GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap week one of fall camp for the Florida Gators.
Andrew and Nick de la Torre go position by position to break down who is doing well for the Gators and what the position battles to watch.
Andrew and Nick talk about the quarterback battle and who they think is leading the charge right now.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, about a week now into fall camp, give or take a day here. You had the first open practice on Saturday. Gators will scrimmage on Monday night. We’re taping this on Sunday, so when you guys are listening to it, tonight they’ll be scrimmaging. A lot of people, a lot of coaches, will say the first scrimmage is one of the biggest scrimmages of camp, because they want to kind of see how guys have developed from the spring game, how they’ve taken everything in. Just really how they’re going to handle that pressure cooker situation in Scrimmage 1. We’ll get onto that when that happens.
Nick, just what were your first impressions of practice on Saturday?
Nick: Well, we were the envy of all the other sports writers, because we got the entire practice open. I mean, our boy Trey, up in Knoxville, was like, what? You got the whole thing? Unfortunately, for us, I think it’s going to be one of the last open practices we have for the rest of the fall, with about three weeks left till the first game. It was nice to be out there for the whole thing. You get to see eleven-on-eleven. You get to see seven-on-seven. We got to see actual football stuff. Normally we get stretching and individual drills. I do love the Gator drill and seeing some intensity to start practice to begin. That’s better than basketball any day.
It was nice to be out there for the whole thing. We’ll have a bunch to talk about. I guess, we can break it down position by position, or however you want to break it down, because there’s a lot to talk about, being out there for three hours.
Andrew: I think that the open practice is good from the standpoint of Mullen, whether he or anyone else wants to admit it, is still trying to get the fan optimism back.
Andrew: The excitement back. Listen, the excitement is there for the most part.
Nick: I feel like it hasn’t been a rollercoaster. It was just like one dip, because when you start everything is so positive. Mullen could have walked up to your house and thrown a brick through your window, and you’d be like, that was good form. Nothing he did was bad. He couldn’t do anything wrong. Then recruiting kind of took a little slow period. Georgia was getting whoever they wanted, and there was all this other stuff going. I think that’s when people started to doubt them a little bit, but then after Friday Night Lights it kind of got better.
Andrew: Right. I think that’s the thing, recruiting definitely hurts the on-field momentum, and then on-field momentum hurts the off the field in recruiting. It all goes hand in hand, for sure. Again, I think that the recruiting is going to fix itself. I don’t see that being an issue later in the period, as you get to December and January. I’m with you.
Listen, at the end of the day, Mullen’s press conference, and, Nick, you’re going to have to jot my mind here a little bit, was it Wednesday or Monday when he said the quarterback play wasn’t up to par with him? Whatever day it was last week, when that comment came out, I instantly saw Gator fans throwing things, saying, here we go again. Again, it’s one of those things. I’m going to use this analogy a little bit, and maybe I shouldn’t, but it’s like in a relationship where everyone says they build up brownie points for when something bad happens. In a way, Mullen’s building that up for when the quarterback play isn’t as good.
Nick: Right. Remember, we talked about that extensively with McElwain. It was when things were going well, he would talk down about players, and when things weren’t going well, that’s when he’d really go to bat for them. Not talk down about them, but keep them in check. It was kind of like never get too high in your highs and too low in your lows kind of thing that we talk about in baseball a lot. We haven’t really figured that out with Mullen yet. I think we’re still kind of waiting to see.
Andrew: I think he almost might be a straight shooter.
Nick: Yeah. That’s probably a better way to say it. I was going to say that wears his emotions on his sleeves. Listen, if this happens, I can’t hide it. I’m going to be upset about it, and I’m going to tell you that I’m upset about it. We haven’t figured that out quite yet, but from what I heard from people that were at practice is that it was not a good day for the quarterbacks, and he was probably just being a straight shooter.
Andrew: Right. I think that is probably more what we’re going to get from Mullen. He has such high expectations for the quarterback that I think he’s almost willing to come out and say it. Here’s my thing with that analogy, or with that point on the quarterbacks. Quarterbacks, fair or not fair, whatever it is, win or lose is going to be on the quarterback play. Period. End of discussion. If Florida loses, it’s going to be the quarterback play. Whether the offensive line sucks, whether the running back sucks, whether the defense gives up a late touchdown, the quarterback didn’t score enough points.
In a way, it’s like why baby those guys for the fact of what’s going to come in the fall? That is, the pressure’s going to be there. The criticism is going to be there. So, you might as well get it out of the way now.
Nick: Yeah. I agree to your first point wholeheartedly that that’s the position where he is going to be most critical. It’s the position he’s coached his entire career. It’s the position that’s probably gotten him to the spot that he’s at now. If he’s not tied in with Alex Smith in Utah and Tebow and Newton and Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald, all the quarterbacks he’s mentored and coached throughout the way, I don’t think he’s coaching Florida. It’s definitely a position that he’s got a keener eye on than maybe some of the other ones.
Andrew: Right. I guess, let’s start breaking that down, Nick, the quarterback play. Everything you and I have heard is there’s been zero consistent play at quarterback. If there has been consistency of two more than another it’d probably be Feleipe and Kyle are doing things more than Emory, which is to be expected.
Nick: It’s a two-man race. Emory Jones is not going to be the starter on September 1st. I don’t think he’ll be, barring injury or some really terrible play, the starter at any point this season.
Andrew: I think the key for me, Nick, and maybe I’m wrong, is does Emory show enough to have a package?
Nick: Yes. I believe that.
Andrew: I’m saying I think that’s the question mark that we all will have going into the fall. I think that is the point. Not that Emory will get into the quarterback mix or Emory will be the starting quarterback, but does Emory continue to improve enough that you trust him with a package?
Nick: I don’t even know, Tim Tebow in his freshman year didn’t even really get drives. You can make the argument that Florida had an established quarterback in Chris Leek, and you don’t really have an established quarterback right now.
Andrew: That’s correct.
Nick: I can see a situation where, if Florida’s beating Charleston Southern by 30 points in the 4th quarter, Emory Jones plays the entire 4th quarter.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t think that you can disagree with that case, because at the end of the day, it’s one of those things where that’s good for him. I think that’s a good thing for if he has a package, later in the season has a package or throughout the whole year has a package, if he’s able to go in there and have a whole drive. Again, Emory Jones is not going to be at Florida for five years. If he is at Florida for five years, we better hope that guys behind him come in and pass him up. Again, I know some will say why waste a year? It’s not wasting a year.
Nick: No. While we’re on quarterbacks, I’ll say right now, I don’t think Kyle Trask is healthy right now. There was a couple practices ago he threw a ball, it was when we were out there. He threw a ball and kind of shook his hand. He talked to Mullen about it. Ever since then, he’s kind of been going with a glove and without a glove, back and forth. He doesn’t look comfortable throwing with the glove. He’s got his hand taped. The middle finger is pretty heavily taped. I think, when I go into talking about them, I think he’s being held back right now by an injury to his throwing hand. Saturday was definitely Feleipe Franks was, hands down, the best quarterback out there.
Andrew: I think, again, that injury or whatever it may be, will definitely hurt things with Kyle. I think the biggest thing for me is which guy is going to win over the team. I know some people say, Feleipe already has, because he’s the starter last year. I don’t that to be a fair statement.
Nick: I honestly think it depends on who you ask.
Andrew: See, I do too.
Nick: You and I, when we’re talking to parents or friends or anyone around the team, you can get a different answer. He loves Kyle. He loves Feleipe. He and Feleipe get along great. Him and Kyle get along great. I think it depends on who you ask, and that’s just the nature of human beings. I get along better with you. You might get along better with somebody that I don’t like. That’s just how things go. I think it depends on who you ask. I don’t think it’ll be a Jeff Driskel/Jacobi Brissett situation.
Andrew: No, I don’t think so.
Nick: As much as they said no, any Gator fan knew at the time and knows now that that locker room was divided when Jeff Driskel won over Jacobi. There was a good segment of that locker room that wanted Jacobi to start and was not happy that Driskel was starting. I don’t think you’re going to get a situation there with Trask and Franks.
Andrew: No. I don’t think so either. Again, I think it’ll be interesting to see where that is. I think we would be dumb to say that Feleipe isn’t the guy leading the charge right now. It just depends. For me personally, I can’t say that a guy who’s a returning starter doesn’t have the leg up when what we’re talking about, Kyle being a little bit limited and Emory being out of it. It’s just, for me, it’s dumb for me to say Feleipe isn’t your guy right now, until Kyle dethrones him. At the end of the day, Feleipe was the starter at the end of the year. Old staff, new staff, whatever it may be, he’s still the starter.
Nick: I agree with that.
Andrew: Let’s go to running back. I think this is where it’s a thing of do you have enough balls to go around? Because you and I were breaking this down, and we think it’s fair to say that Scarlett, Perine, and Davis will get their touches. Those are your three best backs. Where do you get touches for the other guys? We’ve heard a lot of good things about Damien Pierce.
Nick: Lot of great things.
Andrew: I think Iverson Clement is probably the odd guy out at the time, just because he needs to gain some weight and other things, but he does different things than the other guys do. Then you have Adarius Lemons, who has an issue of picking up the plays, but was a pretty decent special teams guy last year and does some different things with the ball as well. What were your impressions of that group on Saturday? Then we’ll finish our discussion about how we think this might shake out.
Nick: To me, there were really three classes of running back, from what I saw. There was Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine, no, excuse me, Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine, and Malik Davis are in that first package. I would put Damien Pierce right after them. Then Iverson Clement and Adarius Lemons are kind of after. They’re in a third one. Those are the guys where I’d say I don’t know where you’re going to get the touches now.
Malik Davis, we had said earlier we had gotten a report from practice that he maybe looked stiff one of the days with his knee. He looks fine to me on Saturday. He looked good to go. The only thing I think he lacks right now is hands out of the backfield, being able to catch the ball.
Andrew: Let me ask you on him real quick, how is the mental confidence from him in that leg? Have you seen anything?
Nick: Without talking to him and asking him, it looked from Saturday that there was no question. You can kind of tell when guys are running if they’re being hesitant and if they’re not fully trusting coming back from an injury, and I didn’t see any of that from him. That’s all speculation until you talk to him. I’m sure, if I asked him, he says he feels great. What is he going to say? I feel terrible? Just from what I can see, from my eye, it didn’t look like there was any hesitation. He jumped in there during the Gator drill and ran full head of steam into a guy, didn’t worry about his knee there. Running drills, jumping over pads, going through everything fine.
The only thing that I did notice is that he’s definitely not sure-handed coming out and catching balls. I think Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett are much better pass catchers than he is. Adarius Lemons looked very good catching the ball out of the backfield from the quarterbacks as well. I didn’t really notice one way or the other about Pierce.
Andrew: I think, out of those three, it’ll be interesting to see who picks up pass pro better. That’s something that you’ll see in the scrimmage mainly.
Nick: I think Jordan Scarlett’s very good. I’ve always been very high on him as a blocker.
Andrew: I never understood, last year a couple people on the beat were saying it was a surprise he was so good. I’ve never questioned Jordan Scarlett at pass pro. That’s not something I’ve ever really questioned is him at pass pro.
Nick: Not last year, two years ago.
Andrew: Yeah. Him and Perine were two guys that were always above the others as far as pass pro goes. Everyone is going to make mental lapses of picking someone up, but they both seem to be very good at it.
Nick: Yeah. That’s going to be a big part. They’re obviously going to be doing the two running back sets. Another thing, from those two running back sets, that I noticed, both Scarlett and Perine are both good at impact blocking. Being a lead blocker for another running back or for a quarterback on a quarterback designed play, and that’s something I talked about when Scarlett, before his freshman year, they used to put him at fullback on the goal line, because he was so good at being that kind of lead blocker.
Andrew: I think that, when you look at that two-back set, you look at maybe going Scarlett-Davis, Perine-Davis. If Adarius Lemons figures it out, maybe a Scarlett-Lemons or one of those, because you can bring different sets there. You have Scarlett and Perine, who are your better pass pro guys, but also catch the ball out of the backfield. I think you can easily go with those guys and find a two-back matchup that’s a good matchup out there with those guys.
Listen, the one thing I think Florida is looking at with those backs is Florida doesn’t really have an established H-back on this team yet. One of those guys could very well end up playing a little bit of that role and getting those touches as well. While there’s not enough balls to go around, there could very well be different situations than just the traditional handoff that they get touches.
Nick: Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of room for creativity. I think the spread offense, just in general, lends itself to that more so than a pro-style system, which we’ve been laboring through the past nine years.
Andrew: Receiver. Obviously, Jacob Copeland’s out. Dan Mullen doesn’t really get into injuries. That’s fine. We respect Dan Mullen for that. We’ll just say what we know, and that is Jacob Copeland is expected to miss about four to six weeks with a knee injury that was suffered in summer workouts and then reaggravated in fall camp. So, he’s out of the picture for right now. Obviously, Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes look good. The one guy that I’ve heard a lot about personally is Tyrie Cleveland, who is a forgotten guy, but without the two transfers, is your guy heading into the year.
Nick: He’s transformed his body. I feel like I say that all the time, and I don’t know if people are getting sick of hearing it yet or not, but he looks much different than he has in the past. He’s added a lot of bulk to him. It’s just are you more than just a one-route guy? Are you more than just the nine route? Can you run a hitch? Can you run a dig? Can we trust you to block and do all those other things? To me, maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve kind of got him in my mind as he’s really a guy that I would only consider as like a deep threat right now. That’d be, I guess, the challenge to him. Are you more than just that?
Andrew: Right. I would say the thing for me with Tyrie Cleveland is this. It’s tough for me to say this, knowing what he dealt with the last two years as far as offense goes, but inconsistency of being that guy who is the guy play-in and play-out and not taking, I don’t want to say taking plays off, because that’s not fair to Tyrie. But being maybe, I don’t know the word I’m trying to say here, but he would be a guy that would insert himself a lot of times, and then times he would just be nonexistent. Not that he was taking plays off, but just not consistent enough.
I think that is a step Tyrie has got to take is being a guy who’s just a play guy here and there to being a consistent threat. Tyrie Cleveland can be a threat in the running game as well as a threat in the passing game. Yeah. I think what you’re saying is right. Is Tyrie just a deep threat guy? If he is, he’s not going to do very much in Mullen’s offense, because Mullen’s already said he values the consistent play over the big play.
Nick: If we’re talking about consistency, I’m seeing that in spades with Van Jefferson. It seems like, and I wrote it in my practice notes that I put out Saturday, that it’s almost like they are just glued, the quarterback’s eyes, as soon as the ball is in their hands, where’s 12? Where’s Van Jefferson? He’s a player that still waiting on the SEC to come through with a ruling. That will come through before September 1st. We don’t expect any delay on that. We feel like he should play.
Then I’m seeing more consistency from Trevon Grimes as well. He’s someone who I asked Billy about it, and at 6’5” and 200-plus pounds, he’s a big guy, but a lot of young guys don’t know how to use that size, because you can get away with athleticism and you can get away with other things. When you see all these seven-on-seven stuff and wide receivers taking 37 seconds to try to juke out a defensive back, listen, your quarterback’s been sacked and taken to the hospital by the time you’ve gotten out of your break. Guys see that, and it’s flashy. It makes people excited. It’s like football’s version of a crossover.
But when you’re 6’5”, use your size. Use your size to beat a press. He’s a guy that I don’t think anyone right now should try to even press at the line of scrimmage, because he can just throw a guy at the line of scrimmage, and now he’s open. I think that’s what Billy is trying to get across to him, use that size. I think Trevon is starting to get that. He started to get that towards the end of spring and it’s carried into the fall now.
Andrew: Outside of those two guys and Tyrie, who’s been the guy who has surprised you the most? I guess, when you look at those three guys, those three guys are going to get the bulk of the time, but you know they’re going to run six, seven, eight receivers at a time. Kadarius Toney’s been a guy who, outside of the off the field trouble, hasn’t been in the news, hasn’t been talked about. I haven’t heard a ton about it. Who, besides those three guys, stood out to you on Saturday? Who, besides those three guys, have you heard the most about?
Nick: One that, it’s not an exciting name, but it’s one that I keep hearing, and it’s Josh Hammond. I almost said Frankie. It’s Josh Hammond. It goes back to the consistency. He does everything right. The quarterbacks know, if we’re running a timing route, I know that Josh is going to be in his spot. He’s not going to waste time. He’s not going to get thrown off his route. He’s going to be there. He might not be a guy that gives you a big, flashy play, but almost like a Dallas Baker his senior year, where it’s 3rd and 8, who are we going to? We know Dallas Baker is going to be able to get that 1st down for us. It just seemed like that was always the case that year. I think Josh Hammond is bringing that level of consistency.
When it comes to Kadarius Toney, there is just a multitude of ways that they’re getting the ball in his hands. He’s been in the backfield. He’s been in the slot. He’s been in the backfield motioning to the slot, backfield motioning out wide. I really feel like the last staff talked about it all the time, the get it to list, I feel like, based on the way we’re seeing Kadarius used, and then behind him they’re using a little bit of Jalen Jackson, who is the preferred walk-on that I don’t think will play this year. Still needs to add some size, but he’s impressed me some. Those two guys, you can see them being used all over the field, just as let’s get the ball in their hands, because they make people miss.
Andrew: Right. Kadarius is getting the Percy Harvin treatment of the Urban, Dan Mullen offense. I know people say, there’s never another Percy. No. There’s not. Kadarius isn’t Percy, but in that way of you may see him line up at receiver this time. You may see him line up at slot this time. You may see him line up at running back this time. Hell, you may see him line up at wildcat quarterback this time. I’m with you in that. There may be a number that is written down on Dan’s play sheet that says, Kadarius Toney must touch the ball X amount of times today. If the Gators get the lead, he may touch it even more.
As far as Josh Hammond goes, I was going to say, when you said maybe not the most exciting name, I was going to say, maybe not the most exciting, but the most consistent name. Has Josh Hammond put up big numbers the last few years at Florida? No. Josh Hammond was the guy that when needed something to happen you could go to, whether that means running behind him and him getting that key block, whether that may mean running the stand pass, whatever it may be. Josh Hammond was that guy. You said Dallas Baker. I was thinking Lewis Murphy. As the guy of he may not make the big play.
Nick: That’s who I was thinking of. I was thinking of him. Dallas Baker was the touchdown maker. I was thinking Lewis Murphy his last year. It was always that, I think he only caught passes on 3rd down. They didn’t even put him in until 3rd down.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t even know if he was on the field except for 3rd down. I’m with you. He’s just a consistent player for them, and he’s a guy that, again, is everything going to be exciting with him? Probably not. Is he going to catch a ball and run 99 yards for a touchdown? Maybe, maybe not. He’s going to be a guy that on 3rd and 5, defender over his back, he’s going to catch that slant pass for 1st down and keep the chains on it.
Again, a couple guys that I’ve been watching for to see what they do is Freddie Swain, still looking to see what you’re going to get out of Freddie, because he’s another guy that’s been a consistent guy for the most part, just at times with injuries and that kind of stuff wasn’t on the field. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes.
Transitioning into tight ends. The guy that I continue to hear, Nick, Kyle Pitts. That name is every time I ask people about practice. It’s Kyle Pitts. Kyle Pitts. Lucas Krull too. Saturday impressions for you were?
Nick: Real quick on Lucas. Saturday, to me, he looked like a pitcher trying to catch footballs. The opposite for Kyle Pitts. He’s got very sure hands. I didn’t see too much blocking from him. Not saying he wasn’t blocking, just saying there weren’t a lot of opportunities to see how he would hold up blocking. He looks very, I want to say polished. Looks very polished as a tight end and showed me some very good hands. He’s athletic. He’s very big. I was impressed with him coming away from Saturday. I think still waiting to see from Krull. Obviously, he hasn’t played football since high school, so starting to get back.
Andrew: Right. Other impressions of the tight ends. C’yontai, Kemore?
Nick: C’yontai was out. I think at this point, five years in, we know what to expect from C’yontai Lewis. His redshirt freshman year with Will Grier, I think that was probably the best we saw him. Two games, and then he broke his hand. He really has just kind of been okay since. Great blocker. Something we never thought he’d do as a recruit, but I don’t know if I would expect anything more than what we’ve seen from him.
Andrew: Starter at tight end is?
Nick: I think it’s C’yontai Lewis, until somebody else unseats him there.
Nick: I think there will be a rotation. I think Kyle Pitts is working himself into that, for sure.
Andrew: Right. Give me your impressions of the offensive line. I still hear inconsistency out of that group.
Nick: After the first group, it’s just … Second group was okay, and the third group was atrocious.
Andrew: Yes. That’s the same thing I’ve heard. I’ve heard that they’re having struggles of getting that seven and eight. Mullen wants seven to eight guys, and I’ve heard that seven and eight is where concern is. After the five, it’s a question mark. Where do you get seven and eight from? Brett Heggie out right now. Turf toe, we hear. What was the starting five on Saturday, and impressions of that starting five?
Nick: I need to pull my notes up real quick. The left tackle, Martez Ivey. Left guard was Tyler Jordan. Center was Nick Buchanan. Right guard was Fred Johnson, and right tackle was Jawaan Taylor.
Andrew: Who was at center?
Nick: Nick Buchanan. He’s really been running with the first team the entire time.
Andrew: Yes. Okay. That’s what we’ve heard a little bit is Nick has been the guy who has been aggressive at that position. What were your thoughts of Nick? Nick was a guy we were very high on, but never took that jump.
Nick: I’ve said it once or twice, I’m very surprised. I think center is the hardest position, or one of the hardest, maybe there with left tackle, to play, just because of your responsibilities as a play caller. Not play caller, but detection. Then you’re snapping a ball, and you’ve got a 350-pound animal ready to hit you in the mouth. You got to be able to do all that, and you just have a lot on your plate. I didn’t expect him, when they moved him from guard to center, I understood the depth issues, why they did it, I just didn’t expect him to play better. I think he’s played better at center than he has at guard.
There were a couple snaps that didn’t get back there quick. Not that they were off, just it’s almost like rather than throwing overhand in baseball, like you’re throwing underhand during batting practice. It’s almost like it took a little too long to get back there. He needs to probably work on his snaps a little bit more, but he’s only been doing it for a short period of time now.
To me, the biggest surprise was that a walk-on redshirt junior, Nick Villano, was at second team, ahead of TJ McCoy, who’s been the starter.
Andrew: Right. I guess, what were your thoughts on Jordan, Nick, and Fred in the inside? I think we know what you’re going to get out of Waany and Tez. Impressions of those guys. Have Fred and Tyler taken that step forward? Obviously, one of them is probably going to get bumped, probably Tyler, when Heggie comes back. Do you feel comfortable with one of those guys being the sixth guy? What did you think of the two guys at guard?
Nick: Let me see. Let me answer the first one. At guard, I think Fred Johnson was fine. I think Tyler Jordan is fine, and I think Brett Heggie is fine. Let’s count these down. There’s Martez, Tyler Jordan, Heggie, Buchanan, Fred Johnson, Jawaan Taylor. That’s six that you feel good with. Maybe you feel good with TJ McCoy, even though he’s running in third team right now. That’s seven.
They like Richard Gouraige, and I think that Richard Gouraige is also a player right now that will discussed about can he move inside. If you’re not comfortable with Tyler Jordan or Kavaris Harkless, you’re not comfortable with TJ Moore right now. You’re not comfortable with Chris Bleich right now or Griffin McDowell right now. Richard Gouraige is probably your left tackle of the future, but if he’s not going to be able to play left tackle this year, can we get a talented guy some playing experience, even if it’s out of position? Can he play guard for us this year? I think that’s something that the staff will look at.
Andrew: Okay. I’m with you. I’ve heard good things about Gouraige, as far as his improvement. I think the one thing we all have to remember is he was going to be a guy that was going to take a little bit of time to get there. I’m with you in that we will see if he’s able to take that step to go forward to be ready to go this year, whether it be guard or tackle or just a guy who can be that rotating guy, to be that either/or guy.
My biggest concern is that tackle spot if Tez or Waany goes down. Do you then have to bump Fred out to tackle? Do you then have to bump Tyler out to tackle? Possibly. What happens there? That’s my concern is who backs up at the tackle spot, not who backs up at the guard spot.
Nick: Tackle spots backups right now I’d say Stone. I mean, Noah Banks was really working at the two, at right tackle. Sometimes, we saw with Trent Brown, it takes a little time for those junior college kids. Do you move Fred Johnson to right tackle?
Andrew: I think you do.
Nick: If Jawaan gets hurt, is that a move, or do you have a true backup at right tackle?
Andrew: Yeah. I think that’s your question mark. That’s something that I think we’ll all have the answer if that time comes, because that’s the question mark for me.
I will say this with the offensive line. I think they get better by going up against this defensive line. There’s no way not to. They need to improve consistency. That’s going to be the biggest thing.
Nick, we got about 10 minutes here to talk defense. Of course, offense is the main thing. Defense, I want to know your take on the front four guys. Obviously, the most talented, well I can’t say most talented, because I think DB is your most talented on defense, but probably got the most depth there. What are you seeing from that group? Who all is rotating in? Who’s standing out?
Nick: Sal Sunseri told us that it’s going to be a true three-man rotation at every position, and I see it. At end, you’ve got Jabari Zuniga, Zack Carter, Malik Langham is making strides. He certainly looks the part. At that buck position, stop when I run out of names here. Jachai Polite, Cece Jefferson, Jeremiah Moon, Antonneous Clayton, Andrew Chatfield. Cece Jefferson and Polite are guys that both could also play that defensive end. They’re kind of interchangeable and will be interchangeable. Cece will play with his hand down as well as in that buck spot. I mean, the defensive line, it was hard to gauge guys like Antonneous Clayton and Chatfield and Moon when they’re playing against the second and third team offensive line, because I know that the second and third team offensive line are not good right now.
Andrew: Let me ask you. What are you seeing from this scheme-wise on 3rd down situations? What are you thinking you’re going to see as the defensive line on, say 3rd and 10?
Nick: We didn’t see a lot of that in the practice Saturday, but I would say that you get, right now inside Elijah Conliffe and TJ Slayton are starting in the middle. Conliffe at nose and Slayton at the three technique. I would say you would maybe put Slayton or Conliffe in the middle, and then load up with a Zuniga, Polite, Jefferson, Clayton. Zuniga, Polite, Jefferson, Moon. Any kind of mix of those four guys and let them get after it. Maybe even only put four on the line, one linebacker, and five defensive backs.
Nick: That’s only 10 players. My math isn’t good. You figure it out.
Andrew: You definitely got to have two back guys on the field, or go six DBs. I’m with you in that. I think you have a lot of mixture there, and I think you have speed guys no matter what, where you go there. My question is what do you see being the role of Cece? Do you see it being more of a rush guy? Do you see it being more of that drop back into coverage? What are you seeing?
Nick: Cece has been no-contact, so he hasn’t really been practicing, but that position, I’ve seen it. More so in the buck. I saw Jachai Polite drop into coverage. I’ve seen Jeremiah Moon drop into coverage. I haven’t really seen that from Clayton. I think Clayton is probably more of an end than a buck. Yeah. That’s a position that we haven’t seen Cece do too much of it. We’ve seen him do it a little bit, where he’s covered guys in the flats.
If you’re going to have to cover a slot receiver, where I saw one situation, I think it was Jachai Polite was trying to cover Kadarius Toney. It’s definitely a mismatch, and you’re going to get those in the game. You’d like to have, if we’re going to get a mismatch in October, playing against an LSU or a team like that, let’s at least have our guys going against Kadarius Toney, where at least they’ve seen it before. They’re not coming back to the side and being, Coach, I’ve never had to do this before.
Andrew: Let me go to linebacker. Something you told me yesterday, on Saturday, that stuck out to me. It was the biggest thing. James Houston and Ventrell Miller improving. I will say, both of those guys are guys that we had high hopes for coming out of high school. A lot of it is because Houston is a more athletic guy that can cover a lot. Then the younger David Reese. I think you can make the argument he might be the most athletic on the team, because he’s just that athletic.
Nick: Yeah. Florida’s really played exclusively nickel so far, and I think they’re calling it the star position. We called it a rover in high school. They call it star. That’s kind of where they’re at, what they’ve been showing. In the middle right now, starting is David Reese and Vosean Joseph. Right behind them, I think Ventrell Miller is starting to show signs that he could be a guy. If Vosean or Reese were to go down, he’s a guy that I would be fine stepping right in. He’s actually looked good, for him, in coverage.
Like you said, James Houston, very athletic. Coming back from the ACL injury that he had in his senior year of high school, it was going to take some time for him to get that back, but he’s looked very athletic. He looked good. I’ve been encouraged by both of those guys. They’re violent. They do not shy away from contact. They seek contact. That’s something that you love to see with linebackers.
I think Nick Smith is still coming along. Lacedrick Brunson is still coming along. David Reese is a guy that can play in the middle or could play outside or in that star position, because of how athletic he is.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. DB, not a ton to talk about. Jeawon is out right now. Not out, but they’re taking thing slow with him with the shoulder. Brad Stewart is getting a lot of play. I guess, go through that position of safety. I think we’re fairly confident that it’s going to be CJ, Marco, and Chauncey, with Chauncey playing nickel. Run me through the safety position.
Nick: I think at safety, I mean, cornerback, we’ll just run through it. Marco and CJ are going to be there. Trey Dean is going to play. Brian Edwards is probably that fourth guy at the star. I think right now Amari Burney is working there. Chauncey Gardner, that’s really his spot. He’s the nickel guy. He’s the star.
At safety, really right now I think Brad Stewart is going to take that spot, next to Jeawon Taylor. Shawn Davis is getting a ton of work at free safety right now, with Jeawon out. He’d probably be the third guy I’d look at. I haven’t really noticed John Huggins too much, and then Donovan Stiner is still coming along. He’s put on some size, but I think he can still fill out a little bit more.
Andrew: Right. CJ McWilliams is another guy that’s come along a little bit that you got to filter in that mix.
Real quick, Nick, before we get out of here. Wanted to ask you about special teams, the specialists. First look at Evan McPherson and younger Townsend. First impressions were?
Nick: We’ve got a real kicking battle going. They’re really splitting kicks back and forth. Jorge Powell has been here a long time. It seems like he’s been here as long as I have. He’s not going to go down without a fight. That’s good to see from him. It was hard to tell from our angle, but I don’t think either of them missed a kick on Saturday. They’re good. Tommy Townsend will be your starting punter. They had Jorge trying to punt a little bit on Saturday, and that did not go well. Tommy looks good. He’s got a great hang time. I don’t know all the intricacies of the drop and time. I don’t have a stopwatch out there, but he’s getting great hang time on his ball. He’s booting it down the field. So, it looks like hopefully another two years of great Townsend punting in Gainesville.
Andrew: That will make you happy. Nick, run through the week real quick, and then we’ll get out of here and see everyone on Wednesday.
Nick: I don’t even have our week up. I think we talk to Mullen tomorrow, but we talk to him before the scrimmage. They’re going to scrimmage at night, and that will not be open. I’ll be asked again 30 times on Monday, but the scrimmage will not be open.
Andrew: Okay. Then we’ll be back on Wednesday. We’ll recap the scrimmage, and we’ll recap the weeks of practice, how things are going. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out, and we’ll see everyone then.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can also find it on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Hit the subscribe button and get a notification every time a new podcast comes up. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. You can find me @NickdelaTorreGC, and he is @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go. As always, guys, go Braves and chop on.
Nick: You stay classy.
Andrew: By the way, guys, that’s chop on for the Braves, not the Noles. Just wanted to get that up. I had to change it up a little bit. I wanted to let everybody know I changed it up to change the momentum for the Gators, because chomp, chomp wasn’t getting the momentum going, so I decided to go chop on for my Braves.
Andrew: Alright, guys. We’ll see you guys next time.