Talking about Mullen’s speaking tours, recruiting and more: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk about Dan Mullen’s speaking tours that he finished this week before the Florida Gators being spring practice.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre talk about what Mullen said this week, plus we recap junior day for the Gators.

Andrew and Nick also talk about how the baseball and softball teams have done this year, plus preview this weekend’s action on the diamond.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre. Nicholas, we’re back. Going to do a little baseball, softball, but we’re going to start off talking a little recruiting and all that good stuff. Good to be back. I’m glad that it’s baseball and softball season.

Nick:                         Back on the diamonds. Both sports ranked #1. Kelly Barnhill is unhittable.

Andrew:                 She was only trio co-pitcher of the week.

Nick:                         I guess someone else matched not giving up a hit or run or walking anybody in a game.

Andrew:                 Throw a no-hitter, two walks, and then you turn around and throw a perfect game, and you’re trio co-pitcher of the week.

Nick:                         Who knows?

Andrew:                 We’re taping this on Thursday, and it’s officially four weeks until opening day of Major League baseball.

Nick:                         Super excited about Derek Jeter’s Marlins. Thanks, man. Appreciate you.

Andrew:                 Let’s talk football first. We’ll talk a little football. We’ll talk a little recruiting. First, I wanted to talk with you, Nick. Dan Mullen had his little pre-spring tour this week. You were in Jacksonville and then in Orlando. Our man, DK, Dan Thompson, was down in Tampa on Tuesday. I’m going to say this, Nick. We talked about this last week or the week before. I can’t remember. I said, this staff has confidence, and will it pay off, I don’t know. I can tell you one thing, and that is Dan Mullen walks around this state like he owns this thing. Nick, I don’t know how many times you and I have said this. You’re the coach at the University of Florida. You have the Florida Gators logo on your chest. You should do that. You should. You’re the Florida Gators.

Nick:                         He is witty. He’s quick. He’s funny. I think he’s a little bit more relatable than Jim McElwain. I know I said it in the past, even during his first year, and people kind of maybe didn’t agree with it or thought I was taking shots at him. I was like Jim McElwain was like every sitcom dad rolled into one. I think Dan Mullen just comes off as more personable. He certainly lightened up the rooms. Obviously, you’re 0-0. Everyone’s happy. You haven’t lost any games yet. But he’s doing what he needs to do, he’s creating excitement.

I think the biggest thing he’s trying to do is they didn’t used to have these meetings with Boosters and Gator clubs before spring football. I think he’s really trying to make that spring game a big event in Gainesville, and I think that’s going to lead us into our biggest conversation today about early signing period and Junior Day and stuff like that. The new rules with recruiting are going to let more kids come to that event. I think rising juniors can come to the spring game now with the new rules. I think he’s really trying to create that excitement around the program to really get not a typical spring game crowd, not 20,000 people. He wants 75,000, 80,000, 90,000 people at the spring game.

Andrew:                 It’s kind of like you said. They’re able to do the whole spring visits, or spring official visits, and all that stuff. I think a majority of your big schools won’t do that. It’s like you and I talked about off the air a little bit. Do you really want to have an official visitor in April and the kid don’t sign in December? That’s a long time to forget about your school.

Now, here’s the other thing. Maybe there is a kid in California that no chance in hell you’re going to get him out here for an unofficial visit. You think, if I can get him on an official, I can get him to turn around and bring an unofficial. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m with you.

My thing with him, Nick, is he’s out there, and he’s pushing the message of let’s be like we were in the old days. I don’t mean the old days. I mean seven years ago under Urban, where the Swamp was, let’s face it, the Swamp was hell to come to for an opponent. If you were an opponent, you did not want to play Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening in the Swamp. It just is what it is. You didn’t want to. The heat was going to be a problem, and you weren’t going to be able to hear anything. It hasn’t. Nick, how many times have you and I sat in the Swamp press box and it been 10 minutes before game time, and we looked up and there was nobody in the upper decks and the student section was half filled? I can count on one hand how many times we didn’t say that.

Nick:                         It was an event. A lot of that goes to how much they were winning, and the guys, the personalities you have on campus.

Andrew:                 It’s even when you’re winning they weren’t doing that. I will say this, Nick. I’m looking forward to seeing this in the coming weeks of how Mullen’s message is to the players. I have an opinion that Mullen walked into that locker room, and he told guys like Chauncey Gardner, “Stop taking shots at the fans.” Because Mullen is trying to bring it together as unity. I’m not going to point fingers.

Nick:                         You just did.

Andrew:                 No. I’m not going to point fingers at who didn’t do that last year, but somebody didn’t walk in the locker room last year and tell those guys don’t do that. I’m pointing fingers at who were doing it, but I’m saying I’m not sure who wasn’t doing the job last year of bringing the team together.

Nick:                         We don’t need to point fingers. There’s only a couple of guys.

Andrew:                 Right. What I’m saying is it just wasn’t. You and I looked at it.

Nick:                         With that entire coaching staff, there was this whole us against the world kind of mentality, and it was media, fans, anyone that wasn’t in that building they kind of were just like they’re not us, so they’re against us. That was kind of the mentality. I don’t think that’s healthy to have that kind of relationship, especially with your fans.

Andrew:                 No. What do you accomplish, Nick? At the end of the day, what do you accomplish? Here’s what happened to Chauncey. When Chauncey looked like shit, the fan base was quick to let him know how bad he was. Had that guy been a guy that was good with the fan base, they probably wouldn’t have turned on him.

Nick:                         Maybe.

Andrew:                 I’m just saying. I don’t think it would have been as bad.

Nick:                         Yeah. You definitely go easier on people that you like, or that have ingratiated themselves towards you.

Andrew:                 I’ve just never seen …

Nick:                         If somebody’s taking a shot at you, when they’re down it’s easier to go ahead return fire and take that shot.

Andrew:                 Right. I’ve just never seen, and I shouldn’t say never, because I’m sure I have, but it’s something that’s so rare to see a team take shots at its fanbase for the small things. You see it all the time where they’ll say something like fans have unreal expectations, but to see players just take shots at the fans so much is crazy. It’s not just one. They’re making statements that go across the whole fanbase.

Nick:                         Yeah. I think a lot of culture now too, and it’s wrapped up in social media. I think people are kind of desensitized. I don’t think a lot of people, the stuff that they were tweeting at Chauncey or at whoever, I don’t think they’d say it to them if they saw them face to face. A lot of it is how people talk on the internet.

Then a lot of it is our generation and the younger generation than even you and I, because we’re getting old now, takes that stuff too personally. A lot of times you’ve got to step back and say, this is some bozo sitting on his couch angry because the Gators lost, and he’s taking it out on me. Instead of just realizing that or not looking at it, they look at it. It’s after a game, and you’re emotional. You just lost or something happened, even if you won, but you didn’t play well. Now you’re going and reading all this garbage on the internet, and instead of just letting it go, you’re mad, and you fire back. It’s not just an app that your friends see. It’s not like the old days of AOL Instant Messenger. It’s the internet. You’re just putting it out there on the internet. You can go back and delete it, but you better believe somebody is screenshotting that. It’s on the internet. It’s not going away.

Andrew:                 I’m interested to see how that is. Mullen’s definitely pushing that agenda of getting …

Nick:                         He’s pushing unity, of all Gator Nation. Whether it’s on Wednesday going and giving Marreese Speights, a guy who was on campus when Mullen was, but not anyone that he coached, going and giving him a football jersey. Preaching unity through everyone, where I think the last one was if they’re not in this team meeting room with us, they’re against us. That doesn’t matter if it’s President Fox or a Booster from Ocala or a fan who lives in Tacoma, Washington. They’re against us if they’re not in this room.

Andrew:                 Right. I don’t like that. I don’t. Nick, I’ll say this. Maybe I’m wrong. Mac preached Gators take care of Gators, but then he didn’t. I’ll say this, and I feel like I can speak for this pretty well, me being a guy from Alabama who came into this fanbase, I guess, and came into this community. The Florida family is a special family. It really is. I don’t think people understand what that is. It’s a strong fanbase. It’s a good fanbase. It’s a fanbase that is worldwide. I mean, it definitely is. When you talk to Boosters, it’s all over the country and stuff. I don’t see why you try to separate them. I just don’t.

I think something’s Mullen’s done in recruiting, as we kind of move that direction towards recruiting that we wanted to talk about. Bringing guys like Keiwan Ratliff. Bringing guys like Lorenzo Spikes, guys like Gus Scott. The guys that are coaching these players in high schools are training them in seven on seven. Bringing them around the program. I can speak for Keiwan, and I need to get Keiwan on here to talk about it, let Keiwan say what he wants to say himself, but I’ll speak for Keiwan for a second and say that there was a couple guys in the recruiting office that didn’t treat Keiwan correctly. That’s why a lot of his guys ended up at Florida State. Deondre Francois. They didn’t return his phone calls. They didn’t care. That’s retarded.

Nick:                         Make no mistake about it. The first time we met Rat was …

Andrew:                 He was coaching Sam Bruce.

Nick:                         It was at IMG seven on seven, and you better believe Keiwan Ratliff was in Quincy Wilson’s ear, and in Dalvin Cook’s ear, Ermon Lane. There’s no mistake about which team Keiwan Ratliff is rooting for. It’s just sad when a coaching staff makes somebody who’s face is on the wall, his picture is on the wall as somebody who built the program to what it is, making that person feel like they’re not welcome.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Nick, you and I, and we’re speaking our age here, but we grew up watching Keiwan. The bandana, the blocking the kicks and returning interceptions. Keiwan was a face. I’m not just speaking of Keiwan. There’s a lot of former Gators that just weren’t getting calls returned. They weren’t welcomed. Here’s the thing. Keiwan produces a hell of a lot of athletes, and if he don’t produce them in Orlando, he’s talking to them. Miami, Jacksonville, all over the country.

Nick:                         Yup. 100%.

Andrew:                 Let’s talk about Junior Day, Nick. It was a big Junior Day. I heard some numbers. It was between 80-90 guys that showed up on campus. That’s a lot of guys. There was a few no-shows. It’s Junior Day. There’s always no-shows. Florida did produce two commitments. Dionte Marks, the receiver out of Deland, and then linebacker, Jammal Abrams, out of Birmingham. Two big guys. Jammal Abrams is a big old linebacker kid. When you look at a middle linebacker build, you look at him. Dionte Marks is a guy who’s between 5’11” and 6’1”, depending on where you go. Most people tell me he’s closer to 6’1” than he is 5’11”. Out of Deland. Talked to a couple guys, and they say he’s a guy that is very raw but is very good with his just raw skills. Anyway, Florida picked up those two commits.

Nick, the biggest thing is they got those guys on campus. They got a lot of guys on campus early on in the process for Junior Day. You start that direction of building that relationship, and you start that movement of getting them on campus. It kind of was different than Mac. Mac liked to have smaller Junior Days, so that he could talk to those guys.

The one thing that came out of this whole Junior Day was it was a bigger day, and the guys felt more welcomed. There was a couple guys, Derek Hunter, defensive end out of South Florida, was talking about it, and he kind of threw some shade at the former staff. He said this staff, even Coach Mullen, was very welcoming. He said that everybody had a chance to talk to Mullen on the field and then in the office. He said you didn’t have to have someone bring you to the office. He was on the field interacting. That was a point that was from all across the board of guys saying they felt more welcomed. Everybody was talking to them. Everyone was saying how the coaches were talking to the little brothers, the sisters, the moms, everyone. They were talking to everyone.

Listen, it shows when not one guy, but every guy is saying the same message. Some of these guys who have visited four, five, six, seven times saying that stuff means big time. Nick, I know you and I can talk about it personally. We know. We have people tell us. We know several guys that you basically had to have been pulled up to Mac’s office to talk to him. Mullen is on the field talking, showing off his Jays.

Nick:                         What do you think the benefit is of having more people there? I can see the argument of having a smaller group.

Andrew:                 My thing is this, Nick. Okay, say you have 15 guys on campus. I understand you have a smaller time, but you’re on campus for five, six hours.

Nick:                         Right.

Andrew:                 You got 10 coaches, 8-10 recruiting guys. Are you going to spend six hours talking to one player? No. Why not spread it out? Have a bunch of guys on campus. Create that environment that’s a big environment. Let’s face it, Nick, these kids are impressionable. If they see 100 guys on campus, what are they going to think? Something special is going on.

Nick:                         You start picturing yourself. You’re on campus. You start picturing yourself with those guys in the future.

Andrew:                 Right. You see 10 guys on campus, and they’re going to say, why is there not that many guys on campus? It’s stuff like that, Nick. That’s the way I look at it. Here’s another thing too. If you can get 100 guys on campus, and they’re 100 guys you want, why miss the opportunity?

Nick:                         Beats me.

Andrew:                 That’s my impression. Again, everyone has their own opinion. Listen, I’m not dogging Mac for his opinion. That’s the way he liked to do it. The one thing I will say with Mac is, and we heard this several times, and that was his camps were very disorganized. You and I can speak on that, because how many times did we go to camps and show up, and we were like do they know what the hell is going on?

Nick:                         Yeah. I think all camps are disorganized though. Maybe that’s just me going, what the hell is going on out here?

Andrew:                 That’s just you.

Nick:                         That’s just me. That’s a me thing.

Andrew:                 Here’s another thing. A lot of people are asking. Florida’s offering dozens and dozens and dozens of kids a week. It just is what it is. People are asking me, why so many offers? Mullen has this approach. If you don’t offer, you don’t have a chance. I like it. My thing is offer them, get them on campus. If they show up on campus, you know they’re real. If you offer them and they never show up on campus, guess what? You wasted five minutes of your time offering the kid. Who cares? That offer doesn’t mean anything. Most of these big name kids are going to tweet they have an offer from you anyway, so you might as well make it official.

The one thing that this staff is doing, and a lot of guys are telling me, is as soon as Florida calls and offers they’re saying, “Here’s our schedule. When would be a good day to get you on campus?” They’re immediately offering and trying to set up a visit. I like that, because it’s like I say, if they actually show up on campus, you know things are real. I always say this, if you get them on campus, you got a shot. That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re offering them and trying to get them on campus. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Again, you’re casting a wide net trying to land the best players. Some people say, a lot of them are out of state. Nick, I said this before, and I’ll say it again. You should have a lot of your class come from the state of Florida, and then you should cherry-pick the country for the best players in the country. Once again, you’re the University of Florida. You shouldn’t be scared to go to Georgia. You shouldn’t be scared to go to Connecticut. If it’s a player in California that grew up a Gator fan, and he’s the best player in the country, like a Ronald Powell, don’t be scared.

Nick:                         You can’t be scared to fail. You can say that the other way as well. You can’t be afraid to succeed. You’re looking at, obviously, Mullen’s and the entire staff’s first priority is to take care of the state of Florida, but don’t be afraid to go into Kirby Smart’s backyard and grab somebody from Georgia, or try. Worst thing that happens is they say no. Okay. That’s fine. There’s going to be another five-star next year, another four-star, another kid you’re going to like next year.

Andrew:                 Right. Look what they did with Malik Langham.

Nick:                         You can’t get a yes without asking the question.

Andrew:                 Right. Look at Malik Langham out of Bama. Everybody, including myself, I’m not going to sit here and tell you guys I thought they were going to get him, because up until a couple days before Signing Day I had him going to Bama, but they did. They pulled it off. Alabama will tell you. Nick Saban will tell you. He was pissed off. Carl Dunbar is probably coaching for the Buffalo Bills right now because he didn’t land Malik Langham. Now, Dunbar may be glad to be Assistant Defensive Line Coach up there, but one of the reasons he was told to be gone is because he lost him out of Birmingham.

I’ve said this before. I never hid this, even when Mac was here, and that is a lot of guys on that staff of Mac’s were scared. They didn’t walk around with confidence. Listen, there’s a difference between being confident and then walking in and being cocky and everything else, like a T Rob, who thought you were going to land everybody in America. There’s a difference. You should walk in with confidence thinking you can land that guy. Until that guy says no, you got a chance. Nick, I made you speechless.

Nick:                         It’s cliché. Everyone is saying it now, but I think they’re saying it because it’s true. Florida’s not the only school, but that logo means something. The Georgia G, the Alabama A. When a coach has a school like that on their chest it carries more weight than other schools. You have to be cognizant of that. You have to realize, I’m not at Norfolk State. I can walk into anybody’s living room, even if they don’t know who I am, other than DMing them or texting them. I’m walking in with a logo on my chest that they respect. Even before they know me, they respect where I’m coming from, and that’s going to get me in the door. You need to have the confidence that goes along with the history of Florida and that logo.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Again, why not? Why not? I want you to throw this stat out there. I’m going to put you on the spot here. If you’re Dan Mullen, why not? Nick, throw that stat out that you threw at us last night about his record at home.

Nick:                         Florida, during Dan Mullen’s four years there as OC, was 25-2 at home. That’s four years. Florida lost three games at home last year, just last year, and five games at home in Mac’s three years. I mean, that’s a priority. That’s kind of the standard of what Urban and Mullen and Charlie Strong and Spurrier built. The Swamp, as you said earlier, was a place that people didn’t want to go and play. That hasn’t been the case. LSU had no problem coming to play. Tennessee is not even worried about coming to play. There’s really no bite to the Swamp, and I think that’s something Mullen has seen from afar. Something he was certainly part of building, but obviously something he wants to get back to.

Andrew:                 Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. Mullen has that. Again, is it false confidence? Maybe. We’ll find out. We’ll find out in a year. Why not though? If you’re Dan Mullen, you walk into a kid’s home, and you say, “You see those three national championships? Two of those are mine.” Two of those are mine. I mean, there’s no argument. You can’t argue and say, no they’re not. He’ll just look at you and say, “Yes, they are.”

Nick:                         I’m wearing the two rings on my finger.

Andrew:                 Exactly. You see one of those Heisman’s out there? That was my quarterback, and one of my very good friends right now. That’s the thing. You can walk around and be confident right now, and that’s how it should be. Again, I like it. We’ll see if it pays off. Listen, you’re in honeymoon phase right now, and everyone knows that. Mullen is in honeymoon phase at the speaking events and everything else. Listen, if next year he goes 6-6, when he goes to fan days and he starts yakking that same line, people are going to laugh at him.

Nick:                         I think he’s witty, and I think he’s funny, but I said it to, I said, “Everyone’s funny when they’re winning.” Mac was funny to fans when he was 0-0 and when he brought them to Atlanta. When he brought them to Atlanta two years in a row, the jokes were still funny. You get blown out by FSU two years in a row, and then get blown out by Alabama two years in a row, and that same joke you thought was funny 12 months before is no longer funny. It becomes the butt of a joke. Funny now, for sure. I think he’s funny. You still got to win football games though.

Andrew:                 Last thing, before we start talking a little baseball and softball. The funniest thing I heard from him was he can’t wait to get to where he’s like Spurrier, where he can make fun of the rivals.

Nick:                         You got to win those rivalry. He and Meyer were 11-1 against rivals during their four years together. That is certainly not the same success Jim McElwain had.

Andrew:                 Or Willy.

Nick:                         No. No, definitely not Will.

Andrew:                 Ole Willy.

Nick:                         Will never lost to Tennessee. Jim managed that.

Andrew:                 But Willy hardly ever beat Georgia.

Nick:                         One out of four.

Andrew:                 One out of four. Not very good there, Ole Willy. It’s interesting.

Nick:                         That week was crazy. We were all expecting, Georgia should have blown Florida out that year.

Andrew:                 Oh, yeah.

Nick:                         We were all expecting. The stories were written, Will Muschamp fired after Georgia game. Then Florida comes out and Kelvin Taylor, who was the other running back?

Andrew:                 Mike Gillislee.

Nick:                         Yeah. Taylor and Gillislee just run the ball. No. Not Gillislee. Matt Jones.

Andrew:                 Matt Jones. Yes.

Nick:                         Matt Jones. They just ran the ball all over Georgia. Georgia couldn’t stop it.

Andrew:                 And the fake field goal.

Nick:                         Yeah. That was Mike McNeely. Muschamp comes out and rips the monkey off his back, and we’re thinking this guy is like a cat. He’s got nine lives. He was supposed to get fired after they got blown out this week, and they just beat Georgia. No sense. No rhyme. No reason to it. Just beat Georgia on the way to the Birmingham Bowl.

Andrew:                 Then he gets blown out by Florida State. Yeah.

Nick, let’s talk a little baseball and softball. The #1 teams in the country on the diamonds. Things were rolling, Nick. By the way, I’m the homerun derby king.

Nick:                         I was just happy to get a two hour and seven minute game on Tuesday, and then I’m down in Orlando Wednesday. They put some fireworks up for you.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It was only close to a three hour game. It might have been right under three hours. It was a good one. Man, it was crazy. It was back to back jacks by Schwarz and India. India had two bombs on the night, and then is it Brady Smith?

Nick:                         Yeah. Brady Smith. Freshman catcher, third baseman. He dropped his first career one. India hit two. I think India hit one, then JJ, then India. India tied JJ at three for the team lead. Then JJ hit one, and then India said, “No thank you. I don’t like being second,” and hit a second ball out and made it even at four.

Andrew:                 Just like you’re not going to take the lead from me there JJ. I wanted to talk with you a little bit, Nick. You and I, and I say this, you and I I think are pretty knowledgeable in baseball and softball. I like our expertise here. You and I were very harsh on JJ last year, and understandably so. I’m seeing a finer swing this year. I’m seeing a swing that is a little bit more compact, a little bit more defined, maybe a little bit shorter swing.

Nick:                         The thing with him is not trying to pull the ball. He was trying to pull the ball and hit homeruns last year, and what that does is you can’t wait back on anything off speed. The book on JJ last year, and I told you, don’t throw him a fastball. Throw him a changeup, curveball, slider, knuckleball, whatever you want to throw him, just don’t throw him a fastball. He’s turning off, opening his front shoulder, turning off everything. You throw him a fastball, and it might get there quick enough to where even though he’s turning off of it, the ball is getting the plate quicker, so it works out. You throw him something off speed, he’s out in front of it waving at it.

What he’s trying to do now is take the ball over the second baseman’s head. Take it thinking in your head, I’m trying to hit this ball directly at the first baseman. That’s causing him to stay back, stay back, and he’s so good and has good enough speed in his hands and his swing can be so quick that even if he’s thinking wait, wait, wait, he has that physical and natural ability to be able to turn on a fastball inside if that’s the pitch, even though he’s thinking go the other way.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. People are saying, is this freshman JJ? No. This isn’t freshman JJ. This is senior year JJ who put in a lot of work this year.

Nick:                         Another thing that you can’t put enough, I think, emphasis on, is there’s no pressure for him this year. Last year was his draft year. He’s a junior, that’s the year where you have the most leverage. All of a sudden, you have a bad first weekend. Okay, shoot. I didn’t get any homeruns in the midweek. Got a couple hits, but not any homeruns. Then you start pressing. By the time that first month finishes, and you look at your batting average, and it’s .201, now you start adding pressure.

I think that snowballed on him throughout the entire year to a point where there’s a point of no return, where you’re putting so much pressure on yourself every at bat that those little things you’re doing, pulling off the ball, thinking homerun instead of thinking drive the ball to the right center gap, that’s in your head before every single pitch. Now you get to a point where you can’t come off of it.

Andrew:                 Exactly. It’s kind of like you said, there’s no pressure. This is a team, Nick, listen, you’re not going to talk about a Florida Gators team under Kevin O’Sullivan that you don’t talk about pitching. We haven’t had a chance to really talk too much about this year’s team, but it’s pitching, pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

I’ll say this quick story, and then I’ll let you get into the pitching, Nick. I was up at Braves Fan Fest in January, and was talking to Preston Tucker, former Gator playing for the Braves now. He and I were joking about the Gators. He said, “Listen, the pitching staff was good last year, but they have three first rounders in the rotation this weekend.” He said, “The first two guys that you’re thinking of may not be the best.”

Nick:                         Talking about Florida’s staff.

Andrew:                 Yes.

Nick:                         Yeah. You might not even be seeing the best pitching if you only show up on the weekends, because Jack Leftwich has been incredible. You saw Tommy Mace last night. He’s very good. It was funny. During the first week, when they came out of the bullpen, I said, “Jack Leftwich is coming out of the bullpen. He’s going to be a weekend starter next year.” Then Tommy Mace followed him, and I was like, “Tommy Mace is relieving Jack Leftwich. He’s your other weekend starter.” Someone tweeted at me, they’re like it’s the first weekend of the year, and Nick’s already calling out 2019 weekend starters. I think they’ve shown exactly why I was given that information that I ended up tweeting out.

Sully, everyone gets on him because the team, they need a hitting coach and this and that. You’re as big a baseball fan as I am. Great hitting beats great pitching every time. That’s what you have to give. That’s what they’ve decided, Sully and his staff, Craig Bell and Brad Weitzel, have decided to give a little bit on hitting, because they want to have those arms. Those guys are fun to watch. Those guys are really fun to watch, those freshmen. The freshmen are almost overshadowing Brady Singer, who still has a chance to be 1-1 when the MLB Draft comes, and Jackson Kowar, who’s another first round pick.

Andrew:                 Exactly. It’ll be interesting to see. What is it? Tyler Dyson?

Nick:                         Tyler Dyson is the sophomore.

Andrew:                 That’s who Preston was talking about.

Nick:                         Yeah. That’s who Preston was talking about. He could be the best one of them all. Preston might, after watching some games now, you run into him again, might tell you those freshmen might be better than Dyson.

Andrew:                 Exactly. It’s interesting. It’s a fun team. It’s a team that is very balanced this year. You got a lineup that I think is pretty solid. I would say the lineup is probably better than last year’s.

Nick:                         It is. Yeah.

Andrew:                 Maybe I’m wrong. Listen, here’s the thing. Before someone tweets at me. That doesn’t mean they’re repeating. I will say this. Florida’s team last year was not the best team Kevin O’Sullivan ever had. It was because they won the National Championship, but talent wise, no. They’ve had way more talented teams, at the plate especially, than they had last year. It was just a better team.

Nick:                         This team talent wise might be better than the team last year, and that in no way means that they’re going to repeat. Because of the scholarship limitations in college baseball, with only 11.7, it creates parity. I went back and looked. Let me pull this up. There are only five coaches in college baseball history that have won or led teams to back to back championships. The last one was Pat Casey at Oregon State in ’06, ’07. You have to go back 10 years before that to Skip Bertman in ’96, ’97. Then 10 years before that, into the ‘80s to find the third. Then you’re back in the ‘70s.

The first guy to do it did it in 1949, 1950. Winning back to back in Division I college baseball is not easy. Certainly not easy. I think a lot of people aren’t keen to college baseball, and kind of just think, this team is better, and they won the National Championship last year. They’ll win it this year. There’s so many variables in baseball.

Andrew:                 By the way, my South Alabama Jaguars, #11 in the country.

Nick:                         What’s the boy’s name?

Andrew:                 Travis Swaggerty.

Nick:                         That’s a baseball name right there.

Andrew:                 Swag is his nickname. Baseball America has him as the #1 outfield prospect in college baseball. I’m cool with that. Go, Jags. South in your mouth.

Quick weekend look. Who they got?

Nick:                         Taking on Stony Brook, the Sea Wolves. Stony Brook actually just won their one thousandth game in school history on February 25th. I think it’s going to be difficult for Stony Brook. They’re coming in hitting well, .291 team average, which is very good. Florida’s average, they’re hitting .302 right now as a team. Very comparable. Like I said, there’s no letup in this weekend pitching staff. Then you talk about the freshmen that are also coming out of the bullpen.

It’s Friday 6:30, Saturday at 4:00, Sunday at 1:00. Brady Singer is 2-0, 2.25 ERA against Greg Marino, Stony Brook’s Friday night guy, doesn’t have a win or loss yet and a 4 ERA. Jackson Kowar is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. He’ll face Brett Clark, 1-0, 2 ERA. Stony Brook brings Brian Herman, who is 2-0, their Sunday guy, with their best ERA at 1.8, and Tyler Dyson, who’s 1-1, really didn’t deserve the loss on Sunday against Miami. Just kind of how things shape, how things shook out. He’s got the best ERA for Florida at 1.5.

Andrew:                 Stony Brook, that was the team that made the run a couple years ago, right?

Nick:                         Yeah. They did. That’s the thing, going back to what we were talking about, about repeating championships. I tell you Stony Brook, and they’re like a team from New York? Yeah. They made a run. That happens. That happens in baseball.

Andrew:                 It does. Let’s go to softball real quick. Good grief.

Nick:                         I will say I do expect a three-win weekend for Florida.

Andrew:                 Okay. You talk about softball, Nick, and it’s scary to think about, but it’s almost like Sully and Walton just sit in the meeting rooms together and just laugh and say, “They think we’re going to have to have a down year to restock? No. We just reload.” It’s insane when you look at what Florida has. Aleshia Ocasio, senior pitcher, two time All-American. You look at her, and she throws a no-hitter early in the year. She’s not even Florida’s best. You go to Kelly Barnhill, who throws a no-hitter and then throws a perfect game. This team is loaded.

They’re #1 in the country. Have just had the one loss against Louisiana Lafayette, who’s currently ranked, I think, 15 or 16 in the country, and they were at Louisiana Lafayette. So, they’re 16-1. They lost that game against Lafayette in extra innings on a walk-off two run homer. Can’t even really go too much on that. Again, 16-1. They’ve got a couple of ranked wins.

They go out to California this weekend to the Judy Garman Classic, where they take on Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton, Michigan State, Charlotte, and then #8 Baylor, this weekend before SEC play starts next weekend, Nick. Again, it’s a team. I’ll say this. I don’t want to jinx this team, but this team is a better hitting team than they were last year as well, just like you said about baseball, Nick. It’s a lot of freshmen as well. When you look at Jordan Matthews, Hannah Adams, both of those girls are girls that are freshmen, and they’re playing really well.

Nick:                         I talk about it all the time, the way that Tim Walton sets his team up kind of like Kevin O’Sullivan in terms of pitching. You look across the board at softball, not a lot of teams have two, three, four girls that they can turn to. It’s a lot of here’s our ace, and she’ll throw any time we have a weekend series. She can throw all three games. Maybe even through one of the midweek games. I think that’s always unique. Then, also, there is that power element and the hitting element that they have.

Andrew:                 Yeah. When you look at just the softball game, listen, it’s expanded a ton. A lot of teams are definitely having more of a pitching staff. It’s more of a two to three man, or two to three woman. I say man, just because that’s kind of the way it is. Pitching staff. When you look at Florida, they’re kind of the school that kind of got that started. You look at what Florida does. Florida runs out four girls all with under 2 earned run average on the year. All of them have been in five games.

You look at Ocasio. Ocasio is going to graduate. Okay. Well, they’re just going to bring in Katie Chronister or Natalie Lugo. Both of those girls are going to be ready, and you’ll have another solid one-two punch next year.

Nick:                         How special is Kelly Barnhill and what she’s doing?

Andrew:                 Someone asked me the other day. They were like, how special is she? I’m like, listen, I don’t want to say she’s once in a generation, but she’s one of those girls that you and I aren’t going to see. You’re just not going to see one.

Nick:                         You’re watching a Florida Hall of Famer.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Absolutely.

Nick:                         Playing right now, and you still have another year of her. You’re probably watching an NCAA Hall of Famer, with the stats and the way she’s putting up.

Andrew:                 Nick, she’s a junior. She’s about a quarter of the way through her junior year, and she’s on her way to set every Florida pitching record. I mean, listen, Florida has a pretty deep background of good pitching, from the Stacy Barnhills to the Hannah Rogers, Delaney Gourley. It goes back further than that. You just think about pitching, and she’s going to set those records. You and I talked about it. I believe, and I need to go back and look at this, it’s either four or five career no-hitters already. The last perfect game she had was in high school, where she struck out all 21 batters.

Nick:                         Pretty good.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Pretty good.

Andrew:                 It’s hard to say today, while you’re watching it. I think it’s kind of with anybody that you watch. You say, when will you see the next one? I don’t know if you ever see another Kelly Barnhill who’s as dominate. You’ll see girls that are good. I don’t think you can appreciate the greatness until she’s gone. We all kind of talk about like Tebow, those guys. You never really appreciated how great he was on campus, until he’s gone.

Nick:                         I think that’s part of human mentality. You kind of get caught up in the moment. When you get a chance to take a step back and realize, wow, what am I watching? I think, when you look at Kelly Barnhill, I had that moment just covering the team when Logan Shore set the consecutive wins decisions record. I’m looking back like, man, this record was set in the ‘70s. I kind of took for granted, Logan Shore is pitching on Friday, so I know the game is going to go quickly. He’s going to throw seven, and Florida’s going to be in it, because he’s pitching. Then you kind of look back, and you’re like, that’s not easy. You kind of take things for granted. It’s always nice to take a step back, and that’s why I brought it up. Her career is more than halfway done. It’s on the back stretch.

Andrew:                 Exactly. Again, Florida comes into this weekend 16-1 overall.

Nick:                         They’re in Cali this weekend.

Andrew:                 They’re in Cali at the Judy Garman Classic and will face #8, Baylor, who is undefeated, on Saturday. Their schedule looks like, here we go. Thursday at 5:30, Thursday at 8:00, and then Friday at 12:30, Friday at 8:30, and then Saturday at 1:00. The girls will come back home, have spring break off, and then they get ready for that Friday opening series of SEC play against Kentucky. SEC play is already here. Again, this is a team that if you’re not in Oklahoma City it’s a down year, but it’s a team that has national title hopes, just like any other Tim Walton or Kevin O’Sullivan team. I think, Nick, you’ll say the same thing as I will, and that is that I don’t doubt that this team can make it.

Nick:                         Yeah. Almost kind of like a Oklahoma versus Florida, just bidding time to get there.

Andrew:                 Yeah. It’s just one of those things. I wanted to touch on a couple things real quick, before we get out of here, Nick. We got about two, three minutes here. You and I were talking about this last night, the amount of guys who Florida has that are in the MLB that are right there touching the Major League callup or roster spot, however you want to call it. It’s incredible. You and I talk about, and I know me, I’m a Minor League junkie, but we were talking about guys like AJ Puk, Dane Dunning, Peter Alonso, Logan Shore, for instance, Alex Faedo. You name it, Kevin O’Sullivan is about to have a who’s who playing in MLB stadiums on a nightly basis.

Nick:                         Yeah. Dane Dunning, AJ Puk and his mullet. A lot of guys. You’re going to be hearing a lot of Gator names coming up. Harrison Bader might probably be on the big league roster opening day.

Andrew:                 Preston Tucker probably makes the big league roster for the Braves.

Nick:                         His brother, I’m blanking on his first name.

Andrew:                 Kyle. Kyle Tucker.

Nick:                         Kyle.

Andrew:                 He should start out the year, I think, in Corpus Christi in AA ball for the Astros. Been a little bit of rumor of trade talks, but everybody says Kyle is better than Preston. Listen, Preston has struggled a little bit in MLB, but Preston was a hell of a college player. I’m interested to see, Nick. I am pumped to see guys like Puk and Dunning and Faedo and those guys make it. Again, I call myself a Minor League junkie, because I love watching these guys, but guys like Puk, who you and I were able to watch as freshmen at Florida, and to kind of see how they work their way up. To be able to watch them on TV is awesome.

I remember Harrison Bader, the whole story of him flipping from Maryland to Florida late in process. Just different things. I love watching Harrison Bader play, first of all. It’s cool to see. I’m excited for those guys. Best of luck to those guys in the spring. Hopefully, a lot of those guys make that big league roster.

Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone next week.

Nick:                for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find it on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Subscribe, and have the podcast pushed straight 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. Guys, we’ll see everyone next week. Busy weekend on tap. Baseball, softball. Basketball has Senior Night against Kentucky, big one for them for seeding in the SEC Tournament. Gymnastics goes ahead. By the way, Nick, I have to say this. Best of luck and prayers to Kennedy Baker, senior gymnast who tore her Achilles the other night. She was a pivotal part, had a perfect 10 already this year. Best of luck in her recovery. I think I speak for everyone in saying that she had a great career, and hope she does well.

Nick:                         Yeah. Absolutely. Tough way to end your collegiate career.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. As always, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy.

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.