Podcast: Recapping early signing for the Florida Gators

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap early signing day for the Florida Gators.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre breakdown how the Gators did on Wednesday as they signed 20 prospects for the 2019 class.

Andrew and Nick also breakdown some of the biggest needs for the Gators moving forward as some names to watch in January and February.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, early Signing Day has came and gone, and good day for the Gators overall. They go out, and they sign 20 prospects. Still have one unsigned in Diwun Black, who will sign in February, as Florida will kind of take a look at academics and that kind of stuff. We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

Did pick up the three guys on Signing Day, the three Lakeland guys, but as you and I have talked about off the air and stuff, you had 17 really good commits sign on Signing Day, and had 20 guys. Outside of a couple of guys, you really weren’t in the mix to sign anyone. Kind of your big fish, that I would say, was Chris Steele, and everyone knew he was going to sign, but he wasn’t going to announce a decision until January. I think you still have to remember that in January. If Chris Steele wants to go to Florida or wherever he goes, that was still a guy you were supposed to get on Signing Day.

Nick:                         That always happens, across the country. It’s so exciting when somebody commits in March for the next class, and then they’re forgotten about. I think people want the big Signing Day fireworks and kind of forget about you had 17 kids who had already committed, and you liked them when they committed. Just because there wasn’t any drama doesn’t make them a worse player.

Andrew:                 I mean, you look at Bama’s class. They get Sanders and Neal and Jordan Battle, and, I mean, that’s three monster guys, but they get the same amount of guys. Everyone’s whooping and hollering about how great Alabama did on Signing Day. They didn’t do more on Signing Day than Florida. I mean, they have a better class, but we can debate that all day. Still, I think that you have to remember, and you look at two weeks ago when Florida picked up Michael Tarquin and picked up Kingsley, you picked up two really good players in back to back days that could have very well waited till Signing Day if you really needed that big splash on Signing Day. That would have been great, but, again, I didn’t get the overall segment that some people were upset that they didn’t have a great Signing Day, when you signed 20 really good prospects.

Nick:                         Alabama, they’re just ridiculous. They signed 25.

Andrew:                 And they’re not done.

Nick:                         24 or those 25 were four or five-stars.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         The one prospect that was a three-star is the #1 kicker in the country.

Andrew:                 Every year, Nick …

Nick:                         People were talking about this is Saban’s best recruiting class.

Andrew:                 We get that every year. That’s what I was going to say. We get that every year. Is this Saban’s best recruiting class? Jeez. How many best recruiting? Does he just set a new record every year? I mean, you get Sanders and Neal, and that was monstrous.

Let’s talk about that, Nick. Let’s talk about the Lakeland guys real quick. They go out. They get those three guys. I know what Keon Zipperer said, and I know what Lloyd Summerall said. Lloyd was honest, and I think Keon was honest as well, but Lloyd said he didn’t commit to the staff until Monday of this week. Then you had Zipperer, who said, “I told Coach Mullen on the official visit, but he kept it quiet.” I think there’s a little bit of, not dishonesty there, because they were both honest there, but it definitely wasn’t over for Keon Zipperer back when he took his official visit. He still went on that Miami visit, and there was still a lot of work that had to be done by Florida and Larry Scott.

You and I talked about this the other day. With Lloyd Summerall and Keon Zipperer, guys that were can’t miss guys, like if you miss those guys your class was terrible or anything like that? Absolutely not. But from a perception standpoint, landing those three guys at Lakeland was monstrous for Dan Mullen and his staff. It was just it had to happen. That would be like missing on Marco Wilson a few years ago. It had to happen. That is supposed to be your home in Lakeland.

Nick:                         Yeah. We had talked about on the podcast before, like almost feel better about losing a kid from Lakeland, to Florida, you don’t want Miami to start creeping up and taking those prospects, but those three were huge. That was, I don’t even think it was tense. I mean, once the first one happened, I thought, oh, they’re going to get all three of these kids right now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, if you follow Gator Country you’d have known that they were going to get all of them, but, you know, Nick. You should have followed my work a little bit more.

Nick:                         Yeah. I mean, Polk County, Florida has a strong presence there. They’re going to want to stay in that school, because there’s a great running back to go and get. To me, I thought the class overall was really good. The Lakeland kids, that’s, I think, an interesting recruiting pitch that probably only two coaches in the entire country could have made, in Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen, to those Lakeland kids. Hey, the last time we had a group of y’all come to our school was in 2007. Those guys had won three state championships at Lakeland, and they came here, and they helped us win another championship. Look, we’re in the New Year’s Six bowl right now. You guys just won a championship. Come and do that again.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. Really that process started, I would say it got really, really intense for Florida, as far as their recruitment of those two guys, during Friday Night Lights and in the summertime, after Lloyd transferred to Lakeland. It was a situation where Megan Mullen, and this was still a little bit new, her being around, that kind of stuff, but it was then that I really took notice, Nick, of how involved she was in recruiting and recruiting guys and parents and that kind of stuff. She spent a lot of time during Friday Night Lights with Lloyd and with Keon, both of those guys. Those guys didn’t work out, and they were just all around her and talking to her. That was a big moment for them, and it really stuck out. That’s probably what ended up winning it for Florida was his relationship with Mullen and Miss Mullen and those guys around the staff.

Again, it’s like I said, it’s perception. Then it’s what you said, next year they got one of the best running backs in the country in Demarkcus Bowman. Florida’s going to want to go get him, especially after missing on Trey Sanders. You want to go get that. Guess what? Three of his buddies are there. He’s going to be a frequent visitor to Gainesville. We all know what that means. Frequent visitor to Gainesville means more chances for the staff to sell him on the program.

Nick:                         Hey, buddy. They’re all friends. Come see me play this week. Come watch practice. Just come and hang out. I mean, Lakeland is about a two-hour drive. Come and hang out this weekend.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. That’s a big deal. Again, it was such a huge win for Florida. I guess, let’s talk, Nick, now about the miss in Trey Sanders. I said this to someone. I don’t mean this to sound bad towards the staff or towards anyone, so when I say this I want to keep it in context here a little bit. Had Florida not had Umstead on campus, I don’t even know if this recruitment involves Florida towards the end. It was just Florida took a chance. They took his brother, and I think his brother ended up being okay this year on special teams and that kind of stuff.

It was a situation where Florida was battling so far uphill, because of the relationship he had with Alabama for so long. I mean, he was committed there as a freshman. His parents were very comfortable. There’s been zero change with Nick Saban there. I just think it was such a big uphill battle. Florida being there at the final four was great and all, and, listen, there is zero credit, zero wins you take away from being second in anybody’s recruitment. I mean, you’re last. You don’t get the kid. Just to have Umstead on campus helped them at least get a visit and at least be in the mix of things.

I never really got the sense at any point in his recruitment, Nick, that he was leaning towards Florida. That’s no disrespect to the staff. I’m not trying to say anything bad about the staff. I’m just saying Florida missed on him on Signing Day, but I don’t know if they missed on him, because I don’t know if they were ever really truly in the mix for him. I never got a vibe, and I never had anyone just straight up tell me, Florida is going to get Trey Sanders.

Nick:                         No. That was part of it. I think, I guess this is before the Lakeland kids. It was when Siaki Ika, make sure I pronounce that, when he chose LSU, and I understand because he was on campus last week the excitement, but Florida recruited him for what? 17 days?

Andrew:                 Yeah. We’ll hit on him in a second. I just wanted to kind of finish that with Trey. Like you were getting at, having his brother on campus was great and all, but at the end of the day, dad was the one really running Trey’s recruitment, and dad and Florida never got together. His dad is an FSU fan, and that didn’t help. It just, I get the point that people are upset they missed on Trey Sanders, and he’s an instate guy. I get that. Florida shouldn’t be losing those guys. In order to become a top program, like an Alabama or Georgia that’s competing to go to the playoff every year, they’ve got to start landing guys like Trey Sanders, guys like Evan Neal. I’m just saying that Florida was working so far behind there that they never gained momentum. The previous staff had zero relationship or ties or anything with Trey, so Trey wasn’t even around Florida that much.

Nick:                         Right. Well, the point I was making with Siaki and then with Trey is that it’s just, back to what we touched on before, that perception. I think if people are listening to you, then maybe you’re not holding your breath. You’re not getting your hopes up for Trey. If you go into it with the right mindset of he’d be nice, but we already have a great class, and like you just said, if you have the knowledge, and if you’re reading the things that you’re writing, you have the knowledge of it would be awesome if Trey came. It would unexpected. That would be awesome, but that doesn’t ruin the class. I don’t think it’s a huge miss, because of those things you just said. They were fighting an uphill battle, because of what they were left and what they had to work with, with the last staff and the relationship.

Andrew:                 Exactly. We’ll go to Siaki now. First of all, again, there is no wins in recruiting. You either win it, or you don’t get. You don’t get points. You don’t get credit. Nothing for that. Guess what? You’re still going to have to play the kids. For Florida just to be in the mix have it come down to literally the 15 minutes before Siaki announced on Wednesday, just for Florida to be in that conversation, to me, says enough about Mullen and his staff to know that once they build relationships with guys they are going to be just fine.

I know some people say, he was all LSU, but he wasn’t all LSU. Nick, I was texting you beforehand, and you’re my witness on this. He still hadn’t told the coaching staff. His brother’s sitting her telling me it’s still 50/50. We went to sleep disagree on where we were going to go, because they were doing it as a family. Different things. There’s even the report out that Florida had more points on their scale than LSU did. It was just simply LSU had the longer relationship with them. They had been to Baton Rouge more, that kind of stuff. For me, just to say that they were in the mix for a guy that they really had on campus one week and hadn’t been fully, I mean, they’ve been talking to him a little bit off and on, but fully recruiting for a couple weeks now. Just, to me, says enough about this staff to say, okay, once they start getting relationships, they’re going to be okay.

Nick:                         Yup. We talk about that. Shoot. We talked about that until we’re blue in the face, about relationships. You hit the nail on the head right there. The relationship that Trey Sanders had with Alabama goes back to his freshman year. Trey Sanders was never going to go to Mississippi State, so that’s a guy that Mullen and his staff probably sent him some information, sent him some nice letters, but don’t really go after him, because that’s not a Mississippi, Trey Sanders was not a Mississippi State player.

Andrew:                 First of all, how proud are you that I can say Siaki?

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s fantastic. We’ll spend the rest of the podcast with Andrew just saying Siaki.

Andrew:                 I like that name.

Nick:                         Over and over and over again.

Andrew:                 I was getting excited to saying Siaki’s name. My first pick of the game is going to be Siaki. I was going to get some Siaki sacks, but he’s going to LSU.

Nick:                         I was going to say, Andrew, he’s redshirting. I don’t care. I just wanted to say it.

Andrew:                 Stephen A Smith gets paid millions of dollars to pick guys that aren’t even going to play.

Nick:                         That’s a mystery to me.

Andrew:                 Why can’t I? So, I mean, that was there. For me, Nick, and this is going to sound crazy when I say this, because it was expected but unexpected with Derick Hunter. Anybody who’s followed his recruitment, Nick, knew he was going to pull some kind of shenaz out on Signing Day that expected, and he did. He did. On Tuesday he was going to Miami at one point. He was going to Florida at one point. He was going to Texas A&M at one point. He had told all those schools no, yes, no, yes, multiple times. Went to bed saying he was going to Miami, according to people around him. Woke up going back to Texas A&M. No surprise to Derick Hunter.

Now, that was a guy that I think that if you want to point at one guy that you said Florida should have gotten him, it would have been Derick Hunter. Now, knowing Derick Hunter’s recruitment, who knew what he was going to do? I mean, he was committed to FSU, and he had a top three that didn’t FSU in it. That’s Derick Hunter’s recruitment. It’s a miss for Florida simply because he was a very good defensive end prospect, and he admitted before that he had the best relationship with Sal Sunseri, and they just, dad wanted him to go to A&M, and dad wasn’t in favor of Florida. He went to A&M.

That would be the one, Nick, out of yesterday’s announcements on Wednesday, that I would say probably hurt the most. But knowing his recruitment, who knew what to expect?

Nick:                         Yeah. You don’t like to see a kid from Fort Myers, a kid that you’re going to go after, a kid that you really like, you don’t like to see them go out of state, especially to an SEC school.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Not one that you’re going to be playing anytime soon, but you don’t like to see him go to an SEC school. There was another kid, just on Thursday, FSU lost another one. What’s his name? Putnam.

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Will Putnam. From Tampa Plant. He goes up and goes to Clemson. Clemson’s done a really good job in that Tampa area. I think that’s something Dan Mullen, when you start talking about not just competing in the SEC, but competing nationally, I think that’s something Mullen and the staff will look and be like, how do we get Clemson out of Tampa? Because we need to be in Tampa.

Andrew:                 Right. We’ll talk about that here in a second with that. Putnam was a guy that Hevesy wasn’t high on, but FSU missed on him, because it was kind of FSU, Auburn, and Clemson. They missed on him. I mean, like I said with Hunter, if you’re going to point to one guy that you thought Florida needed to get on Signing Day that they had the best shot with, it was Hunter, and he didn’t go.

They missed on Brandon Dorlus. He went to Oregon. Florida recruited him for about a month really, and he went to Oregon. They kind of got beat there on those defensive linemen. I just wanted to focus on Trey more than anything, just because of that relationship there.

We’ll go into your point, Nick. It’s starting to lock down those areas that are Gator friendly. For me, Nick, and you can correct me if you think differently here, but for me there’s three major points in the state. That’s Jacksonville, the Orlando area, and Tampa. Those are the three areas that Florida has to lock down that are Gator friendly areas. South Florida, nobody’s going to lock down South Florida. Everybody in the country recruits South Florida. You would like to see Florida, Florida State, and Miami split those guys. You and I both know that’s never going to happen. Alabama has got such a strong hold down there and everything else. For me, Nick, it’s Jacksonville, that Orlando area, and I include Lakeland in that Orlando area, that corridor area down there, and then the Tampa area.

Nick:                         Yeah. That whole, it’s like that I-4 belt all the way through Central Florida. Mullen said, basically, you put a dot on a map in Gainesville, and you draw a five-hour to six-hour radius. I mean, that dips into some parts of Tennessee.

Andrew:                 Right. Atlanta.

Nick:                         Yeah. Atlanta is four hours from Gainesville, so Atlanta, that whole area, that South Georgia. They have a bunch of kids from South Georgia. Trey Dean, they got him last year.

Andrew:                 Damien Pierce.

Nick:                         Jaelin Humphries, someone who I’m really excited to see. He’s from Lawrenceville. Another one from Alpharetta in Jaden Hill. Sorry, in Tyron Hopper. To me, yeah, that’s nice. You want to go to South Georgia and dip into Alabama and those schools, but like you said, there’s so much talent in the state of Florida and concentrated in Jacksonville, in South Florida, in Central Florida, and West Florida in Tampa and Lakeland.

Andrew:                 Right. For me, Nick, I say this, and I’ve been very vocal on this. I want to say, you have to focus on the state of Florida and concentrate your efforts on the state of Florida. I get that, and you should. Next year those three areas, mainly that we just talked about, are absolutely filthy rich with talent. You got two DBs at Jacksonville Trinity Christian in Fred Davis and Miles Brook who are borderline, and I think Fred is already a five-star. They’ll be top 100 kids. You got Demarkcus Bowman at Lakeland, like we talked about. You have those guys in those Gator rich territories that are big-time players next year.

For me, Nick, and I like what Dan says about that six-hour radius there, but I also, and we’ll see what happens with Chris Steele. We’ll see what happens with some other guys. You see Jalon Jones from Richmond, Virginia. When Florida is at the best, they’re able to recruit the top of the top nationally. You look at what Michigan does. They go out, and they recruited the kid from Oklahoma. #1 safety in the country, Dax Hill. You look what Bama does. We just talked about it. They go into South Florida and pick who they want. They go to Texas.

When Florida is at the top of the echelon of football programs, they’re recruiting nationally. Again, it’s recruiting the state of Florida and getting top players there, and then it’s cherry-picking the rest of the nation to pick out some guys. For me, I’m still cool with that. I know some people are like, don’t recruit California. Listen, you have so many days to recruit. You’re not wasting time recruiting those guys. The biggest difference that they have to do better, I think, next year and in years to come is when they miss on a guy, like a Chris Steele the first time. Have a good backup plan in the state. They have to have backup plans.

Again, I say focus on the state of Florida, but also be ready to cherry-pick the rest of the country for the top of the top.

Nick:                         I think the biggest misconception is you’re wasting time. Talking to Chris Steele, or talking to a player from California, it doesn’t mean you’re talking to a guy in Tampa less.

Andrew:                 Right. I mean, let’s just talk about this recruiting period that just ended. They had three weeks where all the coaching staff was on the road. Where would Charlton Warren have been had he not made that trip to California to see Chris Steele? I mean, you know what I’m saying? Okay. Yeah, he wasted a day going out there to see him. Who cares? Okay. He goes to Georgia and recruits somebody. Who cares? There’s other prospects there. You wasted a day. You waste 30 minutes of your phone call. Have backup plans, that kind of stuff, but you have to still be able to cherry-pick the rest of the country when that Gator brand is popular and up in the top of the top of the country.

Nick, I think you will agree with me here. You’re never going to be able to just lock down the state of Florida and get every top prospect there. Other schools are coming. That’s the same way with every other state. No school is going to ever be able to lock down the state and get it. You look at Georgia. Georgia lost good players everywhere.

Nick:                         Agree with you 100% on all that. I mean, you could annoy a kid, like our fans don’t want me to go to California, so I’m going to be at your house for the next four days.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Hey, Kaiir Elam, I’m going to be at your house every day, because they told me I couldn’t go recruit Chris Steele. Okay.

Nick:                         We’re actually neighbors. We bought the house next to you.

Andrew:                 I can’t come to your house, but I’m going to need you to go to the mailbox every day, and we’ll have a good conversation at the mailbox while we’re checking our mail. Throw the newspaper out there, and make Elam step over to your driveway and have a conversation over there.

Again, recruit the state of Florida. There’s zero question marks for me about it. I mean, the state of Florida, year in and year out, has up there with California and Texas as the most prospects that go D1 and most prospects that go in the NFL and that kind of stuff. So, you got to lock down that area, and you’ve got to lock down that Gator rich territories. You have to get Ohio State out of Jacksonville. You’ve got to get Clemson out of Tampa. You’ve got to get the other schools out of the Orlando area as well and keep them away. If you lose a Central Florida kid to Miami, you say okay. If you lose a Central Florida kid to Georgia, you get pissed off.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s true. Probably just pissed off no matter what.

Andrew:                 I mean, you’re pissed off no matter what, but I’m saying it’s not okay to lose them to Miami or Florida State, but you’ve got to get these other out of state schools out of there and do that. Some people have said the staff has some weak links. Every staff has weak links, Nick. Every staff has weak links. Now, is there some guys on this coaching staff that need to step it up a little bit? Absolutely. 100%.

Some people are upset about Billy Gonzales with his receiver recruitment. Look what he did last year. Okay? Does he need to get better in 2020 and get better players? Absolutely. But that wasn’t a position of need. Sal Sunseri is the same way. He has a position of need. He’s going to have his work cut out for him in February. There’s some guys that have got to improve. It’s still Year 1. They’ve still got to make those relationships in the state of Florida, like you said. A lot of those guys in the state of Florida weren’t going to Mississippi State. They’re playing from behind. 2020, 2021, you got to start throwing that card out, because you’ve had a year. You’ve got to make up time.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s a built-in excuse really with any coach that comes in.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         But, like you said, 2021. The class is really strong in 2020, and they’ve already started the 2021 class, so those excuses aren’t there anymore, because now you’ve had, at that point, two and three years to build those relationships and to get on the same level as a Kirby Smart, who’s been at Georgia for three years, and Nick Saban, who’s been at Alabama ever since he lied to the Dolphins.

Andrew:                 Again, Nick, I say this, and we always talk about how one game can do this or do that. I’m not a big believer in that one game will sway a kid or anything like that, but I do believe in seasons. Florida had a successful good football season this year, and that should end up playing a big part for things. Look what it’s done in the underclassman classes, the 2021 class and the 2020 class. Those are big. You’ve got to build on that and take that momentum that you have as well and start building into that 2020 class, that 2021 class, and go in there and do it.

You go into that Michigan game in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and get some momentum there to hope to finish out this 2019 class strong. That’s kind of where I wanted to go next, Nick. Dan Mullen said it on Wednesday in his press conference. Defensive line and secondary. Those are the two biggest things that this staff has got to do till February. I’ll ask you, who follows the team much, much closer than I do, would you agree with Mullen that that’s the focus, or the need I guess, after you’ve looked at what’s on paper and then what you saw last year from the team?

Nick:                         Yeah. I think right now, to me the biggest concern would be that interior defensive line.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I mean, you’ve got a couple. You’ve got five linebackers already signed. Those are a couple bucks. You need to sign a big linebacker class, because you’re going to lose Vosean Joseph and David Reese.

Andrew:                 Next year.

Nick:                         Next year. After next season. Then at that point, James Houston is a redshirt junior.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         So, you needed to have a big class. You need to refill that buck position, because I do think you’re going to lose Jachai Polite. What’s Jeremiah Moon? He’s going to be a redshirt?

Andrew:                 Junior.

Nick:                         Junior? I thought that was a big position of need, and they needed to hit, and they did. To me, it’s defensive tackle. You look at the defensive line. You got Jalen Humphries. He’s a great prospect, great player, but that’s it. You miss on …

Andrew:                 He’s got a knee injury too that he’s still coming back from.

Nick:                         Yeah. I mean, you’re still going to have guys at defensive tackle, but you need to get depth. You need to get, in my opinion, if you get three, I don’t think three is too much. Sign three in February. You’ve got to figure out a way to get that depth, and not just depth, but to get some talent on the interior defensive line.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think, and you and I have talked about this, and I don’t want to get too much into it and away from things, but the Conliffes of the world, the Kyrie Campbells of the world, haven’t performed to the best. That’s nothing against those guys. They just haven’t. So, there’s competition there. I would agree with you, Nick. You got some defensive ends there, and I think you can still get another one in the class as well, but if you’re able to go out and really sign that monster D tackle guy, like a Nathan Pickering, that’s where things could improve for Florida and get better there. That, to me, is a big key.

Then I say this, and I mean no bad feelings towards anyone, but Florida needs depth. You cannot go into playing Georgia again with CJ McWilliams as the starting cornerback.

Nick:                         No.

Andrew:                 That’s bad to say, and I hate to say it. I hate to call anyone out, but it is what it is. So far, you’ve signed Jaden Hill, and you signed Chester Kimbrough. You got some other guys out there, and I’ll run through those guys real quick here. These are four guys that have said either they will visit, or a guy like Chris Steele, who is going to announce the decision soon and early enroll. You got Chris Steele out there. I still really like Florida’s chances over Oregon there. You have Elam, Kaiir Elam. He’s a guy who’s going to visit in January. It’s them or Georgia.

Then you have two Florida State commits, Travis Jay and Akeem Dent, two guys that have been long commits to FSU that have said they’re going to visit, or may visit. Excuse me. That would be key, especially with Jay, who’s a safety. I think, Nick, that while they need another corner to two in the class, they also need a safety in this class. Really, Nick, outside of Brad Stewart, safety play was bad last year.

Nick:                         Yeah. Brad Stewart losing time towards the end of the year.

Andrew:                 After the suspension.

Nick:                         Yeah. I don’t really know. I mean, you’re going to get Jaewon Taylor back, but, no, I agree with you. You need to go back and to hit that safety spot, especially when you look at kind of how the defensive backfield, or sorry, the secondary was hit with injuries this year. You got to think, shoot, if that happens again next year, who’s playing?

Andrew:                 Right. I mean, I said this too, and I want to see a healthy Shawn Davis.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 I do. I want to see a healthy Shawn Davis, see what he can do when healthy as well. I had high hopes for him heading into the season, so I want to see a healthy Shawn Davis. That’s a big key for me, Nick, is signing a safety.

Then I wanted to run through those defensive line targets real quick here. Quashon Fuller is an FSU commit. Going to visit in January. Two Mississippi State commits to watch, Nathan Pickering that we’ve talked about, and another guy who hasn’t visited yet but is thinking about visiting in January is Charles Moore, another defensive tackle commit. Then an Alabama commit in Byron Young. Didn’t sign on Wednesday. He’s worried about all the numbers. I mean, Alabama has a humongous defensive line class, and he already visited Florida on an official, so Florida needs to get him back on unofficial.

Then a guy who’s a late rising guy who’s more of a basketball guy but is a good player who had a really good senior year is Smith Gilbert. Has a top four of Penn State, Florida, Syracuse, and Oregon. Going to visit Florida on January 11th. That’s a big one as well.

Again, I say this, I say those names. There’s going to be more names pop up. Did last year. Will this year. Will next year. Will the year after that. Will do it forever and ever. Just always is. With this early signing period, guys start looking at more guys. Guys start looking at guys who didn’t sign early, that kind of stuff, so you’ll see plenty of new names pop up on the board. Some will visit, some won’t. Again, I like your point, Nick, and say I think those guys will be defensive tackles, and it will be guys that are defensive backs that are either corners or safeties.

Nick:                         Got to go after a few. I mean, this class right now is at 20, so the spots are limited. The good thing is everyone is kind of in that limited spots, but go after it.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. I mean, there is some talk that Florida could possibly go over 20. We’ll see if that happens. Again, you got to start getting some guys on.

I have to mention one more name, Nick, and it’s a guy on the offensive side of the ball that maybe, it’s a receiver, athlete, really good player. Mark-Antony Richards, Nick. He’s a guy that has been on the board. Has been one of Florida’s top targets. Dan Mullen loves Mark-Antony Richards and is a guy that’s going to visit in January. Florida, Auburn, Miami battle there. So, huge name there. Huge player that Dan Mullen wants. A guy Florida has really gained momentum with, kind of that Kadarius Toney guy that’s just an athlete, play anywhere you want him to.

Nick:                         Shoot. Kadarius Toney. Where has time gone with him? He’s going to be gone soon.

Andrew:                 Yeah. You’ve got to start replacing. You and I, Nick, we know, we’ve watched it growing up, and when we were watching Urban and everything else, and that is Florida and Dan Mullen like those athletes that can play anywhere.

Nick:                         Yeah. That would be one to me that’s interesting, an athlete not in the same mold as a Kadarius Toney, but Trent Whittemore. Right here, from Gainesville. He’s played everything. Not just played every position in football, but played basketball, played baseball. Maybe wrestled. I mean, shoot, he does everything.

Andrew:                 He might even be swimming.

Nick:                         One thing Dan Mullen said yesterday that I really hadn’t considered about, because Whittemore is a big kid, 6’3”, 187 pounds, but he said he loves that he plays that many sports. He said, but because of that, he’s never really lifted weights seriously. Like Florida, the football team, once the off season starts, that’s their building phase. That’s where they’re putting on muscle and losing fat and getting bigger and getting stronger. When you’re in season, you’re in a maintaining phase. Whittemore doesn’t have an off season. Football ends and basketball goes on. Then basketball ends, and baseball starts. When baseball ends, it’s back to football season. So, he’s never really had that. He’s somebody I’d be interested to see where he fits. Is he going to be on offense? Is he going to be on defense? What’s he going to look like after three months with Nick Savage?

Andrew:                 That’s a good point, for real. A guy for me though, Nick, and we’re talking about guys that I’m eager to see. I’m eager to see what Zipperer does as that H-back. I just don’t think Florida has one on that roster. I could be wrong, Nick, and you may disagree with me there. I don’t think they have a true H-back that they can use. For all the stuff aside, and RIP, but they haven’t had a guy like Aaron Hernandez that was that H-back that was a true guy that could just catch the ball and go inside the tackle box and outside the tackle box.

Nick:                         I was talking with Tate Casey, and he said he thinks he is perfect. He thinks that Keon Zipperer is perfect skillset wise for this offense.

Andrew:                 I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. I think that that’s a guy that when you’re looking at seeing a guy who can really do everything it’s Keon Zipperer there. We’ll break this down a lot more, guys on each side of the ball that we’re looking forward to seeing and that kind of stuff. I wanted to kind of hit around some teams around the country, especially in state of Florida. Florida State, what are you doing? Lose your quarterback. You lose Derick Hunter. Willie Taggert is over her promising #1 class and loses Will Putnam. What are you doing?

Nick:                         I guess the recruiting was lethally simple as well.

Andrew:                 I guess so. I mean, no bowl game for them. You get all that, and you still can’t make that happen. What are you doing up there?

Nick:                         It’s a rough time out West.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Then down south in Miami. What are you doing? What are you doing, Mark?

Nick:                         Losing a quarterback.

Andrew:                 Losing your quarterback. You wasted all that time in Lakeland that you were bragging about, talking about how this was a great day.

Nick:                         Love recruiting Lakeland. Not anymore.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Not no more. You do all that, and it’s kind of like, what are you doing? What are you doing over there, Mark? Then, Nick, the guy who almost was the football coach of the University of Florida, Chip Kelly not ranked in the team rankings.

Nick:                         Is that good?

Andrew:                 It’s not very good. One ESPN top 300 kid.

Nick:                         There’s going to be some buyer’s remorse out West, I feel.

Andrew:                 Out West as in Tallahassee?

Nick:                         No. Well, yes. But I meant way out West in UCLA.

Andrew:                 I was going to say. Yeah. You look at that, and, man, that’s some bad things that’s going on around the country, for sure. Alabama does well. Auburn does well. Georgia does well. Tennessee had a pretty good bounce back class as well. A lot of good things there.

Nick, I wanted to get one final thought in real quick, before we kind of move on here. That is while the recruiting is over with for right now, and they’re focused on the bowl game, these guys are also looking at that transfer market.

Nick:                         Yeah. It’s open season right now.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Open season. Go get them. My favorite player, Nick, Justin Fields. Back on the market.

Nick:                         That was so interesting to me, the way that Kirby said it yesterday. It was like he plans on being here and playing in the Sugar Bowl and practicing, while also seeing where else he can go.

Andrew:                 He’s not fully invested in his program.

Nick:                         To me, listen, Justin Fields is a good kid. We both talked to him multiple times throughout his recruiting process. He’s a good kid. To me, if you’re going to leave, just leave.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s kind of my thing too, Nick. I think Kirby is in an interesting situation here a little bit too, because do you tell him, leave? Do you force his hand a little bit here and say, I don’t want you around my program, leave? How do you handle that if you’re Kirby Smart? I think he’s in an interesting predicament as well.

Nick:                         Yeah. Stop signing the best quarterback in every class.

Andrew:                 Well. You got to be able to deal with it like old Nicky does in T-Town. Any final thoughts, Nick, before we get out of here? This will be our last podcast before the holidays. We do hope everyone has a good holiday. Nick, you’ll be arriving in Atlanta a little before I will. Then I’ll be following you up. Be up in Atlanta, then I’ll be heading down to Under Armour for the Under Armour game on the 30th, or for practice. I’ll be heading down there for the first day of practice on that 30th. We’ll be having live updates there. Zipperer, Summerall, Hammond, Elam. There’s a couple other guys that are down there in that game. We’ll be heading down there doing all that. We’ll be having coverage of both going on.

Nick:                         Yeah. Be back to back. Michigan has, I think, three players out now. Their best running back, Higdon, isn’t playing. That adds to their two best defensive players not playing in the bowl game, so not a lot of room to lose this game and have any kind of excuse right now, when you’re looking at a team that’s going to be without three of their best players.

Andrew:                 Time to go up there and put a foot on the throat and get a win.

Nick:                         Yup.

Andrew:                 Anyway, Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here, and we’ll see everyone after Christmas. Again, happy holidays, everyone.

Nick:                         Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. Follow us. We’ll have a bunch of news and a bunch of stuff coming out throughout the next, as you’re listening to this, eight days until the bowl game. Another Signing Day around the corner.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Give me a break, Nick. I need a little bit here.

Nick:                         You can relax in February.

Andrew:                 There you go. Baseball season is back.

Nick:                         Soon.

Andrew:                 Tell everybody where they can find us.

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

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it. We appreciate everyone coming to the site, checking us out. If you haven’t signed up yet, let one of us know. We can probably hook you up with a good deal. Come join us, and we’ll be back and see everyone in Atlanta. Nick, I know some people are asking about meeting up with us in Atlanta. We’ll figure something out with that and get that to you guys. As always, guys, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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