GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk recruiting visits for the Florida Gators as they hosted prospects on campus on Tuesday, plus they will host official visitors this weekend.
Andrew Spivey and Ethan Hughes recap how Tuesday’s cookout went for the Gators, plus we preview official visits for the Gators.
Andrew and Ethan preview the Gainesville regional for the Florida Gators baseball team as they received the 15 seed in the tournament.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Ethan. Ethan, we’re back, man. Things have changed a little bit over the last few days. We got visitors back on campus for the cookout on Tuesday. Baseball is about to play for a Regional. My Jaguars are coming to town, and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. Softball had a not so good finish, and official visitors this weekend. A lot to talk about. A lot to get to.
First off, you were on campus Tuesday. Was it nice to see kids for a change?
Ethan: It was. Anything is better than just Zoom and phone interviews at this point. You combine that with the fact that we’re going to see full capacity potentially in baseball. It’s just nice to feel like things are what they used to be at this point.
Andrew: Let me ask you. You’re a tad younger than me, so you’ve been through this process a little later than have. How difficult would it have been for you to never see a campus and make a decision?
Ethan: For it would have been easy, because I went to college 30 minutes from home.
Ethan: I can’t really relate to these kids.
Andrew: Okay. Let me ask you this. How had would it have been for you to go out of state without seeing a campus?
Ethan: Oh, impossible. That would not have happened.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. It’s good to see. Florida had about 50 or so prospects on campus on Tuesday for the cookout. Overall, I thought it was a really good event. Some people kind of were upset that different things were going on. They said it kind of looked cheesy at times and different things like that. Overall, I thought it was a really good event. I thought they got a lot of quality players, prospects, on campus. I thought they were able to spend a lot of time with them. They took them on the bus tour around campus. They had the photo shoot. They had the barbeque from former Gator great Shannon Snell. A lot of things overall.
First off, Ethan, when you were able to kind of see them get on campus and that kind of stuff, what was your just overall take of the event in general?
Ethan: What we got to see from sitting on a bench in the parking lot, it sounded like it was pretty loud. They had the stadium music and everything blaring. Sounded like it was a party in there, which I guess is what you’re aiming for on the first day after a lengthy dead period. Kind of grab these kids’ attention. It grabbed everybody that walked by’s attention, so I would think it was effective for the guys that were participating as well.
Andrew: Again, it’s always one of those things where how much can you see, how much can you do as far as atmosphere goes when you’re not in school, not in session, as far as for games and that kind of stuff. So, you have to kind of create that atmosphere in the Swamp and that kind of stuff. I thought they did. Again, for what they can, I thought they did a good job of it. I think the biggest thing, and you can correct me if you think differently here, I think the biggest thing in general was just getting them on campus to see coaches in person, to meet coaches in person, and to put face to the voice. I know they see them on Zoom and everything else, but seeing somebody on Zoom and then meeting them in person, in my opinion, is just a huge difference.
Ethan: It’s definitely a huge difference. I feel like that’s kind of what this staff sort of relies on too is they like to build that in person kind of connection with these guys, especially when you take a guy like Tim Brewster. That’s what he does, and I can’t imagine he’s the same attractive personality on a screen as he would be in person. He’s a guy that just kind of dominates a room, and for the last year plus his biggest strength has basically been taken away from him.
Andrew: I think you make a good point there. Obviously, Brewster does a good job of recruiting over the phone and Zoom, but like you said, that energy, that momentum you can gain from that energy is there. I say this all the time. John Hevesy is not going to land a commit just over the phone. It just isn’t going to happen. That’s not his personality. Greg Knox, the same way. These guys are, like you said, more about in person, seeing guys, being able to show them things on the computer, on film, in the film room and that kind of stuff. They’re more of a hands-on approach than it is just Zoom and that kind of stuff. I always say that. If Mullen gets kids on campus, that’s where he does well. It’s when he doesn’t get kids on campus that he has problems. Like you said, the energy was there for sure, being able to see that.
I always say, and like I said before, it’s big to see campus, but that’s not the win all, win all. The win all, win all is the staff and the area that you’re going to be at, seeing that. The football facilities, more so than the campus in general is the biggest thing. Overall, I thought it was a good first day of recruiting that’s going to lead into they had some guys on campus on Wednesday. They’re going to have 13 official visitors this weekend. I thought it was good.
The biggest thing is you’re having a lot of these guys on campus early, because it’s new, and kids are wanting to visit. Can you get them on later in the fall when it’s time to really nail down some commitments? Can you get them on campus then?
Ethan: I think something important too is they’ve got to get a commitment out of all this, from the barbeque and now having official visitors. You’ve got to get somebody on board to kind of keep this momentum going, otherwise is it just one week and then it’s dead again?
Andrew: Yeah. That’s the thing. You’ve got to start landing some commits out of these official visits. You’re going to have 13 this weekend. You had all those guys that came on campus on Tuesday. You need to start to see a little bit of momentum. Are you going to see a bunch? I don’t think so. I think you’re going to see more so than ever before kids wanting to take all five of their visits. They haven’t been able to visit. They’re going to want to take more visits, so I don’t think you’re going to see a run on commitments, but you definitely want to get something going in the right direction.
Ethan: I also think it’s interesting too, does a five-star guy like Mykell Williams come on campus if everything’s normal and this wasn’t the first opportunity to visit in a long time, or because everybody just wants to visit somewhere, is that going to possibly lead to them getting some visitors that they otherwise might not have much of a shot at getting?
Andrew: That’s a good point. The thing I’ll say is this. He had a chance to visit anywhere he wanted to the first day, and every school in America probably wanted him to visit, and Florida was able to get him on campus. To me, and I still think Florida’s a long shot for Mykell, but to me that has to say something. It has to say something for all those guys that took the first visit to Florida for an unofficial visit and paid their own way. That to me says a lot about those guys.
I say it with the official visits coming this weekend. I don’t know per say if it’s a good thing to have them as the first visit. They’re going to have a high from being on campus for a first time, being an official visitor for the first time and getting the red-carpet treatment, versus being last. I don’t know. We’ll see. This has never happened before where they haven’t been able to take visits, so it’s going to be different. We’ll see. I think that it was telling that a lot of those guys decided to take their first visit to Florida like they did.
I want to say this too, and we haven’t talked about this yet. It was also interesting that they decided to announce that Dan Mullen got a contract extension while kids were on campus.
Ethan: That’s not an accident.
Andrew: No. Not at all. Give us the rundown of that, of the contract extensions. He got one. White got one.
Ethan: Mullen got a million and a half dollar raise per year. It’s going to put him up to $7.6 million per season, which makes him the third highest paid coach in the SEC, behind Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron. He’s now under contract through the end of the 2026 season, so he got three more years, which I think is much needed, because of all the stuff that happened last year with he only has three years left, and he’s leaving for the NFL, which he might, but at least it looks better from an outside perception now that he’s under contract for six years.
Then basketball, Mike White got two more years, through the 2025-2026 season, I believe, or 2026-2027. One or the other. His salary didn’t increase, so it’s just a contract length deal with him. I know people get upset because they want him fired and everything, but the reality is, if you’re going to keep him as your coach, which is what Scott Stricklin has opted to do, for recruiting purposes you have to extend him to give recruits a reason to believe in the program that they’re going to sign to.
You can still ultimately decide that you want to go a different direction next year, and you’ve made the buyout maybe a little more expensive. I’m not sure exactly how that works, but money’s not going to be an issue at the University of Florida, I don’t think. It’s more of a thing where they’re trying to give White the best chance they can to build this thing the right way and not have this whole looking over his shoulder waiting to see if he’s going to get fired type of thing. They’re trying to give him every resource that he needs to turn this thing around.
Andrew: You can’t be a lame duck coach. When I say a lame duck coach, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you only have one year remaining on your contract, but if you only have two years remaining on your contract, then coaches go and say he doesn’t have a contract for your whole four years of school, so why are you going to go there? Or two years of school, three years of school, whatever it may be. They don’t have a contract for it. You can’t have that happen.
As far as Mullen’s contract extension, I think we all expected it to happen. There was even some talk that it was going to happen last year before the pandemic happened and all of that. You kind of expected it to happen. It was more of a shock that it hadn’t happened yet, but we all expected it. Again, it’s a raise. I think the thing that’s funny to me, not from Mullen’s perspective, is that he is now the third highest paid coach behind Orgeron. You brought this up on Tuesday when it happened. Orgeron, second highest paid coach in the SEC. Ed Orgeron.
Ethan: The biggest thing that shocked me about all this was just I didn’t realize how much the going rate for a head coach had gone in the SEC, because I remember when Jimbo Fisher signed his $7.5 million a year contract. That was considered this huge blockbuster deal, and now there’s three coaches making more than him. Orgeron, I think he obviously profited off that National Championship. He got a huge deal that he probably didn’t quite deserve all of, but what are you going to do? You have to extend the guy that just had one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
Andrew: Joe Burrow did. Joe Burrow won you that National Championship.
Ethan: Yeah. You can’t sign him to a lifetime contract though, so you got to sign somebody.
Andrew: Here’s the deal. Let’s let LSU get Joe Burrow to a lifetime contract, and Florida can get Tebow. Let’s do that. Bring ’06 team back. Well, I don’t know. ’06 team back in their prime, or ’08 team back in their prime.
Ethan: Let’s get ’08 back.
Andrew: That would have been fun. No. You’re right. I was shocked. I didn’t realize Orgeron was the second highest paid coach in the SEC. That shocked me when that came out. Georgia fans were not very happy that Dan now makes more than Kirby, but you’ll be okay.
As far as Mike White goes, what’ll happen with Mike White, that contract means nothing. I say this all the time. Contracts don’t mean anything in college sports anyway, except for how much the buyout is. Four years, six years, eight years. It doesn’t mean anything. They’ll fire you tomorrow.
Ethan: I’m pretty sure Jim McElwain got extended at least once, maybe twice, and they still fired him before he even got through his third year.
Andrew: Gus Malzahn got a contract extension a year or two before he was fired. It’s whatever. Again, it’s whatever to me. I don’t pay attention to those.
Let’s go to baseball. Gators get the 15 seed. Is that what you expected? People are not happy that Florida got the 15 seed. I’ll be honest. I thought that was a little low. I thought they’d be a little higher, especially after making a little bit of a run in the SEC Tournament. What are your thoughts on that?
Ethan: I was surprised to see them that low, just because all the polls and the postseason predictions that had come out before the SEC Tournament had them in the 12, 13 range. Then you go 3-1, including a beatdown of a really good Mississippi State team. So, I guess the perception is that somehow you went down or didn’t move at all after a week like that, which the reality is we don’t know where the committee had them. For all we know, Florida was on the outside looking in to host a Regional prior to heading to Hoover, and they won themselves a Regional spot.
As far as their seeding, 15, it’s lower than I thought, but the matchup in the Super Regional round, if they make it through, which they’ve got a lot of work to do to get there, they get Texas in the Super Regional, which I still think is probably a better matchup. I’d rather play them than Tennessee or Vanderbilt again. The seeding doesn’t really matter, because the teams that got put in a Regional, Miami, South Alabama, USF, the way the NCAA does things those are probably going to be the same three teams this regional, whether they were the #1 overall seed or #16. It’s so geographically based that there’s really no advantage in the regional round for where you’re seeded.
Andrew: I’m not very happy about it for my Jaguars. Not very happy about it. They got put in a bad bracket.
Ethan: A chance to pull off a big upset on Friday against Miami.
Andrew: It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be Gators versus South Alabama on Saturday.
Ethan: I kind of hope it does happen though, just because I want to see the 7,000 people in the stadium, and that’s only going to happen if it’s Miami. Nobody’s going to show up for a South Alabama-Florida game.
Andrew: Guess what, I’m not going to be there, so I’m pulling for Jags-Gators. Everyone asks me, are you rooting for your Jags to upset the Gators? No. The Gators are good for business. But I do want to see my Jags do well there, but they should not have got put in that Regional. I will say this. Pitching wise South Alabama has nothing for Miami or Florida in this series. It will be interesting though.
I’m with you. I probably say Miami and Florida will be your Saturday night matchup there. Miami took two of three from Florida early on. Now, this is not the same Florida team that is playing now, and I don’t think that’s the same Miami that played early on. I guess, what are your thoughts on that matchup? Do you like Florida in that? It sounds like Tommy Mace is going to throw on Friday against USF, so you’re probably going to have Barco throwing on Saturday against Miami.
Ethan: It’s going to be Hunter Barco on Saturday against, most likely, Miami, assuming the Gators are able to take care of business against USF.
Ethan: I think the Gators are a better team than Miami, even though they lost that series earlier this year. You look at what it took for Miami to win. It took Franco Aleman, when they were using him as the closer, walk five or six guys in a row in the top of the ninth inning, when they were up three, which that’s a situation that’s not going to happen now, because Aleman’s a starter. Sully’s going to have a much shorter leash on Leftwich or whoever would be in in the ninth inning in that situation.
Then the third game, Miami just pounded Hunter Barco. I think they got eight runs off of him in two innings or something. Barco’s pitching much, much better than that since then. I think Florida’s the better team. Anything could happen. Miami might very well could win this thing, but I think this is Florida’s Regional to lose.
Andrew: Absolutely. Again, we’ll get into the Texas matchup if that happens or when that happens, if Texas is to win and Florida’s able to win and all that stuff. You’re the 15 seed. You’re expected to win. The thing I’ll say is is this the #1 team in the country that we all thought it would be? No, it’s not. We understand that. But this is your opportunity now. There is no more we’ll get better tomorrow or next week. It’s do or die. Your backs are against the wall. This is it.
Mace is probably gone after this year. Leftwich is probably gone after this year. Fabian’s probably gone. Young’s probably gone. A lot of your team’s probably gone. This is it. This is do or die for this team, and backs are against the wall. You’re going to see what this team’s really made of. They said they had a team meeting after the Arkansas series, when they got swept, and they did. They looked much better in the SEC Tournament and played well, but this is it. You have to see what this team is mentally capable of doing from a bounce back standpoint, if they’re able to go.
Miami is going to be a team that’s going to give them a fight. Can they fight off that fight? They haven’t seemed like they could fight off the fight lately.
Ethan: No. Miami’s going to be tough to beat. They have a couple, the Del Castillo brothers, middle of that lineup are a couple of guys that can really hit the ball. Then the bullpen’s pretty deep. They’ve really come on over the last couple of weeks or so. Their starting rotation is still a little in flux, but it’s going to be interesting to see if they can fight through any kind of adversity, because this is the kind of team where once they get down in games they don’t usually come back and win them.
If they get down 3-0 in the second inning, the game’s over. Gators do not come back. They start swinging for the fences. They’ll strikeout 15 times. It just becomes a fiasco. So, now it’s going to be interesting to see if they can finally find that other gear of realizing if we don’t get it together this is our final game with this team ever playing together again. It’ll be interesting to see if they can finally fight through that and find a way to make in game adjustments instead of having to wait until after they lose before finding the right mindset entering the next game.
Andrew: It’s odd, because this was a team, and obviously it was very limited of what we were able to see last year. They didn’t have very many games, but that was a team last year that came back. They battled for nine innings, had those great rallies and stuff like that. To see them not fight back is odd. It’s very weird. Like you said, it’s do or die for this team.
As far as Miami goes, is it the same three starters that they’ve had all year that the Gators face?
Ethan: I don’t believe so. I think the Friday night guy, Daniel Federman, I think he’s still in the rotation, but not as the #1 starter anymore. Then the other two guys, I think they’ve kind of changed it multiple times. I’m not even really sure who’s going to be starting against Florida now. They’ve been mixing it up even more than Florida has really.
Andrew: I haven’t seen a probable rotation for Miami for this weekend yet, so we’ll have to continue to look on that. Again, it’s their time. This should be a Regional that they do win. Will it be tough? Yeah, but maybe this tough will help this team to battle through. Maybe that Saturday night packed house that we’re all rooting for against Miami, maybe that’ll get this team rolling. Baseball is a game of who’s hot. I always say that. We always joke about wildcard teams winning in the Major Leagues. It’s because they got hot. It’s whatever team is hot at the right time. Coastal Carolina a few years, got hot at the right time. Nobody’s to say the Gators don’t get hot at the right time.
Ethan: There’s a reason why the best team in the country rarely ever wins the National Championship. They expanded the field to 64 teams and had the Super Regional format installed in 1999. There’s only been one #1 overall seed since then to win the whole thing, and that was the very first year of the format, when Miami won it as the #1 seed in 1999. Since then, it’s usually a national seed that wins it, but it’s never the #1.
Even if you look at the Gator team from 2017, that team was not the best team in the country. They were the best pitching team in the country, but they were not the best team in the country for the vast majority of the season, and then they got hot at the right time and found a way to win the thing. I think you have to hope. That’s kind of the same for the Gators this year, because the odds tell you Arkansas is not going to win the National Championship. So, somebody has to win it, so why not us? That has to be the way they think.
Andrew: What was Florida? Four seed, I think, that year they won it? Am I right?
Ethan: They were three or four.
Andrew: Something like that. Again, you’re right. Exactly. The thing that concerns me is the depth of the pitching staff when they get to Omaha, if they get to Omaha. We’ll see. That’s a long way down the road. You definitely don’t want to get in the loser’s bracket, because then that’s when you have a little bit of an issue. Again, I’m with you. I think Florida comes out of this bracket and goes on. Personally, I hope it’s Florida beating South Alabama to get out of this bracket, but for sake of a sellout, beating Miami.
Ethan: Then you have to hope that Arizona State or Fairfield is able to beat Texas, and you get a home Super Regional next week.
Andrew: Fairfield. What a team. Grand Canyon also got in for the first time ever. Didn’t even know they had a baseball program. I thought they were some online educational school.
Ethan: I didn’t know Grand Canyon University was even a physical campus. I thought it was just an online thing.
Andrew: Yeah. I thought it was one of those things that you hear about, work your fulltime job and get an education at nighttime. I thought that was one of those schools, but I guess I was wrong. Who knows?
We got to talk real quick about the rumors of Sully and LSU. LSU obviously has a coaching job opening as Paul Mainieri has retired. I’ll say this. Do I think Sully is going to LSU? No. I don’t. I think Sully’s been offered some of the best jobs in the country, including Clemson, where he was once at and loved. Texas offered him. Didn’t go there. Texas is one of the premier jobs in the country. They can offer bookoodles of money. Obviously, LSU’s a bright job. They’re going to offer a lot of money. I see upwards of $2 million or something like that they’re going to offer. I just don’t see Sully leaving. I could be totally wrong. I just don’t see it.
Ethan: I don’t think he leaves either, but I think it is sort of concerning that he’s asked about it after the SEC Tournament when they lose, and all he said was I’m the head coach of the Florida Gators, and it’s as simple as that. What you would like to hear him say is I love my job. I’m thankful for the people I work with. Kind of saying something encouraging. But it didn’t really seem like he planned on doing that. Maybe just caught off guard by the question.
Andrew: If you say that, you can’t get a raise. You have to say, I’m definitely interested in LSU, and if you don’t give me a raise, I’m going to LSU.
Ethan: Yeah. I guess. I just don’t see how LSU would be any more appealing of a job than Florida. I think there’s this misconception that LSU is just going to throw way more money at him than Florida would ever be willing to invest in baseball. Florida made him the highest paid coach in the history of the sport, at least at the time he signed his latest. I don’t know if he still is the highest paid or not. Then they just built him this beautiful $65 million stadium and let him have a heavy say in the designing of the facility. So, there’s not really much more of a financial commitment you could ask an athletic department to make to baseball than that.
Then, obviously, you have about the same recruiting opportunities and the same ability to win a National Championship at each school. So, unless there’s just something behind the scenes that nobody knows about, I can’t see why LSU would be an attractive place to leave Florida for.
Andrew: Right. Again, you have the recruiting grounds of Florida, and he’s done really good with that. He’s developed that. Again, I don’t think so. Then you have to remember this. Him and his wife share custody of their young child, Finn, their young son. She’s in Gainesville and everything else. Family always, I don’t want to say always, but 90% of the time family always makes the decision easier one way or the other. I mean that as in family usually is able to push you one way or the other and make the job. That’s another reason I think so.
Like you said, the commitment that the administration has put towards baseball to where they have the brand-new facility. They’ve invested in him and everything else. I don’t see it. His contract, I think, goes through 2029 too. I don’t think so. I think it’s a pipe dream. Every year schools, football, baseball, basketball, they always want to say that one of the top names in the country is coming to their school. Guess what? It ain’t happening most of the time.
Am I saying 100% not happening? No, I’m not. I’m saying that I would be shocked if Kevin O’Sullivan is not the coach at the University of Florida next year.
Ethan: I would be stunned too. I think a lot of the speculation on the LSU side just comes from the fact that their athletic director is the guy who hired Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State when he was at Texas A&M, and then he just hired Kim Mulkey, the women’s basketball coach, from Baylor to LSU. He has kind of this history of hiring these big-name guys that nobody really thought would leave and getting them to go to his school. I think people just kind of assume that he can do the same with baseball. Maybe he will get a big name. Maybe he’ll get Jim Schlossnagle at TCU or something like that, but I just have a very difficult time seeing how Kevin O’Sullivan isn’t wearing orange and blue next year.
Andrew: You got to think about this. Jimbo was ready to leave Florida State. It was already a disaster. Him and his wife had gotten a divorce. All the things going on with her and Florida State. He’s ready to get out of there. The basketball coach, she’s from Louisiana. Kramer Robertson is her son, and he played at LSU. You have to put that in perspective too. I know Tennessee’s coach is also a rumor to be possibly going somewhere, so go get one of those names and be done with it. I just don’t see it. We’ll see.
Real quick note, Tim Walton and the Gators did get swept out of the Super Regionals in softball. Shocking. Very shocking that they lost, but not shocking at how they lost. They simply cannot hit the ball. Their offense has been a disaster for the last few years, and it continues.
Ethan: Yup. It seems like every time they get into a big game against a team with a really good pitcher they just cannot hit the ball, or they’ll get runners on second. I don’t know what the problem is with them, but it’s just been a recurring issue for several years. They have two or three good hitters at the top of the lineup, and then it’s just six or seven automatic outs pretty much. You’re not going to consistently be able to win like that. Because when they do win, it typically involves some sort of miracle finish, and eventually those are going to dry up. You can’t rely on having to have a super play at the end to win. That caught up to them, and you get shut out twice in a row.
Andrew: Especially when you don’t have that one dominant pitcher. That’s not to take anything away from Elizabeth Hightower and Natalie Lugo, because they didn’t pitch bad in this series overall. But when you don’t have that one pitcher that’s going to come out and throw 0s up every time, you got to score some runs. When you can’t score, they scored one run against the pitcher from Georgia all weekend, that just doesn’t work. When you’re not putting any hits together or anything else, and I’ve long said I hated their approach of getting up there and looking for walks and looking to be hit by a pitch. Get up there and be aggressive. I always say the first pitch is a lot of times the best pitch you’re going to see, and when you’re consistently just looking at it and begging for walks, not going to win very many games.
I don’t know that it’ll change unless Walton decides to make a change at hitting coach, but that’s his good buddy. I think approach and a different gameplan offensively has got to come soon for Tim Walton and this team if they want to continue to be as dominant as they are. I think the game is getting to be more aggressive. Like it or not, you’ve got to be able to hit the long ball. Florida does that a little bit, but it’s always solo shots, because they can’t put any hits together.
Ethan: They definitely need a philosophical shift, because it just seems like they try to use themselves as the bat more than they try to use the bat as the bat. Relying on the other team’s pitcher to make mistakes is not a great strategy. You have to be able to beat another team’s pitcher when they’re throwing well. I think, like you said, they just get into too many two-strike counts. Hitting is known as one of the hardest things to do in all sports, so why not give yourselves three cracks at it instead of giving yourself one strike to work with? From a mathematical standpoint, you’re hurting your chances of getting on base significantly by getting into a two-strike count.
Andrew: They go with that whole fake bunt square, and supposedly it was to help keep their eye on it. I don’t believe that that helped keep their eye on it. You’re moving your head back to position. You’re moving your body to get back into a hitting position. I don’t see how it’s effective. I think it’s counterproductive, to be honest with you.
You simply can’t get loaded on your backside when you’re doing that. Your eyes are moving, so you’re definitely going to see pitches differently. When you’re moving your head from down low to up, from a bunting standpoint to a hitting standpoint, you’re not going to see the rise ball as good. You’re not going to see the drop ball changeup as good. I don’t like it. I think, like you said, change has to be made. If this team is going to continue to be a top powerhouse program, you got to make a change there. Any final thoughts on diamond sports?
Ethan: I think we covered it all. To go back to what you said about them using the fake bunt thing. If that truly worked, wouldn’t you think you’d see that in all levels of baseball? Wouldn’t Mike Trout be squaring to bunt before every pitch he saw?
Andrew: Exactly. What does Florida’s hitting coach know that the rest of the world doesn’t know? Not very much. Pitchers don’t even do that in the Major Leagues. You would think that would be a strategy. I’m with you. I don’t agree with it. Again, I think something has to be done, and something has to be changed. It does seem like some of the recruiting has dropped off for Tim Walton, and that has to get back to where it was as well. Tim Walton’s a great coach, and he’ll figure it out. I do think he will make the change offensively to get things better. I don’t know if he gets rid of his buddy or what it is, but I do think they’ll get it fixed.
Ethan: Yeah. He’s shown an ability to adapt before when he needed to. There was one time he went to Oklahoma City, and they lost, and he said, I see what we need to become. Then I think the next year or two they won their first championship. He’s a smart guy. I think he knows what the problems are. It’s just a matter of trying to address them adequately and get things turned around and headed in the right direction offensively.
Andrew: Exactly. 13 visitors this coming weekend, Ethan. It’s a lot of guys coming on campus for official visits. Big weekend, again, because of it being the first weekend. 13 guys overall, including Florida quarterback commit Nick Evers. He was a hit all day on Tuesday. People like his personality, really like him overall. I think he’s going to be that head guy of this class, and that’s what you want.
You got his good friend, Evan Stewart, coming in, the receiver out of Texas that he’s really close to. They play seven-on-seven together. Also, another guy in Gentry Williams is a receiver/corner out of Oklahoma coming in. They’re very close as well. An offensive lineman, Tyler Booker, out of IMG, they’re close. Those three guys are three of the biggest names that are coming on campus, and Evers already has that relationship with them. Ethan, I know you would agree that having a guy like Evers do that is big.
Ethan: You can have your coaches talk to a player all you want, but the reality is they want to know who’s going to be throwing them the ball for the next three to four years. I think probably the relationship they have with their quarterback is going to be just as important, if not more important, than anything Mullen’s going to be able to say or anything Billy Gonzales is going to be able to say. Nick Evers so far seems to be a really good recruiter. I don’t know when the last time the Gators had a quarterback commit that seemed to be this engaging and be this big of a draw. I don’t know. Was Will Grier ever this big of a deal with recruits?
Andrew: Will was big. Matt Corral was big when he was committed. Guys really liked him a lot. Obviously, he didn’t end up in the class. Emory was so late into the cycle that he wasn’t very big in it. Anthony Richardson’s more of a quiet guy, so he wasn’t very big in it. Del Rio and Kitna weren’t either. Obviously, they didn’t get to go on campus as much and see kids, so that didn’t help them at all either. So, it’s been a while since a guy has kind of been that quarterback that’s really been able to say, I’m going to come be your quarterback, and here it is. For him to be in Texas with guys like an Evan Stewart and a Gentry Williams from Oklahoma, all those guys, I think it’s big, because he’s able to get those guys on campus, and then hopefully get them back to come back with him for an unofficial later in the fall.
Ethan: Yup. They’ve been surprisingly good at recruiting Texas the last couple cycles it seems like. They’ve gotten one or two guys every cycle.
Andrew: It’s been big. Hopefully that kind of continues. You have Chris McClellan that’s coming in from Oklahoma as well. He’s good friends with Gentry Williams. Then two of the guys that are kind of top guys in the country on the defensive line is Anaya White out of Philadelphia, who works out with Dominique Easley, and then you have Walter Nolan out of Tennessee, who’s a big five-star guy by most people. Two of those guys coming in for your first weekend.
We said this before, and I think we said this a couple weeks ago. One of the biggest needs for this team is getting some help inside on the defensive line. You look at a guy like Nolan, he’s a big help there. You could never have too many pass rushers. A guy like Anaya White is a big one there. Another one coming in is Jahara Campbell. He’s an inside linebacker/outside linebacker/rush guy. So, to get those guys on campus in a position of need, in my opinion, Ethan, is big.
Again, it just is going to depend on if you can get these guys back on campus. You have to be able to get some of these guys back on campus, because you’re using your official early on.
Ethan: That is the risky run with having these early officials is you make a good early impression, but then there’s a chance that’s the only impression. Like you said, defensive line is a huge position of need for them. They seem to have a lot of speedy athletic type of guys they’ve done a good job of getting, like edge rushers, but they’ve got to continue to beef up the interior of the line and then the strong side end position, because they’re relying on a couple of transfers inside this year. Obviously, you don’t want to bank on getting transfers every year. So, beefing up the interior is going to be a huge point of emphasis, I would think.
Andrew: Again, you’ve got to be able to grow some of your own guys. I say that all the time, because plug and play guys only work sometimes. They don’t work all the time. You always run the risk of are they good fit for your locker room? Do they fit in with what you have already? You always run that risk. So, we’ll see as we continue to go through this season how good they actually do fit in and all that stuff. But to be able to grow your own guys is huge. Getting those big-name five-star guys is another big win, if you can start to land some of those guys.
Ethan: Yup. They’ve done a better job the last couple years. They’ve gotten five-stars the last couple of classes. You got to find another one now, because this is around the time where those guys start going off the board. It seems like five-stars don’t usually wait until Signing Day as much anymore. They’re making their decision before their senior year. They’re going to have to start making some progress here in the next couple months to get some of those guys.
Andrew: Yeah. Exactly. Ethan, I think that’s all that I have. We’ll be back next week. We’ll recap the Gainesville Regional. We’ll recap recruiting, and hopefully be previewing a Super Regional against Texas or Fairfield or one of those good schools. We’ll be talking about whatever else is going on. I’m sure something else will be coming down the line, as it’s never a dying or boring time in Gainesville.
Ethan: Nope. It certainly is not. I hope they get to play Fairfield. That’d be kind of cool, because I don’t even know what a Stag is, but that’s their mascot.
Andrew: That’s your homework. Figure out what that is.
Ethan: You see me googling, so it doesn’t really work that way.
Andrew: Exactly. Ethan, we appreciate it. You’ll be out at the stadium all weekend. Hopefully you get you a sellout. We will be covering recruiting as well, having all those recaps, as always. Make sure to check us out on the website at Gator Country and on social media, @GatorCountry. We’ll be back next week to recap everything and hopefully preview another baseball series. Thanks, guys.