Recapping the open Florida Gators spring practices: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap the open spring practices for the Florida Gators that took place this past weekend.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre recap what happened at spring practice for the Gators and how the team looked under Dan Mullen and his coaching staff.

Andrew and Nick also recap the basketball season for the Gators and recap what happened on the diamond for the Gators this past weekend.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, spring football, baseball, softball, and the end of the basketball season. That all took place this weekend.

Nick:                         Yeah. Tough weekend, or tough Saturday for Gator sports, but a packed weekend.

Andrew:                 Saturday was rough. I mean, baseball and softball took one on the noggin, and basketball, man oh man, that will go down as one of the worst officiating games I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I have watched a lot of basketball, and, Nick, that was terrible. When at one time in the game you have five guys with four fouls for one team, and another team that has one guy with two fouls, something’s wrong.

Nick:                         Yeah. Great game. If you take your fandom away from it, it was a great basketball game.

Andrew:                 It was a great game.

Nick:                         Back and forth. That was fun to watch. Tough to lose and go out, especially when you see FSU make it to the sweet 16. I think Mike White is a good coach, and they’ve got a good recruiting class coming in. Interested to see what they’ll look like next year, when you get those big guys back.

Andrew:                 Let me ask you this. I’m asking you this, because I’m just wondering your take on things. Do you feel like Mike White has improved since he got to Florida? Me, personally, I think he has. I hear a lot of people say, he’s still struggling with the X’s and O’s and this and that. Listen, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not the smartest when it comes to basketball X’s and O’s like I am with football and baseball, but to me, personally, I think he’s improved from Year 1 to now Year 3.

Nick:                         I think this was just kind of an incredibly frustrating team for him.

Andrew:                 Injuries, Nick. I mean, it seemed like every time you turned around. Gorjok Gak had a concussion, Ballard had a concussion. Then you lose John Egbunu and Isaiah Stokes for the year, when at the beginning of the year Mike White says, “We should be able to get those guys back for conference play.” Let’s just be honest here. He played without a big man. I mean, Kevarrius Hayes gave Florida minutes.

Nick:                         Chase Johnson never played.

Andrew:                 Chase Johnson never played. Kevarrius Hayes shouldn’t be your starter inside, and that wasn’t the plan. Again, Mike White had a tough year with injuries, and to do what he did is still pretty good. I mean, let’s just be honest with each other. He’s a three-pointer away from going to overtime with a chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen. Every year you get to the Sweet Sixteen, I think that’s a successful year for most teams.

Nick:                         I really like Mike Okauru. I don’t think I’ve ever said that right the first time I tried to say it. Mike Okauru. Chase Johnson, interested to see what he is. I think Keith Stone comes back. Dontay Bassett is back. KeVaughn Allen should come back.

Andrew:                 Allen’s coming back.

Nick:                         Has to, right?

Andrew:                 My question is Jalen Hudson.

Nick:                         He’s probably the biggest one.

Andrew:                 Some people say he’s a late first-rounder, second-rounder. I think if you’re Jalen Hudson you probably need to come back.

Nick:                         I agree with that. I think he would be benefited by coming back, but I can’t sit here and say I expect him to come back at this point. I think you’ve got players and pieces coming back to be successful next year.

Andrew:                 Yeah. My thing is point guard. Michael Okauru, you’ll have him. You’ll have Andrew Nembhard. Is that how you say it? The incoming guy, incoming point guard. You’ll have those two guys there. You’ll have KeVaughn Allen. You’ll have Keith Stone. You’ll have a lot of guys back. My thing is I think Jalen Hudson is a guy that could make a difference. For as bad as Jalen Hudson struggled, Jalen Hudson also performed really well at times too. I think it’s Isaiah Stokes. I think a lot depends on Stokes and how well he comes back and plays next year, Nick.

Nick:                         He had a very interesting story. We talked to him before the year. He was a big football recruit and chose to play basketball because he had concerns about his mental health and CTE. I think that was an interesting story. Just rough that he had an injury where he couldn’t play this year. An interesting person from the couple times I’ve talked to him.

Andrew:                 It’ll be interesting. I’ll be an interesting year. I know a lot of people are on the fire Mike White train and all that. I personally think that’s dumb. When you look at the Sweet Sixteen now, Florida faced seven of the 16 teams remaining in the tournament this year and performed very well against a lot of teams. I did find it funny, Scott Strickland, someone tweeted at Scott Strickland, please fire Mike White and get your own guy. Strickland responded back and said, Coach White is my guy. Then that guy disappeared off Twitter.

Nick:                         What would you say to people that are worried about big men with Mike White? I mean, the two players that we mentioned coming in this class in Noah and Nembhard. I’m going to mess that up. Obviously, two more guards.

Andrew:                 I mean, Mike White that’s his style of play.

Nick:                         His position.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s his position, and that’s his style of play. I mean, let’s be honest with each other here too, Nick, and that is Billy Donovan didn’t recruit the big men the best. I mean, outside of Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Of course, there’s going to be some smartass that tells me there was another big man, and there was. There was big men, but there was never a slew of big men on the court.

That’s not Mike White’s style of play. Even if Mike White has a big man, I don’t see Mike White feeding the big man 15-20 times a game. His style of play is to be fast paced, shoot the three ball, and drive to the bucket. That’s just my opinion on things. Is it right? I don’t know, but, again, that’s just the way it is.

I do want to say this. I saw a stat over the weekend that compared Billy Donovan’s first few years on campus to Mike White’s, and they were very similar in winning percentage. I would say slow down a little bit on the Mike White hate. At the end of the day, he did get Florida back to the tournament. Last year he’s a game away from the Final Four. This year he’s a few injuries away from being a really good team. Let’s go back to November when he had Duke on the ropes with a healthy team.

Nick:                         I’m on board with you. I think Mike White is a great coach, and I think he’s a good fit both coaching wise and personality wise for Florida.

Andrew:                 Exactly. I guess, last thoughts on basketball, anything?

Nick:                         No. I think we’ve said it. We can bring Eric back on, and he can give us a full autopsy of everything. I think it’s good.

Andrew:                 Okay. Let’s go to football. Football was the shining spotlight Friday, Saturday, and then Dan Mullen makes news on Monday morning where he says, “I’m opening up Saturday’s practice. Come on out again.” Let me say this first, before we get into practice, Nick.

Nick:                         That wasn’t news. It was always going to be the first two.

Andrew:                 No. He opened next Saturday’s practice.

Nick:                         Okay.

Andrew:                 That’s the news. That’s what I’m saying. He had that, and then he made news Monday morning when he opened up this coming Saturday’s practice to fans.

Nick:                         I misheard you there.

Andrew:                 Let me say this. He gets it. He gets it. It’s spring practice. You’re not putting in anything that nobody knows. Listen, everybody knows around the country what Dan Mullen is running. Everybody. Everybody in the country knows what Dan Mullen’s running on offense. It just is what it is. Everybody in the country knows what Todd Grantham is running on defense.

Right now is an important time for Dan Mullen and this football team to get the fanbase back. Taking this step of opening now three practices is huge. Listen, he might have always planned to open this coming Saturday’s practice, I don’t know. We can’t read into his head. By him announcing it today, we’re taping this on Monday, he made news, because he looked like he went out of his way to open practice. I just can’t say enough. It speaks volumes of him connecting and interacting with the fanbase.

Nick:                         Like you said, he could have had this planned all along, but when you first release we’re going to open two practices to fans, and they’re all happy with that, and then you come back after having those two and say, we’re going to do another one, because that was great, we liked the energy you brought. Absolutely. Doesn’t matter if he had planned it all along. It seems now like an extra thing for fans.

It’s like you said, I think he also knows, and I sound like a broken record, because I say it all the time, but unless Florida wins a National Championship, there is never going to be as much excitement around Dan Mullen’s program than there is right now. I think he realizes that. He’s taking advantage of that and using it to continue and to build on that excitement.

Andrew:                 Here’s my thing, Nick. What does it hurt? At the end of the day, what does it hurt?

Nick:                         He mention to us, when we talked to him after Friday’s practice, he’s like, “We’re not playing anybody this week. We’re not installing a game plan.” He said, “We’re installing the offense.” Did a little bit of install on Friday, and then did a little bit more on Saturday. You’re not playing LSU this week, so you’re not installing things that you’re going to be worried about.

It’s like you said, Dan Mullen has got almost a decade of head coaching experience where he’s calling plays, and more than a decade of film where people can go back and say, “This is what Dan Mullen does.” No matter what you’re taking video of or what fans are talking about when they see plays being run and stuff like that, that’s what Dan Mullen runs. There will be wrinkles and stuff. You pull stuff out during different times of games, but everyone knows what Dan Mullen runs. I’m 100% in agreement with you that this is just a smart play on his part to continue, not placating the fans because that kind of has a negative connotation to it, but reaching out and building a bond with fans early on.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Listen, Nick, I’ll say this. Maybe I’m wrong, but the last seven years have been the lowest this fanbase has been since pre Spurrier days.

Nick:                         Say that again.

Andrew:                 The fanbase’s pride, its excitement, its love for the university, has been the lowest the last seven years since the pre Spurrier days.

Nick:                         I don’t know. I think there’s times. When Will Muschamp was first hired, because of him being from Gainesville and having those roots, and then quickly his second year. We were a game away from a National Championship. I think when Jim McElwain was hired and that second year, getting back to Atlanta, or that first year getting back to Atlanta. I think there were times where the excitement level was that high, but when you look back on it now, knowing how everything ended with Muschamp and how everything ended with McElwain, it’s kind of jaded. I think at points it was as high with other staffs.

Andrew:                 Let me say this. I wasn’t saying that the fanbase is there now, but I’m saying that the fanbase is at a low point right now. It’s at a point where, I’m trying to use my words correctly, so that I don’t say something and have fans bash me on Twitter. The fanbase as a whole is at a point right now where a couple more bad years and this is a sinking ship. It’s almost at a crossroads. You got to start winning before the fanbase just goes apeshit on everyone. Does that make sense to you?

Nick:                         That makes sense to me. Here’s something I have. A lot of people didn’t want Dan Mullen. They wanted Chip Kelly. Looking back on it now, and the way Dan Mullen has kind of embraced everything, could you imagine Chip Kelly being here? Nothing would be open.

Andrew:                 No. No. It would be crazy. When you go back, and you look at things, listen, it’s hindsight and everything else. Maybe things would be different with Chip. When you go back, and this is what makes Scott Strickland the athletic director and the smart man of the whole thing, he knew what the fanbase needed. Not that you and I and other people didn’t, but I think we took for granted that whoever the good coach would be would come in, would bring excitement back. I think Scott Strickland absolutely knew what the fanbase needed, and that was somebody to come back and embrace the environment.

Listen, Florida fanbase is not easy to deal with. I mean, I’m just being honest with you. It’s a lot like the Alabama fanbase. It’s a lot like a Texas fanbase. I don’t want to say arrogant, but they’re very, what’s the word I’m looking for, Nick? They’re very … needy, I guess is the best way to say it. They want to feel involved. That’s not a bad thing, by any means. I think it’s one of the things that sets the Florida fanbase apart. Mullen knew how to do that. He knew what to say, that kind of stuff.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think he’s definitely tapped into that. I don’t think, the fans aren’t involved. I guess they are. I think Dan Mullen had a quote the other day that you don’t hear the noise in the Swamp, you feel it. You feel the noise. There’s definitely homefield advantage, stuff like that. Fans can get involved, but to make them feel like they are is a good thing for a coach.

Andrew:                 Right. That’s the thing. At the end of the day, a coach who is good with the fanbase is going to have a lot more leeway than one that’s not. I mean, I think you can argue that the things with Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp probably would have ended the same, but might not have ended as bad as they did had some things with the fanbase not been as bad.

Nick:                         Yeah. Muschamp wasn’t, actually I take that back. There was the Muschamp yelling at a fan after they lose to Georgia. I don’t think Muschamp was as bad as McElwain. McElwain made this entire us against the world, and he would almost like a robot say the things, “Our fans are great. We should have put a better show out for them.” It was almost unless you were in that team meeting room, coaches, trainers, players, then you were against them. He tried to use it as a motivational tool, but all it did was create a divide between the fans and the team, and the team and media. It just wasn’t good for anybody.

I think Mullen is completely erasing that kind of mentality. You don’t need to fight the fanbase. These people just want you to win. They’re going to be frustrated when you don’t, and we’ll deal with that. That’s going to be something that we can’t change. Only way we can change that is not losing, and everyone is going to lose games at some point.

The whole way McElwain approached it I think was wrong. You can definitely see a huge difference in the way that McElwain, and even Muschamp to a degree, handled that versus how Mullen has handled it to begin his tenure here.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let’s talk about some things that went on in practice, Nick. Quarterbacks. Got the first chance to see those guys. The big highlight of Friday’s practice was Franks to Van Jefferson. A long pass play. Nick, give me your overall thoughts. As someone who got to watch pretty much every practice of McElwain last year, last two years, give me your overall impression of what you thought about practice as a whole.

Nick:                         I think the first thing that jumped out to me, and Tyrie Cleveland had, I think it was a hamstring, pulled up with a little hamstring on Friday, so he didn’t practice Saturday. I think Van Jefferson is probably, right now I’d say he’s the best, even if Tyrie Cleveland was healthy, probably the best receiver on campus. Still seeing a little bit of, I still don’t think quarterback is where it needs to be, and, obviously, we’re not in pads. We. I’m never in pads. Team’s not in pads.

I like the intensity. The first day of practice, that first Friday, I was watching running backs. Behind the running backs, I can see the receivers. The running backs are getting breaks and getting water and stuff like that, and I remember walking over to the receivers, because I hadn’t seen them stop yet. These guys were sucking wind. I think Billy Gonzales realized, we’ve been going for an hour now, and these guys haven’t gotten a water break yet. The intensity level that I see. Listen, it doesn’t matter where you are on campus, you’re going to hear John Hevesy when he’s coaching. I think the intensity level in practice was picked up.

I saw them practicing special teams. Dan Mullen said, “We’re going to have the best special teams in the country.” Jim McElwain couldn’t tell you his punter and kicker’s names. Don’t ask him his long snapper’s name. I remember I was talking to somebody, and we remembered back to a Jim McElwain, I think it was either a press conference or maybe just a small setting where reporters were talking to him before something. He said, “Back at Montana State or Washington, they used to play like rock, paper, scissors to see who had to be the special teams coach, because nobody wanted to do it.” That difference in just philosophy where it’s not the afterthought part of a game. It’s one of three phases of a game. To not just forget about it I think is a big deal. You remember back, Urban Meyer had great special teams all the time.

Andrew:                 I’ll say this, Nick. I was posting this. It’s on our message board. Someone was asking me about it. They said, “Do you think that someone should play there just for depth to get them ready?” I said, “No. Starters should play on special teams. You play your best on special teams, outside of your quarterback and maybe your top receiver. You don’t want him running down there and getting hit. You play your best.” Special teams is where you can win and lose a lot of ballgames. I say that, and I mean it.

How many times in the Urban days, I remember back in a Tennessee game where Brandon James returned a punt for a touchdown to win the game. Chris Rainey blocking field goals. What was it? The Jarvis Moss blocked field goal against South Carolina won the SEC Eastern Championship that year. You have to play special teams. There’s a reason we have that in the game of football. You talk about practicing blocking kicks. What’s the point of playing special teams if you’re not going to try to win it? There’s a lot of guys who take pride in that. I don’t think that if you go to a guy like Kadarius Toney, “We want you to go block a punt,” he’s going to say, “No, I don’t want to do that.” I don’t think so.

Also, to setting the standard. If Mullen makes special teams big, players are going to make it big. Make sense to you, Nick?

Nick:                         Yeah. Special teams ate first under Urban Meyer. We talked about it last year, I think, extensively. Who are these guys that are running down? Everyone says Johnny Townsend is outkicking his punt coverage. Are those the fastest guys you have on the team? CJ Henderson? It was a freshman.

That’s a lot of ways that you kind of earned your stripes with Urban Meyer. You might be a five-star, but you’re a freshman. We’ve got a junior now who we’re not going to have on special teams, so you’re going to need to earn your place on team by playing special teams. CJ Henderson is a state champion runner. I get that he’s playing a lot. Why isn’t he your gunner?

Andrew:                 Nick, how many times last year did we say that the long snapper was the first one down, or Johnny Townsend goes down there and makes a tackle? That’s unacceptable at the University of Florida. We talked about it last year. This is not something we’re just talking about for the first time. This is none of that at all. We’re not picking on anyone or talking bad about anyone. It just is what it is. You had guys that weren’t playing anywhere else that was out there playing special teams.

Urban said it, “You earn playing time on offense and defense by making plays on special teams.” Go out and do that. CJ Henderson, Kadarius Toney, you name them. There was athletes that are just world class speed guys as well. Why not let them run down on the open field and make a tackle? CJ Henderson would love to knock someone out.

Nick:                         Yeah. People always make fun of my punters are people too and special teams, stuff like that. I have fun with that, but special teams are important. You can win and lose games because of special teams. The last coaching staff just didn’t put any emphasis on it. You’re already seeing a change in that with this staff.

Andrew:                 Talk to me about the quarterbacks.

Nick:                         I think Jake Allen struggled both days we were out there. I would say he’s probably clearly fourth right now in that pecking order. Feleipe Franks has taken all the first snaps. Kyle Trask also gets time with the first team. Then really Emory Jones is there too. I think Emory Jones, I was talking with somebody about it, I think he needs to work on his footwork. Footwork is really where it all comes down to. Your accuracy and stuff all comes back to your footwork. You can say, he throws weird. Philip Rivers throws weird, and that’s worked out for him. Throwing motions change. Footwork is really the basis of everything when it comes to quarterbacks.

I noticed that he’s inconsistent. Typically, a ball will sail high, but inconsistent with his passing. I’m going to probably say that you can attribute that back to his footwork. I noted in the thread, our live thread, on Saturday that his elbow will drop some. Normally when I see him sail a pass it’s because his elbow is dropping. I think he’s a guy who will get a chance.

Listen, I think three quarterbacks are going to get a chance to earn the starting job, and that includes Kyle Trask, who I still think throws the best ball of any of the quarterbacks on campus right now.

Andrew:                 Trask is a big boy. He fits that. I think the one thing you have to think about with Kyle is can he run the ball effectively enough for Mullen. We’ll see. Here’s the thing for me. This spring is going to be big on fixing the fundamentals for a lot of these guys, like you said with Emory Jones. I take this back to baseball. Nick, how many different motions do we see? We see guys throwing sidearm. We see guys throwing submarine, but at the end of the day, it’s footwork. It’s their placement. It’s that kind of stuff. That’s the same way it is in football. Getting the fundamentals down is something that will end up helping Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, Jake Allen, Emory Jones, all of them.

Nick:                         Yeah. Really anything you can kind of lean back to or look back to and say, the footwork was wrong. That’s what it is. You can say he did this, he did that, but footwork is probably the most important thing that a quarterback can work on. You’ve got two great quarterback coaches in Brian Johnson and Dan Mullen.

Andrew:                 Go back to Feleipe Franks last year. How many games did we say he threw that off his back foot? If he would just step into that throw, that kind of stuff. Even taking some velocity off of it is huge for Franks, and Emory Jones. I said that at the Under Armour game. Emory needs to learn that when he’s throwing a curl route that’s five yards away from him it doesn’t need to be a 100 mile an hour fastball. 50 mile an hour changeup might do it there. That’s the same thing with Feleipe. How many times did he try to throw the swing pass 100 miles an hour, instead of just lobbing it to the running back to get him that? That’s big.

Also, Nick, I wanted to talk about what the receivers did. Billy Gonzales, just throwing the ball and letting the guys make cuts, try to make plays. Why not? That’s what these guys are going to do in Dan Mullen’s offense. They’re going to get the ball in open field and make plays. Why not practice that? I just think that there was some things that happened over the weekend that were the small things that we may look at practice and say, “Why is that happening?” but when you go back and think about it it’s like, that was very smart of Billy, of the coaching staff.

Nick:                         I think we’re kind of hanging on this a while. We still have to get to softball and baseball, but I think the biggest thing, especially in the spring, is coaching. It’s that expectation of this is what we expect you to do, and I don’t care if it’s the second spring practice or our toughest Tuesday practice before playing Tennessee next year. This is the expectation level. This is how I’m going to coach you. You’re going to learn quickly that if I’m not getting what I expect of you at practice, you’re going to hear about it. These guys will understand that more as they go through practices. I think it started with Nick Savage and him laying down that foundation throughout the whole off season working out.

Andrew:                 Here’s the thing with that. When those guys are in there putting the work in in the weight room, going to practice and going hard in practice isn’t as hard. Then going in there and doing that you want to see results. Nick, I said this to you on Saturday. I was talking to some guys who trained some Florida players. I won’t name names, for some reasons. They came back and were telling me that they saw their players come home for spring break, and all the players were saying, “We’re actually working now in the weight room.” One of the guys said the guy that came back, the player that came back, had gained weight for the first time in three years.

That was a theme on Sunday night, guys posting results. To see some of those guys, Jordan Scarlett, Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney, those guys, their weight gain was incredible. I said it. I was very close with Kadarius Toney, watched him in high school. Kadarius Toney gained zero weight while on campus at Florida, and he early enrolled, until Nick Savage got there. That’s inexcusable for a guy like Kadarius Toney, who had such a frame to add muscle to. It was crazy.

Nick:                         We talk about that all the time with recruiting. Look at his frame. He’s 6’1”.

Andrew:                 A buck 50.

Nick:                         A buck 50. But he’s got these big shoulders and long arms. We say it all the time. A frame that could handle more mass, that can handle more size. We kind of just kept saying that. Mike Kent could be a nice guy. We never really talked to him. If you’re a strength and conditioning coach, and Jim McElwain said it and alluded to it at times. He basically challenged the team to be more accountable of themselves in the weight room.

Nick Savage isn’t letting that even be a problem. I’m not going to let you hold yourself accountable. I’m going to hold you accountable first, and then we’ll let you hold yourself accountable later. Look at what I’ve done in three months to your body. That’s all those pictures that people are tweeting out. You’re doing it my way. I’m going to force you to do it my way. Now you see the results. Even if there was a little bit of pushback before, now you see results. There’s none now. There’s no pushback now, because look what the program he put together did for me.

Andrew:                 Who do you think, and I’m going to get this quick thing with you real quick, and then we’ll move on, who do you think transformed the most, just from seeing the guys for the first time on Friday?

Nick:                         Who I think has transformed the most?

Andrew:                 Their body.

Nick:                         Toney is up there. Damien Pierce looks like a damn body builder, but he’s new.

Andrew:                 He’s always been big though.

Nick:                         Might be Jachai Polite. I think Jachai has gained weight, but lost body fat. I’d put Jachai up there as one of those guys. Rick Wells has gotten much bigger in his third year now. He was always kind of a big guy, built well, but I think he’s gotten bigger. Probably would be Jachai.

Andrew:                 Okay. Nick, let’s move on. We’ll talk plenty more about all this, about football, as we continue to go on. We’ve got to spend a few minutes to recap baseball and softball. Nick, I jinxed the softball team. I said that they were going to go 2-1, and they went 1-3 and got crushed on Saturday in 11-1 fiasco. Friday night they got freaking robbed. Umpiring in the SEC this year is atrocious. I know you got something to say about that in a second.

So, they get beat on a walk-off on Friday night, but, first off, it was the end of the first inning, and they call an illegal pitch on Kelly Barnhill, which is highly questionable. Whatever. Then they hit three back to back to back solo homeruns on a field that only is 190 down the line, so it’s, again, kind of weird. Whatever. They lose on a walk-off 5-4. Aleshia Ocasio gives up a homer. Florida did score a run off of the ERA leader in the nation in Brittany Gray. Scored two of them against her this weekend. Then they won on Sunday. Go 1-3 against the Georgia team. I’ll say this now. Nick, Georgia might be the best team in the country. I told you that over the weekend. You know how bad that hurts me to say that a Georgia team is good, but they can hit, and they can pitch.

Nick:                         I think I was surprised at how Georgia was able to hit Barnhill, and then Ocasio. I had a very specific question for you about Kelly Barnhill. What are you making of her, I think it’s happened a couple times now, being called for an illegal pitch?

Andrew:                 It’s happening a little bit to several schools. Alabama, Alexis Osorio for Alabama has been called a little bit too. They told the umpires to focus more on this now. In the international game, it’s not an illegal pitch. For a lot of these girls, they’re playing international. For instance, Kelly Barnhill will represent Florida in the upcoming Olympics in Japan, or the United States in the upcoming Olympics. It’s tough. It’s just one of those things where it’s like is it really an illegal pitch, because her foot’s barely coming off the ground. She’s not gaining any advantage. It’s kind of like you and I talked about before. She’s not gaining any advantage at all.

Again, it’s something that I think has just become a habit from her from the international game, and it’s something she’s working on. I know Jennifer Rocha and Tim Walton have talked about they’re working on that. To be honest, it’s came back to bite her in some of the most inopportune times, and it also kind of seems like the umpires are calling it more in the most inopportune times. Also, it’s kind of happened more on the road, if you want to read into that.

Nick:                         Here’s something, as an umpire. We had some atrocious umpired in Columbia for Florida and South Carolina, who they wanted to be a part of the game and wanted to keep reminding us that I’m here. When we would have a pitcher, growing up, when we would have a pitcher that had a balk move, a balk pickoff move, or his stretch motion maybe the umpire thought he wasn’t coming set, he’d call time, walk up to him and say, “You’re doing something. If you keep doing that, I’m going to call it a balk, because I think it’s a balk. You need to change that.” Is that happening with Barnhill?

Andrew:                 No.

Nick:                         I’m not watching, because a lot of the baseball games are the same time. Is it just bases are loaded, and no, you did it again, balk.

Andrew:                 Yes. There’s no warning. Zero warning are being called.

Nick:                         To me, I think there has to be that warning. A good umpire would say, call time, “I think that’s a balk. Maybe that’s something you do a lot, but this is my first time umping one of your games. I’m going to call that a balk, so I’m letting you know right now you need to change that.” Instead of just that’s a balk and doing at an inopportune time.

Andrew:                 No. Zero of that. Again, it’s one of those things where it’s like Kelly repeats her motion. Does sometimes her foot get a little more off the ground than others? Sure. Again, they’re calling it inopportune times, and it’s one of those things too where it’s like why are the rules different from that to international play? There’s no different rules in baseball with that kind of stuff, so why is it? That’s something Walton’s talked about. Again, it’s one of those things. Nick, you know when I say this you know what I’m talking about. The opposing coach watches that, and they’ve seen it called every now and then. So before the series they go up to the umpire and say, “Hey, she’s going to illegal pitch.” You’re at Georgia. You know what I’m talking about, Nick. That’s not a conspiracy. It happens.

Nick:                         You put it into, every coach would do it. Tim Walton would do that.

Andrew:                 Hell, it happens in basketball in the middle of the game.

Nick:                         I think the girl, Kelly from Auburn, there was a pitch that throws where she comes out of the lane a lot, and it hasn’t been called. If Florida was playing at Auburn, Tim Walton would say to the umpires before the series, “When she throws this pitch, watch her foot. She’s going to come out of the lane.” Every coach would do that. By the way, keep your eye on this.

Andrew:                 It’s going to happen more on the road than it is at home. It just is what it is. To finish off my softball. They go 1-3. Not good. They lose two games. Now they’re a game behind Georgia in the thing. At the end of the day, they lose 5-4. You get killed on Saturday. Walton said, screw it, threw two freshmen after Barnhill gave up two runs.

Again, it’s early in the season. If there’s one thing I always have learned about softball and your baseball team, Nick, that is at some point or another they’re going to struggle for a series or two. It happens every single solitary year. Every single solitary year at that point in time, people say they suck, they’re done. Whatever. Guarantee you this, Florida will be in the running, will be in the running to go to Oklahoma City. They’ll rebound. They’ll be fine. I can almost guarantee you that, that they’re going to be fine after this series.

Nick:                         There was some doom and gloomers after Florida lost, because it’s not often that it would be the pitching that lets Florida down, and that was the case Saturday. People were doom and gloom there. The way that Florida is, and you said this, I think, to me after watching a game or two, this Florida team is built differently. I’m going to go on record now saying I don’t think the pitching is better this year. I think it might be a little bit deeper, but you’re seeing guys who I thought were great as freshmen, Leftwich and Mace, kind of run into some struggles as the competition gets harder. It’s a learning experience for them.

I was just looking up. At two different times last year, including ending on it, Alex Faedo had a 20+ inning scoreless streak. I ran up on that stat looking up Michael Byrne, who’s got one that’s at 22 2/3 right now. That’s just something that’s ridiculous. Then you look. On top of having Faedo, you had an emerging Dyson, Singer, Kowar.

The hitting on this team is different. That’s something you can never really put this Florida team to bed, because even when they lose that game 15-7, it’s 9-2 at one point, and then all of a sudden, it’s 9-6. You’re thinking, a walk, a bloop, and a bomb, and the game’s tied.

Andrew:                 I told you this in the Florida State game. One through nine, this team is pretty solid. There’s not too many easy outs in this order. I know Langworthy struggled a little bit, but one through nine this is a pretty deep hitting team. I said this, and that is if you get ahead of this team, you better keep adding on, because this team is going to slowly but surely come back. I’ll say this. It’s a power team too. This team can go deep a lot through the order, including Will Dalton at the top of the order.

It’s just a different team for Sully, in that this team is not only a really good pitching team, but they’re a really, really good hitting team. Here’s the thing too, Nick. Jackson Kowar struggled a little bit. Every ace or top pitcher struggles at one point or another. I’m sure there was a game last year where Faedo struggled a little bit. Listen, there’s going to be a game this year on Friday night where Brady Singer struggles. Just get ready for it. It’s going to happen.

Nick:                         That’s the nature of the game. I said it before the season started, the magic number in the SEC is 20. Get to the 10 league wins, and that’s really going to give you a chance to win the conference. You take two out of three, on the road as well. South Carolina is a tough place to play. Kevin O’Sullivan is very familiar with playing there, having coached at Clemson for a while. That’s a tough place to play. That’s a really good park, and they’re one of, I think, six programs that have won back to back championships. They won in 2010, 2011. A lot of history, smart baseball fans, passionate baseball fans there. Taking two out of three is a big thing for Florida. Honestly, if Florida goes one on one, with Dyson and the way that this team hits, they’re going to have a great chance to go 2-1 a lot of weekends.

Huge weekend this week with Arkansas coming to town. They just swept Kentucky, who everyone was kind of falling in love with. Kentucky was #3 in the country. That Arkansas team, they can throw, they can hit, and they can run.

Andrew:                 That’s going to be a good series. That’s really good. As my man, Bobby Cox, said back in the day, “If you win every series, you got a chance to be really good.”

Nick:                         That’s almost like a Yogism.

Andrew:                 It’s one of those things, if you win two out of three, you got a chance to be really good. Softball, they take on USF on Wednesday night at home. Baseball has Jacksonville this weekend?

Nick:                         Jacksonville on Tuesday.

Andrew:                 Okay. Both teams are at home this coming weekend. Florida has A&M, and then you guys have got Arkansas over there. Then spring practice is open.

Nick:                         It’s a weird schedule for Florida this weekend, because of ESPN airing the game on Saturday. Florida will play at noon.

Andrew:                 Okay. Florida has a weird softball schedule in that they play the Saturday through Monday schedule. They get the SEC Network on Sunday night and Monday night.

Nick:                         That’s good. Little exposure for softball.

Andrew:                 Yeah. They do a good job. Baseball does the Thursday, Friday, Saturday series, and softball does Saturday, Sunday, Monday series. All is good there. We’ll be back on Friday. We’ll preview that softball and baseball. We’ll even talk some spring football. Real quick, five-star running back Trey Sanders’ older brother Umstead Sanders, JuCo linebacker 2018 guy, took a preferred walk-on this weekend. Will join the team in the summertime. Listen, Nick, never a bad thing when you can get a five-star’s brother to walk on, and that brother be a pretty decent ballplayer.

Nick:                         Yeah. I saw them. I was actually talking with Johnny Townsend and his parents at one of the practices, and a coach brought them by. It’s funny to see how this coaching staff is interacting with now former players and their families to show that Johnny’s here and our old players are coming back. Percy Harvin was talking to both the Sanders brothers.

Andrew:                 Taven Bryan.

Nick:                         Taven Bryan was out there on Friday. I didn’t see him Saturday, but saw him out there Friday. He was talking to guys.

Andrew:                 Not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. It’s the way it should be. Listen, University of Florida has got a lot of good players that’s come through the university. Why not use that to your advantage? Nick, I mean, I’m just going to ask you this. I don’t mean to put you on the spot here, but growing up, we were all big fans of Percy Harvin. He was electric. It was fun. The Arkansas play, the sprained ankle and he comes back and does well in the championship. Percy Harvin was the guy. Kids know that. Think about it. Listen, it just is what it is. Percy Harvin is a guy that you want around your campus. He’s a very good ambassador for your program if you have him on campus.

Nick:                         100%. These kids, I think, are old enough to remember Percy Harvin. If they’re 18 years old, he was at Florida nine years ago. When you’re nine years old, you’re probably just now starting to get in and watch college football. It’s something that having a player like Percy Harvin, who is as electric and polarizing as probably anyone in the game then, and I know Reggie Bush was playing then. As electric as that, it’s a huge recruiting tool to see him back on campus and around. Joking around and hanging out with this coaching staff. It’s a great recruiting tool to say, I coached him, and look at what he’s done in terms of a professional career, and now he’s back here and loves being here.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone on Friday. We’ll preview and talk more spring football.

Nick:                for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. Find the podcast on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe and never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC, and he’s @AndrewSpiveyGC.

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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, 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.