Podcast: Talking spring football and pro day for the Florida Gators

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we continue to talk about the Florida Gators spring practices as they had their first scrimmage last weekend.

Andrew and Nick de la Torre talk about the scrimmage and how the position battles are bringing down for the Gators this spring.

Andrew and Nick also talk about pro day and the biggest news surrounding Florida players who are expected to be drafted this month.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, back and spring practice is, what, two weeks away from being over with and the Orange and Blue game going on. Been a productive spring for the most part. What do you say?

Nick:                         Yeah. Productive spring. It should be. Last year at this point we were kind of like just trying to learn everything, as much as the players were. This year we know what to expect. The players know what to expect. You can just imagine that it’s obviously going much quicker for the players, and a quicker practice. The guys are able to go through stuff. It’s just not much learning. The practices were fast-paced last year, but there’s just not wasted time. There’s less explaining.

Andrew:                 Right. Less explaining. It’s a little bit of, I don’t want to say more productive, because last year was productive in the sense that they learned the system, but from a standpoint of last year you’re learning more of the basics of things. Now you’re able to get a little more expansive on things, and you’re able to, maybe that cut wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be, but it got the job done last year. Now this year you can work on those things.

I think that Year 2 bump a lot of people talk about. I don’t know if it’s true or not true, however you want to say. Hadn’t really looked up those statistics to really be able to say I can back that up or not, but that Year 2 bump is a lot of those reasons for that. You’re able to take those small details and make them bigger details. Not only that, but you’re able to see Nick Savage’s work even more so from last year, what he was able to do last year, and then what he’s been able to do so far. It’ll even be more noticeable after the summer.

Nick:                         Yeah. Another point, I mean, last year I would say at times, Dan Mullen would get frustrated, because, listen, I mean, as long as he’s been a coach and been in charge of an offense, this has been his offense. He knows what he’s looking for. He knows what the defense is that is called. He knows what the offense can do against that defense. So, he would get frustrated with that when his quarterbacks last year would take too much time to go through something.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I mean, he’s understanding as a coach. It’s just you get frustrated when you know what to do, why doesn’t the player know? Obviously, he understands they’re still learning it. Now you’re seeing from the quarterback standpoint with Feleipe and Kyle and Emory, it’s not taking that same amount of time to see what the defense is doing, analyze that, and then know where to go with the ball.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I mean, Dan Mullen can tell you before the snap, this is where the ball should go. Last year the quarterbacks couldn’t do that, because they were still learning. Year 2 in the system, they’re going to get to that point much quicker now.

Andrew:                 Right. You’re able to expand the playbook a little bit. You’re able to put different things in there. You’re able to really, I don’t want to say last year’s playbook was slimmed down, because I don’t think Dan Mullen would do that, but I definitely think that some things that maybe he didn’t have in early on, especially that Kentucky game, when you look at it this year, it’ll be there. He’ll be able to do some different things, to add some things that maybe he’s put aside for the last four or five years, or something like that. He’ll be able to add those things there.

I think you see getting creative with Kyle Pitts, moving him around. You’re able to see different guys be able to move different spots, because they’re used to it. They understand one position, so you’re not worried so much about going to the second position. You look at guys like Kadarius Toney, a guy who last year in the spring pretty much worked exclusively at receiver. You’re able to see him do a lot of different things this year.

Nick:                         We asked Feleipe about it. He said it’s not necessarily, let’s say Dan Mullen’s playbook was 100 pages, a round number. Feleipe’s like, it’s not like we were only doing 40 pages last year, and now we’re doing 80. He’s like, it’s just there’s different variations of it, just with a better understanding of the playbook as a whole. Not even the playbook as a whole, but each individual play and what is the purpose of this play. What are we trying to accomplish? Not every play is a homerun. Sometimes you’re only trying to accomplish, we just want to get three or four yards here. That’s all we want.

Andrew:                 3rd and six, all you need is seven.

Nick:                         Yeah. It’s just a better understanding of it. One of the challenges too will be the expectations, because you expect from Year 1 to Year 2 to take that huge jump. Not to say manage expectations, but I think Florida’s should be a better team this year than they were last year, and last year was a resounding success.

Andrew:                 Yeah. People ask me all the time, we all say the team should be better, that means they get in the SEC Championship. I say this, and Nick, I’m guessing this is what you meant. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I’ll let you speak for yourself here in just a second. When I say the team will be better, do they end up with 9 wins next year? Possibly. Don’t come back and call me a liar and say, the team didn’t get better. I think the team will improve. Whether the record improves or not improves can be several different factors to go along with that. I do, I agree with you.

I think the offense will look better for the most part. I think you’ll see an offense that isn’t so reliant on that one really mismatch that we see in every game last year, where there was the option and that kind of stuff. I think you’ll see a game, like the Georgia game, for instance, when certain things were taken away, Florida’s able to flip the switch and go to something different.

Nick:                         Right. I mean, when you look at the schedule, Miami’s a great starting game. UT Martin. At Kentucky will be your first true road game, because Miami, even though it’s not at home.

Andrew:                 If you ask fans, if they lose the Miami game, the season’s over with. You can go ahead and cancel it.

Nick:                         I mean, I don’t know how good Kentucky is going to be. Tennessee. You get Tennessee at home. Townsend. Auburn could be a good game. That’s at home. At LSU is going to be tough. That stadium’s going to be crazy, because haven’t played there since, three years?

Andrew:                 Yeah. Because you got the last time you played is when the goal line stand to go to the SEC Championship.

Nick:                         That’ll be a crazy atmosphere. South Carolina. I just think it’s obviously an SEC schedule, and you’re getting one less cupcake with Miami. I think, to me, it comes down to that November 2nd game again in Jacksonville. That, to me, if everything plays out how I think it should, that will be your SEC Championship game, SEC Championship play-in game.

Andrew:                 SEC Eastern Championship.

Nick:                         Yeah. SEC Eastern Championship game.

Andrew:                 I think, when you look at the schedule every year, that’s beginning to look like that. In the ‘90’s, early 2000’s, it was the Florida-Tennessee game.

Nick:                         Tennessee. Early on in the year. Yeah.

Andrew:                 Whoever won that game, I think it was something like 9 out of 10 years or something like that, represented the SEC East in the SEC Championship game. I think when you look at Jacksonville right now, I think for the next few years, until Tennessee improves under Jeremy Pruitt, and we’ll see what happens to South Carolina and the rest of the East, until something happens in Knoxville, I think you’re going to look at Jacksonville as going to be the game that winner probably goes to Atlanta.

Again, will Florida knock of Georgia? It’s too early to tell, but I think when you go into that game, I think you feel a lot more prepared. I think you feel a lot more, I don’t want to say on a level playing field, because Georgia’s out-recruited Florida for the last few years, and that definitely is going to show in the veteran leadership classes. I think you definitely feel like if Georgia takes away a certain aspect of your game, you’re able to revert back to other things. It’s not going to be kind of a one thing, like it was last year. You went into that game against Georgia. In the second half, Florida couldn’t move the ball.

Nick:                         I mean, obviously then you’re down as well. Florida just wasn’t the team. They did come back in a couple of games. They just weren’t built for that last year.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         It was a team that had a power running game, but Feleipe, to his credit, did get better as the year went on. Was it the South Carolina game?

Andrew:                 South Carolina game.

Nick:                         That he shushed everyone? Is that one?

Andrew:                 Yeah. It was that one. That was the week that he was talked about being replaced. Kyle Trask goes down, and, yeah, after that he went on to kind of shine the rest of the year.

Nick:                         To me, the big thing for me there was that that’s, I think, in my opinion, when his running changed, because he was lowering his shoulder. He was really taking on defenders as far as being a runner. So, to me, that’s when it kind of changed. It changed really his whole game then too. I don’t know if it made him more confident, if that’s the case or not, but to me he was a much better quarterback the rest of the year after that. Maybe that’s what he needed. He started playing pissed off.

Andrew:                 You look at that Michigan game, the runs he had in that game. The Florida State game as well. Let’s start talking a little bit about the spring, Nick. You’ve been out there a lot. Give me your early impressions of the offense in general, and let’s start with the quarterback play. Feleipe, Emory Jones, those guys. I know Emory has been a guy that’s been talked about as improved and all that. You and I will agree, no matter what Dan Mullen says, this is Feleipe’s job to lose. Give your impressions of quarterback play early on.

Nick:                         I mean, unless you have like a Tim Tebow, and Mullen’s even kind of joked that he wouldn’t name Tim Tebow as starter. I don’t know what Feleipe would have to do to not be. You know what I mean? I don’t know what he would have to do, how poorly he would have to play, to not be the starter.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         For me, Dan Mullen can say whatever he wants, but Feleipe Franks is, from what I’ve seen, your clear starter. Emory Jones is much better. Jalon Jones, to me, does not look like he’s ready to play at all, which is fine.

Andrew:                 Okay for a freshman.

Nick:                         He should still be in high school. I said the same thing about Emory last year at this time. He’s not ready.

Andrew:                 Before you go on, let me ask you a question. You’ve seen both of those guys now on the practice field. Who is more advanced at this time in their careers, Jalon or Emory? Jalon was an early enrollee. Emory was an early enrollee.

Nick:                         Maybe like a slight advantage to Emory.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         Very, very similar. You look at them, and you’re like it’s just young, raw, unpolished. You can see the potential. It’s just not ready there. It’s not yet.

Andrew:                 Fair enough.

Nick:                         Kyle Trask is fine. I just don’t see him overtaking Feleipe Franks.

Andrew:                 I think you and I agree there. It’s a situation where, I don’t know how to word this without it sounding bad. I don’t mean this to sound bad, but it was one of those that if Kyle did win the job last year, you almost figure he’s not going to win it this year.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 It’s not a bad thing. I mean, again, I’m not trying to discredit Kyle or say anything bad about Kyle. I’m just simply saying that if it wasn’t going to happen last year, I think Emory Jones is at a place in his career now that if something happens to Feleipe or Feleipe struggles, you’re probably going to turn to Emory.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         Yeah. The only thing that I would even like think of is …

Andrew:                 I mean, Emory’s not redshirting.

Nick:                         Right. The only thing I would think of is like let’s say Feleipe, if it happens don’t blame me, if Feleipe breaks his ankle in Week 1.

Andrew:                 Oh, that’s your fault.

Nick:                         Do you go Emory for the rest of the season, or do you go Kyle for the rest of the season, or is it a mix? Versus it’s the Miami game and Feleipe sprains his ankle, and he’s out for the 4th quarter, and the game’s kind of close. Do you go Emory, or do you go Trask?

Andrew:                 It’s your fault if something happens. It’s your fault if something happens. Let’s move to the offensive line though, Nick.

Nick:                         Well, what’s your answer?

Andrew:                 Oh, what’s my answer? I’m going Emory. For me, I saw enough last year, and I’ve heard enough this spring from people about Emory, to know that Mullen definitely feels confident with him, and definitely feels like he’s a guy that is ready. Again, this is nothing against Kyle. Just for me, Emory Jones is the prototypical quarterback for Dan Mullen’s system.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 That’s just me. I could be wrong. Probably would be wrong. Who knows? I mean, we’re not in that situation. We’re still, what, six months away? Maybe Kyle bounces back and has a great rest of the spring and has a great fall camp.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Give me update on offensive line though, Nick. This is a position that I think, if Florida wins 10 games next year, it’s going to be because the offensive line improved. If Florida wins nine, it’s going to be because of the offensive line.

We can’t hear you, Nick.

Nick:                         To me, the offensive line is okay right now.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         On the first team O-line. First team O-line is, left to right, Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie, Nick Buchanan, Bleich, and then Delance. There’s just a huge, huge drop-off right now from the first team to the second team. Dan Mullen likes to say it, we got a bunch of high schoolers on our second team O-line.

Andrew:                 Okay. What is that second team O-line? Give us a rundown.

Nick:                         The second team O-line has been fluid, but it’s literally everyone else. You can see what they’re trying to do. They’re just trying to find their 10.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         There’s nobody there yet.

Andrew:                 How is Richard Gouraige coming along?

Nick:                         He’s been playing second team left tackle. I’ve seen him at guard, and I’ve seen him at right tackle. I’ve kind of seen him everywhere. I see him get beat a lot. Not as bad as some of the other guys, but just not there yet. Probably the worst day that I saw the scrimmage was Michael Tarquin. He was getting abused. I mean, Josiah Pierre put him on his back on a bull rush. He couldn’t contain Andrew Chatfield. I don’t know what the status of his shoulder is. Obviously, he’s still playing, so it’s not bad enough to prevent him from playing.

To me, the second team offensive line has a long way to go. Florida’s got a good defensive line, so that’s always kind of a struggle. People ask, does the offensive line suck, or is the defensive line that good? I don’t know, because how can you? How can you know? If it’s the other way around, the offensive line was doing well, does the defensive line suck, or is the offensive line good? It’s one of those questions you can’t, when can you really have an answer until you’re going up against somebody else’s offensive line or somebody else’s defensive line?

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I feel okay with the first team offensive line. I don’t feel great. I’m not in love with it. I feel okay with that first team offensive line, and really hold your breath when the second team comes in.

Andrew:                 I would say you’ll know a lot about that group in the fall. I think that when you say Tarquin, we talk about those guys, first of all, what’s the status of Tarquin’s shoulder? Still questionable. Lot of people, including myself, were told that he probably wasn’t even going to be able to go through spring, so I guess you could look at it in a twofold sense. Is it a good thing that he’s going through spring? Yes. See how he is in the fall. I’ll say this. This is completely different than what I used to say, Nick, but I trust John Hevesy to get his guys ready. There’s not very many offensive line coaches as good as John Hevesy. My concern right now is definitely tackles and depth.

Nick:                         Yeah. Depth is probably my biggest one right now. I don’t know. You’re not going to fix that. The guys you have are the guys you have.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         I don’t think TJ Moore is ready. Ethan White’s been impressive to me. Kingsley, I don’t know how to say it. Kingsley.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Kingsley, he’s got a little ways to go. To be fair, I’ve even seen Nick Buchanan have some snapping issues. Kingsley had his fair share, and Tanner Rowell’s had a ton. Brett Heggie’s hurt again. He’s, I think, playing with a sprained left wrist. He’s had that wrapped up pretty heavily. He’s, if Brett Heggie can walk, you put him in there.

Andrew:                 Yeah. If Heggie can walk, you put him in there. You find a spot for him to play, and you tell him to tape it up, suck it up. Again, Brett Heggie’s a tough kid. You’re not going to keep him out much. I think last year the injuries were there, but I think that you were definitely looking at Florida being careful with it, more so than him not being able to play.

Buchanan has to step up. You’ve told me this. Several other people have told me this. Hevesy loves Stone Forsythe. He’s a guy who believes in him. He’s a veteran guy on this roster. He’s got to be ready to be that left tackle for this team.

Nick:                         He’s been adequate. He’s been good.

Andrew:                 Let’s move to the defensive side of the ball, Nick. Chris Steele is a guy that I think everyone expected what you’re seeing, and that is good play out of him, but what have you seen out of him that, I guess, has made you say, okay, this is the real deal?

Nick:                         Biggest thing, oh, lost my headset. Biggest thing with Chris Steele is just his attitude. Not afraid. Because Marco Wilson is out, essentially out, he can’t do any, there’s no contact. Because Wilson’s out, he’s getting all the first team reps. He’s across from CJ Henderson, and they’re going after him. I mean, he’s having to go up against Grimes and Swain and Hammond and Jefferson. There’s really no stopping. Florida’s wide receivers are so deep that there’s really no stopping the amount of talent that he’s going to face. He’s not, at least not now, as a freshman, not the biggest talker, but he’s not backing down from anybody.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         He gets beat in a rep, and not worried about it. He moves on and takes the next rep. Very impressed with him. I think he’ll be a starter for Florida. Maybe not a starter, because I expect Marco will be back. He’ll be healthy. But he’ll get playing time. You’ll see that rotation of three guys, with Trey Dean playing inside at like that nickel, that star position. But very impressed with him. I haven’t seen much with Jaydon also, because Jaydon is dealing with his own knee injury.

Andrew:                 Right. You look back at that Georgia game, and we go back to that. You can pinpoint when the game changed, when CJ Henderson went out. To flip the switch now and say, look at the depth. No offense to 12, but you’re going to have Chris Steele and Trey Dean as your guys that are going to back up. Trey Dean’s obviously going to play that star, nickel, whatever you want to call it, position, but he’s probably first off the bench to go Marco or CJ, with Steele probably sliding in behind Dean at the nickel. Still, if something happens, you went from having no depth to feeling pretty good about your four corners. Would you agree with that?

Nick:                         Yes.

Andrew:                 For me, that was the biggest thing when you got Chris Steele. Even not just Chris Steele, when you had Trey Dean play so much last year. A position that we depth-depleted isn’t depth-depleted anymore. If that makes sense.

Nick:                         Yeah, no. You’re back. You’re good.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Move me to the defensive line. How has the pass rush been? How has the interior bam-bam boys been? Overall impressions of David Turner.

Nick:                         I think I like David Turner a lot. Bam-bam boys, they’ve been overtaken. That’s not a secret. They’re running with the second team, talking about Conliffe. Well, I guess, there’s more than just Conliffe and Slaton in the bam-bam boys, but Conliffe and Slaton have been overtaken. They’re running with the twos. Right now Zach Carter’s with the twos, but I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Zach Carter. He is having an awesome spring. He’s a guy that, just based on spring, I will be expecting a lot from.

Andrew:                 That kind of follows up with what you and I had said at the end of last year, when we talked about guys that really benefited from redshirting. Some of those mop up duties, and I know it was mop up duty, but I agree with you. I think that Zach’s a guy that you expect to play and get some sacks. Go ahead.

Nick:                         Still very impressed with Kyree and Shuler inside. Mad respect to Shuler, who is working out with the track team and throwing shotput and disc. Respect to that. Being a two-sport athlete in college is not easy.

Andrew:                 Right. Go throw it, big dude. Go be an Olympic track guy as well.

Nick:                         Yeah. They’re good. Then, from the buck position, Jabari Zuniga, he’ll be fine. Then, I think from the buck position I’m really looking for maybe someone to step up. Obviously, it was supposed to be Jeremiah Moon.

Andrew:                 Out with a broken foot.

Nick:                         Yeah. Is it going to be Chatfield? Is it going to be, Josiah Pierre has looked really good there. He’s only working with the second and third team, but he’s an early enrollee freshman. Nothing there, but he has looked good. Antonneous Clayton, transferring now. I mean, I thought maybe that could be his time, but obviously was not getting what he thought he was going to, and he’s moving on. Mohamoud Diabate getting some reps with the second team, mostly, second and third team. The guy I think right now that will be starting at that spot is Jon Greenard. He’s been very impressive. Physically he’s huge. Big kid. Soft-spoken.

Andrew:                 How has speed picked up for him? I mean, obviously ACC to SEC, but how does the speed look for him?

Nick:                         He looks fine. He doesn’t look like he’s a step slow or anything like that.

Andrew:                 Okay. I think that was a concern for myself, how would he really step in, going from the ACC to this. Let me ask you about the two freshmen guys that you talked about, Pierre and Diabate. Would you say Pierre is ahead of Diabate right now?

Nick:                         Maybe. Maybe right now.

Andrew:                 Okay. That’s shocking to hear. Not that I’m discrediting you at all. Shocking to hear, and I would say this as a positive for Pierre, because Diabate’s a guy, in my opinion, that’s going to make a lot of plays at Florida. He’s got an NFL future.

Nick:                         Right now it might just be just picking up things quicker.

Andrew:                 Right. Yeah.

Nick:                         Because if you’re thinking about stuff it will slow you down on the field. I think both will be fine. I have no idea who will be the first one the field. I think right now it’s Greenard, and then I’m not sure who really comes in after that at that buck position after him.

Andrew:                 I think we still have to remember that while Jeremiah Moon is out, Jeremiah Moon has still got a spot.

Nick:                         Yes. Absolutely.

Andrew:                 Let’s move on. I wanted to talk with you, Nick. We’ll move on from spring ball. We’ll continue to preview this, but I wanted to move on and talk about the Pro Day and all the stuff surrounding Jachai Polite, that kind of stuff. First off, give me your take on Pro Day. Was there any buzz about Jachai? What was your overall impression?

Nick:                         The buzz about Jachai was just how would he respond to a, by all accounts, disastrous Combine. I mean, he owned up to it. He owned up to some of the stuff, saying I wasn’t prepared and this and that. You’re paying people to get you ready for this, whether it’s a …

Andrew:                 An agent or somebody.

Nick:                         Agent, an advisor, people that will only be helping you with just interview process. They’re not even people that are getting you ready for on field drills and the 40 and the broad jump and all that stuff. Just paying somebody to help you with interviews. That was the biggest thing for him. Obviously, the 40 time was atrocious.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         But then getting in the interviews, and the way he was talking about the interviews and saying there was bashing, that teams were bashing him. People were dogging him for that. He kind of, I guess, admitted, like I wasn’t ready, and it’s just, you should be ready. This is your only job. Your only job was to get ready for this. How are you not ready? Then his other thing was he said he gained weight, because in the NFL are bigger and stronger. I’m like, dude, nobody gains weight to go to the Combine. You lose weight to try to run the best 40 time you can. I don’t expect you to understand that, but somebody around you should tell you that. You shouldn’t put on 20 pounds before you go to the Combine to run a five-second 40.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Then we asked, did you lose weight before this? He says, no. I’m still at where I am. He’s 15 pounds heavier than he was when he was at Florida. You have two months, two, three months after the season, just to get ready for three specific things. I just don’t think the people around him are giving him good advice, and I feel bad for that, because he ran a bad 40 again. He ran a five-second 40 at Pro Day, and then pulls up with a hammy and tries to do some defensive drills after that, but that’s it. Now everyone that’s talking about him is still talking about him dropping down boards.

Andrew:                 Right. Yeah. I mean, we’ve all heard that Dan Mullen kind of advised him to come back to school. Maybe that looks like the smart move now. I say this, and I agree with what you’re saying, Nick, and that is whoever is advising him, what are they doing? I don’t want to say he didn’t handle it right afterwards, because, I mean, you have to admit you just weren’t prepared, but in reality as well, by saying you’re not prepared, kind of even raises more of a red flag, right, Nick? Am I wrong in saying that?

Nick:                         No. That’s what I’m saying. When you’re in school, your job is school and football. When you declare for the Draft, your only job is to get ready for the Draft. That’s it. You have no other job. To not be prepared for that, it would be like when I was getting hired by Gator Country, and I went to my interview, and I was wearing board shorts, chewing gum, blowing bubbles, and just not taking it seriously. To me, showing up not ready for the Combine, then not ready for your Pro Day, says what does this even mean to you? Are you taking it seriously? You’re talking to people in the NFL that are trying to invest millions of dollars into you, and you’re showing up not prepared for something that you had months to prepare for.

Andrew:                 Right. I mean, Cece Jefferson talked about he gained some weight, and then dropped it before the Pro Day. You and I have been around this process. You and I have been around the Senior Bowl and that kind of stuff. We’ve talked to several guys who they said the crazy stuff they get asked. What kind of animal would you be? That kind of stuff. You prepare for all that stuff, but you also have to prepare, and one of the biggest critiques coming out of the Combine was Jachai, I don’t want to say complaining, but complaining is the best word to say, about guys only showing his bad plays, and how would he react. That’s what the Combine’s about. They want to see how you’re going to break under pressure. That’s it.

Nick:                         I mean, Vosean Joseph was talking to us. One team asked him to do a staring contest.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         What is that? They’re just try to get make you uncomfortable and see how you react.

Andrew:                 Right. They’re trying to break you. The NFL is full of things, and let’s face it, the world we live in now, with all the off the field issues, teams are, I don’t want to say trying not to make a mistake, but they are trying not to make a mistake of getting a guy who is going to be questionable off the field. I’m not saying that about Jachai Polite. Everything we know about him is he’s been clean, but that is the process. It’s to see how you will break under pressure. For me, I don’t understand it. I put a lot of blame on Jachai, but I also put it on his people that are surrounding him, like you. It’s very odd. It’s very weird.

One guy that has, from a lot of people talked about, improved his game, is Jordan Scarlett. For me and you, Nick, I don’t want to say it’s surprising. We both said he was going to impress the heck out of people at the Combine. I think Jordan Scarlett showed a lot last year, and I think whichever team he goes to, I think he’s going to be a guy that will latch on and stay in the League for a while.

Nick:                         Obviously, he has a lot of red flags, off the field stuff that he’s going to have to answer to. You’ve got marijuana in his freshman year, the credit card stuff.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         You’re going to have to answer to those. Marijuana’s a big no-no in the NFL.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think, for me though, Nick, he answered those questions last year.

Nick:                         Stayed clean. Yeah.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Didn’t get in trouble.

Andrew:                 Let’s move on to the other guy, though. Waany Taylor. Nick, this is no way …

Nick:                         Stock couldn’t be rising higher.

Andrew:                 This is in no way me talking bad about Waany Taylor, but three years ago, if you’d have told me Waany Taylor was going to be a top 10 Draft pick, I’d have told you you were stupid.

Nick:                         Three years ago he weighed almost 400 pounds, and didn’t have an offer from Florida.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I mean, can’t enough about Waany Taylor. If you’re a high school player, look at Waany Taylor. I mean, he is the guy who has earned his money, truly earned his money. From just deciding I want to have a career and losing all that weight to going out and just busting it. With Florida under three offensive line coaches. Great, great stuff for Waany. Top 10 guy, and a guy that looks like he’s going to have a long future in the NFL.

Nick:                         Yeah. He’s not a guy that’s hard to get behind, if you know his whole story and how he got to this point. Easy person to root for, in my opinion.

Andrew:                 Chauncey Gardner’s another guy. Looks like late first, early second guy. Didn’t run as fast as I thought he would run. Would you agree? Did you think he was going to run faster?

Nick:                         I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, he’s a former track star.

Andrew:                 Four time state champion.

Nick:                         But it had been a while, so I didn’t know what to expect, honestly.

Andrew:                 Okay. I guess I kind of expected it to be a little faster than it was, but is what it is there. Let’s talk some recruiting real quick, Nick. We got a few minutes left. Since the last time we talked, the big news was a good friend of ours is now on staff, Keiwan Ratliff, back with the Gators. It’s kind of still relevant now, because the last few days seems like he’s handing out the offers lately. Guys know Keiwan Ratliff. Keiwan Ratliff is very big in the 7-on-7 community, or was very big in the 7-on-7 community. Knew all those guys. You and I have been preaching it for a while, smart move.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 Smart move.

Nick:                         Smart move, and I think he needed to go back and get his degree, which he did. He’s also a guy, not everyone in 7-on-7 has the kids’ best interest at heart, so there’s a lot of people that are just trying to make a name for themselves. That’s not Keiwan. He really cares about his players and the guys that are close to him. I think, for me, that’s a perfect match for Florida. A guy that was a two-time All-American at your school, somebody who is intertwined in with recruiting and knows the ins and outs of 7-on-7 and recruiting, and then somebody who cares about the kids. To join what Vernell Brown is already doing with them, in terms of the Gator Life and trying to help them. Not just as football players, but as young men and students and all of that. I think that’s a big thing, another big addition for the staff.

Andrew:                 I’ve talked to some people about this, and different people have said, you have a point there. Florida has so many former players that are either coaches, trainers. You name it, they’re doing it. Keiwan’s a guy who kept up with all those guys and that kind of stuff. What better person to have in your recruiting department than a guy like Keiwan, who can go in and say, listen, Dallas Baker, he’s a guy who’s coaching ball. Dallas, we need your guy. Dallas is going to trust Keiwan, because he’s talked to him. Whoever it may be. Gus Scott’s a big one in Jacksonville at Trinity Christian. They’re best friends. That kind of stuff is going to help.

We continue to talk about Dan Mullen trying to get the best players out of the state. Listen, it’s not easy, by no means. It’s not easy. You look at what Clemson’s doing. You look at Alabama still doing their thing, and all these other ones. You have to have those relationships. I think it’s just another smart move in the right step. We talked about how big it was getting a guy like Torrian Gray back, and I think that was big as well. Would you agree there?

Nick:                         Yeah. I think the guys love Keiwan, and I think there’s a really tightknit group between the staff and then the players as well. Then to me, it’s a match made in heaven for Keiwan, because he’s a sneaker head, and now he’s got that Jordan plug.

Andrew:                 There you go. We talk about this, and we’re running out of time here, but I’ll make this point really quick here. It was such a divide in the recruiting department the last few years. It’s getting better now with Keiwan there, and the guys they’re starting to hire. Jamar Chaney was another one. So, it’s getting a lot better for the staff. We all know, you’re only as good as what you got in your recruiting department.

Nick:                         That’s the lifeblood.

Andrew:                 There you go. Nick, any final things before we get out of here?

Nick:                         No. We’ll be back again this week. We’ll do one after we talk to Dan. Just wanted to let anyone know, if they hadn’t heard, we didn’t talk to Dan Mullen last week after the scrimmage. His dad passed away a week ago, and he flew up there to be at the funeral.

Andrew:                 Who was that again?

Nick:                         Dan Mullen’s father.

Andrew:                 Okay. Sorry. His dad. That’s what I was trying to get.

Nick:                         Yeah. Condolences to the Mullen family. Hope that they find some peace in a very tough situation.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Definitely. Coach Mullen will have his father watching over him. Like you said, best of wishes that way and everything goes smoothly for Coach and his family. Tell everybody where they can find us, Nick. We’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone on Friday, as we’ll talk some more recruiting. I’ll get more in depth on that and talk some more spring ball, maybe some diamond sports.

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

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it. As always, chomp, chomp, and go Braves.

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