Spring Florida Gators football preview and diamond sports preview: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the start of Florida Gators spring football that starts on Friday afternoon.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre talk about the things they’re looking forward to seeing, plus what Dan Mullen had to say on Tuesday at his press conference.

Andrew and Nick also preview who the baseball and softball teams play this weekend as they take on SEC opponents on the road this weekend.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, baseball, softball, and spring football, and March Madness. What more can you ask for? And Tiger is on the course.

Nick:                         Yeah. Tiger’s on the course. March Madness is starting right now, as we’re recording this. We’re going to be watching Trae Young in the background. In case one of us starts yelling, he probably hit a 60-foot shot. Baseball is on the road. Softball is on the road?

Andrew:                 Yes. Softball’s on the road at Georgia this weekend.

Nick:                         Spring football. Friday, Saturday will be open to the public. I already gave you the warning. Be prepared to see guys in shirts and shorts and not a ton of football stuff. It starts this week. Busy week in Gainesville.

Andrew:                 Everyone wanted open practice, and why not? Here’s the thing. Mullen had a good answer. It was something that kind of caught my attention a little bit. It almost was like someone told him to say this. He said he wanted open practice because he wanted the fanbase and the players and the team to come together as a whole again. You’ve said it more than I have in the past, and that is that there is a big disconnect under Mac between fans and team. What better way to do it than to have an open practice?

Nick:                         Yeah. We have dates and stuff. There will be open portions to the media. These are the only two practices open up until that spring game, which is technically just another spring practice. We don’t know what kind of portions will be open. We will be talking to assistant coaches and coordinators throughout spring practice, but we don’t know if it’s going to be like it was with McElwain, where we’re watching three portions of practice, or if we’re watching the full practice, but we can’t report on certain stuff. We’re still kind of working that out with Florida as to what we’re going to be allowed to see throughout the spring. That’s kind of still up in the air.

Andrew:                 Before we move on to talk baseball and softball, we’re going to preview spring practice here after we talk baseball and softball. I wanted to say that the one thing you won’t see from a Mullen practice is dropped passes like there were under Mac’s. I’m afraid Mullen will shut it down and say, “Restart.”

Nick:                         There was a lot. That was a lot of dropped passes with no one covering.

Andrew:                 Mullen made no guarantees, except for one thing, and that was you’re going to have guys working hard. They’re going to go hard. He said, “They don’t have a choice.”

Big weekend on the diamond. Big week, it depends, we’re taping this on Thursday, so possibly Florida could be out of the tournament. If not, big weekend on the hardwood for the Gators. Let’s talk baseball and softball before we get into talking football. Nick, Kevin O’Sullivan, does he just have Mike Martin’s jersey hanging up in his house, and he says, “I own you, dude.” Because Sully doesn’t lose to Florida State. What a performance on Tuesday night in Gainesville.

Nick:                         Sully, Florida State kind of had Florida’s number for the longest time, and Sully right now is 27-11-1 against Florida State, and Florida still trails by 20 games in the overall series. Sully’s that far ahead, over 500. Kind of tells you where Florida was before his tenure, 11 years ago before he got to Gainesville, and it kind of tells you what they’ve done since. Tuesday’s win was the sixth in a row. That’s the longest winning streak in the series history on Florida’s side. I think Florida State won 11 in a row at one point. That’s one thing. Then Florida’s won 10 of the last 11 against Florida State.

Mike Martin is a Hall of Fame coach, and at some point this year he will become the winningest head coach in college baseball history. I have nothing but respect for 11. Wish them would get him a golf cart, so it wouldn’t take him so long to get to the mound during his mound visits. It’s pretty incredible.

Andrew:                 I’m going to say something. I’m like you. I have the utmost respect for Mike Martin. I’m going to throw this out at you, and I throw this because my Jaguars, South Alabama, had that same issue with Steve Kittrell, who was one of their longtime coaches. He was there forever. He’s their all-time winningest coach. When does it get to the point where he’s almost played himself out? I don’t mean that in a bad way, because, like I said, I have the utmost respect for Martin, but you’re almost starting, in my opinion, to see the guys maybe not respond to him as much. That’s bad, but also maybe his ways have grown old a little bit. I guess my question to you is do you see this as the ending years to Martin’s tenure at FSU, like I do?

Nick:                         I mean, shoot, they forced Bobby out. I would say you can’t fire Mike Martin. Mike Martin has built that program into what it is. Shoot, he’s been there since 1980, so since before we were born. He was an assistant from ’75-’79. In my mind, I can’t wrap my mind around them firing Mike Martin.

Andrew:                 I don’t mean firing him.

Nick:                         Forcing him to leave.

Andrew:                 No. I’m saying, do you see that Martin is starting to see that maybe his time has come?

Nick:                         It’s tough to figure that out, because being Florida State might recruit itself. We talk about that with Tim Walton and Kevin O’Sullivan. The programs that they’ve created kind of recruit themselves now. When you look at a pitcher, if I’m the dad of a high school pitcher, and Kevin O’Sullivan offers my kid a scholarship, there’s a proven track record that my kid is going to be taken care of, and there’s a very good chance that he’s going to go on. If he’s a Major League type player, going to go on and get that kind of coaching that will get him ready for the next level. Mike Martin has that same pedigree there.

Has the game passed him by a little bit? I’m sure it has. There’s probably some aspects that will pass Kevin O’Sullivan by in 5, 10 years. I just don’t know if I can get behind it’s passed him by enough that he’s a detriment to the program.

Andrew:                 Okay. Again, I see that. I guess, I’m not saying he’s a detriment to the program, by any means. I’m saying, and you know how this is, Nick, it gets with everyone. After so long, maybe … I mean, I kind of go back to my Braves, with Bobby Cox. After so long, the game doesn’t pass you up, but it gets to the point where it’s time to move on. I guess that’s where I’m at. Once again, Mike Martin still has no ring. At the end of the day, you’re judged by rings.

Nick:                         That’s wild. He has been to the College World Series nine times. Finished runner up once. Has never won it.

Andrew:                 At the end of the day, that’s what you’re judged by, Nick. That’s what you’re judged by. Laugh about it all you want, but at the end of the day, that’s what you’re judged by.

Nick:                         That’s tough. The coach at Wake Forest might not be judged that way. The coach at Coastal Carolina, they won one a couple years ago, might not be judged that way. When you’re at a program for 28 years and playing at that level, that’s what you’re judged on. I said it last year, unfairly, that’s what Kevin O’Sullivan was judged on.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly right. Let’s move on. We’re going to preview that. I wanted to say one thing about the game on Tuesday. Nick, I made the comment to you during the game, and I think I tweeted it as well. This is a different Kevin O’Sullivan ballclub. This is a Kevin O’Sullivan ballclub that one through nine at the plate you got a chance. This is a ballclub that’s going to be scrappy one through nine. Is there power up and down the lineup? No. I say it’s scrappy. You have Keenan Bell. I think he was hitting seven the other night, had some really good approach. Langworthy hitting nine. I think he was perfect at one time throughout the game. One through nine, this is a team that you better continue to find ways to score runs against a really good pitching staff, or this team is going to find a way to scrap across enough runs to win most ballgames.

Nick:                         People on the message board are saying this is a totally different hitting team than they are last year. Yes, they have been, but it’s not a bunch of new guys in the lineup. Will Dalton, obviously new, but you look back at it and Nick Horvath was in the lineup. JJ, India, Liput, Keenan Bell is getting more time than he did last year. You could argue that he’s newer in the lineup. Langworthy, Maldinado. It’s the same guys. I kept telling people last year, these are good players; they’re struggling right now. We talked about it last year, and you’ll say I’m right here again. Success breeds confidence and breeds more success, but failure can have the same effect. You go one through nine in the lineup, and you get one hit in the first nine batters, that breeds mentally. That plays. Then that starts to become a bad weekend.

Andrew:                 Hitting is contagious. It is.

Nick:                         Bad hitting and good hitting is contagious. Last year I think the bad hitting for a time just became contagious. Florida would have games last year where they’d win 6-5, but they’d score three runs in the first and three runs in the fourth, and then would have one hit in every other inning. You’re just not seeing that with this team. I think that’s been the biggest thing. You’re not seeing huge stretches of innings where nothing is happening. They’re at least getting a guy on or a couple hits an inning. There’s not long stretches of those lulls. Then, of course, the pitching is where it’s at. This team is certainly, one through nine, hitting much better going into SEC play than they were previously.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Let’s move on. Florida starts conference play this weekend in baseball. Softball started last weekend. They get a nice trip up to a rowdy place to play in South Carolina.

Nick:                         Founder’s Park is one of the best stadiums in the country.

Andrew:                 I would say outside of Baton Rouge, and maybe Ole Miss, or Mississippi State. Is it Mississippi State?

Nick:                         Mississippi State, thanks to Scott Strickland, just opened up their brand new ballpark. They did a ton of renovations.

Andrew:                 Who’s the one that throws the beer up in the air?

Nick:                         That’s Ole Miss.

Andrew:                 Ole Miss.

Nick:                         That’s great. I wouldn’t mind if Gator Country would send me, if Florida was at Ole Miss. I’ll go and hang out in the Grove, and maybe cover the game with a beer in right field.

Andrew:                 With the co-eds? Why not?

Nick:                         Mississippi State. I love Alex Box Stadium.

Andrew:                 Box is the best. To me, there is no favorite over Box.

Nick:                         I’m debating on going up to Tennessee, because I’ve heard it’s a good atmosphere there.

Andrew:                 Don’t go to Knoxville. Just don’t. No.

Nick:                         Vanderbilt’s isn’t great.

Andrew:                 When you go to Knoxville you just think, Knoxville, trash. No. I would just advise against that.

Give me the scouting report. South Carolina. Is it the South Carolina of old? Really good pitching, couple good hitters. What’s the scouting report?

Nick:                         South Carolina has got two guys with more than 40 at bats at over .300. Three if you include Madison Stokes, who is a big RBI machine. He’s got four homeruns on the year. LT Tolbert and TJ Hopkins are their other guys, hitting .391 and .328, six homers between them, 30 RBIs between them. Those are really the three big guys.

On the mound, South Carolina is very good. It’s going to start Friday night with Adam Hill. Adam Hill and Brady Singer, that’s an A1 pitching, Friday night pitching matchup in the SEC. You’re always going to have great pitching matchups in the SEC, but this is about as good as it gets. Adam Hill leads the SEC in strike-outs, at 43, and strike-outs per nine. He’s only given up nine hits in 23 innings so far. That’s the pitching matchup to watch, Friday night, Adam Hill and Brady Singer. Singer is 4-0, has a 2.08 ERA. Hill has got a 3.91 ERA. That should be the matchup.

Saturday is Jackson Kowar. He’s 3-0, 2.05 ERA. Versus Cody Morris, 3-1 with a 4.05. South Carolina doesn’t really have that guaranteed third starter. I think it would be either Cody Morris or John Gilreath. Sorry, John Gilreath, Cody Morris is Saturday. Then Tyler Dyson, who’s 3-1 with just a 1.07 ERA. He’s top 5 in the SEC, with guys who have at least 15 innings pitched, in terms of ERA.

Andrew:                 Poor Dyson just doesn’t get enough run support.

Nick:                         That’s every year. I remember it was one year Puk’s ERA was like a 5, and he was like 9-0 on Saturday. Logan Shore, I think it was their sophomore year, Logan Shore was 7-5 with like a 2.06 ERA. On Friday nights Florida would score one or two runs, and Logan Shore would lose. Then Saturday Puk would throw, or Sunday Puk would throw, and they’d score 10. That was Brady Singer last year. Jackson Kowar’s ERA was over 4, and he had the most wins in the SEC. Brady Singer had a decent record, but certainly he pitched better than his record would show.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         It happens.

Andrew:                 It’s laughable. I shouldn’t say laughable, because baseball is a game of failure. You’re going to fail two out of three times. You think Sunday, Johnny Wholestaff. You think you’d score a lot of runs. That’s typically the way it is. Sunday you’re going to have your longest games. You have a few games that run up against the time where the team has to leave, and that’s the day Florida’s going to score runs. Again, baseball is a weird game. That’s just the way it is. I just find that funny that Sunday is the day they’re having trouble scoring, when it’s a lot of team’s worst pitcher. At the same time, you don’t see those guys a lot, because you’re getting Johnny Wholestaff.

Nick:                         Right. I’ll wrap it up quick, so we can get softball. I know everyone is waiting for football. Big story, he hasn’t thrown a ton this year, haven’t really been that many close games, but Michael Burn hasn’t allowed a run in 12 and a third innings pitched this year, and he ended last season with seven scoreless innings. He hasn’t given up a run. He gave up that walk off to Wake Forest in the Super Regional and hasn’t given up a run now in 19 and a third innings. That’s pretty impressive. Now you’ll expect him to start coming up more as we get into conference play and these games start getting a little tighter.

Over the last 10 games, Jonathan India is hitting .500. Listen to this slash for Jonathan India in his last 10 games. .500, 1.125 slugging, and a .594 on base percentage. He’s got three doubles, four homeruns, and seven RBIs in last 10 games.

Andrew:                 Not too bad. He hit a ball that, if it didn’t go over the fence, it was going to put a hole through the fence on Tuesday night.

Nick:                         That first homerun was a laser, and then the second one was a moon shot.

Andrew:                 The second one might not have landed yet. That was some stuff. What’s crazy, I had sent you a screenshot, Nick, of during Baseball America. They were talking about if India could continue to hit for power he could be a third baseman at the next level. It was literally 10 minutes before he put one into the seats out at McKeathan.

Baseball, it’s a big weekend. Florida also has a big weekend in softball. That is they go to Georgia to face Athens, the #10 team in the country in Georgia. Georgia is a very good team this year. #1 team in the SEC as far as hitting, and they also support the #1 ERA in the country in Brittany Gray, who hasn’t allowed a run this year. If you know Florida, and it’s the same thing in baseball, softball, it all goes together, you usually go into each series thinking, “Florida’s going to have the best pitcher.” I still would give Kelly Barnhill the best pitcher, but Brittany Gray on the year is 64 innings, hasn’t allowed a run. Perfect in 11-0.

Nick:                         That’s incredible.

Andrew:                 Allowed one run. It was an unearned run. A .99 batting average against her.

Nick:                         .099. Those numbers wouldn’t add up.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Incredible. Here’s the thing. You got to get a hit. Georgia, you got to get a hit against Barnhill. Last Friday night against Kentucky Barnhill did it again, Nick.

Nick:                         Are you going to have a 16-inning game with no hits?

Andrew:                 I hope not. Let’s hope not. Don’t jinx me like that. I may call you and say, “I need a reliever.” I may call the bullpen. I mean, it’s crazy when you look at it. You pull out the stats on the NCAA website. #1 ERA on the year is Brittany Gray with a 0 earned run average. #2 earned run average on the year is Kelly Barnhill, .20. Not too bad.

Nick:                         I’m expecting a 1-0 game.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Barnhill has allowed two runs on the year.

Nick:                         It might not happen in softball. It would almost make sense if these two pitchers had their worst games against each other.

Andrew:                 Have a 10-9 game.

Nick:                         Yeah. I don’t even know if they could throw that bad. I was thinking like a 3-4 game, which might be the worst games that either of them have, giving up three and four runs.

Andrew:                 I’m going to go out on a limb here, Nick, and say this. Florida puts the first run on the board against Brittany Gray.

Nick:                         Okay.

Andrew:                 I’m just going to say that. Florida goes out and sweeps Kentucky last weekend. Has that walk off right after you guys walked it off on the baseball field. Same score, 3-2. Then Georgia sweeps Arkansas. Kentucky is a little bit better team than Arkansas, but Arkansas has improved. It’s a matchup of two really good teams, probably the two best teams in the SEC, regardless of the rankings on the year. Is Florida going to go up and sweep them this weekend? We’ll see. If they lose one game, don’t freak out. Georgia is a really, really good team. You’re going to see Georgia in Oklahoma City playing the Softball World Series with Florida at the end of the year, baring something crazy. It’s going to be a good weekend. It really is. Good pitching weekend. Like you said, Nick, hopefully we have no 16-inning games. I’d settle for one of those hour games, where it’s a 1-0. Kayli Kvistad or Amanda Lorenz homerun.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Andrew:                 That’s that. Florida, just like baseball, #2 in the country this weekend. Still trailing Washington, who is undefeated. Florida’s played by far the better schedule on the year. As you know, Walton always puts his girls on the test, and the SEC, 11 out of the 13 teams in the conference are ranked, so better conference, everything else.

Nick:                         SEC has eight ranked in the top 25 in baseball.

Andrew:                 That’s pretty good. That’s really good. Again, #2 in the country, #1 in the country. You always want that one beside your name, but Florida will go in #2 in the country this weekend. Sweep this weekend against Georgia, and we’ll see what happens. It is going to be tough. Georgia .381 batting average on the year, and they’re crushing the ball, Nick, 37 long balls in 25 games. Compare that to Florida with just 19 long balls. Georgia is crushing the ball, crushing the ball.

Nick:                         What does that do though? Good hitting team, but we say it all the time, great pitching beats great hitting every time. What do you think gives there?

Andrew:                 I don’t know. Here’s my thing.

Nick:                         First off, Kelly Barnhill is probably the best pitcher in the country.

Andrew:                 That’s what I was going to say.

Nick:                         Something’s got to give. It’s a great hitting team. A pitcher can neutralize that, but if you’re going to see her for 18 innings over the course of three games.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Maybe not that much. Maybe 15, 16 innings over the course of the three games. Maybe you start picking up on something, if you’re that good of a hitting team?

Andrew:                 Yeah. But at the same time, it’s one of those things where Barnhill has now seen all these teams for two years. Granted, she’s gotten better, but she’s added that changeup, Nick, that’s almost a drop ball. When you’re looking at a pitch that’s coming 59 miles an hour at the ankles, dropping, and then you look at a 72-mile-an-hour pitch coming at your eyeballs. I don’t know. Like I said, Nick, on the last podcast, teams are already saying that Barnhill’s finding a way to cheat. Again, I always say this. Great pitching beats great hitting, and I’ll go with that again this weekend.

Nick:                         Okay.

Andrew:                 I’ll go with that.

Nick:                         Are you going to go out and call a sweep?

Andrew:                 No. I won’t call a sweep. I say two out of three. Georgia is a good ballclub. Here’s the thing. Not taking anything away from Aleshia Ocasio, but they’ll hit her pretty solid on Saturday. She’s struggling a little bit. They’ll hit her pretty solid. They’ll probably touch her up for a long ball or two.

Nick:                         Okay.

Andrew:                 That’s my prediction. What are you calling? Sweeping Carolina?

Nick:                         I’m going to go 2-1 series win at Carolina.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I think we’re going to have a very quick low scoring game on Friday. If you remember, the last time Florida was up at South Carolina they had that big comeback. I know Horvath hit one of the homeruns, and it might have been India as a freshman hit another one. I can’t remember. I know it was Horvath. They had that where they scored like, I’d have to go back and look at it, but they scored like six runs in the eighth and ninth to come back and beat South Carolina. I think South Carolina was #1 in the country at that time.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         I’m looking it up right now. I’m going to go with Florida will, I think, win Friday. People are going to be down on Florida and the hitting, because Hill is that good of a guy, that good of a pitcher on Friday night. That’s a day where there will be a lot of scouts, a lot of scouts in Founder’s Park.

That’s what it was. Florida was down 4-2 in the sixth, and then scored one in the seventh, and then two runs in the ninth on two solo homeruns to tie and then go up. It was India and Horvath. Man, I’m not bad, Spivey. I’ve still got some memory. It was India and Horvath.

Andrew:                 That’s going to be the tale again this week. When you look at it, India and Horvath, those guys are going to have to hit. You don’t think they’re going to pitch to JJ much. The tell tale of baseball is don’t let the opposing team’s best hitter beat you. We’ll see how that goes.

Friday, before you and I get to start on our good old baseball and softball this week, we get to talk about the football team. Dan Mullen took the podium on Tuesday and talked the talk, laid out the groundwork. They’ll roll out the ball and get out there in shorts and t-shirts and helmets on Friday and Saturday. Fans will get to see it. Then next week, of course, they’ll start hitting a little bit. The way I took it, Nick, and maybe I got the wrong impression, but the way I took it is this is going to be a spring full of practices that are hard, tough, and he’s going to shake the program in this spring.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think especially the first spring, and especially after what they’ve already gone through with Nick Savage. I know you and I have talked with people around the program that are, throwing up is a normal thing at these Nick Savage workouts. I think that same intensity will be brought to the field. I think that’s what Mullen is telling these guys, and it’s just kind of like when he left. Remember the first time he talked to us, he said, “I told the players, go home and enjoy your winter break, because when you come back it’s going to be the toughest January you’ve ever gone through.” I think this is about to be the toughest March that these guys have gone through.

Andrew:                 I know some people in my Twitter mentions were making fun of Mullen, but he said, “Friday is going to be boring.” He goes, “I’m going to teach the guys how to get out of the huddle.” Nick, I say this half jokingly, half not jokingly. How many times did you and I say this team walks out of the huddle? How many delay of games or timeouts did this team have to have because they would jog out of the huddle, get up to the line of scrimmage with three seconds on the play clock, and have to rush and call time out or something?

I know people are going to laugh when they go out and see Mullen teaching these guys how to break a huddle, but it has to be done. I hate to say that you have to go back to the fundamentals of A, B, and C for these guys, but you almost do, especially on the offensive side of the ball. How to get plays in, how to run an offense at a tempo that is not so deadly.

Nick:                         We can take a shot at the old staff for that, but it’s not even that. Every coach will have their own expectations of how it’s going to be run, from getting the calls in from the sideline to the field. Every coach will be different. Even if Jim McElwain was running Chip Kelly’s old Oregon offense, where there were 13 seconds between snaps. Snap, play, 13 seconds, and we’ve got another play in, and we’re running it. The next coaching staff would come in and say, “I don’t know how you guys did it last year. This is how we do it. This is how our program does it.” Granted, it was slow as molasses last year, and I don’t anticipate it being that way under Mullen. There will be something different. That’s going to be any first new coaching staff is going to have go in and change all those procedural things.

Andrew:                 Right. What I’m saying is Florida was, and our man DK Thompson, I don’t remember the stat, but it was something in the one hundreds of Florida’s pace of play. It was terrible. I’m just saying people are going to laugh at that on Friday, but in my opinion, it needs to be taught.

Give me the other highlights of Mullen’s press conference on Tuesday, as we look forward to spring.

Nick:                         He joked around about those exact things we just talked about. Warned fans it might be a lot of breaking huddle and learning what the expectations are. I think the biggest thing we’re going to be looking at is how much is he involved in the quarterbacks. Obviously, when you don’t have a Baker Mayfield coming back for his senior year, and you know who the quarterback is going to be, you’re going to have a quarterback competition. That’s where all the eyes are going to turn. Feleipe Franks, big name. Emory Jones, big name. I’m going to continue driving the Trask train. Don’t forget about Kyle Trask. Then Jake Allen. We see how those shake up and see what those expectations are.

I think big one maybe we haven’t mentioned is Kadarius Toney. Toney enrolled early last year, but spent more than 85% of the spring playing quarterback because of the numbers at quarterback. Del Rio was hurt and stuff like that. How is an entire year of him practicing receiver? Receiver is more than just being fast. It’s knowledge of routes, whatever the defense is trying to do. There’s so many things that go along into that. How much better is he as a pure receiver, having a full year and a full off season to do that? Florida’s still looking for playmakers. I think that’s something that we’re going to be looking at closely.

Obviously, you and I talked about it, we don’t know who the starting five on the offensive line is going to be, who the starting safeties are going to be. There’s a bunch of freshmen linebackers, redshirt freshmen linebackers now, that I want to see. I think there’s a lot of intriguing storylines when it comes to position battles that we’re going to see, and then, obviously, how are these new coaches changing things once they break off into individual drills as well? Not just how Mullen runs a practice, but how is Christian Robinson reacting with the linebackers? How are special teams run with Greg Knox?

Then I’ve got special teams battles. We’ve got Evan McPherson not on campus, so I think Jorge Powell will kind of take over as the starting kicker right now, but Eddy Pineiro is big shoes to fill. Then big shoes to fill with Townsend. You’re still going to see a Townsend out there, but it’s not going to be Johnny.

Andrew:                 Not only those on special teams, but how does the special teams in general change with Mullen? You’re not going to have guys lacking.

Nick:                         Mullen learned under Urban. You remember the whole Urban, and everyone listening to this will remember, special teams eats first. The long snapper is eating before the quarterback. Special teams eats first. It was an incentive to get the best players on special teams. That was not the case with Jim McElwain. It was not the days of Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, and Percy Harvin running down the field on kick cover. Some people don’t like that, but it makes you competitive.

Andrew:                 Here’s the deal. Special teams is very important. When you get to the NFL, you’re not making a roster unless you can play special teams.

Nick:                         Your boy, your favorite Gator of all time, Trey Burton, made an NFL roster because he could play on all four special teams, and he just got paid.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly right. It’s several guys. Unless you are one of the top three to four players on your team, or you’re a quarterback, you’re playing special teams. You are. Like you said, Trey Burton, he made life changing money off of that. That’s exactly what it is. Is Trey Burton a great tight end? Is he a great gunner on special teams? No. He’s just a solid player that is able to do a lot of things. He made a lot of money.

Nick:                         What it did is special teams got him on NFL roster, performing on special teams kept him there long enough for him to get an opportunity to show that he could do something else. Once you get down to the NFL, there’s guys that have money invested in them, and they’re going to be on the team, and they’re going to play those positions. I don’t care if you’re a third-round pick, and you’re a great wide receiver. If they’ve got a guy that they’re paying $9 million, you’re not playing over him. There’s politics when it comes to money. You got to find a way to make the roster, and that’s special teams. I think there will be a new emphasis on special teams. Not just kicking/punting, but punt block, kick block, kick return, kick cover, all that.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s the thing. I told you last week, I’m looking forward to seeing the offensive line, see how that is. Also, kind of looking to see who plays that outside linebacker position. Me personally, I think this is going to be a huge spring for Jeremiah Moon. He was used improper under the last staff. Jeremiah Moon is going to be a freak in this 3-4 defense, that outside linebacker position. That’s going to be a big thing.

Offensive line, that’s the position I’m looking forward to seeing.

Nick:                         Let’s stay there for a second too. I think it definitely played into Cece Jefferson coming back for his senior year. Cece Jefferson has been wildly misused for three years, in my opinion. I understand that he got up to like 265 pounds, but asking him to play defensive tackle, that’s not what he does.

Andrew:                 That’s not Cece.

Nick:                         He could do that when he’s playing Baker County, and the center he’s playing against is 220 pounds, playing against these small schools. Cece is a pass rusher. I think a big part in him coming back is saying, we went back and watched three years of your film. What the hell are you doing playing a two technique? No, man. We want you to stand up on the outside. Not even put your hand on the ground, and just get after the quarterback. We see your skillset, and that’s what you can do. Here’s what Todd Grantham does, and go back and look how he’s used guys at Georgia. Go back and look and Jarvis Jones. Florida fans probably just shuddered hearing that name.

Andrew:                 What’s his name, Rankin? At Mississippi State.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think that’s a big factor in Cece coming back. We’re finally going to use you the way that you should have been used your first three years in college. Him, Moon, who else am I thinking of? Zach Carter is a guy that I think can play with his hand in the ground or not with a hand on the ground. That position, and also I want to see, they call it a star, we call it a rover. It’s kind of that linebacker/safety hybrid. Who fills into that role? Is that Chauncey that fills into that role, more so than him just playing a pure safety like he played last year? There’s question marks everywhere. I think it’ll be really, for me, a learning process for us in the media to see how practice is run and how they’re lining things up and where they’re lining guys up.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Mullen said this. He said, “I don’t know about position changes, because I don’t know where these guys play.” I do, I think that you go in, especially with the offense and defense they’re going to be running, it’s completely different than it was in the past. You do kind of come in not looking at what the guys did. You have to evaluate. It’s going to be a big evaluation time for all these guys. When Mullen says these guys better come out and work hard, they better, because first impressions are huge. I take it that Mullen and those guys have watched what they’ve done in the weight room and that kind of stuff, but at the same time, Mullen’s not a guy that’s going to say, “You did good in the weight room, so you get a pass on the field.” That’s not going to fly. It’s going to be big.

I personally am looking forward to seeing new intensity. I can’t say it enough. The intensity was just bad. It just is what it is. Not only were they lackadaisical and slow and everything else on offense, but there was just no energy.

Nick:                         I would disagree and agree. I would say there wasn’t sustained energy. Again, we got kicked out as soon as football stuff happened. I would say, based on people we talked to, that it’s the sustained energy. There were bursts of it, but, listen, if we only get practice two hours a day, I need sustained energy for two hours a day from you. Not in five minutes spurts. That’s different than a game. In a game, I think it was Urban, it was like six seconds of relentless energy.

Andrew:                 That’s the typical length of a play.

Nick:                         That’s the typical length of a play. Six seconds. That’s it. Then relax. Reset. Six seconds of sustained relentless energy. Then at practice, two hours of it.

Andrew:                 I mean, that’s the thing. We talk about it all the time. Listen, I understand what you said about the whole at times they were. Nick, how many games were there that we just look back, and we say they never showed up? They never showed up. How many games did we just look and say this team looks like they don’t want to be here, or this team has no energy, has no life? The Missouri game, go back to the Missouri game. Listen, I understand everything that went on with that Missouri game, but it’s football. It just didn’t make sense to me for that. I want to see energy. I want to see pride. I want to see that.

Nick:                         I agree. I agree with all of that. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m looking forward to seeing that level, because that’s the expectation. That’s the expectation that we’ve heard from Mullen. That’s the expectation we’ve heard from Ron English, from Sunseri. We’ve heard that as the expectation. Listen, they’ve obviously gotten that in the form of Nick Savage, but this will be their first time out on the football field with these coaches. So how do they respond to that? That’s another thing I want to see.

Andrew:                 Right. Also, it’s a big, big recruiting weekend for Florida. A lot of big name guys. #1 player in the country, Kayvon Thibodeaux, from California is coming in. Micah Pittman, big receiver from California, is coming in. Some linemen coming in as well. It’s a big weekend. Mullen talked about it on Tuesday. He likes to have guys come in and be able to see and witness what they staff is about, because he’s not going to change how he coaches. It’s a big weekend for that.

Nick, it shows how well this staff is recruiting that they’re able to get a lot of those big name guys in and get them on campus. I told you this on Wednesday night. I said, “Mullen knows what he’s doing with these recruits.” He knows what he’s talking about. These guys believe in Mullen’s message. They believe in what he’s telling them, and it shows.

I will say this, and that is Mullen has that Urban Meyer approach. That is, listen, if the best player is sitting in Australia, I’m going to recruit him. If he’s sitting in California, I’m going to recruit him. If he’s sitting in New York, I’m going to recruit him. Florida’s a national brand. You recruit the best. Don’t be scared to go recruit. Has Florida been burned by California kids? Sure. Last two years, Elijah Blades and Matt Corrall have burned them. You can argue about Matt. Like I say, you have to recruit the best, Nick. I think you will agree with me when I say this. Shoot your shot. If you miss with the California kid, you miss. Shoot your shot with the best players.

Nick:                         Can’t be afraid to fail.

Andrew:                 That’s exactly right. Big weekend all around. Again, basketball is out there playing on Thursday night. We’re taping this on Thursday, so they’re playing. You guys already know the result. Follow along. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll see everyone next week, after a big week. We’ll be back to our three podcasts. We’ll be back on Monday to recap Friday and Saturday’s spring practices, talk a little baseball, talk a little softball, talk a little basketball. You name it, we got you.

Nick:                         Your boy, Tiger, just made a 71-foot putt.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find us on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe, and have the podcast pushed right to your phone. 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. Follow along with us. It’s going to be a big weekend. Lot of things going on. Follow along. We’ll see you guys next week. As always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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