GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we’re joined by Florida Gators quarterback commit Jalon Jones to talk about the Gators season during the bye week.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Jones to give his thoughts on the season, recruiting and what he likes the most about Dan Mullen.
Andrew and Nick also breakdown the bye week and what the current players are saying during the bye week.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, it’s Wednesday, and we don’t have a game coming up. It’s bye week.
Nick: Bye week!
Andrew: You just got back from Nashville, so hush.
Nick: I ate all the calories and drank all the alcohol that Nashville had to offer.
Andrew: How’s your liver?
Nick: It’s begging for mercy.
Andrew: We got a special guest tonight, my man.
Nick: He’s like me. I’m the quarterback of this podcast, and he’s the quarterback of the class.
Andrew: That might be, but I’m the head coach. I run the show. If I want to bench you, I bench you. I am benching you tomorrow. I’m bringing Eric on our podcast, so I’m benching you.
Nick: I walked into that. I walked right into that, Spivey.
Andrew: You did.
Nick: I didn’t see that coming.
Andrew: There you go. Quarterback commit, Jalon Jones, is going to join us here in just a second, Nick and talk to us a little bit about the recruiting process, what Coach Mullen means to him, and really Miss Megan, Megan Mullen, kind of the mom of this team. He’s going to talk about her, and he’s going to come on and talk a little bit about recruiting with us as well. Little special. It’s a bye week, we can do things differently. Let’s bring Jalon on now. We’ll talk to Jalon, and then you and I will come back, and we’ll talk a little football and a little bit more recruiting.
Guys, we’re pleasured to have on our man Jalon Jones here, quarterback commit of the Florida Gators. First off, Jalon, thanks for coming on, man. How are you doing? How’s your season going?
Jalon: First off, thanks for having me. Appreciate the opportunity to come on here and talk to Gator Nation. Things have been going pretty good. We’re 5-1 right now. We had a pretty good game last night. We won 28-27. We’re doing great with that so far.
Andrew: I would say you had a pretty good game. Couple 70-yard touchdowns. That’s not bad.
Jalon: Yeah. Nothing unnatural.
Andrew: There you go. How has the move back home been for you, Jalon? I know that it’s a situation now to kind of play in front of home. How has that been for you?
Jalon: It’s been great. Playing in Baltimore three hours away from home, it was hard last year looking up in the stands and only seeing probably my mom and my dad there, and whoever would come with them. Coming back home, playing in front of everybody who I’ve grown up with has just been amazing. Looking up in the stands seeing 100, 150 people that I know and talking to everybody after the game is just a good all-around feeling. Knowing everybody that I’m playing against, talking to them in between plays, it’s something that can’t be put into words.
Andrew: First off, let’s go back. Let’s take it back here. You first were committed to Coach Mullen at Mississippi State, and then decided to commit to him at Florida. What was it about Coach Mullen, and then what was it about Florida during that official visit that you knew Florida was going to be home for you?
Jalon: Coach Mullen, he’s an all-around great guy, from family life, he’s got a great family, welcoming, especially Miss Megan. I have her number, and we talk every now and then. We text back and forth. His staff that he brings in with him, I know that they’re great guys that have their players’ best interests at heart. What he can do for me as a quarterback, I know he’s one of the best quarterback coaches to ever do it, and so I know what he sees in my game. I know that to get the most out of me he’s probably one of the best people that can do it.
Nick: How impressive is that when you see guys like Tim Tebow, Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, just the list of quarterbacks that he’s had, and had a big part in helping their careers, how big was that in your consideration?
Jalon: It was big. I did a lot of homework with my dad. I grew up watching Tim Tebow. I loved watching Alex Smith and everything that he can do. Dak Prescott, love him. I just knew that going into this I knew what he does as far and training up and teaching quarterbacks, and I know that he gets all 110% out of their potential and helps them become the best quarterback that they can be.
Andrew: What have you seen from Coach Mullen this year with a guy like Feleipe Franks, who last year was a guy who had an up and down season, and what he’s been able to do, not only with Feleipe, with just the offense? How much confidence does that give you that this is really something Coach Mullen is going to be able to do for me and for the team?
Jalon: As far as the team, they have a lot of pieces that were already there. Not to say anything bad about the previous staff, I just know that Coach Mullen has another gear that he goes into when it’s to designing plays to fit around his players. A lot of coaches they just want to fit players into their schemes, instead of getting schemes that fit around their players strengths and weaknesses. That’s what Coach Mullen really prides himself on. Putting Feleipe in there, Feleipe is a great quarterback, so Mullen is just getting his talent out, doing what Feleipe does best and making sure that’s a big part of the offense. That’s why he goes out and executes like he does on Saturdays.
Andrew: I think what you just said is something we’ve taken notice of with Coach Mullen, him being able to kind of pick the weaknesses out of each team that he goes about. You’ve had a chance to sit down really with him and Coach Johnson as well. I guess, is there really a playbook that Dan Mullen has, or is it more we’re going to work around our guys and work around the weaknesses of the opposing team? Is that kind of how you see things going when you get to Florida?
Jalon: Of course, every team has a playbook, but once they figure out what you do best, that’s when it will come to incorporating the plays around you more.
Andrew: Right. Overall, give me your thoughts on this team so far this year. I know everyone expects National Championship, undefeated, but have they kind of exceeded expectations a little bit in your mind? What’s kind of your thoughts on this team so far?
Jalon: They’re doing a great job. I mean, I set the bar up so high for my expectations of them that the only way that they can beat it is if they win a National Championship. I know that we’re doing a great job so far, and we’re going to continue excelling in doing what we do as a team. We’re just going to keep going on and winning game by game.
Nick: You’ve been so solid to Florida in your commitment, but what was that LSU game like? I know you were in town for that. What did that do? Do you start picturing yourself running out of that tunnel and being in uniform and being in an environment like that?
Jalon: Yeah. I mean, if it wasn’t solid, it was solid before, but any leeway it was disappearing. Just stepping out into the stadium I just knew I could really see myself playing in front of these 90,000 fans and running in the end zone and throwing in the end zone. Just walking out on the field and looking at the F on the field and the Gator on the field in the end zone I knew that this is where I belong.
Nick: Do you get goosebumps at all at any time during the night?
Jalon: Definitely when they caught the pick and returned it, and Vosean putting the ball into the stands. That’s when I really felt it.
Andrew: You’ve been able to see a lot of guys, as you’re the quarterback of the class. We always say the quarterback of the class is the leader of the class. You get the pressure of recruiting other guys, that kind of stuff. How does that game, like an LSU game, if you were just to say, if you were a guy who went in and you were uncommitted, do you see that game as being a game that maybe opened an uncommitted guys eye’s? Does that help you as a quarterback to recruit someone else?
Jalon: Yeah, definitely. I mean, with Coach Mullen, the way he recruits, they way they go after players, there isn’t really a person that is uncommitted and is not thinking about committing at all. There’s always that thing in the back of their mind that this is where I could belong. So, just seeing that, just seeing how we could take down a top five opponent, and that was everybody’s big question. Going out there, dominating like we did that night, just blew the roof off everything. That’s a selling point. Before that, everybody would say what are they going to do in big games? They lost to Kentucky. How are they going to be with a bigger team, like the LSUs, the Georgias, the Alabamas? Seeing how they went out to get LSU and handled them, that’s helped my job out a lot. I know that they’re going to handle work against Georgia this upcoming Saturday. Not this Saturday, next Saturday after that. I’m just looking forward to it.
Andrew: When you talk to guys, uncommitted guys, what do you tell those guys? You’re a guy who I would say knows Coach Mullen the best. You had a relationship that dates back with him a long time. What do you tell guys about Coach Mullen and just Florida, why Florida maybe should be the school for them?
Jalon: The first thing I tell them is that this is your decision, whatever decision that you make I’m going to be 110% behind you, because this is a decision you’re making for your family. I can’t fault you or discredit you because you didn’t choose Florida. Some guys I’ve been talking to for the past three or four months, and I’ve grown to have a good relationship with them, and even if they don’t pick Florida, I’m still going to be big fans of theirs in the future, wish all the success on them, until I end up having to play them.
The main thing that I tell them is that it’s real here with Coach Mullen. Them being recruited, they’ve been to situations and campuses and schools where it feels real, but it’s fake at the end of the day. They can feel the fakeness out of certain schools and certain coaches and certain environments, but the main thing everybody wants to know is if Coach Mullen is as real of a guy as he really is, if he’s putting on a façade, or is this just how he really is as a person and as a man? What I stress to these guys is that that’s really how he is 24/7. He’s just an all-around good guy.
Andrew: A lot of people, and you brought it up earlier, Megan Mullen, Mama Mullen that we all call her. She just seems like she brings all of you guys in, and she becomes that second mom to you guys. How important is that for a guy like yourself, who’s going to be moving hours away from home to have someone that you can and have a mom on campus almost?
Jalon: That’s big. I know for me my mom has just been a real big part of my growing up and taking care of me and life and childhood, and so being away from her is hard, but I know going out to Gainesville Miss Megan has me on her mind, and that she’ll take care of me if I ever need anything. I know I’ve talked to her a lot about some real problems that I’ve had and some stuff that I just ran by her and asked for her advice. She’s a great woman, and I have a lot of love for her, and she knows that. She’s somebody that I really look forward to spending a lot of time with when I go down there in January.
Andrew: Jalon, the last thing I have for you, and, Nick, before we get Jalon off of here I’ll get your last question, I don’t want you to name names or anything like that, but is there anyone or any position in particular that you Diwun are really after? Is there any position that you say, I want to get someone for this position or this position?
Jalon: Not necessarily. We just see them out there, and we’re like, hey. They can be a kicker. We see a kicker out there. Oh, he’s really kicking the ball, we need to get him. We see somebody we feel that could contribute to success here in Gainesville, we go after him. It doesn’t matter what position they are.
Andrew: Just get the best.
Jalon: Just get the best.
Nick: You and Diwun have really kind of been the vocal leaders, I guess. What’s your relationship like with him? Who are some of the other guys in the class that maybe you’ve started to build a relationship with and you’re getting close to?
Jalon: Diwun, that’s my man. We go all the way back to Mississippi State, because he was committed there for a while. That was about a year and a half ago when we started first talking, I believe. We’ve seen each other grow as players and as leaders and everything. I mean, I’ve grown a strong relationship with him. I know I’ll text him and call him and just talk about guys that we need to go after and get. It’s just a good one-two combo that we have. He’ll start it off, or I’ll start it off, and then one of us will go back and keep talking to him. At the end of the day, we’re going to end up working you down, and you’re going to understand everything that we’re saying. That’s how we do it with the recruiting, and that’s why we’re getting the guys that we’re getting.
Andrew: There’s nothing wrong with that. As we all know, Tebow/Spikes had that relationship, that quarterback, linebacker. Maybe 2.0.
Jalon: There we go.
Nick: No pressure there.
Andrew: No pressure, Jalon.
Jalon: Good to be under pressure.
Nick: Yeah. No pressure to match a guy that has a statue outside the stadium. No pressure there. I do have one more question.
Jalon: Just get a statue outside the stadium.
Nick: That’s it.
Andrew: You got to meet him the other day. How was that?
Jalon: You want the real version, or the macho man version?
Nick: No. I want the real. Did you fanboy out a little bit?
Jalon: Yeah. I’m not going to lie. I was walking out the back entrance of the stadium, and I opened the door, and who was it? Tim Tebow starts walking in. I just stopped, and I paused, because this is somebody I’ve been watching play on television since I was seven. Part of the reason why I love the game of football is because of that man, what he does and the way he plays all out. Seeing him, I just stopped. They were talking. They were like, Tim, this is Jalon. He’s the next you, so to say. He’d love to talk to you. I’m just standing there, and I could barely move my hand for him to shake it. Yeah. I got a picture with him. I’m about to frame that as soon as I get a chance and put that up on my wall, because it’s Tim Tebow, so why wouldn’t I? I was in awe. It takes a lot to get me to fanboy out, but that was definitely one of the biggest moments, outside of the field, meeting Tim Tebow, because that’s my childhood hero.
Andrew: Nothing wrong with that.
Nick: Were you able to talk?
Jalon: Yeah. We talked a little bit, but he had to go out for his introduction and everything. We got a good few words in. I’m looking forward to bettering that relationship as it goes on.
Nick: That’s good. At least you weren’t tongue-tied and just stuttering while trying to have a conversation with him.
Jalon: I was stuttering a little bit.
Andrew: Jalon, listen man, we appreciate it so much. I know you’re a busy man, coming on with us. The floor is yours, man. Any final words you want to say to Gator Nation?
Jalon: I love you guys. I get to down to campus, last time I checked it was 84 days, and so I’m counting down till I’m officially a Florida Gator. I’m excited to go out there and make you guys proud and win you guys some championships.
Nick: Follow him. J4myles. Follow him on Twitter.
Nick: I said it wrong. J4ymyles. Follow him on Twitter.
Andrew: There you go. Jalon man, listen, we appreciate it so much. Good luck the rest of the year. I know Nick and I both will tell you we look forward to seeing you, and the best of luck the rest of your career, man.
Jalon: Definitely. I appreciate you guys. Thank you.
Nick: Thanks, Jalon.
Andrew: Guys, we’re back. Nick, really good stuff from Jalon. Couldn’t tell Jalon thank you enough for coming on and spending his time. He didn’t brag on himself enough. He had a 78-yard touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown run, and he also had a 70-yard touchdown called back. Not bad.
Nick: Slight work.
Andrew: Yeah. Not too bad. Nick, you and I were talking off air, the Gators have a good one coming in Jalon Jones. Not only on the field, but off the field. He’s a leader off the field as well. Very respectful guy to everyone. Everyone that I’ve talked to has spoken nothing but good things about Jalon. I really do think he’s going to be a good one for Florida on and off the field. By the way, I think a lot of people would get tongue-tied and fanboy over Tim Tebow.
Nick: Yeah. I see it happen when we interview Tebow and there’s the students that are there. I see people get tongue-tied over Tebow all the time.
Andrew: I will say this. The first time I met him I had brought a kicker to Florida on a recruiting trip. It was Tim’s sophomore year, and the kicker ended up going to, I believe he went to South Carolina State, I believe it’s where he ended up going. I can’t remember. Anyway, the amount of people that would just fanboy over Tim, even when he was a sophomore, and, listen, I’m the same way. I’m not even going to lie to you. I fanboyed over him, and I’m the same age as him. Because he’s Tim Tebow, like Jalon said.
I think, Nick, the thing that stuck out to me about talking to Jalon was a couple things actually. Just having Tebow back around is such a recruiting tool for Florida. It’s such a recruiting tool for Dan Mullen. Use it. Use it to your advantage.
Nick: We talked about it probably more with Percy Harvin, when Percy was around in the spring and guys are coming around to visit during spring practice, stuff like that, but Tim Tebow. I mean, Percy Harvin for sure, not taking anything away from Percy Harvin, but to have Tim around, and the relationship that Dan Mullen has with these guys. It’s not just Tim. If Brandon Spikes were to come around, I’m sure Diwun Black would freak out. Tim Tebow is just such a polarizing player and just such an all-around great person that having him around your team is never going to hurt. I remember Gator fans were mad that Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer was using him, and Tim Tebow was going up and talking to Ohio State, and it was helping Ohio State. Huge recruiting tool. Tim, like he said, he was born a Gator. He played as a Gator, and he’ll die a Gator. It’s an amazing recruiting tool to have him around. Not just that, he’s the kind of person you want around mentoring guys that are on your team.
Andrew: Exactly. I mean, like you said, he’s a guy who’s a Gator through. Not only what he does on the field, but what he does off the field and what he does on SEC Network. He’s a guy that everyone knows. I think it would be very tough to find someone who doesn’t know Tim Tebow that plays the game of football. Again, you and I talk about this a lot, but the guys that are coming to play at Florida are guys who are old enough to know who Tim Tebow was, who watched Tim Tebow, who watched Percy Harvin and that kind of stuff. That’s where you can really hit it out of the ballpark with it. Again, I think that was huge.
The second thing, and we talked about this a little in our intro, but I don’t think Miss Megan, as Jalon called her, gets enough credit for what she does. That’s a recruiting tool as well. She is a lady who no matter what event it’s at she’s there, and she’s recruiting moms. She’s recruiting the kids. She’s recruiting dads. She’s a big, big part of this football program. You talked about it at Gator Walk, but she’s a big part of this program, Nick.
Nick: It’s a huge thing. We talk about it all the time in terms of moms, dads, grandmas, guardians, whoever is really in the player’s life, needing that assurance that I’m giving you my son. I first realized this with Monique Dawson in talking to her. I’m thinking, you live 45 minutes away, an hour away. You can come see him whenever you want. She says, “But I’m not there. He’s not coming home. I’m not cooking him dinner. I’m not seeing him every day. I’m entrusting him with these coaches, and I have to trust them. I have to believe that what they’re telling me is true.”
I think it’s one thing to get it from a coach, but then, especially as a mom, to see that the head coach’s wife is so involved, and that she genuinely cares about these players. I think that’s a huge sigh of relief, and a huge thing for the moms of these players, who a lot of them are single parents and really the only person that’s been in their child’s life. To see that he’s going to have that mother figure, that motherly love, from somebody who isn’t his mother, that he’s going to get that kind of support, I think that’s a huge weight off a lot of these parents’ shoulders.
Nick: Listen, your football coach is going to love you a lot different than your mom is. So, Dan Mullen says it all the time. He’s like, “I might be the louder yelling one. Megan’s the one that’s there to hug him and be nice to him.”
Andrew: I had this conversation with Lamical Perine’s mom when Lamical was going. It’s a situation where, yes, they can get there to him, but let’s just say they sprain an ankle in practice or, Lord forbid, they break a wrist or something and have to go to the hospital. Megan is there. Mullen is there. That’s the people that are going to be there on a daily basis. Like Jalon said, it’s not only football or that kind of stuff, but if you have a situation you need to talk to a lady about instead of a man about, she’s that person for them. Again, it’s a situation that I think is huge.
I say this, again, some people aren’t going to like this, but like it or not, Urban’s wife, Miss Shelley, is the same way. She’s always around. You see her on social media a lot tweeting happy birthday to players, that kind of stuff. She was a big part at Florida with it around. I think that’s a difference. You look at Saban, Miss Terry at Alabama is a huge part of Alabama football.
Nick: She finally let them sing Dixieland Delight again.
Andrew: Yeah. And the net up in Baton Rouge. That’s two traditions, Nick, and we’re getting so off of path here, but that’s two traditions. That would be like not singing Sweet Carolina at Fenway.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, it’s a newer tradition at Florida, but the Tom Petty, We Are the Boys, is another tradition that’s not newer. That’s a longer standing one, but that’s what makes college football great.
Andrew: I mean, why not? Nick, wanted to move on and talk a little bit about football here, as we are still Wednesday of the bye week. Got to talk to the players on Tuesday night. I guess, what was kind of the mood of everyone? Is it kind of a sense of getting healthy again, or were they kind of hoping to play Georgia this Saturday?
Nick: It was really cool to see. After practice I was almost kind of just hanging out, and Trey Dean and CJ Henderson, they’re doing their defensive back thing. The defensive backs stay after every practice and do their little backpedal and their work. Feleipe Franks has been staying back with Tyrie Cleveland, Van Jefferson, and Trevon Grimes pretty much every practice. Today was kind of just loose. I think you can tell that the guys don’t have a game this week. Super loose. They’re joking around. They’re running. Feleipe was racing Trevon Grimes. Grimes is racing Jefferson. Trey Dean and Tyrie Cleveland were racing. It was just really relaxed.
I don’t think it’s the lack of focus. I don’t want me to say it was relaxed and the guys were joking around after practice to make people think it’s a lack of focus. You don’t have a game this Saturday, and this week is more fundamentals, working on that block, that sidestep we’ve been teaching you on the offense line, that block. Let’s hammer that down this week. We don’t need to worry about a scheme or game play or what they’re going to try to attack. Just worry about ourselves this week. I think that’s what Florida is doing.
Really, knock on wood, any wood that you can get to while you’re listening to this, knock on it, because there aren’t really huge injuries, other than Marco Wilson, obviously, and a couple of the season enders that have happened. For the most part, very healthy.
Andrew: Bumps and bruises.
Nick: Yeah. Everyone has got that, around the country. No one feels 100% after playing seven football games. That’s just not a thing.
Andrew: Right. You get the bumps and bruises. I think too, Nick, and this is what we all kind of forget, but mentally. You get a mental break for just a week of the day to day grind of practice, meetings, study hall, weightlifting. Just the day to day grind. You kind of mentally get a little bit of that off, just a little bit. Again, I think that’s key. We always talk about it in pro football, but it’s a big week of getting the fundamentals back and just kind of reevaluating your team as a whole as well.
I guess, overall, what were your thoughts from the guys about the upcoming game against Georgia? Was it any looking forward to that game?
Nick: Florida, as we talked about on our Monday podcast, they’re already starting to watch Georgia film. We said it. Listen, this week is about working on yourself, but go ahead and start watching Georgia film, because Georgia is going to. Georgia is pissed off as hell about losing that game at LSU, so they’re ready to go.
I think a lot of what I wanted to get out of today was is this where you guys thought you’d be. It’s a silly question to ask, because of course, no football player is going into the season thinking, I hope we’re 3-3, or I hope we’re 4-3 at the break. Is this where you guys expected to be? A lot of it was we feel like the work we put in in the off season was different. Not to say that we didn’t think we were working hard at the time, before the 2017 season, but because of the work we put in, no, we weren’t working hard. We didn’t know that we had this gear, this level to go to. It was something that Nick Savage really pulled out of us. What we did with the work that we put, and the new level that we found of straining and working and relentless effort, the motto, we thought this is where we’d be. It is gratifying to reap the benefits of that, but yeah. To me, it was just the confidence sounds really genuine. It doesn’t sound like it’s made up or fake.
Andrew: I had to do my weekly radio on Monday. They were asking me about kind of the team and where I thought they were compared to last year. I said, the talent has been there. Outside of Van and Trevon and Trey Dean, really the same guys that contributed last year, especially on offense, with the exception of Jordan Scarlett. It’s the mentality. I think that’s the biggest thing, Nick, is the mentality of these guys. I said to someone, Florida is not where they are today if they don’t lose to Kentucky, and I don’t care what anyone says. They don’t beat LSU, and they don’t come from behind to beat Vandy, without the loss to Kentucky.
I don’t know if Florida beats Vanderbilt in the last few years, simply because when they got down their heads went between their legs. Also, coming from a big win it seemed like it was almost relax time instead of go to work time. For me, it’s been a mentality difference more so than anything talent, playbook wise, anything like that.
Nick: I think if Florida beats Kentucky, like Dan Mullen said, if Florida somehow comes back and beats Kentucky in some dramatic fashion, I don’t think that Florida is 6-1 right now. I think they probably lose to LSU, and they probably lose to Mississippi State. I think the loss really hammered in you didn’t do well in practice. I told you this was not a good week of practice. Look what happened. If you come back on Monday, after beating Kentucky in some miraculous fashion, and your coach says that to you, shut up, we won the game.
Andrew: Yeah. We can get by.
Nick: Yes. When you lose to a team that you haven’t lost to in 30 years, and your coach says, I told you. I told you you were going to come out and play flat, because of what you did Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Andrew: Gut punch.
Nick: There’s no coming back from that. It really reinforces you. I think that loss to Kentucky, do you remember, Andrew, after spring, and it was only about three weeks, but the difference pictures, the before and after pictures of the players from Savage?
Nick: That was instant gratification of holy shit, look how different I look in just three months. I bought into what he was saying. I think that’s what the Kentucky game did. We didn’t buy in last week, and look what happened. We lost. If we want to go to a playoff, if we want to go and play Alabama in the SEC Championship game, we have to buy in. You can’t take weeks off. There’s no switch that you flip on and off.
Andrew: Right. I agree completely with you. I just don’t see. I don’t see them winning the games they have without that loss. I know some people are going to say that’s crazy, whatever. It may be. The thing about it is we can’t go back and look. There’s no going back and changing that outcome to see what it would have been. I just personally don’t believe it at all. I think that when you look back at this season and next season as well, maybe, you’re going to look back at that Kentucky game and say that was a huge turning point for this team, because they had one or two ways.
You and I talked about it. If you remember that Tennessee game, you and I talked about it. We said Tennessee and Florida are going to go two different ways. Whoever wins this game is going to go one way, and whoever loses it goes another way. Tennessee, for the most part, with the exception of that Auburn win, have went the other way, and Florida has went the other way. I think it’s a mentality standpoint from everyone.
For me, Nick, the Vanderbilt game, I know it was 37-27, and it looked bad at the beginning, but for me that was a win that told a lot to me about this football team. Just coming back the way they did, after what had happened in the game. They just didn’t go down 21-3, they handed Vanderbilt 21 points for the most part.
Nick: Yup. Obviously, different teams, Georgia and Vanderbilt, but last year the team, when Georgia came out to that 21-0 lead quick, it was just game over. Check out. Who do we got next week?
Nick: It’s a feeling that the teams in the past have had. I thought, when it got down there, my thought wasn’t Florida is going to check out and lose this game. My thought was, okay, how does Florida respond? Is there a new, different response, or is it kind of the same old, same old?
Andrew: I mean, that’s the thing. People continue to ask me, and I’m sure you get asked the same thing all the time, and that is what is different about Feleipe Franks? I tell people he’s a better quarterback in some ways, and he’s the same guy in some ways. The biggest thing for me, the difference with him, is when things go bad he doesn’t hide his head.
Nick: I think the biggest thing for me, and I’ve said it a bunch of times, but he is fine with winning, even if he’s not the reason they win. If the game plan that week is Feleipe we just need you to do these three little things and protect the football, this is not your week. We think we have advantages in the running game, or we have advantages elsewhere. He’s not going to say, then in the eight plays that they’re going to ask me to make, I’m going to make them spectacular. He stays within the game plan. He doesn’t let his head drop, doesn’t get discouraged.
I think that’s the biggest thing, because, especially when it’s a quarterback doing it, that kind of matriculates down through the rest of the team. The quarterback is the guy I’m looking up to. If his head is down, then what am I supposed to do? I’m just the third string tight end. Now my head is down. That brings that group down. It just goes through the whole team. I think that’s the biggest thing. He’s really become a leader. Not just the rah-rah guy or the guy that has the funny jokes or is hanging out with everybody. I think he’s really matured as a leader and then is learning, probably still each week, exactly how to lead and how to be that guy on this team.
Andrew: Yeah. That’s a key. I’m going to throw a question out at you that we haven’t discussed. Nick, give me a player on offense, and then I’ll give you one, and then defense, that surprise you this year.
Nick: Offense, it’s kind of offense and defense, or offense and special teams for me, and that’s Freddie Swain. I didn’t really know what Freddie Swain would be. Didn’t know if he would ever be a difference maker on offense. Then when I saw him returning punts, I thought, what the heck?
Andrew: We thought he was going to be Vernon Hargreaves, where he was back there to be the confidence.
Nick: We trust him. We trust him not to mess up. He’s tied for second on the team with 11 receptions. Second in yards at 225. He’s averaging 20 yards a catch and tied for the lead with four touchdowns. Then you add what he’s done on special teams, and he’s got five, I think, how many punt returns does he have? 14 punt returns, averaging 13.43, and he has that big touchdown. To me, he was flying Freddie Swain last week at Vanderbilt, diving into the end zone. To me, he’s just been, I mean, he’s a big four-star guy, so it’s not like a walk-on story. He was a highly recruited guy, but kind of just hadn’t really found his niche. To me, Freddie Swain is my offensive and special teams kind of standout, guy that I’d be surprised.
Andrew: For me, Nick, it’s Moral Stephens.
Nick: That’s a good one.
Andrew: It’s obvious. I mean, I’ll say. I know you’ll admit it as well, you and I laughed when people brought up the fact that he may start. You and I laughed. You may not want to admit it, Nick, but I’ll admit it. We laughed. I said, no way. No way, shape, or form is Moral Stephens your starter at tight end and you’re expecting him to contribute in the passing game.
Nick: Be honest. Did you think he’d be at Florida this year?
Andrew: No. Honestly, no.
Nick: Me either. Just to be brutally honest. I thought he would have transferred out by now.
Andrew: Yeah. Just no. I didn’t. That’s not me knocking Moral Stephens at all. I think he’s a great person, a very respectful guy. I just didn’t. I will say that he’s probably been the guy who has, on the entire team, honestly, taken the coaching the best and gotten better. He’s improved his body. I’ll say this. Nick, you may not be ready to say it yet, but I think he’s a guy that I’m comfortable with them going to in big-time situations.
Nick: I’m coming around on that idea.
Andrew: He’s catching the ball.
Nick: Yeah. He is.
Andrew: Can’t say that about another tight end.
Nick: He’s blocking his tail off too.
Andrew: Yes. That’s the biggest thing is blocking his tail off. I’ll go first for you on defense, if you want me to. I’ll say that it’s been Donovan Stiner. It’s been the Water Boy. I saw something, it’s like 20 years or something like that since Water Boy came out. Makes me feel old. I say this, and I’ll say the same thing that we just said about Moral, and that is I didn’t know that Donovan Stiner would be a key contributor to this team. I always thought he was a solid player. The last few years I thought he was a solid player. I wasn’t sure he had the potential to be that guy. He’s shown at times this year he can be that guy.
Nick: Kind of an afterthought almost. Being a guy from Houston and then not really making an impact his freshman year. Yeah.
Andrew: When you go into the season, Nick, you thought Jeawon, Shawn Davis, and Brad Stewart. That’s the three safeties you thought.
Nick: Yup. That’s it.
Andrew: That’s it. Who’s your guy on defense?
Nick: I think yours is a great pick. I think Brad Stewart would be a great pick, but I kind of had high expectations for Brad. I’m going to go with Kyrie Campbell. Kyrie is a guy who was highly thought of in recruiting. Wasn’t he?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, out of high school he was, and then he went to, I don’t even know the school. Some out West south northeast something Juco.
Nick: Right. Really a guy behind, in my mind, especially in the way I talked, and probably in other fan’s minds, writer’s minds, I thought Elijah Conliffe, TJ Slaton. Those are your guys inside, and Kyrie Campbell finds a roll. He has pushed those guys out of his way and just refuses to let the coaches take him off the field, because he’s playing so well. To me, what he’s been able to do, not just his play, but his play pushing other guys who are very talented and guys who people were very excited about, what he’s being able to do to push them out of the way and earn his playing time. I think he would be the biggest surprise for me at this point in the season.
Andrew: That’s a good pick. That’s a good pick, for sure. I think there’s several guys, and if we didn’t mention a guy you’re thinking about, no disrespect.
Nick: Let us know.
Andrew: Hit us up. Let us know. No disrespect. I mean, I think you and I could go through several guys. We could have an entire podcast about guys who have improved and made us all believers. I mean, I’ll throw one out at you, Nick. You and I definitely didn’t think Damien Pierce would be earning key minutes this late in the season. Now, of course, that’s a lot due to Malik Davis being out, but you and I didn’t think he would be having key minutes in situations like he is this late in the season, but he is. Another guy, Vosean Joseph. You and I both said he needed to improve, and he did.
That’s it for me, Nick, on this. We’ll bring it back on Friday and talk a little bit more. Talk a little more recruiting, and then do our games around the country picks this week. It’s a decent group of games. The Tennessee-Alabama game, that hate week is proud.
Nick: Someone smoking cigars.
Andrew: As someone said on Twitter, they brought up the old Blind Side, that ugly orange isn’t in my wardrobe.
Andrew: Someone also said, and I’m sorry to get political here, but they said, no matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat, the one thing everybody can agree on is they hate Tennessee.
Nick: Especially in Tuscaloosa, Alabama they do. They hate them every week, every day, but it’s extra this week, and it’s extra Saturday.
Andrew: By the way, the pot is getting a little hot up in Auburn, Nick.
Nick: That’s so much money.
Andrew: Them people are at least thinking about it.
Nick: That’s a gross, disgusting amount of money to think about.
Andrew: Well, they’re thinking about it.
Nick: Listen, can I get paid $32 million to not work?
Andrew: For real. Think about that. Gus Malzahn can literally retire by getting fired. Not bad.
Nick: Be bad at your job, and never have to work again. Rich forever.
Andrew: For real. I wonder if he thinks he should have went to Arkansas though.
Nick: They’re a train wreck right now.
Andrew: Yeah. They’re getting better. Chad Moore is getting those guys better. Nick, let’s get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday. Tell everybody where they can find us, Nick. Quick shout out real quick. If you guys will check back on Thursday, we’re going to have a podcast with our man Eric. He and I talked about this great, great recruiting class for the Florida Gators basketball team, Mike White, and then also did a little preview of the season. Check back on Thursday to get your basketball fix during this bye week.
Nick: Who says it’s a bye week? We’re giving you four podcasts this week.
Andrew: Who said it’s a bye week? It’s fun. Get to watch some games this weekend.
Nick: We’ll sign out with that. www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form, in case you like reading it rather than listening to it. If you like listening to it, check it out wherever you listen to podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In, it’s everywhere. Google Play, Apple store. Search GatorCountry. Hit the subscribe button. Leave a rating. Let us know how we’re doing. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC, and he’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go, guys. We appreciate it so much. Look forward to talking with you guys on Friday. As always, go Braves and chomp, chomp.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.