Podcast: Talking Florida Gators basketball and bye week for the football team

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the Florida Gators basketball team with Eric Fawcett, plus we talk about the latest around the football team during the bye week.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre ask Fawcett about his thoughts on the Gators secret scrimmage and get his thoughts on this team heading into the season.

Andrew and Nick also talk about what the Gators are doing during the bye week, plus the latest injury news around the team.


Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre and our man Eric. Eric, we’re going to talk basketball today. Gators had a little secret scrimmage on Saturday against South Florida, and here in about, we’re taping this on a Tuesday, so in one week they’ll play a preseason game. Are you ready?

Eric:                          Yeah. I’m so ready. I think when you’ve got so much excitement around the team, I just wish the season, I wish we were already a few games in. Like you mentioned, there was that secret scrimmage against South Florida, who’s actually going to be a really good team this year. Anyone in the Tampa area listening to this that wants to take in some good games that aren’t Florida, South Florida’s going to be a really good team. From the sounds of it, Florida handled them really easily.

It was said that Kerry Blackshear hit six out of seven of his three-point attempts. From your 6’11” center, that’s pretty deadly. Ques Glover got in a ton of minutes. That’s someone that maybe some people would have been surprised by. Andrew Nembhard just afterwards speaking about the team said that he loved the group, that he was having tons of fun. It was a scrimmage, but USF is going to be a team that’s in the NCAA tournament hunt, could definitely be in the mix for an at large bid, and Florida handled them easily. Very, very excited. Of course, that means I’m back on the podcast with you guys, so all is well.

Nick:                         I had someone tell me that Kerry Blackshear might be, and this was high praise, because I think there’s some good three-point shooters, one of the top two or three three-point shooters in terms of accuracy on the team, early on in practice. I’m thinking, there’s some guys that can shoot the ball on this team, and you’re talking about, like you said, a 6’11” center adding into that mix. That’s dangerous.

Eric:                          Yeah. What you might have heard was they’ve been doing shooting drills at the end of the practice. Shooting competitions, I should say. Apparently, Kerry Blackshear has just been wiping the floor with everyone. Also, like you said, Noah Locke is on this team. He’s an excellent shooter. Tre Mann, he’s an excellent shooter. Ques Glover was a guy that shot 48% in high school last year. So, there’s a ton of really good shooters.

Kerry Blackshear shot a good percentage last year from three, but he didn’t take that many attempts, and for that reason I was a little bit hesitant to say that I thought he was going to be a really good three-point shooter, just because he only took around two a game. I mean, in college basketball nowadays if you’re even an average three-point shooter, even if you’re a big man, your attempts are usually quite high. So, I was a little bit skeptical, but to hear what he’s done in practice, to see what he did in the scrimmage, I definitely think that’s going to be a big element of his game.

So, Florida is going to be just probably shooting the lights out. I mean, I forget the exact number. I think they were around 13 for 25 from the three-point line as a team against USF. That number is probably not entirely accurate. I’m probably remembering it wrong, but it’s something in that range. It was a lethal three-point shooting attack from this Florida team, and I think that’s going to be what we can expect.

Nick:                         If we’re talking practice, don’t forget my man Alex Klatsky.

Eric:                          Absolutely.

Nick:                         He’s got the Steph Curry release. I remember I was talking to him at Media Day, and he’s literally trying to get into that Steph Curry like .3 release time.

Eric:                          Yeah. It’s a good call for him. He kind of knows what his role is going to be to get minutes throughout his kind of career, and he’s someone who’s used to playing with really good talent. I mean, he played in high school with Scottie Lewis and with Bryan Antoine, who’s at Villanova. He was someone who all the bluebloods offered. Klatsky knows what it’s like to play with really good talent, and he knows what it’s like to find a role. I think he’s going to be a walk-on that ends up playing a decent role on this team throughout his time at Florida. So, if he gets up to that release point, that would be incredible. Even the way he shoots the ball now, he’s going to be able to shoot at a Division I level, so he’ll be an interesting story to watch, that’s for sure.

Andrew:                 I think the biggest thing for me, Eric, is that Nembhard’s healthy. After the little bit of a scare in Canada, that was not a concern, but it’s good to see that he’s healthy. I think they said he played 29 minutes or something along those lines, so obviously healthy there. One thing that I did kind of take away from that, and I’ll ask you this. Do you feel like 20 turnovers in the secret scrimmage, or closed scrimmage, whatever you want to call it, do you feel like that’s just maybe early jitters, or is that something Mike White and his team are kind of concerned about?

Eric:                          A couple things. Like you said, it was a secret scrimmage. It’s the first time that the teams have really seen live competition from someone other than their own team in practice, so there’s going to be some of that kind of jittery kind of finding your way. The other thing I’ll note is, like I said, I think South Florida is a really good team, and they were one of the best teams in the country at turning over their opponents last season, and they’re going to be even better this year. So, it was a team that their defense is designed to forcing turnovers.

I mean, still, Florida turning the ball over 20 times against anyone, against any defense, that’s not very good. I think you see, like last year Andrew Nembhard was good at taking care of the ball. Noah Locke was good at taking care of the ball. Kerry Blackshear was good at taking care of the ball when he was with Virginia Tech. I don’t think that’s going to be a major issue, but at the same time, I wasn’t able to watch the game, unfortunately, but I really think Florida’s going to try to play really fast this year, which they certainly did not do last year, where they played really slow. If they’re going to play fast this year, which I know everyone wants them to do it seems like, you’re going to have to live with some turnovers. If you play fast, you’re going to turn the ball over from time to time, and I think people are going to need to get used to some higher turnovers numbers than we’ve seen recently, and that’s just what you get for pushing in transition and trying to get those easy buckets.

Andrew:                 When you have a guy like Blackshear, who is 6’10”, 6’11” and is able to spot up for three, I think you’re exactly right. Spread them out a little bit and go. I think for me, and, Eric, you’re a lot wiser about this team than I, but for me last year I don’t think you could have went as fast as you wanted to, because the depth wasn’t there. The depth’s there this year. You could easily go 12 deep if you wanted to.

Eric:                          Absolutely. I really think that this is a team that could play as many guys as Mike White wants to. Something that I wrote about a month ago is when you look at the teams at the top of college basketball recently not a lot of them have actually went 11 and 12 deep. People always talk about depth being such a major thing in college basketball. There’s definitely some value to it, but at the same, if you look at the Final Four teams, which is something that Florida’s looking to do, and you look at the Final Four teams over the last decade, most of them had tight, tight six or seven-man rotations. So, while Florida having depth is a really good thing, I think they’re going to need to resist the urge to go really deep in their lineup just because they can, and they’re going to need to find what kind of combinations of personnel are the best for them in different situations.

But it’s certainly a luxury to know that if there’s an injury there’s guys behind. Florida has multiple point guards, which they haven’t had recently. I mean, last year something on this podcast we kind of talked about was how when Andrew Nembhard came out of the game it was bad news. So, I think for that reason the depth is going to be a little bit of a strength, but if Florida’s going to go on a tournament run, it’s going to be all about these kind of starters.

One other thing in terms of Florida being able to play fast, and where Kerry Blackshear plays a role, last season Florida kind of struggled to defensively rebound the basketball. So, when you’re really kind of scrambling to get a defensive rebound, it’s kind of tough to go get that ball and then go on a run, because Florida was kind of so scrambly guards would have to jump in towards their hoop to try to get the ball, and suddenly there’s no one to get out and run really. So, I think this year with Kerry Blackshear, who’s going to really change the way rebounds, it’s going to give the opportunity for a guy like Scottie Lewis to go leak out, or Keyontae Johnson to go leak out or something like that. So, I think that the rebounding role that Kerry Blackshear’s going to play is also going to help this team play fast. So, I know a lot of people want to see Florida running, and I think they’re going to get it this year.

Andrew:                 I got a two-part question for you.

Nick:                         Hold on. Not only is he a great rebounder, I’ve heard elite when it comes to outlet passing. So, like you say with the leaking out, it’s not just he can rip down a rebound, and then somebody has to come and grab the ball from him. If you see him coming down with a rebound, start running, because he can get the ball out to you.

Eric:                          It’s a great point, and I think that that’s part of Kerry Blackshear’s kind of journey to get the NBA. I mean, I think he probably thought there’d be more of a market for him when he kind of went through the process this summer. Obviously, there wasn’t enough of one, because Florida’s lucky to have him. But being able to secure that rebound, pivot, and throw that ball to get it out quick, that’s something that NBA bigs need to be able to do, and I think it’s going to be something that’s showcased.

Andrew:                 I got a two-part question here for you, Eric. First part is is it more important for Florida to find that elite six, seven, and eight-man? Then my second part of that question is do you maybe bring Locke in to be your backup point guard, have that mix to where he replaces Nembhard and is your backup point guard? Do you trust a guy like Ques Glover to be that backup point guard? For me, I think Locke is a guy who if you bring Nembhard out is a really good guy to plug in there.

Eric:                          I don’t know how I am on Locke’s ball handling right now. I also think Locke is going to be a starter next to Andrew Nembhard.

Andrew:                 Yeah. No, I’m saying as far as maybe splitting him up, splitting their rest time up a little bit.

Eric:                          Right. There’s definitely an opportunity for that. I do think that Tre Mann is probably going to get a lot of the backup ball handling duties, but the thing is that there’s one, I won’t call it a hole on Florida’s roster, just a little bit of a shallow divot, and that’s wing depth, just because after Scottie Lewis comes off the floor I’m not really sure who’s going to play small forward. That’s probably, your options are either you play Keyontae Johnson there, who’s going to start at the four, but that means you’re going to have to play really big and play Omar Payne at the four, or play Kerry Blackshear at the four and play Jason Jitoboh at the five, and go just supersized.

So, for that reason I do think Florida is going to have to play three guards at the same time, which is what we saw last year when they played a lot of Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, and Kevaughn Allen. So, I think Tre Mann is probably going to have to slide and play some three, and that’s not ideal, but I think it might be what happens. Then, for that reason, I think Ques Glover might be a guy that comes off the bench and plays a decent role as a freshman. I don’t think I see Locke being someone who gets minutes at the one, at the point guard spot, but he’s definitely a guy that could fill that role.

I mean, if you’ve got a Tre Mann on the floor playing a wing, you’ve got Kerry Blackshear on the floor, those are two guys that can have the ball in their hands on offense, so maybe you don’t need someone who’s as much of a traditional point guard. So, you can have Noah Locke there as a spot up shooter. Noah Locke can also really defend, so to get him out there playing defense against other teams’ point guards, that could be a really good option. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work.

Andrew:                 Do you see Tre Mann being that sixth guy, or who do you see being that sixth guy for this team?

Eric:                          Tre Mann all the way. I’m really high on Tre Mann. I don’t think it’s getting talked about enough, what he’s going to bring. It’s just crazy too. Scottie Lewis, he deserves every bit of accolade he gets, all the attention he gets, but at the same time, if it wasn’t for Scottie Lewis, people would be so ecstatic at the fact that they got a 21st ranked overall point guard in Tre Mann that stayed home. Tre Mann has the ability to score off the dribble, which is something that not many other kind of Florida Gators have right now. He can also shoot off the dribble at a high level. He’s just one of those, his game is just perfectly suited to that sixth man role, where he is instant offense. He can go out and get a bucket on its own, which Florida did not have last year.

So, I think that Tre Mann is going to be one of those guys that you get him in with a bench unit and say, you go run pick and rolls. You go get the switch onto another team’s worst defensive player and go one on one. It’s just going to make the game a lot simpler. They’re not going to have to run a lot of sets for him. I’m huge on Tre Mann, and I think he’s going to be the perfect sixth man.

Andrew:                 Who do you see being that seventh and eighth? I guess, obviously with Gorjok Gak out, he’s not going to be able to fill in for Blackshear as much. Who do you see being that four and the five to kind of rotate in? Then the second part of that question is who do you kind of see being that seventh and eighth man?

Eric:                          So, I think that Omar Payne is going to be someone who factors in. I think he’s going to be playing some of the backup four minutes, which is going to be pretty big to play, to play Omar Payne at the four, but it’s also something that when they were recruiting Payne they said we’re going to play you at the four. So, he’s got some pretty good mobility, really good athlete at his size, and Florida’s been so undersized these last few years that the opportunity for them to play big and actually they can be the team that dominates the glass instead of the team that has to really fight to compete on it.

So, I think that Omar Payne’s going to be in that mix. Dontay Bassett is a guy that’s gotten better every single year. He was someone who was the backup center last year, so I don’t see why he doesn’t kind of factor into that role. I do think that those guys are going to be kind of battling for those front court spots, but I see Omar Payne as someone that you could play at the power forward spot behind Keyontae Johnson a little bit more, and Dontay Bassett is probably the backup five, where I probably would have said that Gak would be in that position, had he been healthy.

Nick:                         When you look at Mike White, what he’s been able to do, and obviously, when John Egbunu got hurt–

Andrew:                 I thought we fired Mike White.

Nick:                         Which time?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         I think, and maybe you have an opinion on it, I think his recruiting was hindered with John Egbunu’s injury. You probably thought we’re going to have John for a year, and then he stays. What I’m trying to get at is I think this is really the first year where you look at the roster, and you think this is Mike White’s team. These are all his guys, and not only are they his guys that he’s recruited, but guys that can run the offense kind of the way that he wants it to be run. Also, there’s guys that if you’re not playing defense Mike White’s not going to play you. So, I think this is, if you look at the roster from top to bottom, this is probably, without even talking about how talented they are, just guys that fit what Mike White wants to do, and probably the first time he’s ever had that.

Eric:                          It really is. Like you said, some guys that he inherited weren’t necessarily his kind of guys, and then some of the guys that he recruited early in his time at Florida were probably a bit of reaches, just because that’s what you’ve got to do when you’re a new coach at a Power Five school, especially someone coming from Louisiana Tech coming up to Florida.

Nick:                         Recruiting a little different athlete at Louisiana Tech than you can at Florida.

Eric:                          Totally. Also, for recruits that are going to trust a coach that’s never coached in Power Five at all. I understand why the five-stars weren’t lining up right away. So, this is really the first year where it is all his guys. I would say there’s elements when it comes to like playing on the floor. I mean, there’s going to be guys that can play fast, like Mike White wants to do, guys that are committed to the defensive end, like Mike White wants.

I think a lot of it is really just a lot of these guys now have the personality that Mike White wants. The team of the past couple years, the guys that Mike White inherited, simply weren’t that competitive. They simply weren’t people who wanted to talk on the court. It was a quiet team that didn’t hate to lose, and Mike White is someone who is loud. He wants communication on the floor, because that’s what you need to play defense in basketball. He wants guys that are competitive. He wants guys that are going to battle. Some of the guys he started with weren’t like that.

You look at who they’ve got now, Scottie Lewis embodies that more than anyone else. Kind of the returners, Keyontae Johnson, Noah Locke, Andrew Nembhard. Mike White has just been so high on their toughness. Guys like Ques Glover. I mean, Tre Mann is a killer. He just stares down his opponents and wants to embarrass them. So, I think there’s going to be a lot of finally guys on the floor that play a lot like Mike White wants, but what hasn’t been talked about maybe enough is the fact that they’re now a bunch of guys that are the personality that Mike White wants.

Nick:                         Great point.

Andrew:                 Yeah. This is no offense to these two guys, but you could definitely see that it was very clear last year that Kevaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson were definitely not two guys that were Mike White guys, as far as you would see Mike White get onto those guys about not talking, not communicating, different things like that. Not that there weren’t good players or anything like that, but you could definitely see that for that.

Eric, I want to move forward just a little bit here. Obviously, Mike White went out and recruited Scottie Lewis and got, what was it, three guys out of the top 100. How is this recruiting class going? Is the momentum still there in the Gator’s pocket? I know they’ve picked up some JUCO guy and a couple other guys so far.

Eric:                          Yeah. This is definitely a little bit of a different class, and it’s not as star studded as 2019, of course. But the players I really like. Samson Ruzhentsev, he’s kind of a top 60 player, who’s probably going to be higher by the time the final rankings come through, just because he was injured a lot last year. He’s a 6’7” wing, really athletic, with a really pretty jump shot. He played at Hamilton Heights, which is the same place that Jason Jitoboh played at, so some familiarity there. I’m very excited to watch him play. I think this was a very important pickup. Like I mentioned to you earlier, Florida doesn’t have a lot of versatility when it comes to wing players, and Ruzhentsev, who’s 6’7” but has the ball skills to play shooting guard if he needs to, but is a nice natural small forward, that’s really big. He’s a player I’m very excited for.

Then Niels Lane is another. He’s another kind of athletic versatile wing, which is perfect for the modern game. A player from New Jersey, good friends with Scottie Lewis, so you’re seeing Mike White go out of state to land these guys, and he’s another top 100 talent who’s really physical, really strong. He shoots the ball decently when his feet are [AUDIO DROPS] but is one of the best defensive players in the class. Like Nick said, a perfect Mike White player for that reason.

Then something that was pretty interesting was Florida going into the JUCO market to get Osayi Osifo, which he’s a player from Eastern Florida, so some people in the state if you’re listening to this might have a chance to go watch him play. He’s got one more year there. He’s just a super athletic 6’8”, long arms, just kind of a hyper athlete right now. He still has to learn the game in a lot of ways, but he’s a really great kid. I got to speak to him and really enjoyed it. Everyone is really high on his personality, and he’s got this kind of freak athleticism that you don’t see very often.

So, no five-stars in this cycle, nothing like that, but at the same time, I think you’ve got to balance your classes that way. Just because you have a class like Florida has this year, and they’re going to lose Scottie Lewis. They might lose Tre Mann. Some other players are going to leave early when you’re recruiting these kind of high five-star, high four-star guys. So, this year is a class that’s a little more of a program class, guys that are going to be there for multiple years. I think that’s what you kind of have to do in modern college basketball, blend in these classes where you got the Scottie Lewis and the Tre Manns, and then get guys like Samson Ruzhentsev and Niels Lane that are going to be there for three or maybe more years. This isn’t a class that’s going to have people quite as ecstatic as 2019, but it’s one that really good, and I think well put together.

Andrew:                 What is the hole that they need to fill still in this class, if there is one? I guess, is that something that you maybe wait until the spring signing period to try to fill, depending on maybe who’s having a good year and potentially leaves early? Do you see it adding to the class before this November signing period?

Eric:                          I mean, the thing is Florida doesn’t exactly know how many scholarships they’re going to have available, because Kerry Blackshear is their only senior that’s going to graduate.

Andrew:                 Right.

Eric:                          Scottie Lewis is going to be gone, barring something wild. Then Andrew Nembhard’s probably the same thing. They’ve taken three guys, while only graduating one. So, I think they’re kind of hesitant to take any more right now, but there’s definitely some other players they’re in the mix for.

In terms of kind of holes in this class, I don’t really think that there is one, because I think you look forward to next year, you look at the point guard spot. They’ve got Ques Glover coming back, and then they’re going to have Appleby coming in, Tyree Appleby, the Cleveland State transfer that’s sitting out. You’ve got two guards there that are going to be capable. Then you kind of look at Noah Locke’s going to be back. Tre Mann is looking like he could be back, but I think he could leave. If that’s the case, if they’re both back, that’s two really good shooting guards.

Like I said, they signed two really good small forwards. You look at the forwards. They have another guy who sat out, Anthony Duruji. He’s going to be a fourth-year junior, so he’s going to be ready to roll. Then Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh, Dontay Bassett, Gorjok Gak as fifth-year players.

So, I don’t think that there’s a big hole that they need to fix. I think if they do have other scholarships opening up in the spring they can kind of just go hunting for who’s a high upside player at any position, or who’s a grad transfer at any position that could kind of fit in? Because I think they have a good well rounded roster that they don’t really need, with no major holes to fill.

Andrew:                 Noah Locke’s still my favorite player on the team. I haven’t seen Scottie Lewis play yet. Noah Locke’s still my favorite guy.

Nick:                         I fell in love talking to Scottie. I mean, I don’t know what his parents do or what they did raising him, but he is such a well-spoken young man. I asked, Eric helped me out. Eric gave me a little cheat sheet before I went to Media Day of things to ask everybody. I asked him about his defense, and he told me. He’s like, listen, I might not be the most athletic. I might not be the best shooter. He goes, but defense is all effort, and if I can’t give that effort on the defensive end of the ball, because I’m worried about my offensive stats, then I don’t deserve to play. I’m like, okay. Where did you come from? I think he’s made that huge part of his game, and I think, like Eric said, probably someone that you looking at might be one and done. That’s not something you see a lot at Florida.

Tre Mann’s probably the opposite. You’re going to have to get Tre Mann to really buy into that defense. But like you said, Eric, he’s a guy that creates and off the dribble can shoot. He’s somebody that I think teams will have to, when he comes in, you have to know where he is.

Andrew:                 Tre Mann better buy in, or he’ll be riding the bench.

Eric:                          It’s good to see you guys locking in your favorite players for the year, but both really good options. I don’t know if you heard that, Nick, at Florida’s Media Day, but Kerry Blackshear talking about Scottie Lewis for president one day. You listen to Scottie Lewis talk, and I’d vote for him.

Nick:                         Yeah.

Eric:                          Noah Locke, just the way that he shoots the ball, it’s so pretty, and obviously the way that he works so hard on defense. That’s crowd favorite stuff. He’s someone who also I love. Chris Harry for the Gators put out this story about how Noah Locke kind of feels a little bit slighted in the fact that there’s so much talk about Scottie Lewis, so much talk about Kerry Blackshear. Lot of talk about Andrew Nembhard. There hasn’t actually been a lot of talk about Noah Locke, but he’s a guy that led the team in scoring for a lot of last year, until he got injured, and is an extremely important player who is the perfect complement to play beside Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard. So, it was a really interesting story, and it just showed once again how competitive Noah Locke is. It made me love him even more, and also I just think that’s another guy who doesn’t get as much kind of press right now but could be as important as anyone on the team.

Andrew:                 Absolutely. Nick, any final thoughts with Eric? Eric, any final thoughts on this team?

Nick:                         I got one more.

Andrew:                 Okay.

Nick:                         One more question for him. The hype around this team is, I think, warranted, but also at fever pitch. As the roster is assembled and as the scheduling goes, is this a Final Four or bust year for Florida basketball?

Eric:                          You know what, in a one and done kind of tournament like the NCAA Tournament, I’m always a little bit hesitant to say Final Four or bust, but, man, I really think this is a team that could be Final Four or bust, as I preface with that. One thing that I think is really important to think of is context. What I mean by that is it’s not only just that Florida has this group of talent that just is perfectly complementary towards each other, but when you look at college basketball on the whole, I just do not see a lot of other teams that are really strong. Like it seems like every year there’s a few teams that look unbeatable. Villanova from the last couple years. Virginia last year. There just seems to always be some teams that you’re like, I don’t know how you’re going to compete with them.

This year I look at the teams at the top of college basketball, and Michigan State up at the top. They’ve got probably the player of the year with Cassius Winston. I don’t love a lot of their supporting pieces. They lost all their physical front court that was really their calling card. Really good team that really complements Cassius Winston but isn’t going to overwhelm you with talent. Kentucky’s up there at the top. They’re a team that I think Florida’s very clearly better than. I think Andrew Nembhard’s better than Ashton Hagans, who’s their biggest returner. They lost their top five scorers. They’re bringing back their sixth, seventh, and eighth best players, and their recruiting is really good, as it always is, but I’m banking on the fifth-year senior Kerry Blackshear and returners like Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke over freshmen. So, I think Florida’s better than them. Kansas is another team. Good physical front court, not a lot of depth. They’re going to be relying on kind of lower end top 100 players to play big roles.

I just think when you look at all the other teams that are at the top of college basketball, it’s just as strong of a sport as it normally is. So, this is just like the perfect year for Florida to have this group of talent, and I think that I really factored that in when I say how far can this team go. I just don’t see a lot of teams that really scare me, so it just couldn’t be a more perfect year for Florida to have this group of talent. For that reason, I will hesitantly say Final Four of bust.

Andrew:                 Mike White, you hear this? Eric’s going to fire you if there’s no Final Four or bust. Eric, we appreciate it so much, man. We will definitely have you back on to talk more Gators basketball. Everyone will look forward to your coverage as the season gets closer. We’ll talk to you soon, Eric. Thanks again.

Eric:                          Thanks for having.

Andrew:                 Nick, good stuff from Eric there. Basketball is almost here.

Nick:                         Basketball season right around the corner. When you start getting those secret scrimmages that means it’s getting ready to kick up. Florida will play, when’s the first game? October, a week from today, as we tape it, there’s an exhibition game, and then North Florida November 5th, right after that Florida-Georgia game.

Andrew:                 Yup. Then right after that becomes the yearly opening to the season of Florida-Florida State, and the Gators have got to get back on track against Florida State. Nick, there is football still going on, and we will get into that now. Dan Mullen was ESPN on Tuesday and said he expects the big three to be back. Toney, Greenard, and Jabari. Big news there. I’m not sure how healthy those three guys would be, but I will venture to say any production you get out of those three guys is better than what you have.

Nick:                         Yeah. Mullen was on the radio show on SEC this morning on ESPN. He said, we expect those guys, Zuniga, Greenard, and Toney, to be back. He said, this is a big recovery week for us, so we’ll know more next week, but we expect all three of those guys to be back. He continued saying, this is the game when Toney went out a couple weeks ago, talking to our medical staff, they were hoping he’d be able to get back during the bye week. Both Greenard and Zuniga didn’t play last week and have been kind of battling through it. Because of not playing last week, we expect both of them to be available this week. I don’t think Greenard and Zuniga will practice this week. You want to try to get Toney back practicing as soon as you can.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Obviously, in noncontact situation.

Andrew:                 Right. Everything we’ve been told is barring a crazy setback for Toney he should be ready to go for Georgia. I don’t know.

Nick:                         Some people, I’ve seen it on the message board, and I’ve seen it on Twitter, people saying I don’t believe Dan Mullen when he talks about injuries. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. He got annoyed with the Toney questions, and a month ago he said no, the earliest we’d get him back would be after the bye week before Georgia. That turned out to be true. That’s the earliest that he would come back. You and I both got questions every single week. Is Toney playing this week? I heard Toney’s playing this week. You’re like, no. No. I had somebody tell me when I was at Lexington. They’re like, I heard Toney’s playing this week. I’m like, he’s not even here, dude. He didn’t even travel. What’s he playing? Is he playing Fortnite?

Andrew:                 Yeah. There was that rumor at LSU too.

Nick:                         It was every week.

Andrew:                 It was in Baton Rouge. That’s that. Again, I think week is huge for the purpose of getting guys back healthy. You will start working on the game plan later in the week. The team had Sunday and Monday off, so you take Tuesday, you work on the fundamentals. You work on yourself. Tackling, that kind of stuff. Not picking the ball up like Florida State’s doing. Did you see that crap?

Nick:                         Self-care. No. No.

Andrew:                 They were throwing the football on the ground for their quarterbacks and running backs to learn how to pick up bad snaps. It’s Week 9 of the football season.

Nick:                         Oh my goodness. That’s some spring football stuff.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That’s some spring football stuff. Yeah. You work on yourself, and then I would expect Thursday, because the team has Friday and the weekend off, I would expect Thursday for them to put in some of the game plan for Georgia and to have that sit fresh over the weekend with the guys. This is kind of self-scout couple days for the team, and then you get into game mode. Tackling for the defense is huge, and then maybe somebody can inject some toughness in the offensive line.

Nick:                         Yeah. For me, wanted to get back to it. I think Dan Mullen, there’s no coach in college football that’s going to be, so-and-so has an ingrown toe, and he didn’t practice today. An ingrown toenail, he didn’t practice today.

Andrew:                 It’s not required like the NFL, so why talk about it?

Nick:                         Yeah. It’s not required in the NFL, so they’re not going to. That’s why you subscribe to Gator Country, and we try to do our best to let you know what’s happening. If you were a Gator Country subscriber, you wouldn’t have been asking about Kadarius Toney, because we told you it’s not going to happen. He’s not playing at LSU. He’s not playing in those games.

Like you said, bye week is self-care. You’re going to watch film. You’re going to rehab almost and look what you did here. I’d be interested to see how early they start getting in on Georgia. I think last year they waited till like Thursday to start doing install. Do Thursday, Friday. Then they’re off Saturday, Sunday. They come back, and you practice Monday. Then you got a full week of it. Some coaches are probably different. Some coaches might do we get back Monday, and we got a bye week and a big game after that, we’re doing 14 days of Georgia.

Andrew:                 One coach told me one time, back when I was coaching ball, he said you can sometimes push the issue too much, and sometimes you can over prepare for a team. That may sound silly, and some may say how do you do that? If you put more emphasis on one game plan over another, you could have problems. Not that you would, but there is the over preparation point that you can do. That may sound silly to some, but these are 18, 19-year-old kids we’re talking about.

Nick:                         Absolutely. We’ll speak with Dan Mullen and some coaches and some players on Wednesday, as you’re listening to this. We’ll speak to them Wednesday night after practice. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve started it, when they’re going to start it, and I want to hear John Hevesy’s take on Richard Gouraige and how he thought the freshmen played. I know people want to keep changing and moving the line around, but he’s told us very matter-of-factly, they don’t want Richard Gouraige out on an island right now. They want him at left guard, so he’s got experienced guys on either side of him. So, I just wanted to see what his take was, because I thought the line was better in Columbia. It’ll be interesting for me to see his take on that.

Andrew:                 I want to know his take on why his offensive line is not tough.

Nick:                         I don’t think it’s because of him.

Andrew:                 No. No. I don’t know.

Nick:                         He eats nails for breakfast.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Like I said, I don’t know. I don’t understand the mix-up there.

Nick:                         You’d like to say the team takes on the identity of their coach or their coaches. You can break that down to position coaches. John Hevesy’s the farthest thing from soft. I think that’d be interesting to see his take on that. I think he might tackle me if I asked him that. Maybe I’ll try to get Edgar to ask.

Andrew:                 People on the podcast will love that. Poor Edgar. He going to have somebody ask him. They’ll pay him to do it.

Nick:                         Tyree Campbell already gave me some crazy eyes this year. I’ve reached my limit of crazy eyes for the season.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Don’t do that. For me though, Nick, I do talk about this preparation and everything else. The bye week came at the right time. It was a time to reset the mind a little bit, have a little bit of a break. Listen, that three-game stretch, and we talk about it every year, this is nothing different this year. I know everyone wants to talk about it every year that it’s something different. It’s nothing different. That stretch last year of Mississippi State, LSU, and who was after LSU? It was Mississippi State, LSU, and somebody before Georgia. Anyway, whatever it was, that stretch there was tough. This stretch that they just went through, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, was tough. It’s a good time to reset the mindset and focus.

You’re basically playing a two-game season after this for the right to go to Atlanta. You got Georgia. You got Missouri. Win those two, book your reservations. Tell your family to meet you in Atlanta in the first week of December, because you’re going to be playing in the SEC Championship game. You lose one of those two games, probably not.

Nick:                         How are we doing on time? Because I can break this down kind of quickly.

Andrew:                 We got 12 minutes.

Nick:                         Oh, perfect. So, someone hit me with a scenario. He says, let’s say Florida beats Georgia. Georgia beats Missouri, and Missouri beats Florida. No additional conference losses for any of the teams. That leaves all of those teams with two conference losses. Who wins the tiebreaker? The SEC divisional tiebreakers. If you’re in a three-team tie, the whole objective is to get to a two-team tie.

Andrew:                 Right.

Nick:                         Because you have more two-team tiebreaker procedures. So, combined head-to-head record among the tied teams. They’d all be 1-1, because Georgia beat Missouri, Florida beat Georgia, Missouri beat Florida. They’re all 1-1, and then the other teams beat the other teams. Record of tied teams within the division. This is the separator, because Florida at that point in the division would only have the one loss to say Missouri. The loss to LSU is another division. That’s where Georgia’s loss at South Carolina and Missouri’s loss to Vanderbilt separates Florida. Florida is in a position now where they are going to Atlanta, unless they lose two of their next three SEC games. All they need to do is win one of the next two SEC games, and they’re in.

Andrew:                 Right. So, there you go. That’ll be key for them. Again, you want that opportunity at this point in the season. You’re goal at the beginning of the year, we all talk about playoff, but the first goal you have to do is get to Atlanta. Most likely you don’t go to the playoff if you don’t get to Atlanta. So, they have that opportunity, and we’ll see just where it is. I’ll say this. Had you asked me before the season who wins this game in Jacksonville, 100% I was giving you Georgia. 100%. That’s where I was going to give you. Now, not to spoil my pick, but I like the Orange and Blue. Would you agree or disagree?

Nick:                         Yeah. I agree. I’m just trying to keep my picks secret. I picked Florida to win the SEC East when we were in Birmingham.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I didn’t. Yeah.

Nick:                         I think I was the only one, because didn’t they finish third from the Media Day poll?

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         I picked first, so there were some nonbelievers.

Andrew:                 The coaching staff will also be out on the road, Nick. We’re out some on Monday, and then they’ll spend Thursday night and Friday out visiting some targets and commits. That’s typical bye week stuff for this coaching staff. Opportunity. You get these guys on campus, but also opportunity to go out and see some of these guys, maybe some guys that haven’t visited campus. You visit them and give them a little nudge. Hey, we’re 6-1 or 7-1 here. How about you come down to Gainesville and visit us for the Vandy game or for the Florida State game? Whatever it may be. Maybe that’s an opportunity to drop the depth chart off and say, listen, if you’re a safety, opportunity’s there. If you’re an offensive lineman, there’s opportunities there. Big opportunity to get out and see some of these guys and get out on the road and show that logo. What better way to show the logo than when you’re 7-1?

Nick:                         No better way, especially when you got just dumpster fires all over the place in the state. I mean.

Andrew:                 Florida State’s fired Willie Taggert already, and they’ve hired …

Nick:                         The funniest thing is, oh my gosh …

Andrew:                 They’ve hired Urban. They’ve hired, who else have they hired? I’ve seen like four names that they’ve hired already.

Nick:                         I think Tom Landry’s coming back to be the head coach. Urban’s going to be a special teams coach.

Andrew:                 Nick Saban’s going to be the DC.

Nick:                         Nick Saban’s running the defense. Bill Belichick’s going to coach safeties. I think Ditka is coaching. Somebody responded. I’m pulling it up right now. So, there was a story about FSU’s going to hire, who wrote the story? It was a 247 story. It said, Report: FSU Could Target Urban Meyer. So, that doesn’t mean that 247 Sports is reporting it, but somebody reported it, and they aggregated the story. FSU could target Urban Meyer if it fires Willie Taggert. Some woman, a Florida fan, quote tweeted and said, ha, ha, ha. Shelley Meyer tweeted, yes, Kathy, ha, ha. With a crying laughing emoji and five Gators after it.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I think it’ll be a cold day in hell before Urban Meyer coaches Florida State.

Nick:                         I think the world would just explode.

Andrew:                 First of all, I don’t think Urban Meyer’s physical ability is able to handle the dumpster fire that would have to be done to recover things down there. Second of all, let’s face it, Urban was not very nice to Florida State. His good friend is also Dan Mullen, and he’s trying to get back in the good graces of Florida fans. Third, there could be a dream situation of going out to USC.

Nick:                         Man, that weather in Los Angeles would be nice.

Andrew:                 Plus that payday.

Nick:                         I don’t know if he’ll come back to coaching.

Andrew:                 I don’t know if he will either.

Nick:                         If he does, it’s certainly not Florida State.

Andrew:                 No. Nick Saban’s not coming either. Jimbo Fisher is not coming back. They maybe can talk Bobby Bowden into coming back. Maybe.

Nick:                         Shoot. They’re in trouble. I mean, good Lord. We all need to go ahead and eat some crow on the message board under where this is. We all need to eat some crow, because Chip Kelly’s been a disaster at UCLA. Willie Taggert is currently still a disaster out West.

Andrew:                 Now, to be fair, I told people Willie Taggert was not the guy Florida should go get.

Nick:                         You were just called racist because of it. I mean, it’s happening now at Florida State, where anyone that says Willie Taggert’s bad, you’re just racist. You don’t want a black head coach.

Andrew:                 A good friend of mine coached with Willie Taggert at USF, and he told me. He said, that is the most unorganized human being. He’s a guy who does not listen to anyone. He will not succeed at the big three in Florida. Everyone kept saying he’s doing so great out in Oregon. Okay. Whatever. What about our boy Geoff Collins though, Nick?

Nick:                         I picked him.

Andrew:                 So did I.

Nick:                         No. You’re a Miami homer. You didn’t pick him.

Andrew:                 Bull crap. I’m not going against my guy Geoff and Kerry Dixon up there.

Nick:                         Let’s go through that. We forgot to do that on Sunday.

Andrew:                 Yeah. That was a big win for them. Props.

Nick:                         We both picked Penn State. That’s a winner. They kept it closer than I thought they would. We both picked Georgia Tech. Who won Oregon and Washington? Oregon won?

Andrew:                 Oregon.

Nick:                         You won that one. I missed that.

Andrew:                 We both missed Tennessee and Alabama spread.

Nick:                         We did. That’s surprising. That’s a loser for both of us. We both picked Wake Forest. That’s a winner. Who won Arizona State or Utah?

Andrew:                 Let me go back and see real quick. Give me just a second.

Nick:                         Okay. I’ll go on while you look at that. We both picked Florida to win. That’s win, win for us. I don’t think I get any wins for my players again this week.

Andrew:                 You went 0. I get the gunslinger.

Nick:                         Hold on. I got Kyle Pitts. No. I’m winning. I got Kyle Pitts.

Andrew:                 21-3 Utah won.

Nick:                         Kyle Pitts had a touchdown, so that counts for me. I almost went Freddie Swain. Instead, I picked Hammond, and should have picked Swain, because Hammond didn’t get it done. Jeremiah Moon had the one sack, but I think that’s kind of it.

Andrew:                 Yeah. I didn’t get a win for Marco, LP.

Nick:                         One sack. Yeah.

Andrew:                 LP had a decent day, but nothing for a win. Then the gunslinger got me a W.

Nick:                         Both 1 for 3, which makes us both 12 for 24 on the year.

Andrew:                 Yeah.

Nick:                         Not good. Not good picking.

Andrew:                 You got a loss though for Arizona State.

Nick:                         Herm.

Andrew:                 Herm. By the way, that 247 was kind of boring with Herm. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out of here. See everyone on Friday.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can find the podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Just search Gator Country. Never miss an episode. Do your social media thing. @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC, and @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. All right, guys, we appreciate it. We’ll see everyone on Friday. As always, go Braves and chomp, chomp.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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