it. For the most part he does dominate the state of Georgia. Obviously, Alabama gets their guys, and Auburn still lands a few, and Florida’s still landing a few. Clemson still gets a few. For the most part, the top guys, year in and year out, have been going to Georgia. Again, that’s a recipe to win and a recipe to have a really good recruiting class, when you have a state like that. Alabama, obviously, couldn’t rely on it. There’s not enough players. Ohio State couldn’t do it because of Ohio, but you look at Texas, Oklahoma, they could do that. USC, when USC’s really good, they rely on the state of California to dominate. They haven’t done that lately, and guess what? They’ve been terrible.

David:               I guess, to Kirby’s credit, all he really has to compete with is Georgia Tech in Georgia. Who else does he really have to compete with?

Andrew:           Geoff Collins is getting better now.

David:               He is. Ge-off, is that how you say it? Ge-off Collins.

Andrew:           Jeff.

David:               Geoff Collins. Okay. He was only a coach here for so long, and I still didn’t learn how to say his name. He’s gotten that team better. Obviously, changed the triple option there to a pro style offense. That would be something to see Georgia Tech upset Georgia one time.

Andrew:           I’m a big Geoff Collins fan. He reps the 404. I rep the 404.

David:               There you go.

Andrew:           The A Town going on.

David:               Got the A Town shirt on.

Andrew:           Yeah. They have done well. Obviously, again, you’re not competing for the Justin Fields yet, but he’s getting a little bit of competition in. Again, for everything Kirby sucks on the field, he’s really good in recruiting. We’ll hit on this one day. We’ll do a podcast about it. The way Kirby and Nick’s approach to recruiting is just so much different than Dan’s. Is it right? I don’t know. They’re very straightforward and put you on the spot. Is that good? Sometimes not. Is Dan’s approach of being a little bit more lenient and saying, go take visits, good? Sometimes yes. Sometime terrible. There’s arguments both ways.

David:               One last note on the recruiting, I know we’re going to segue into other things here in a second. When Walter Nolen posted his top three, you see Georgia was in there, which really shocked me, because if you look at all the pictures that Walter Nolen was at Georgia, nobody looked like they were happy to be there.

Andrew:           Except for Big Walt.

David:               Well, he had a helmet on though too, so you couldn’t really see if he was smiling or not. Anyway, segueing from that, I know we had some practices, some scrimmages, these past couple of weeks. There’s some standout players in these scrimmages. One of the guys, obviously, that stood out to everybody, who everybody’s talking about, is Demarkcus Bowman. We alluded to that. He had, I think, just about in every practice or scrimmage he’s been in, minus his injury where he was out for while, he’s had a long touchdown run. I know, whether he’s playing with threes or fours, twos or ones, to do that consistently on a long touchdown run, that’s actually really hard to do. I think Demarkcus Bowman’s going to see the field this year. It’s just a matter of how many touches he’s going to get and where it’s going to be at.

Andrew:           The old saying is would you rather him dominate the threes or play down to his competition? Rather him dominate it.

David:               Definitely. Excuse me.

Andrew:           Go ahead. You’re good.

David:               I know Dan Mullen alluded to maybe him playing special teams a little bit with Xzavier Henderson, Fenley Graham there, but you have to put Bowman on the field somehow. You may not even see him the first two games. I’ve thought about this concept as well. Do you really want to give away Bowman as a weapon the first two games, when you got Alabama coming up, and maybe you could sneak him in there, or do you want to give him some playing time? That’s something I’ve questioned a little bit. I’m going to say as a fan, if I don’t see Demarkcus Bowman the first two games, even in garbage time, I’m not going to be upset.

Andrew:           Yeah. Dan Mullen has said multiple times, and I always tell people this. Dan Mullen’s never going to straight up tell you what he wants to tell you. You better read between the lines. Dan Mullen has made too many references out of references about being multiple in running backs on the field. It’s going to happen. Don’t get mad if it don’t happen Week 1 or Week 2, because it may happen Week 3 to be a complete surprise. It wouldn’t shock me at all if it wasn’t Demarkcus Bowman and Dameon Pierce, Demarkcus Bowman and Lorenzo Lingard, or Lingard and Malik Davis, or Nay’Quan Wright. Your running back room is your best room you got. Offensively.

I mean, you have Dameon Pierce, who’s a difference maker. Malik Davis does things differently. Nay’Quan Wright’s kind of a do it all kind of guy. Lingard’s more of a bounce it outside kind of guy, and Bowman’s kind of a do it all guy. You got five guys there. There’s only one ball, so can you get all five of those guys enough reps and games, enough touches to really utilize them, or is it the age old saying where you spread it around so much that the guys don’t get hot? I don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Lorenzo Lingard or Demarkcus Bowman out flex [slot receiver] playing Kadarius Toney’s role. It just wouldn’t. Those are your best athletes.

I was just going to say going with a set, and I’ve thought about this a lot, going with a set of Copeland, Xzavier Henderson, Demarkcus Bowman, Lorenzo Lingard as your four with your tight end, that’s not a bad five, at all.

David:               Not too shabby. No.

Andrew:           A lot of speed.

David:               That’s a good problem to have. All those running backs. I’m sure Dameon Pierce is going to get the start, the #1 running back there. If you look at Dameon Pierce, last year 508 yards rushing in a primary pass offense. Still pretty good. That’s half of a thousand, and you’re not really running the ball. Then you’re switching between Malik Davis and Nay’Quan Wright as well. I actually am really excited for this whole running back room. I really don’t care who sees the field, especially in this new offense, with how they’re going to run it. I think all these running backs bring something different to the table. You got Pierce with his power. Malik Davis you can play slot, who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Nay’Quan Wright is just kind of like that do it all running back. He can do anything. Really, really good in high school as well. I think he was a little underrated in his recruiting rankings.

That running back position is a very interesting position this year. I think we’re going to get a little bit of a sample size in Week 1 and 2. We’re really going to find out Week 3 what these running backs are made of.

Andrew:           You look last year. You were basically 80-20, 85-15 pass to run. If we look at the end of the year, and it’s 60-40 run to pass, I won’t be shocked. That’s what this team is about. That’s what’s scary about this team too, because do you really trust your offensive line in running situations, if you’re 60-40? We’ll see. That is the biggest question this year. Does the offensive line– Go ahead.

David:               I was going to say, teams going to have to account for the run now. If you look at last year with Emory Jones, Emory Jones averaged 6.8 yards rushing the ball last year when he was in the game, and you saw the offensive line kind of meshed a little bit better. Jean Delance, and I know a lot of people don’t like Jean Delance or want to say whatever they want to about him. He’s not the best at a bull rush. He’s not going to guard you at a bull rush.

Andrew:           Right.

David:               He’s going to freak out, and your quarterback’s going to get sacked. But when you’ve got a running quarterback, and the team has to account for running a quarterback, and he’s out there, and he’s doing blocks, and if you’ve seen him do blocks with Emory Jones in the game, he actually did pretty well, because he has that one guy he’s just got to take care of. That’s it. He don’t have to worry about anybody else. I think it makes it a little bit easier on Jean Delance. That’s my opinion.

Andrew:           Will Delance even play? That’s a question that has been out there a little bit. Stewart Reece is working a little bit at right tackle with Josh Braun working at right guard and Kingsley at center, Ethan at left guard, and then Gouraige at left tackle. I said this before. This team will go as far as the offensive line allows it to.

I don’t know that you can scheme around the offensive line with Emory Jones. That’s not me picking on Emory Jones. I think Emory Jones is a really good quarterback, but Emory Jones needs an offensive line to be able to block for him. He’s not your Kyle Trask, where he’s going to be able to drop back and hit five yard passes all day long and nickel and dime you down the field. That’s not Emory Jones’ game. That’s not fair to ask Emory Jones to do that. It’s not fair to ask Anthony Richardson to do that. Anthony Richardson can do that a little better than Emory Jones can, but that’s not his game. I don’t expect Dan Mullen to put in that situation. Mullen does a very good job of working around his quarterback.

This offensive line at some point or another has to take the bull by the horns and say, follow us. We’re going to get you to where it is. Like you said, Alabama Week 3, that’s going to be a test. LaBryan Ray, some of those guys up front, you’re not going to block them by just leaning on them. FAU, you may be able to lean on them and block them. You’re not leaning on Alabama and blocking them. Emory Jones will be on his back before you know it, if that happens.

David:               You’re definitely going to have to scheme around some of the deficiencies there when you come into Week 3. I know that. You mentioned Anthony Richardson. He’s had a good scrimmage. He’s actually, from the reports, he’s done better than Emory Jones. Now, we don’t know what kind of situations Emory Jones was in, according to Anthony Richardson. None of us are allowed to be there. No media members, nothing like that. To see that Anthony Richardson is doing pretty well in these scrimmages is something good to see, especially for a backup quarterback.

Because you got to think too, and I mentioned this, say you go into that first game, FAU, Emory Jones and whoever they have out there on the field. They light them up. 35-0 at halftime. You know you’re going to see Anthony Richardson, right? If we do the projected starters, they’re going to have to face Anthony Richardson, Lingard, Bowman, all those guys down there on the depth chart. It’s just going to be even worse. I mean, that’s a good problem to have, right?

Andrew:           It continues to allow the two quarterback system to happen. We’ve asked Dan Mullen multiple times all fall, is Anthony Richardson going to play more than Emory Jones? Mullen says game situation does, and rightfully so. Mullen goes in with a gameplan, whether we like it or not, where he says, on X series the backup quarterback’s going in. I hated it. I couldn’t stand it, because you would have a drive going, or you’d have a game going where Kyle Trask had back to back good series, and there came Emory. I hated it, but that’s what Mullen’s going to do.

Again, it’s great to see Anthony Richardson doing it. I’ll say this. Anthony Richardson has every bit of the tools to be a starting quarterback and would start for a lot of teams in the SEC, because of how good he is. He has the stature. He has the arm strength. He has the escape ability. He knows the playbook. He’s really, really good. He’s a very good combo with Emory Jones. Everyone wants to have a quarterback controversy. There’s no quarterback controversy. Emory Jones is your starting quarterback. He’s QB1 until he loses the job, and he’s not losing the job before the FAU game, or the Alabama game.

David:               Yeah. We’ll see what happens in that Alabama game, for sure. You’re right. I think Anthony Richardson also brings a different dynamic. He’s the faster runner of the two. Let’s just put that one out there. It’s Emory Jones’ job to lose. If you look at what Emory Jones has done when he’s been put in games, he’s done fairly well. The Oklahoma game you had three days of practice with a bunch of backups, and that just didn’t fair well. You’ve seen some flashes from Emory Jones in the run game and how that offensive line was able to kind of help him with the run game and all that, so we’ll see. There’s no quarterback controversy, nothing like that. I think it’s Emory Jones’ job to lose, and we’ll see. Week 3 or even Week 4, if you’re struggling against Tennessee after Week 3, I think it’s Anthony Richardson time.

Andrew:           You’ll see. We look at the scrimmage, and you see on the opposite side of the ball where a guy like Gervon Dexter and Jeremiah Moon, those two guys have had really good scrimmages. You say, is that the offensive line for Florida being really bad, or is that those two guys being really good? It’s the same old, same old in fall camp. Jason Marshall’s had a couple INTs. Kaiir Elam’s had a couple INTs. Is that Emory and the quarterbacks being really bad, or is that the DBs making good plays on the ball? I don’t know. We’ll see.

See FAU game, because, again, we’re not out there to see it. Even if we were out there to see it, you don’t know which ones bad and which ones good. We all thought last year that Florida’s offense was going to be really, really good, and Florida’s defense was going to be good, because they were getting exposed a little bit in fall camp because of how good Florida’s offense. Well, it turns out that we were both wrong. Florida’s offense was really, really good. Florida’s defense was really, really bad. I throw scrimmages out the door. Obviously, everyone wants to hear about how it’s going, and that’s fine. At the end of the day, it’s what FAU. It what’s shows up at FAU.

You can’t have another Ole Miss, where FAU comes out and scores 50 early on. That happens, we’re going to look at it and say, this defense is trash again. If Florida’s offense comes out and scores three points, we’re going to say, oh my God, this offense is terrible.

David:               I think that first game if FAU just drives it down the field and scores a touchdown, I think you’re going to see a lot of meltdowns right off the bat.

Andrew:           Fire Todd Grantham?

David:               Exactly. I think it’s going to be the same note last year. There was a lot of standouts in scrimmages. Elksnis was one of them too at the tight end spot. Elksnis did actually really good. He got most of the playing time the second scrimmage, because guys were banged up. Obviously, you don’t want guys that are banged up playing any kind of anything in any kind of scrimmage. You want to save them for the first game of the season. Curious to see what happens with that tight end section with Keon Zipperer or Kemore Gamble and those guys as well. Whittemore has even stood out too.

I think that tight end position is really good. I think that we’re not going to have problems at the tight end position. I don’t care what recruiting rankings seem or whatever. I think Gamble has yet to impress me, but I haven’t really seen much of him as well yet. I think the tight end room, especially Keon Zipperer being that #1 tight end coming there out of Lakeland, I think he’s going to add a different dynamic to that offense. He’s just a really big tight end. He’s got speed. He’s not a Kyle Pitts, but nobody’s a Kyle Pitts. The tight end position right now is just one of those other positions that I’m excited for.

You have good things happening in scrimmages. You also have Tre’Vez Johnson taking some spots at safety. You got Trey Dean out there. I think Trey Dean’s going to have a big year. Whether he’s wearing handcuffs or not on his waist, I think he’s going to be pretty good. You also have Diwun Black who’s been spending some time at nickel there. Diwun Black’s one of those guys, really lengthy guy, really good at creating turnovers, if you’ve watched any of his high school films, JuCo film.

I just think that safety position is one of those questions I have on defense. Jason Marshall I think is going to get that starting nod, with Jaydon Hill going down. I know Avery Helm’s been kind of contesting him for that spot, but I think at the end of scrimmages and practices, Jason Marshall’s your cornerback, #2 on that side. Then corner #1, obviously, Kaiir Elam. What do you think about that?

Andrew:           For me, would it shock me if Avery Helm rolls out there for the first play? Not at all.

David:               No.

Andrew:           Would it shock me at the end of the game if Jason Marshall didn’t have the most reps or most plays in the Alabama game? Yeah. It would shock me, because I think he’s better. Now, I say that. If Elijah Blades is healthy, Elijah Blades is a really good player. He just can’t stay healthy. Maybe he comes in and is your guy to really lock it up, and Jason’s able to be that third guy, that first guy off the bench.

Outside of Trey Dean, the safety spot for me is a question mark. Is it Rashad Torrence? Is it Tre’Vez Johnson? Is it even a Donovan McMillon or somebody else? Who is it that steps up to be that guy? I don’t know. Right now, it seems like it’s Rashad Torrence and Tre’Vez Johnson both getting those reps there. Diwun Black’s getting a lot of reps at nickel. Where’s Amari Burney playing? We’ve heard a lot of good stuff about Ty’Ron Hopper and Derek Wingo, opposite of Ventrell Miller. Where does that go?

It’s kind of like the tight end spot. There’s a lot of question marks. Nobody’s taking Kyle Pitts’ spot. Can the group as a whole take Kyle Pitts’ spot? We’ll see. You’re not going to ask Kemore Gamble to do what you did with Kyle Pitts. You’re not going to ask Keon Zipperer to do that. You’re not going to ask Nick to do that. You’re not going to ask Odom to do that. You’re not going to ask any of those guys to do that. How they get involved, we’ll see.

I think there’s a lot of question marks, because there’s some good depth at a lot of places. Who’s that third receiver after Copeland and after Henderson? Is it Trent Whittemore? Ja’markis Weston. We’ve all waited for Ja’markis Weston to finally be that guy. Is it him? Does Rick Wells in his 25th year at the University of Florida become that guy? I say that jokingly, Rick. I’m just kidding with you, buddy. Does he take that step? Does Ja’Quavion Fraziars take that step? Justin Shorter. He had glimpses last year of being really good. Is he that third guy? There’s a lot of depth there that you can say, if this guy develops, he can be really good. That’s a good thing.

In the corner spot, obviously you lose Hill, but you got Perkins from Missouri. You have Blades that came in. You have Jason Marshall. Avery Helm’s finally healthy. Ethan Pouncey’s finally healthy. You have guys there. Now it’s about no experience at the University of Florida there, but they have experience. Can they get in and really mesh with Kaiir Elam? Then furthermore, does Todd Grantham put them in the right position to go make plays?

David:               When you look at the stars on paper, maybe at some positions- except for offensive line, I’m not going to even get into that, but most of the other skill positions, and even at defensive line, if you look at stars, you have high quality high school talent. I love the depth that they have, besides the offensive line, but that’s a different story for a different day. You look at it, you’re right. There’s question marks everywhere, because you don’t know really. You’ve lost so many receivers, and you know who’s going to start with Justin Shorter and Jacob Copeland. It’s an obvious there. Somebody’s wearing a #1 jersey, they’re starting.

Andrew:           Right. Yeah.

David:               Point Blank. Can Justin Shorter hold onto the ball? Can he catch the ball? You’ve seen him on many occasions, he’s been wide open.

Andrew:           Can Copeland hold onto the ball?

David:               Can Copeland hold onto the ball? You’ve got so many things that are just in question. I think overall the team as a whole, I think there’s good depth. He’s done a good job in the portal for this year, and I think he’s done a good job recruiting. I don’t think he’s done a great job. I think the recruiting, as we just discussed, could be better in the state of Florida, but I’m looking forward to this season, especially on defense. I expect the defense to at least be better. It can’t be any worse than 108th in the nation, especially when you’re playing FAU your first game. If it goes that way, then we’re in some deep trouble this year.

Andrew:           I was reading something where they asked Lane Kiffin, do you expect your offense to get worse or your defense to get better? He goes, our defense couldn’t get any worse, so I really hope they get better and our offense stays about the same.

David:               I also saw that Dan Mullen said that we’ve recruited very well at offensive line.

Andrew:           He also said the running game was really good last year. Two things that are highly questionable.

David:               You know what, it’s all sunshine and rainbows when you go to a Dan Mullen press conference. You know that, right?

Andrew:           It’s talking season.

David:               Yes. It’s talking season, as the head ball coach would say.

Andrew:           Like you said, there’s a lot of question marks, and we’ll get into it more on Sunday, as we really kind of dig into the season. We’ll get into FAU a little bit more then. Again, like you said, there’s a lot of reasons to be really optimistic about the season. There’s a lot of question marks. Like I said, we just talked about the depth. The biggest question mark with the depth, there’s a lot of inexperience there. Xzavier Henderson, Jacob Copeland, and Justin Shorter have all played. They haven’t started.

David:               Right.

Andrew:           They haven’t played a ton. We all think Emory Jones is going to be a really good player. He hasn’t started yet. We all think Jason Marshall’s going to be a really good corner. He hasn’t started yet. At the same time, they all had experience. They all perform really well, so there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic. There’s a lot of reason to question it. Again, that’s the reason it’s talking season. That’s the reason these predictions 90% of the time suck. It just is what it is. I saw something with Alabama when they were voted #1 that something like only five of the last 20 preseason #1 teams have played for a national championship. That just tells you everything you need to know.

David:               Especially if you look at average recruit star ranking. I’ll give Bill Sikes a cheap plug here. I think he did like the tally of all the national championship winners. They recruit at like a 4.1 or 4.2 star, if you average it out. That’s a tell-tale sign, but we’ll see. I like where this team’s headed. I like going into Game 1. I’m just curious really to see in Game 1 what they do. Some of the plays that they draw up and see how Emory Jones is. Some quarterbacks are not good practice quarterbacks. Tim Tebow wasn’t a good practice quarterback. I think I talked to Shane Matthews about this. Shane Matthews even said it himself. I wasn’t a good practice quarterback, but when I got out there on the field, he lit it up.

Andrew:           Right.

David:               I’m just curious to see it. I think too many people look into scrimmages, and they get worried. The Earth is falling, something like that. I think the scrimmages aren’t really a tell-tale sign of what’s going to happen, so we’ll see.

Andrew:           I’m interested defensively. I’m interested to see what impact Wesley McGriff puts on this defense. I expect Wesley McGriff and his secondary to be much more physical, much more engaged at the line of scrimmage. I expect all that. Again, we’ll see. Where does his philosophy and Todd Grantham’s philosophies meet together?

Jeremiah Moon’s another guy. We forget how good Jeremiah Moon can be. He’s been hurt the last two years. Jeremiah Moon can be really, really good. He just has to be healthy. We forget how good Zach Carter was at the end of the year last year. Zach Carter, in my opinion, has the best chance to put a Kadarius Toney on tape, and I say that in jumping to that first round. It would not shock me at all if we’re talking at this time next year and say Zach Carter’s a first rounder for somebody. I just wouldn’t shock me. He has that ability. He has that ability to really jump up.

Jacob Copeland has the ability. Jacob Copeland has the ability to be the best wide receiver in the SEC. There’s nobody that can tell me any different. I’ve seen it. I know the guy has the talent to be that guy. Lingard and Bowman, they can be the best backs in the SEC without a doubt. Do they get enough touches?

David:               Yeah. We’ll see how many touches they get this whole year. Hopefully it’s more than 25.

Andrew:           David, we’ll wrap this up. It’s been a good one. Been a good first episode. Hope everybody enjoyed it. We’re going to bring on guests. We’ll continue critiquing and getting this thing better. Excited to have David join us at Gator Country. We’ve been looking for that guy to help us, and we got him. We’re excited to do this podcast. We’re going to preview. We’re going to recap and have a little fun with it. Like I said, we’ll get some guests on. If you got anybody that you want us to bring on, let us know. We’ll bring them on. Got any tips for the podcast, let us know. We’ll be doing that. Hopefully, eventually we’ll be able to do this a little bit live and get some people involved as well. Make sure to check us out. Stay tuned.

David:               If you’re going to any tailgates out there, do not bring crates out there. I don’t want to see any crates at the tailgates out there.

Andrew:           Good news is Scott Stricklin is not making you get a vaccine or a negative test. I don’t know. We’re not turning this into political. I honest to God don’t care which way you’re leaning. I’m just telling you right now Scott Stricklin says he doesn’t have the legal power to do it. LSU’s doing it. Florida’s not.

David:               Don’t send me a bad DM for reporting that. All I had to do was report it. I have to be the bearer of bad news sometimes. I’m sorry.

Andrew:           That’s it. I don’t care if you have the vaccine. I don’t care.

David:               Absolutely. I’m definitely excited to be here at Gator Country. I hope there’s many podcasts to come, and hopefully it’s endless podcasts for years to come. That’ll do it. That’ll wrap it up for the GatorCountry.com podcast. You can follow me @SoderquistGC on Twitter, and you can follow Andrew Spivey @AndrewSpiveyGC as well. That’ll wrap it up for this episode of the GatorCountry.com podcast.

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.