Podcast: Talking the latest Florida Gators football and recruiting news

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk about the latest news surrounding the Florida Gators football program as they started supervised walk-through’s last week.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down how those workouts went and which position group can benefit from these workouts the most.

Andrew and Nick also talk about the latest recruiting news surrounding the program as the Gators have been on a bit of a hot streak in recruiting.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we had some baseball, and we still have baseball for the time being. Hopefully it continues. My Braves and your Marlins are 2-1, but your Marlins, are you guys just wanting to finish the year at 2-1 or what?

Nick:                         Finish the year in first place. That’s the plan.

Andrew:                 We’re going to get into football talk, but let’s start with this. This is the news of the day. Obviously, it’ll be old news when the podcast comes out on Tuesday, but you and I were talking about this a little bit off the air. MLB had to have a plan for this. In case you don’t pay attention to baseball, 14 total Marlins have tested positive, including two staff members, for the virus. Like you and I said, it was going to happen. There was going to be a team or multiple teams who had this happen. There had to be a plan for it, right?

Nick:                         Yeah. Before the season started the MLB came out with like 113-page plan for precautions of how to go about day to day things, how to travel, and then what to do in this very situation, for when someone or a couple people test positive. That’s why you’ve got 60-man rosters. The Marlins have got 30 guys in Jupiter that haven’t been around the team at all, but still going through practice and bullpens and hitting baseballs, to be just in this case to be called up. Jackson Cower, Jonathan India, Alex Faedo, those are guys who are on their respective teams’ taxi squads, and those are guys that could get the call if this were to happen to the Tigers, the Reds, or the Royals.

To see anything about, well, got to cancel the season now, I think that’s premature. I think Major League Baseball has to kind of figure it out. Listen, it’s going to be completely different for college football, but this is what Scott Strickland and all the athletic directors and presidents are looking at. They’re looking at not just baseball, MLS just had their third consecutive round of testing of over 800 people come back with zero positive.

Andrew:                 NHL was the same way, right? I think NHL was.

Nick:                         I think NHL had a couple, maybe two or three. They’re looking at all of these leagues. It’s going to be different, because you can’t put them in a bubble like the NBA is, or like MLS was, is, but this is what they’re looking at. Looking at these models and looking at, now Scott Strickland and Greg Sankey and the commissioners and the athletic directors and presidents are going to be looking going, how does Major League Baseball handle it? What happens to Major League Baseball after this?

It’s easy. A lot of people in our society we just think and react emotionally, and you see something like this, 14 players on a team test positive, a game is postponed, and you think it’s easy to fire off a quick Twitter hot take, and you get a bunch of likes and retweets. It’s a lot easier to do that than just to sit and back and say, let’s see what happens and make a responsible educated decision based on what is going on and what’s happening.

Andrew:                 Right. I think that’s the biggest thing. I was telling you, Craig Mish that covers your Marlins is an absolute idiot. I don’t mind saying it. The narrative right now, and I said this before, is that a lot of the media doesn’t want sports to happen. I would say 99% of the media does. You and I need a job. A lot of people need a job, and if football don’t happen or sports don’t happen, we run the risk of that not happening.

Then you got guys like Craig Mish, who I really wonder if he wants it to happen or not. First five minutes after it happens, he’s already speculating that the season’s being talked about being cancelled. Just shut up, man. Just shut up. We didn’t need your hot take. That didn’t even come up. That hadn’t even come up. I would be very shocked to hear that that even came up five minutes after the news broke. It’s just you needed to fire a hot take and get some retweets and some likes. People like Craig Mish are the reason that us and our business are getting that narrative around us.

Nick:                         I think a lot of it too is that some people are just trying to report. Listen, our job is to report on things. Some people are just trying to report. I mean, a lot of my stories have been just about Coronavirus, and if people think that I don’t want sports, that’s what I’m reporting on, because that’s what’s happening right now. Posting numbers or postings things are closing down, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want it. Like you just said, if there’s no football, I’m probably hoping that the government extends that unemployment check, because I need football to be employed. There’s no part of me that doesn’t. I want football on Saturdays or Thursdays, Wednesdays, Tuesdays, whatever day they can play it. I want it as bad as the next person. I think most people in our profession understand that. Maybe there’s some people whose jobs won’t depend on college football season happening.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Ours certainly do.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s what I say. I think the majority of the people are. Listen, we all are human beings. I know myself, like I just called Craig Mish an idiot, and probably shouldn’t have said that, but we all have our hot takes. We all, obviously, at times tweet things, and we have to remember that you and I tweeting something compared to Joe Blow carries a little bit more weight, so we should be careful what we say.

I was the victim of that a couple weeks. I said the longer the baseball drew out and that kind of stuff that the lesser hope I had for college football. I had no basis of saying that. It was just a hot take, for sure. I’ll say this, and you may or may not agree here, Nick, and that is nobody knows. I don’t. I think that as of right now, let me see what day it is today. We’re taping this July 27th. You’re listening to it July 28th. I believe that we’ll play football. I think that everyone believes we’ll play football. Whether that happens first week of September, I don’t know. It’s all changing by the moment, by the day, everything else. I think that right now, as of taping this July 27th, it’s expected to play.

Nick:                         We’re going to hear, I think, if not by the end of the month, which is the end of this week, you’re going to have to hear soon some kind of decision from the other three Power Five conferences that haven’t decided already to go to only conference play, to cut out nonconference games. I think right now I’m still positive and still think we’ll have football. Even if you’re not starting the season in September, like it’s scheduled to, even if you’re starting in October, there’s just so much financially tied into the college sports ecosystem that football is such a big part of and pays for all these other things.

I think it’s too big for them to just make a decision right now and say, no, we’re not going to do it. They’re going to try everything possible to make it happen. Like I said before, and Scott Strickland’s told us this, watching these pro sports and how they do and their success rate is really what’s going to be the determining factor in how college sports and college football go about it.

Andrew:                 NFL’s training camp is coming up. That’s going to be a big thing. If you see a major outbreak from training camp, guess what? The chances of college football season goes down. That’s just the way it is. Let’s talk some football for a second and get back to going to that. Florida did have their first supervised walkthrough, per se. Again, good to get them back. My question to you, Nick, is this. How much can you learn from this, and which guys in particular do you think need to take that step without no spring? I’m going to one position group, and that’s the offensive line. More importantly, a guy like Stewart Reese, who’s just coming in.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think this is a big deal and a big moment, because this is the first time, in the past you’ve had players and some strength staff and smaller groups, only 20 in lifting groups. Now you’ve got coaches, trainers, videographers, our boy Kevin Camps, who’s out there taking pictures. He’s out there on the practice field. You really got everybody out there, like a regular normal practice, except you’re not really hitting and doing things like that. I think the big thing, like you say, with the offensive line, to me people always say, is it good that you have an entire offensive line back, if they weren’t good the year before? In this circumstance, where you’ve had little to no contact and little to no coaching, absolutely. Then you mentioned Stewart Reese. Sure, he’s new, but he played two years under this staff, didn’t he?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         His freshman year, his sophomore year, he was playing for John Hevesy and playing for Dan Mullen. To me, it’s yeah. I certainly would rather be Florida dealing with this than LSU, who lost all those guys, or Georgia that lost a bunch of those guys.

Andrew:                 Furthermore, at least you have John Hevesy there and have a system in place. You go up to Athens, Sam Pittman’s gone. You got Matt Luke coming in trying to install a whole different thing.

Nick:                         Right. To me, you’ve got four guys on that offensive line who have been in the system for two years. A guy that transferred in, he’s a grad transfer, but he’s already been in the system for two years, so that’s good for me. To me, it’s going to be guys that maybe are cross-training, just going through at a walkthrough pace, not having to learn full speed tackling and all this stuff. Guys like do we need Kaiir Elam to work inside at nickel just in case? Do we need Trey Dean to get some reps at safety? Where can we get guys so that they can learn the playbook right now? So that when we get to the next phase, because you’re in Phase 2 now, when we get to Phase 3, and we’re preparing for a season hopefully, and things are speeding up, maybe they’ll be better off having done this for two, three weeks and learned the new position, so that they’re not having to learn at full speed. This is a time for me for guys to be able to learn and to adjust to new things.

Andrew:                 I think people take walkthroughs as not a big deal. Me speaking from past experiencing coaching wise, there was a lot of times you could learn more from walkthroughs than you could on a practice field, because it was slow paced. You were able to really talk about the situation, explain the situation, not be in a rush. You were able to explain to Ethan White why it’s important to block the defensive tackle on his own play or counter play. You were able to walk through certain things to really help it out.

Now, there’s certain positions, like for instance, quarterback. Is walkthroughs really helping them? Not really, because it’s slow pace. You’re not exactly having to make quick decisions. When you’re looking at the offense and defensive line of understanding what to do, when you’re looking at the linebacker play and just understanding your job, it’s a big thing, and it can really be beneficial if done correctly.

Nick:                         100%. There’s so much pressure. When you’re in practice, the guy who makes plays is the guy that’s going to get on the field. There’s so much pressure to make plays, whether it’s breaking up a pass or catching a pass. That pressure is kind of taken away during walkthroughs. I think that’s kind of really the main point that you were just getting at. There’s no pressure. Then what I was getting at earlier, without that pressure it’s easier to go ahead and learn and not feel, if I don’t make this play right here, I’m not going to play on Saturday. It’s everything is slowed down. We’re just trying to learn. We’re good.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Exactly. It’s slow paced for a reason. It’s different than being in the video room, where you’re looking at the video compared to you’re looking at it this way. Like I said, I think the offensive line is there. Definitely getting these guys in shape. That would be my biggest question mark, not about Florida in general, but about every football program around the country. How in shape are these guys? Are you going to go out there and risk some injuries with a hamstring or that kind of stuff? Are your guys going to be ready to go 60 minutes? You and I are baseball guys. Pitchers aren’t able to go 9 innings, 100 pitches, right now. They’re 75-80. Are starters going to have to play half the plays to begin the season? I think you start to look at all that stuff, because you didn’t have that March to June workouts, including spring practice.

Nick:                         That really goes to every strength and conditioning coach, not just Nick Savage. I think in the short time he’s been at Florida, there might be a Go Fund Me to make sure that he has the biggest home in the state and that he’s really happy in Gainesville from the fans, because he’s done an incredible job. I think that’s going to go to every strength and conditioning coach across the country. I mean, even in a normal year, in a normal offseason, they’re the ones that are with the team the most, but especially in a situation like this.

Now you’re talking about they’re not only just doing workouts, but these are the people that are around during a pandemic. Now it’s not just are you hydrated, did you drink your water? Did you get your protein shake? It’s did you wash your hands? Where are you going after this? Stuff like that. Nick Savage hasn’t given me any reason not to trust that Florida will be physically prepared for a season when or if it happens.

Andrew:                 Like you said, it goes beyond just that. So far it hasn’t been an outbreak for the team in general. You kind of look at some things here, Nick. The good news is you didn’t have any injuries with it, but there’s a lot of competition that still has to be decided, as we start to head into camp here in the next couple weeks. You look at the secondary, for instance. You know Marco Wilson and Kaiir Elam’s going to be there. Who’s going to be your starting safety? Does a guy like Trey Dean, is he caught up enough at that position to be the guy there? We all thought that was going to be a whole spring of him playing back there, but it didn’t happen.

Nick:                         Right now, this is a time where coaches wouldn’t even have any kind of contact, so this is all part of the response to the pandemic and the Coronavirus. This is a 14-day period, and they can do up to 20 hours a week with the guys. Is it ideal? No. But you can learn a lot in that 20 hours a week for the next two weeks, right?

Andrew:                 Oh yeah. For sure.

Nick:                         40 hours of time to kind of see where a guys at and where you are before a decision is made about fall camp.

Andrew:                 For sure. That was my whole thing. You look at where things are at. It’s just you have a lot of battles that aren’t going to be won in supervised walkthroughs, but could be won in fall camp. My whole thing was, every team around the country has it, but there’s a lot of question marks that you’re going to have even more so before heading into this. You look just what I talked about at secondary. There’s still a lot of questions at linebacker. Who’s going to really step up? We all think it’s going to be James Houston, but is it a guy like Tyron Hopper maybe steps in? Then you look at defensive end. We know Zach Carter and Brenton Cox are going to be there. Who’s going to be the next man up behind that? We all think Mohamoud Diabate should be there, but who besides those guys?

Nick:                         I’m really excited about Mohamoud Diabate. You can’t forget about Ventrell Miller either. He’s maybe your David Reese type, fit there, big prototypical run-stopping downhill linebacker. Lot of questions.

Andrew:                 Jeremiah Moon’s another one.

Nick:                         Yeah. My questions aren’t on the outside. Jeremiah Moon and Cox and all the guys you have outside, Zach Carter. My questions are going to be right up the middle on defense. That’s middle linebacker. Is it Ventrell? Is it James? What are you doing at safety with Stiner and Stewart and guys back there? Then at defensive tackle. How’s Elijah Conliffe look coming back from injury?

Does TJ Slayton, I love the way he finished last year, does he bring that into this year? Because I think the question with him is just disappearing at times. There would be times where we’d be in the third quarter of a game, and you’re like, I think he’s gotten like five snaps? Why isn’t he getting in? He finished the season really strong, and I think you need to have him reach the level that everyone expected him when he first signed. Obviously, this is the year for him to do it, his senior year. To me, all my questions on the defense are right up the middle.

Andrew:                 Right. You’re exactly right. I think that you look at that, and you even take it across the ball to offense. You look at who’s going to be my two guards, and who’s going to be my center? You have the guys there, lack of experience.

Nick:                         Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see. I echo it. I’ve said it before on our podcast. I think Florida is in a better position, and I understand they lost a lot, but based on what they’re bringing back and based on that continuity, I think they’re in a lot better position than a lot of these other schools that had so much turnover. Turnover’s normal for college football. You just haven’t gotten it really in Gainesville, and I think that will aid Florida in the kind of crazy offseason and super unique offseason that we’ve had.

Andrew:                 Let me ask you this. Do you think it will limit the playbook even further this year than it has in years past, simply because of the fact of not being able to install as much in the spring?

Nick:                         I don’t think that it will for Florida, just because of what I was just talking about with the continuity. You get Kyle Trask back. He’s a guy who has already been at Florida for four years, has been in this offense going into his third year. Clearly, everyone knows his story now, but clearly he wasn’t just slacking off. He wasn’t the backup from Blue Mountain State just going to frat parties and drinking. He was getting ready and preparing as if he was going to be the starter. So, clearly he’s got a grasp of the playbook. I think he’s spent all offseason preparing to be the starter. So, no, I don’t think you take any steps back from a quarterback standpoint.

Then you’re looking at the running backs. Lamical Perine had more carries last year than every other running back combined. If I’m Malik Davis, Damien Pierce, I’m hungry. I’m looking and saying, it might not have been that way in Dan’s first year, with the way that he kind of spread the ball around, but it was that way in Dan’s second year. How can I be that guy that gets 240 carries? Then you’ve got Lorenzo Lingard, who I’m sure he’s ready to prove himself after two years at Miami. Let me show you why I’m a five-star. I think you’ve got that hunger in the backfield.

Obviously, at receiver, the way Florida spreads the ball around, you lose five guys, the guys stepping up, they’re ready to go. Then Florida’s defense, I think the big talk will be you lost CJ. You lost a three-and-a-half-year starter in David Reese. The talk will be how does Florida replace those guys, and I think the guys on defense will have that chip on their shoulder.

Andrew:                 Right. You know Grantham’s not dialing it back.

Nick:                         The dial broke years ago with Todd. He turned it up to 11, and then he snapped it off the machine. That’s just where it stays. There’s no dialing it back for Todd Grantham.

Andrew:                 Third and 72, he’s still dialing up that engage eight on the Madden.

Nick:                         It worked in Starkville.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         I just think, and I sound like a broken record, but I think if we were covering Georgia or if we were covering LSU, we would sound like a broken record in the opposite fashion and be like, shoot. We’ve got a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, a new this, a new that, a new quarterback, a new system. I don’t know if these Zoom calls are enough.

It’s like if you never go to the doctor, and then you go once, and it’s like here’s a list of things that are wrong. You’ve never gotten checked up. That’s why they’re not. I feel like Florida’s the guy that’s been eating his apple every day, going to the doctor every week. It’s just like we’re just doing a little bit of maintenance, because there’s no wholesale changes. Florida just had to do just maintenance, just kind of how’s it going? Nope, we still got it. Yup. All good. Versus what page are you in in that new 300-page playbook? 12? Going to need you to be on Page 70 by the next time we talk.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. Like you said, it is a broken record, but the good thing is it’s a veteran program. You’re not talking about a new staff or anything like that, so you feel good. Outside of Larry Scott and Tim Brewster switching positions at tight end, you’re good. Again, we may come back and look the stupidest people in the world. Florida may come out and look the most unprepared of any of them, and you and I will get laughed at on here, but I feel pretty good in saying Florida will be fine.

Nick:                         Yeah. I have no other way to make it make sense in my head, you know what I mean? If I were covering a different school. Georgia. If we were covering Georgia, and you were asking me questions about the offensive line, shoot, I don’t know.

Andrew:                 First of all, if you were covering Georgia, you have to be a homer. Okay? Just stop. They have to tell you Kirby’s going to win the National Championship. Yeah. Anyway, we’ll see where it is. We’ll see where things go. We just kind of got to continue to play things by ear every day.

Nick:                         Here’s one thing. Recruiting hasn’t stopped. I think Miami’s won a National Championship, after their 6-7 season. Florida’s gotten a little bit of momentum as well with a couple recruits. It’s July, still July. Typically the teams that brag about recruiting in July it doesn’t turn out well when actual Signing Day rolls around, but give us a little update on recruiting, and if we’ve already crowned Miami the recruiting champions.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I’m trying to think back to the last one we did. We’ll just run through the recent commits. Safety Donovan McMillon committed. Wide receiver Marcus Burke committed to Florida over Georgia. You had Jake Slaughter flip from Florida State to Florida, the center from Ocala. You had the long snapper in Rocco Underwood committed. Yes, right now he is on scholarship, #1 long snapper in the country. Some people are upset about it. Like I said, he’s on scholarship right now. Dan Mullen values special teams like anybody else, or like most people that are successful as head coaches there. A little bit of a hot streak for Florida. Picked up those four guys, four big ones. August is the one setting up. August could be fun for Florida.

Nick:                         It’s interesting to see how the high school’s rising seniors are kind of treating this. Some guys are the guys that are like, I’m going to wait until I’ve signed for the Army– or it’s not the Army game anymore.

Andrew:                 All-American Bowl.

Nick:                         The All-American Bowl or I’ve signed for the Under Armour game, and that’s when I want to commit. Now they’re looking at it like, shoot, I know down here in Florida the FHSAA, they don’t know if they’re going to have a season. Some of these guys are like, listen, let me just do this. I don’t even know what’s going to happen, so let me just go ahead and commit somewhere now.

Andrew:                 You’re seeing the Palmetto Group of Jason Marshall, Corey Collier, Leonard Taylor, and Brashard Smith, who just committed to Miami. All those guys were going to go Signing Day. All those guys, besides Brashard, are going to announce in early August. A lot of these guys are like, we’re not going to have a season probably, or if we do it might be in the spring. Who knows what it is? I’m locking my spot in now.

Nick:                         Miami’s a disaster right now. That’s close to my home, but they just had like people test positive for the West Nile Virus. We might just need to like section Miami off for a little bit and let them figure their things out with Coronavirus, West Nile Virus, and just keep everyone in Miami in Miami for a little bit until they figure their stuff out down there.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s where things are going. We’ll talk about those guys that’s coming up in August. You got Corey Collier. Really like Florida’s chances there. It’s Florida, LSU, Miami. Really like Florida’s chances there. You got Jason Marshall, the corner from Palmetto. It’s Florida or Alabama. Could go either way. I lean towards Florida at this time. Leonard Taylor’s Florida or Miami. I lean towards Miami for him right now. Then you got the big defensive tackle from Armwood in Desmond Watson. Florida, A&M is his final two. I really like Florida there for him.

Nick:                         He had the tweet. It was just like 8-20. Just letting you know, the commitment’s coming sometimes in August.

Andrew:                 Probably when a video or whatever is down. You know how it’s all done. I interviewed him. The story’s on the website. He still doesn’t know an official date yet, but you like Florida’s chances there. When you look at Florida’s class in general, Nick, it’s kind of typically a class that you want to have. When I say that, that is a class that’s pretty much done. Florida’s sitting at 22 commits right now in the class. That could change a little bit. That’s heading into the season.

That’s what you like. You look at Urban Meyer and Nick Saban and some of the great ones, they liked to have most of the recruiting class in place by the start of the season. Then you pick off the big dogs, the ones that are going to wait. You want to have the majority of your class done by September 1st when football season starts.

Nick:                         Obviously, if you look at the class now, and you’re crunching numbers right now, you’re probably thinking they’ve only got two, three spots left. That stuff can change. We don’t like speculating on transfers, stuff like that, but that stuff can change. It’s like you said, when you look at those programs, the Alabama, when the season starts, they’re pretty much ready to go, and then they’ve got their eyes set on a couple of their prime uncommitted targets.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         You try to start picking those guys off.

Andrew:                 Nick Saban once had a quote that said, “The numbers always work themselves out.” Nick, I’ll ask you this. When has the numbers not worked themselves out?

Nick:                         They enjoy their gray-shirting over there in Tuscaloosa. He makes the numbers work out sometimes. I remember there was Ole Miss, before they got hit with cheating, Hugh Freeze had some like 36-person. They had to make rules around recruiting in the SEC, because they were like, Ole Miss’s signing class was 876 four-star commitments. It was like, what?

Andrew:                 For real. Nick, any final thoughts? We’ll get out of here. Again, we’re taping this on Monday, and the word coming out of baseball is they’re going to play.

Nick:                         Yeah. Couple thoughts. First, big congratulations to Brady Singer.

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Made his MLB debut. Got a no decision. Gave up two runs. Almost tied the Royals debut record for strikeouts. Struck out seven. Had that slider working, just falling off the table. Made some Big League hitters look silly with his slider, and pumped it up, I think to 95. Congratulations to Brady. Hopefully many more wins. He didn’t get the win, but the Royals did, in his first start.

Andrew:                 Our first win for a former podcast guest.

Nick:                         Yeah. Hopefully many more too. A solemn rest in peace to Ben Hill Griffin III. He passed away. His family posted, passed away in his home in Frostproof last Saturday.

Andrew:                 I also seen Camilo Villegas, former Gator golfer, 22-month-old daughter or 20-month-old?

Nick:                         22-month-old daughter. He announced a couple weeks back that he was withdrawing from a tournament, because his daughter was sick. She had tumors in her brain and on her spine. She passed away today. He was a great golfer at the University of Florida. Represents the Gator Nation well. That’s just an unbelievable tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his wife, and his entire family.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. Nick, we’ll get out of here. We’ll see everyone back. Hopefully we have some news next week to pass along. It’ll be August. We’ll be talking about something.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast wherever you consume your podcasts. Just search Gator Country. 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, go Braves and chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         Stay classy, Gator Country.

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.