GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the Orange and Blue spring game for the Florida Gators on Saturday.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre break down what they’re looking for on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball on Saturday.
Andrew and Nick also break down the huge recruiting visitors list for the Gators on Saturday as Dan Mullen and his staff are set to host many top prospects.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, couple days left of spring practice, and the Gators kick it off for the finale, I guess is what you would say. The Orange & Blue game on Saturday. We’re taping this on Thursday. They practice on Friday, or do a little walkthrough on Friday, and then have the game on Saturday. The pack the Swamp thing, that’s kind of getting out there. Put you on the spot, does Florida break the 68,000 mark?
Nick: I say no.
Andrew: I’m going to say yes.
Nick: Here you go. They announced what, like 40,000 last year? That wasn’t close to being right. If they’re close, do they just announce it as more? Maybe. I don’t think so. That’s a lot of people. That 68,000 was coming off of a national championship going into Tebow’s senior year.
Andrew: I’m going to say they do. I’m going to say that it’s a big one. I’m going to say they break it, and I’m going to say it’s a legit break.
Nick: That’s a lot of people.
Andrew: Yeah. I think that fans are so hungry for something different, and I think Mullen’s done a good job. This is going to be crazy when I say this, but I think that it may be in part due to the students showing up. You and I both know that the students haven’t shown up in a long, long time. If they show up, that’s a good thing.
Nick: Another thing is it’s free. It’s a free ticket, and there’s so much going on campus. They’ve really made a big push for what they’re calling the We Chomp Weekend. You’ve got softball is in town. Baseball is in town. I think tennis?
Nick: Lacrosse. A lot of stuff going on. Dan Mullen has been really a huge champion of really pushing this pack the Swamp movement that they’re trying to do. It’s not just a spring game, and that’s kind of what they’re saying. Sure, you’re going to come in for the Spring game on Saturday at 3:00. You and I were both big fans of McElwain moving it to Friday and making it a big event, but the pushback there was people coming in from out of town. Listen, I have work till 5:00 on Friday, I can’t get Gainesville if I’m coming from Tennessee, or if I’m coming from upstate Georgia, or if I’m coming from Miami. I can’t get to a 7:30 Friday night game, but I can get there for a Saturday game. I think that was probably the thought process of moving it back, to get a bigger attendance, even though we both did like that Saturday night feel where you were the only team, the only show in the country.
Andrew: I think that a lot of the reason, especially for you and I talking about the big push for that Friday night, was that there wasn’t a lot of momentum. There wasn’t a lot of excitement.
Nick: It was good for recruiting, because you didn’t have kids making a decision. I want to go to Florida State’s spring game, or I want to go to Georgia’s spring game, and I want to go to Florida’s too. I can go to Florida’s Friday, and then go somewhere else Saturday. Maybe that’s not good for recruiting, because you got kids leaving right away.
Andrew: Right. That’s what I’m saying. I think it was good for that point, because you didn’t have the excitement to really compete, but if you’re Mullen and those guys, you look at it and you say, “We’ve been able to get them in. We like our chances.” You put it back on the Saturday, and then you get it with the fans, and you get a great list. We’ll talk recruiting here in a little bit. When you look at Florida’s spring visitors list, spring game visitors list, compared to some of the other teams in the state who have spring games, Florida’s is just that much better than the rest of the country.
Nick: Lot of excitement in the recruiting ranks from Dan Mullen and all of them. I’m sure that will be good. You’ll be busy.
Andrew: Exactly. Let’s go ahead, Nick. Let’s start talking a little bit here. First wanted to get into it. They’re going to have the Draft on Friday. We’re taping this on Thursday, so we won’t be able to cover that. You got the spring guest coaches they announced. Nick, you got the names here, so throw them out.
Nick: Two pretty big names when it comes to Bull Gators. Gary Condron and Bill Heavener, they’ll serve as the celebrity head coaches for the game. Obviously, you’ve got the Heavener Complex, and the Heavener family is a big family when it come to being Bull Gators and donating. Then the same, Gary Condron, it’s the Gary Condron Field at the indoor practice facility. Listen, you got $130 million of announced renovations. These two are families that make big donations, and you’re about to be asking them for some more money. Nice little honor for them to be the guest head coaches.
Andrew: If they want to quarterback the game, they get to quarterback the game. Whatever they want to do, they get to do it. I know some people wasn’t happy about it, because they expected it to be, someone said Tim Tebow. Tebow is playing Minor League baseball down the street, so that wasn’t happening. Some people thought Danny Wuerffel, whatever. Again, I understand this in a way. They’re doing a lot of things for the former players. Some of these big-time boosters, especially those two, there hasn’t been a lot to get those guys excited about, so let them do this. At the end of the day, your program is only as good as the financial you’ve got, and they’re going to get financial backed a lot. Having those guys as guest coaches, guess what? They’re going to be a lot more eager to sign that check to Dan Mullen now.
Nick: Yeah. If you can’t see that as why this is happening, and you’re mad about it should have been. It wasn’t going to be Tim Tebow. He’s trying hit Major League pitching right now, or trying to hit professional pitching right now.
Andrew: He’s up in Binghamton.
Nick: Yeah. If you can’t see what they’re trying to do here, when you’re trying to build a brand-new baseball stadium, a brand-new indoor facility. You’re trying to raise money. What better way to get people excited that write big checks then to say, “You’re going to be down on the field and calling plays. Good luck when it’s 3rd and 7 and you’ve got 40 seconds after the last play. Get it in. Hurry up.”
Andrew: Let’s go. Yeah. That’s what Mullen said. He said, “Listen, they’re going to split the coaches up, and they’re going to get the final play calls.” But he said some of the guest coaches would get to say, we’d like to see a run here or whatever. Anyway, Nick, let’s move on a little bit. We’ve talked at length about the spring.
I had this question posed to me on a radio spot this week, and I wanted to pose it to you as well. I’ll give my take before I ask you yours. They were asking me about the quarterback play. They said, what do you need to see out of the quarterback play to be convinced? I said, there’s nothing. I said, I want to see these guys take a step, but there’s nothing that I can see in this game that’s going to make more positive about it or less positive that they’re going to be better in the fall, because this is a glorified scrimmage, a glorified practice, whatever you want to call it. I do think it’s the next step of the improvement of these quarterbacks under Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson, and this is really the first time of a big crowd watching them under Mullen.
I’m going to ask you the same thing. Is there something that you could see that will make you more impressed by them or less impressed by them overall?
Nick: No. Especially because they won’t be live, as far as we know. I don’t anticipate it, but anything can happen. Dan Mullen could get a little wiry and at some point say, “You’re live.” Not expecting that. We kind of talked about it when we were talking about the scrimmages. There’s so much of the offense that when it comes to either designed runs or zone reads where you can only see so much when the quarterbacks aren’t live. Also, because of that defenses know what you’re doing, and stuff like that.
The biggest thing I would want to see is just efficiency. How well are you moving the offense? How well are you leading? Especially when it comes to Kyle Trask. I don’t Feleipe Franks has any problems in the confidence department and leading the team. That’s something more I’d be looking for Trask. Then also, Emory Jones, where are you from a throwing standpoint? You don’t have to convince me that you can run. I need to see you be accurate and throw the ball.
I think I tend to lean towards the same thing as you. I’m not going to learn too much, either from a negative or positive standpoint.
Andrew: Listen, there’s going to be things that you’re going to see. If they go out and just crap the bed, then you absolutely are wondering about what’s going on. If they just go into the game and look great, the fans are more excited about it, but Feleipe had a decent game last year. I just go back to it’s the next step. I continue to say this. You’ve said this as well, Nick. It’s a process for Mullen and Brian Johnson to get the quarterbacks from where they were to where they are in September, when it’s game week. It’s a step.
I’ll say this. I said this on my radio spot as well. I think that the summer will be the biggest growing for these quarterbacks, because they’ll be able to be in the meeting rooms with the guys. Brian Johnson will be able to sit down and really talk the game through with these guys. I think, at the end of the day, it’s kind of what Mullen said, the quarterbacks aren’t sure exactly what’s going on when it’s game time, and I think that’ll be the biggest thing for those guys is to really sit down and start processing film, processing just the playbook in general.
Nick: Yeah. I think the first three weeks, they did all install this week. It’s not really install. You’re kind of working on now that we’ve done all the install, are you comprehending it? Can you execute it at a high level?
Nick: That’s a big thing right there. That’ll be another thing. Is there confusion? Are you slowed down, or can you tell that the guys are comprehending it and now being able to play at that fast speed? I think that’s another thing that I want to see. I don’t want to see a bunch of procedural issues where guys are lining up and not sure if that’s where they’re supposed to be. I don’t want to see a lot of quarterbacks telling wide receivers, “No, not that side of the field. You’re on the other side of the formation.” I want to see stuff like that, a clean executed game.
Andrew: I agree with you.
Nick: It is a practice. There will be some stuff like that, but I don’t want to see a lot of that stuff.
Andrew: You don’t want to see Antonio Riles jumping off sides five times.
Nick: People made a big deal, Tyrie Cleveland had an Instagram post where it was him and C’yontai Lewis lined up together. I think the quote was like, “Hey, what route are we running? I don’t know, just run.” You don’t want to see stuff like that.
Andrew: Right. No, you don’t. That’s a big thing. Again, there’s a lot of things that you want to see in the game, and there’s a lot of things you don’t want to see. You don’t want to see a bunch of guys looking lost. You don’t want to see a lot of procedural things. You don’t want to see a lot of drops in the game.
I think, for me personally, Nick, that’s something I’m going to be looking at. How are the receivers? Are they dropping passes? That kind of stuff. You want to see the linebackers move a little bit better. There’s things we can pick out at every position you want to see. At DB, I want to see the depth. I know what CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson and Chauncey Gardner can do. What do the guys behind those guys do? At offensive line, we know what kind of the starting five can do, how does Nick Buchanan look at center? That’s a key for me as well. How does Delance look at right tackle or left tackle when he’s in the game? There’s a lot of things at every position we can break down that you want to see, and then there’s things you don’t want to see.
Nick: That’s another thing. Those new guys, Jean Delance, I want to see the offensive line get out there and compete. I think really highly right now of that defensive line. I think they’re a handful. The bam-bam boys, the bam-bam kids in the middle, and I want to see them take a step and really push for more reps. We talked about Luke Ancrum and Khairi Clark. Obviously, those guys have been here a while and probably have earned playing time just for being here for a while, but I want to see those youngers guys not just lay down and say, “I’ll wait my turn.” Say, “If I’m not playing, it’s because you beat me out.”
Andrew: Put you on the spot. Give me a thing you’re looking for on offense and defense. Give me your offense first, and I’ll give you my offense. Then we’ll do the defense. The thing you’re looking forward to the most. Let’s disregard quarterback play. We all know we’re looking at quarterback play.
Nick: I think it might sound like a cop out, but it’s kind of what I said. I just want to see efficiency. We’ve see so much blundering offense for the past five years. I want to see a smoothly executed game. Not guys having to ask, “Where am I supposed to be?” this and that. I want to see just execution. I think that’s the biggest thing for me. Mullen’s offense is not simple, but it should be simple for the guys running it. By that, I mean they should be able to run it fast.
Andrew: Okay. I agree with you. Here’s the thing. Is it going to look like it’s going to look in September? No. It shouldn’t. I don’t mean if it looks good now, it’s going to look bad then. You would expect it to improve. That’s what I was going to say. For me, I want to see offensive line play. I want to see a sense of urgency out of those guys. We’re going to get off the ball and block. Listen, the defensive line is going to win this spring game. They kind of always do. It’s simply because they pretty much know what’s going on, that kind of stuff. I want to see offensive line be better than it is. I do, like you, don’t want to see a bunch of procedural penalties. Don’t want to see a bunch of holding calls, that kind of stuff.
Nick: There’s no reason for that.
Andrew: You know what I’m saying? That’s the thing we’ve been accustomed to in the past. I mean, a couple of spring games ago there was three or four holding calls in the game. Like I said, Antonio Riles, I remember it was either last year or the year before where it was two or three times he jumped off sides. It’s like, what are you doing? You want to see that.
For me, I just want to see an offensive line that’s different. I don’t mean different as in guys, but I want to see guys that get off the ball, kind of see what John Hevesy’s been able to do with these guys. Let’s just call it what it is. This was a soft offensive line group the last few years.
Nick: It was lies all last summer.
Andrew: It was lies all summer. How many times, Nick, did we talk about a game and say, it depends on how the offensive line comes out of the tunnel?
Nick: Then you watched them not come out of the tunnel.
Andrew: Yeah. Give me your defensive, what you’re looking for on defense.
Nick: Defense, a couple things. I have not questions about the secondary.
Nick: I don’t know how much Jeawon Taylor, I think I’m going to go on record saying Jeawon Taylor is going to be one of your two starting safeties. I think him and Brad Stewart will do it, but I don’t think he’ll do much.
Andrew: And he shouldn’t. You’re coming back from a shoulder.
Nick: Yeah. He told me on Tuesday he’ll be cleared for everything in the fall, so no reason. You’ve been non-contact all spring, no reason to say, “Go out there and start hitting today.” Just relax. I don’t know how much he’ll play, which means it’ll be a big opportunity for Sean Davis getting in there. I’m still going to go, my questions are still going to be with the biggest thing I want to see is probably the linebackers, honestly. I’ve said it. I know they can play downhill. I know they can be run stoppers. I know they can blitz. I want to see you in space.
Dan Mullen’s offense, another thing I should have said I want to see from the offense is the tight ends. That goes into my defense. I want to see David Reese and Rayshad Jackson and Vosean Joseph. I want to see you cover some guys, because I think that’s really the weakest part of the defense right now is those linebackers in pass coverage.
Andrew: Okay. You kind of hit on a little bit of what I was going to talk about. I want to see that buck position, like Jeremiah Moon and Cece and those guys, when they’ve got to drop into coverage a little bit. How do those guys adjust to that new role? Does it affect them any? Is it more thinking about things before they just kind of react? We always talk about that. You don’t want to think about things. You just want to react out there, because that’s when you kind of injured. I want to see that as well.
Back to my point, depth at the defensive back position. I say this.
Nick: You’ve got one, two, or you’ve got one, two, three. You’ve got Gardner at nickel and Wilson and Henderson, so who is behind them?
Andrew: Right. Knock on wood, and it could be a simple thing of Marco losing a cleat or CJ losing a cleat, but one of those guys or both of those guys, they’re going to miss a play or two throughout the season. You need depth at that position. Nick, I’ll go on the record right now and say if one of those guys goes down, I don’t know who you put at corner.
Nick: I think Trey Dean, and then after that you need someone else to step up.
Andrew: Right. Exactly. That’s a good point. I want to see Trey Dean, see how well he does, because I’ve been on record, you’ve been on record as well, I’m a big fan of Trey Dean. I think Trey Dean might be your third best corner on the team, or third best DB on the team, after Marco and CJ. Want to see him play as well. Like you said, no questions about the first two.
I don’t really have any questions about the defensive line. I do want to see Antonneous Clayton, because we’ve all seen spurts of Antonneous Clayton, seen what he was able to do down in Orlando at the Under Armour game when he was a senior. Kind of want to see how he does. I think the coaching change probably helped Antonneous Clayton, if not the most, one of the most out of all the guys.
Nick: It’s been a long time coming for him. Obviously, big five-star. Sal Sunseri, when we were talking to him somebody posed the question of, Antonneous Clayton was a big five-star, and with that comes a lot of fanfare and fan attention. Sal Sunseri is, “I really don’t care how many stars he had. I didn’t recruit him. Stars don’t mean anything when I’m coaching you.” It’s footwork and fundamentals and where you’re putting your hands. Sal Sunseri doesn’t care about your stars.
Andrew: No. He could care less about your stars.
That’s kind of what I want to see out of that. Something else I wanted to hit on is the big movement of the former players coming back this weekend. Nick, I’m really hoping they show up. I don’t want to say show up and appreciate the opportunity, because they should always get the opportunity, but I think Dan Mullen and Vernell Brown and those guys have really went out and tried to get them. So, I hope the former players show up and at least let Mullen know that they hear him.
I don’t want to say they should appreciate it, because the notion that former players weren’t welcome back on campus before was retarded. They should always be. They’re the ones that laid the groundwork for it. I do want to see those guys come back and at least let Mullen know that what he’s doing is working, because he is trying his best to get these guys on campus.
Nick: Yeah. I think that’s a big, Vernell Brown is really the guy that’s been spearheading that. Yes, Dan Mullen and the other coaches for sure, but Vernell Brown, that’s kind of his job. We’ve talked about him being the Director of Player Personnel, but a bit part of his job is reaching out to those guys.
Another thing I want to say is I think it really helps, and I think I’ve said it before, that the most successful period of Florida football Dan Mullen was here, and he has relationships with all of those guys. Major Wright coming back and Percy Harvin and Joe Haden, all those guys. Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow and Dan Mullen have a personal relationship that has carried on not just as player-coach, but they have a real friendship. It certainly doesn’t hurt recruiting when someone’s on campus visiting and Percy Harvin walks up.
Andrew: Here’s the thing for me too, Nick. I hear your point, and I agree with your point. I think it’s even important for former players that are the older guys. I don’t mean this, Keiwan Ratliff, if you’re listening, I don’t mean that in a bad way. But guys like Keiwan Ratliff, Gus Scott, guys that were even pre-Urban days coming back on campus and visiting. It just seems like those are the guys that are out here either training guys or coaching guys or have connections to prospects, and those were the guys that were forgotten. I mean, Nick, you and I, we talked to Keiwan Ratliff all the time, and the amount of players he has every year. Gus Scott at Trinity Christian and has his pro impact team. Those are the guys that were forgotten, and those are what has hurt the program, because those are the guys feeding, could be feeding your prospects every year.
Nick: No reason to alienate the guys that built the program to what it is.
Andrew: Right. Here’s the thing. Even if they don’t have a prospect, if they wore the orange and blue jersey at one point or another, you preach Gators take care of Gators all the time. Kind of put your money where your mouth is a little bit. Again, not to harp on it too much, but I’m very interested to see the outcome of that. So far, I hear that it’s going to be a good show out of guys. Hopefully, for Mullen, and just for the entire program, that they come back. Like you said, there’s been guys on campus just about every day talking and speaking with the team, watching practice. Louis Murphy was back. Good to see.
Nick: Another one. Louis Murphy, another one that played football under Dan Mullen.
Andrew: Like you said, Major Wright. Nick, I don’t know when the last time Major Wright was on campus.
Nick: I don’t think he’s been back, maybe once since he graduated.
Andrew: Yeah. I don’t remember for a while, can’t remember that. Matt Elam, what Florida did for Matt Elam during Pro Day was big. That’s a big thing as well. Again, don’t alienate what could be a key recruiting piece. Don’t fool yourself. Alabama uses every bit of that. Julio Jones, those guys they’re used.
Nick: Little barber shop talk right now.
Andrew: It’s not a bad thing. Listen, you paid for their school at one time or another, and you coached those guys. Why not?
Andrew: Anything else on the spring game before we kind of move to talk some recruiting here?
Nick: Let me run through kind of the events, in case you’re coming in.
Nick: First off, at 9:00am, I don’t know if they’ve done it in a while, but they’re doing that yard sale where you can go and buy jerseys, gloves, helmets, game used stuff. Basically, the equipment staff, all the stuff they have lying around, you can go ahead and buy that. That will be out on the North Lawn. The North Lawn is where Gator Walk is. Gator Walk will be at 1:00pm. I know you’ve probably been asked, like I have, 40 times a day, what time is Gator Walk? Gator Walk is at 1:00.
Andrew: I would say this. Show up early, because 1:00 could very well mean 12:45.
Nick: Yeah. Very well could be. And if you’re correct, and they are going to have that big group, that 60,000+, Gator Walk will be packed. If you want to get a good spot, get there before 1:00.
Andrew: What time, is the former players Gator Walk right before the team comes in?
Nick: Yeah. It would be right before that.
Andrew: Okay. I couldn’t remember. I knew that the former players were coming, doing the Gator Walk, but I wasn’t sure. Go ahead. Finish your run through.
Nick: We’ll do the whole weekend. Friday is track at the UF Track and Field Complex. Tennis versus Alabama at 5:00. Softball versus South Carolina at 6:00. Baseball versus Missouri at 6:30. Saturday is tennis, lacrosse, softball, Orange & Blue game, and baseball. Then Sunday is softball, baseball.
Ton of stuff going on in terms of before the game. There’s going to be food trucks. I think they’re calling it the Gator Walk Village in that north section. There’s Fanfest, sponsored by Bubba Burger, the Gator Walk Garden, which is national and local beer options, and there’s supposed to be like oversight, stuff like that. That opens at noon and closes at 2:45. They’ve done it, I think, three years now, the big green egg cookoff contest. Then the food trucks, Soup to Nuts, Mayflower Sellers, Latin American Fusion, Dank Cakes, which is actually Patrick Young’s brother. It’s a funnel cake. They’re really good. Kona Ice, and then Monsta Lobsta. They’ll all be there.
During the game, there’s a halftime contest. It’s a football challenge. I think they’re taking teams now all the way through Friday. There is different things. Basically, a punt, pass, and kick contest going on at halftime that you can still register for. There’s also a dizzy bat race, water balloon toss, obstacle course, all that kind of stuff going on. That’s all going down at halftime.
The format of the game will be four quarters. First half will run exactly like a regular game, and then the second half will be a running clock, because of TV. They want to finish right at 5:00.
Andrew: It’s two hours. You got to get it in for TV. Listen, two hours of scrimmage under Dan Mullen will be five hours under Muschamp or Mac. Good weekend. As we said, they’re going to pack the Swamp, or at least that’s the plan. Nick, I know you’ll agree with me here when I say that if they don’t break the 67,000 it won’t be because of lack of trying from Mullen.
Andrew: Let’s run down recruiting. I don’t know if have enough time. We’ve got about 20 minutes. I say that half-jokingly, because the guys coming on campus are crazy. I mean, the amount that’s been on campus the last few weeks, last Saturday IMG brought two busloads of kids up there. Nick, you and I joke all the time about the amount of talent that’s at IMG. They can have the #1 class in the country every year if they wanted to, if one school signed all the kids. That’s expected to continue this weekend.
The rare spring official visitor, the new rule that’s come into effect. Mullen was against it, but he’s going to have an official visitor this weekend. Nick Cross, the defensive back out of Maryland, is going to take an official this weekend. Just got his opening invite. Ohio State’s the team to beat early on. I personally don’t like the spring visit, Nick. I’ll ask you the same thing. I don’t like it, because it’s one of those things if you get him on official now, and he never comes back again, you got no chance of signing him.
Nick: How big is it this year with the new being able to have younger guys come to this event?
Andrew: What do you mean?
Nick: Aren’t you allowed to have now like sophomores? Under the new NCAA rule.
Andrew: No. Juniors can take official visits. That’s what this is. That’s what Nick is. He’s a 2019 guy. Again, it was after April 1st they could start taking officials. He’s going to take one. Me, personally, I’m not a fan of it. I just think that when you look at it, a guy like Nick Cross, who doesn’t sign until February, you got 10 months before he signs. If you get one official visit now, and he never comes back to campus, you’ve got no shot.
Nick: What’s the biggest thing that you need to show someone like that in an environment like this?
Andrew: Obviously, you’ve got to show the atmosphere, which you hope is big. Then you’ve got to get the coaching staff. Honestly, probably the biggest things is you just need to keep the interest there to get him back on campus on his own dime, either this summer, this fall, or possibly even January, before he signs in February. A lot to show. I guess the one positive is it’s not a regular game day, so it’s not as intense, so the coaching staff can spend more time with him. Again, it’s just one of those things of the time from now till signing is a long time. You just knocked your official visit out of the way.
Nick: That’s why you’re not a fan of it?
Andrew: Right. It’s just too much time. I like the whole get them in in January, be on their mind, and that kind of stuff. That’s my way. I don’t even like in season official visits, just because I think it’s one of those things where you take away time. In January or December you have the whole weekend full of things for the prospect. You don’t have game day. You don’t have prepping for the other team in the fall. You don’t have a ton of unofficial visitors. At most, you’ve got five or six official visitors on campus. With Nick this weekend, he’s going to be one of about 50 guys on campus.
Nick: Then you’re getting into how do you split your time up?
Andrew: Exactly. Let’s run through this. I’m going to run the visitor preview tomorrow morning, Friday morning. It’s loaded. When you look at the defensive backs that’s coming, you got the five-star Derek Stingley out of Baton Rouge, big guy. Florida’s competing with LSU there. His good friend, Chester Kimbrough, out of New Orleans is a guy to keep an eye on. I’m always asked who’s on commit watch. If I’m putting someone on commit watch this weekend it’s Chester. 5’11”, 168 pound four-star defensive back, if you’re into the stars. Very, very good player.
To go through the rest of the defensive backs coming on. You got Alabama safety commit Brendan Gant, who was teammates with Ventrell Miller over at Lakeland, Kathleen. You got defensive back DJ Turner coming out of Georgia, coming on campus. Cortez Andrews coming out of Tallahassee. That’s a very talented defensive back group. Nick, we just talked about depth at defensive back not being very good. You look at some of those names, and if you’re able to get them, you’re like, okay, we’re able to reamp the roster a little bit. Start landing some of those guys.
Nick: I’ll put you on the spot later. Yeah, defensive back. There’s been a ton of kids on campus. I think the other thing that I like that we’ve talked a little bit about, just as a counterpoint to you saying you don’t really like having so many kids on campus, is that support staff that you really have built up. I think those guys, and we’ve talked about the coordination between them, I think that helps you not have to be so concerned about we have too many guys on campus to pay attention to all of them.
Andrew: Yeah. Again, the more kids you get on campus the better. I just don’t like the whole official visitor and wasting that official visit with that. Having more kids, it can be a domino effect. You get a guy like Chester or another guys committed, it could be a domino effect for you, kind of happened at Friday Night Lights.
Let’s move on a little bit. Linebacker would probably be the biggest need this class, in my opinion. You’ve got Keyshawn Brown coming out of Alabama, Carver High School. Sal Sunseri’s been working him really hard. You got Ryan Davis out of Apopka coming up this weekend. He’s looking for an offer. Should get an offer. Former commit, Marcus Tillman, also going to be up on campus, the linebacker. A guy that’s probably favoring Florida again. Was committed to the previous staff. You look at those three, pretty good linebacker group to go for.
I’m going to go one better here. You go to the defensive line group. Derek Hunter coming back on campus again. This is his fifth trip this spring. For a four-star to get him on campus five times in the spring is big. This time he’s coming with dad, so that’s a big one. You got Miami commit Josiah Pierre coming on campus, second time on campus. You’ve got Patrick Lucas out of Alabama, defensive tackle, coming on campus. Then you’ve got an Ole Miss commit coming all the way from Texas, Lloyd Murray coming on. Again, when you look at the defensive group, pretty good players for Todd Grantham and Sal Sunseri and those guys.
Nick: When you’re looking at a guy coming five times, are we talking about commit watch? How much more can we show you?
Andrew: Listen, if my buddy, Jacob Copeland is listening to this, sorry buddy, but Derek Hunter’s got your troll game going. He loves to talk up the school he visited. I personally think his recruitment goes on for a while. Maybe I’m wrong. I mean, Copeland surprised everybody when he decided he was going to announce in the middle of July and then reopened it. We’ll seen. Hunter’s already been committed to Miami and decommitted, so we’ll see how that goes.
Got to move on. Offensive guys coming on campus. Micah Pittman coming back from California, second trip. From California on your own dime. Tells me you’re interested.
Nick: That’s huge. Paying your own way to get that far. Absolutely. Tells me all I need to know.
Andrew: Yeah. Keiondre Jones, offensive lineman that’s the cousin of Emory, he’ll be on campus for the second time this weekend. Big priority on the offensive line. Mark Antony Richards is coming on campus. His brother plays at Miami, but instead he’s coming to Florida. Tells me all I need to know there. Tight end Tyler Fromm, Jake Fromm’s little brother, coming on campus for the second time this weekend.
Then some commits are coming on campus. You got Ethan White will be on campus. Deante Marks will be on campus. Jamal Abrams will be on campus. Trent Whittemore will be on campus. Then the 2020 guys, Keyvone Lee and Josh Griffis will be on campus. The walk-on linebacker commit, I guess is what you could call him, Umstead Sanders will be on campus.
Now, the biggest question is does Umstead bring younger brother Trey, the five-star running back, or not? Umstead says maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. I bet he shows up on campus, and if he does, great news.
Nick: What do you think it says, not to derail you, about the work that they’ve done to get a guy like Micah across the country, to get all of these on campus as many times as they have?
Andrew: I mean, Nick, I say this, and it’s cliché and whatever you want to call. It’s the truth. You’re the University of Florida, Nick. You should be able to recruit the elite of the elites every year. Now, are you going to get this many prospects on campus every year for spring? No. You should be able to get the elite of the elite on campus pretty often. You’re the University of Florida. It’s like Alabama. It’s like Ohio State. Guys should want to visit your school. Heck, you’re in the state of Florida, where you’re about the only state in the country that’s not freezing right now. You think about it.
For me, it goes back to what you said, that support staff. EK Franks, Cordell Landers, Otis, those guys. They’re doing a great job. The coaching staff is doing a great job. I know some people said it’s not paying off in commits yet. It’s a process. A lot of these guys are still uncommitted, and it’s a process. I can guarantee you one thing, Micah Pittman is not traveling from California to Florida twice on his own dime, dad rich from playing in the NFL or not, if he doesn’t have a legit interest. I don’t know too many people that want to fly just for the fun of it.
Nick: I don’t mind flying.
Andrew: You know what I’m saying.
Nick: I don’t know if I’m taking that six-hour flight this many times though.
Andrew: You know what I’m saying. I mean a high school kid in Cali can probably think of a lot of things to do than waste time, if that’s what he was doing.
Again, there’s going to be some 2020 guys on campus, some 2021 guys on campus, that kind of stuff. It’ll be a big weekend for recruiting. To me, Nick, it recaps what’s been a great spring for visitors. Now, you look up in the coming weeks the staff will be able to get out on the road, starting visiting kids for spring practice. That sets yourself up to have a good summer. You expect the summer to be filled at camps and Friday Night Lights and that kind of stuff. Then you set that up to fall. Then fall sets up to official visits. It’s a process.
For once, the staff is doing it right and things are moving well. Dan Mullen learned from Urban Meyer. Outside of Nick Saban, Urban Meyer is probably the best recruiter in the country.
Nick: I’m trying to think. Who would you take, if you had to pick one?
Andrew: I’m taking Nick. No doubt about it.
Nick: Lil Nicky.
Andrew: Absolutely. At the end of the day, Nick, wins are wins. Rings speak for itself. It’s kind of like asking would you take Bill Belichick or someone else?
Nick: You had to bring that up.
Andrew: Who are you taking?
Nick: You know how I feel about the Patriots. You don’t need to do that to me.
Andrew: You know what I’m saying. Who would you take, Nick or Urban?
Nick: Man. Shoot. I don’t know. That’s kind of like, who would you take, Trout or Harper?
Andrew: Trout all day.
Nick: Either. There’s your Braves. You know what I’m saying? Either. Give me the second pick in that draft, and I’m okay.
Andrew: Yeah. You know what I’m saying. Either one you couldn’t go wrong with, but at the end of the day, Nick wins championships. Still, he’s learned from that, and it’s shone. I’m going to go back next week, after spring is over with, and kind of do a recap of all the top guys that have been on campus. I would venture to say 25 or 30 of the top 75 or 100 kids have been on campus.
Nick: That’s huge.
Andrew: Yeah. You had the #1 player in the country on campus.
Nick: Yeah. Just following him, and maybe it’s a trolling kind of thing, but he seems like he might be a kid that doesn’t really wait until the end. He might end up committing before the season, sometime in the summer, and maybe not waiting till Signing Day or even Early Signing Day.
Andrew: Right. The only bad news is he is going to visit Florida State this weekend.
Nick: He said, this tweet that I was referencing there was right after his visit to Alabama.
Andrew: We’ll see where that goes. When you look at Miami and you look at Florida State, they both have spring games this weekend as well. When you look at their visitors list compared to Florida’s, it’s like Will Muschamp to Dan Mullen. It’s such a big, huge gap of guys visiting. The caliber of players on campus at Florida compared to those two are crazy. Miami has a spring visitors list that’s like 20 guys, and 75% of them are their commits.
Nick: That’s big. It’ll be a huge weekend. I think the spring game is a good time to do that. You said, and I kind of agree, you don’t like official visits during the season. Even when you have a game during the season, you’re kind of we’re on to the next one. There’s no next one after this. Really, after the game you’re just saying, “Hand the keys back over to Nick Savage. Good job this spring. Need to see that same intensity throughout the summer, and I want you guys to take the next step forward when we get you back in the late summer or fall.” There’s not a ton for the coaches to do, other than to go back and get to those recruits after that game.
Andrew: Again, you can spend some time with them before the game, show them Gator Walk and all that. You get to show them a glorified scrimmage, and you get to spend a lot of time with them. At the end of the day, that’s what these visits are all about, getting know these coaches. Some of these guys, they’ve been on campus with this staff before. Some of these guys haven’t. The guys that haven’t, it’s a big step. Then the guys that have, it’s a huge step.
With Micah Pittman, you don’t have to take him around campus. He’s seen campus. Now it’s about sitting him down with Billy Gonzales, sitting him down with Dan Mullen, and really going over that stuff. Derek Hunter, he’s been around campus that much. It’s about still developing that relationship even more with Sal Sunseri. Again, it’s a step. It’s a process. They’re hitting the process. The old saying is you get them on campus, you got a chance. You get them on campus more than once, you got an even better chance.
Nick: That’s a big thing. I think guys have really taken to this new coaching staff, whether it’s Sal, Billy. John Hevesy is another guy that’s getting a lot of buzz, whether from players or guys coming in. I think this coaching staff has really been taken to well by the players and by the recruits.
Andrew: Exactly. Nick, we’re running out of time here. Tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out, and we’ll see everyone next week, as we recap the spring game and recap recruiting. Maybe a commit or two.
Nick: I didn’t put you on the spot. I was going to, but I didn’t.
Andrew: I’ll say one or two.
Nick: Okay. www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. Head on over to iTunes. Subscribe and never miss an episode of the podcast. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. Our man Kevin Camps is making that Instagram page look real nice with the edits he’s doing. As always, I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @AndrewSpiveyGC. We will see you all Saturday, and we’ll have a podcast up Monday recapping the big weekend. Like Andrew said, maybe talking about some commitments.
Andrew: There you go. Guys, we appreciate it. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.