Talking Florida Gators basketball and football: Podcast

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we talk about the latest surrounding the Florida Gators basketball and football teams this week.

Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre talk to Eric Fawcett about the basketball team and the recent struggles and what they need to do in order to get into the NCAA tournament.

Andrew and Nick also discuss what the assistant football coaches have talked about in their first press conferences as members of the Gators coaching staff.

TRANSCRIPT:

Andrew:                 What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre, and, of course, our man, Eric. He’s ready to jinx somebody in basketball. If you’re a basketball fan and want to bet against what Eric says, take a listen.

Eric:                          I might have to start jinxing some other teams. We’ll have to have a segment where we can talk about some Big 12 game, and I can go jinx Baylor or someone. I’m kind of tired of jinxing Florida.

Andrew:                 There you go. We’re going to do this podcast a little different than we do our normal basketball podcast. Nick and I had all intentions of doing a podcast yesterday, just didn’t work out. So we’re going to do the first half with Eric, basketball, and then Nick and I are going to finish this with some football talk. Most of the assistant coaches have done their first media appearance.

First things first, Eric, let’s talk basketball. Man, you go from top 5 team in the country, almost beating the #1 team in Duke two months ago, to now you’re talking about can they make the NCAA Tournament. What’s going on?

Eric:                          How long ago does that feel, that PK80 tournament out West. You mentioned a couple months ago. It feels like a year ago almost. It seems almost so far in the rearview mirror. I think that Florida got figured out a little bit. The funny thing with college basketball, because the season is so long and so stretched out, games in November and December teams are at a certain level, and then you’ve got to get better, because there’s a couple months left in the season.

I feel like Florida probably started the season a lot more skilled than a lot of other teams and were able to jump on them early, but a lot of teams have gotten significantly better, and I’m not sure how much Florida has gotten better. You always want it to be that subtle climb all the way through the year, where you get better every single game, every single week. I feel like Florida had a higher starter point than a lot of other teams, but they haven’t had that incremental success of getting better and better, where a lot of these other teams have gotten better and better every week. Florida has got to try to maybe get a couple notches up here in the last couple weeks of the season.

Andrew:                 Eric, let me just ask you this. I’m just going to come straight out at the point with you here. What is it about this team that can start so well in games, and they struggle at the end? I mean, it’s not just the post presence. I hear a lot of people saying, “It’s just the post presence.” It’s not just the post presence. It’s a team that just almost lacks a leader. What is it?

Eric:                          Like you said, you can’t blame the post presence, because if you see the other teams that close games really well, it’s not the big men they’re going to. When teams are in the clutch and really need a bucket, they don’t go down low. It’s all about guard play, especially down the stretch. Florida hasn’t gotten really good guard play, outside of Chris Chiozza, who’s been really good, mostly good. Although he had probably his roughest game of the year against Vanderbilt.

You said it. Leadership. You have these guys that have not wanted to take the lead, have not wanted to execute the team schemes, and that’s what’s been talked about in post-game by both Mike White and Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov. Just talking about how they haven’t executed the plan that’s been laid out. When you have guys freelancing out there, you better have the best talent in the country, if you want to freelance, go one on one, and win a lot of basketball games.

I think that also something people have to remember is if you look at the players that play a key role on this team, you look at Chris Chiozza, who obviously had the Gators made in Elite Eight last year, and that was awesome, great experience, but the two prior seasons the Gators didn’t have a ton of success, didn’t make NCAA tournaments. Then you look at some other key players that we have. Egor Koulechov did not have a lot of success at Rice. Then you look at Jalen Hudson, did not have a lot of success at Virginia Tech. There is actually not a lot of proven winners on this team. You could say, obviously, the same thing with KeVaughn Allen, who’s in the same boat as Chris Chiozza.

As much as the Elite Eight was great for Chiozza and Allen last year, you still look at Koulechov, who hasn’t been a proven winner, and Jalen Hudson, who hasn’t been a proven winner either. They suddenly have this mark of being a preseason Top 10 team in the country, and that’s putting success on a bunch of guys that haven’t had a lot of success. I think there’s something to be said about that.

Andrew:                 Nick, I know you wanted to make this point, and I’m going to go ahead and lead you into it.

Nick:                         Going to steal it?

Andrew:                 I’m going to lead you into this. Nick, you break down the remaining schedule. I’m going to steal Nick’s line here, and it’s do or die time with this team.

Eric:                          Yeah. Go for it, Nick.

Nick:                         I think it’s just a bunch of leading in here. I think this will lead into what you were going to say. Schedule the first two and last two weeks looks a lot different now than it does, and it goes to your point early on. I used it a point this week when Florida and Miami were playing baseball. When you play the first two weeks of the season, that’s not indicative of who you will be the last stretch of the season.

You look at Tennessee, that’s not a team that many thought would be the team that they are right now. Florida has to go on the road at Tennessee Wednesday, at you’re listening to this. Then Auburn, the #1 team in the conference. Then travel at Alabama next week. Then finish off with Kentucky at home. Kentucky’s struggled, but sitting right now at 17-10 for Florida, and 86 in conference, you’re in a position where I think 20 is probably that number you need to hit. Asking to win three out of these four games is maybe not even realistic. What is the path to avoiding the NIT for Mike White in his third year?

Andrew:                 Let me say this real quick, before Eric says this. I don’t know if it’s unrealistic that they win three out of four, because it depends on which team shows up.

Eric:                          Yeah. I mean, this team could get hot. They could shoot like it’s Portland, and they could go 4-0. That would still be pretty wild, but not crazy. One thing that’s kind of a nice break at least that Florida got, and I’m certainly not happy about this, because I hate when players get injured, but Anfernee McLemore from Auburn, a very key player for them, just went down with an injury that’s certainly going to be season ending. Auburn is a team that is undersized and plays a pretty tight rotation, so to lose one of their key rim protectors there, that leaves maybe a little bit of a window open for Florida to get a win that would look really good on their resume, because obviously Auburn was in the mix for a one seed. Even with a player down, the metrics don’t look at that, so that could be a huge win for Florida.

Maybe you get that Kentucky one at home. As much as Kentucky struggled, like Nick mentioned, I still have a lot of respect for that team. That’s a team that really out-athletes and out-toughs Florida, and teams have done that to Florida and won this year. So, that scares me.

We just saw Tennessee also lose to Georgia by 10 points, or 11 points. That’s a common struggle that Florida was just able to just barely lost to Georgia in their second game, of course, in overtime in that very disappointing game. Hey, Tennessee lost to them by 11, so that’s maybe a win you can get too.

I don’t know what to say about Alabama, but maybe they’ll have a little bit of momentum after those first two. There’s chances in every game. 0-4 doesn’t seem too realistic, but winning three, that could happen, certainly.

Andrew:                 You say you’re not losing all four. With this team, nothing surprises me. I mean, I sit here, and I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t watch the game against Vanderbilt. I was doing softball. Nick was doing baseball. Whoever did the scheduling, having all three of the Florida teams go at 4:00 on Saturday, whatever.

Anyway, I didn’t get to see it, but I was checking the score, different things like that. One time I see Florida’s up by 10, and I’m sitting here thinking, okay, they’re going to win at a tough Vandy. Then it’s back to normal. Same thing with Georgia. I guess, Eric, what is it that needs to change with this team, and then my second question is any hope to get any of those big guys back?

Eric:                          One thing that they really need to figure out to close games is what they want to do offensively to close games, and we’ve talked about it on this podcast several times.

Andrew:                 Making shots at the goal?

Eric:                          We talked about that, and we’ve also just talked about what do you want to do offensively down the stretch? We’ve seen them play stall ball where they just dribble out the clock and force up a tough shot late. Then against Vanderbilt you saw them put Chris Chiozza, a 5’11” guard, in the post against Riley LaChance, something that Chris Chiozza as a senior has never done in his career, post up an opposing guard. With a couple minutes left in the game, close game, one-possession game, they put Chiozza in the post and say, “Make something happen.”

I think that’s a tall order to put your point guard in the post, as much as Riley LaChance isn’t some big hulking defender. You’re still asking Chris Chiozza, who’s never played in the post, to go in there and make something happen. It didn’t work. For that to happen in the fifth to last game of the SEC schedule shows a team that really is lost in terms of what they want to do offensively, especially in the clutch. I don’t know.

That is kind of scary to see, to see your team trying things out in a close important one-possession game, and you’re still kind of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. That’s a little bit frightening. You’d like to see, at this point of the season, a team that has really well-defined offensive sets, really defined offensive roles, and know what they want to do. Against Vanderbilt they showed that they are still searching for what they want to do, which is pretty scary, pretty daunting, when you’re about to play the four game stretch that we’re talking about.

Andrew:                 What is your update on the big guys? I know Egbunu is still rehabbing, but what’s your update?

Eric:                          Like you said, Egbunu’s still rehabbing. He’s having problem in his non-injured knee now, just because of all the months of overcompensation. Isaiah Stokes is still a lot overweight, and we are approaching that point that, I don’t want to say I told you so to anyone, but I remember in the first podcast we did this season I suggested that we likely wouldn’t see any of these guys, and they’d be redshirt.

Nick:                         Puff your chest out. Tell them. I told you.

Eric:                          They said, “We’re going to need these guys back. It’s worth it to have these guys play a little bit instead of redshirt.” With four games left in the regular season, and currently looking at either a 7-10 or 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, or maybe NIT, do you want to burn a year of eligibility for that? I just don’t think so. Stokes is overweight. Chase Johnson, I think he’s cleared concussion protocol, but he’s had some other health problems and just has never had a chance to get his rhythm. Stokes is still not doing contact drills in practice.

I think it’s time to just kind of sit those guys aside, get them ready for next season. Maybe even have talks with John Egbunu about if he maybe wants to come back. I think that’s unlikely, but it’s a possibility. I think what you see is what you’ve got with this roster. They’re going to have to roll with it for however much longer this season goes.

Andrew:                 If you’re Egbunu, where do you go? Are you going to overseas? You’re not going to the League.

Eric:                          This is where I differ from a lot of posters who are certain he will leave and just kind of say, “He’ll go make money in Europe.” Maybe, but what people don’t always realize is that most of these European club teams only have two roster spots, 2-4, but most of them are closer to two open for these foreign American players. What kind of market there is for a guy who will have not played basketball in over a calendar year, coming off a knee injury, also a guy whose play style is not very conducive to the European style of play. We know John Egbunu doesn’t handle the ball, doesn’t knock down jump shots.

For people who just say, “He’ll just go pro, go to Europe,” I don’t think that it’s that easy. I don’t think he’s got a big fat six or seven-figure contract waiting for him. He’ll have to really grind to find a home. I think he would be more D League bound, and that’s nowhere near as good of a lifestyle as playing Division I college basketball at Florida. I truly believe he is going to think about coming back.

Nick:                         I think these people that would argue with you on that point probably are just ignorant, like myself before you just said that, that there are limited roster spots for those foreign-born players when you’re talking about going and playing overseas.

Andrew:                 When you think about European basketball, you’re thinking four guards and an athletic big. You’re not talking about pounding it inside with a post game either.

Eric:                          It might be a little bit of people just not knowing. You just look at even maybe these 2014, that Final Four Gators team that didn’t have anyone go to the NBA. Scotty Wilbekin went to a lower division team in Australia, and he’s worked his way up and is now doing really well in Europe. Will Yeguete went to a second division team in France, which is obviously his home country, and I’m sure he’s happy to be there, but those salaries are in the $1,500 Euro range a month. Of course, you’re still playing basketball and getting some money and that’s great, but just the idea that’s it’s just like go overseas and get a contract, that’s just simply not true. I think in Egbunu’s case it would be D League for him.

The other thing you have to factor in is we don’t know exactly where he’s at health wise. Staying at Florida will give you a lot better healthcare, a lot better access to rehab, than if you try to go to Turkey and play basketball in that league. I think that that hasn’t been discussed. I’m sure Florida would see him through a lot of the rehab. They wouldn’t just cut ties with him, but still, if it’s something that would go into the later stages of summer, I think that he might be better served to come back to Florida.

There’s still so many, whether there will be a scholarship for him, whether John Egbunu wants that, whether the coaching staff wants it. There’s a lot of what ifs, but so many people think he’s long gone, and I just think there might be a little more to that. Maybe I’ll get attacked for that, but just for the reasons I said, I think it might be in his best interest. The team might be willing to take back a sixth year senior, because you don’t get the chance to have veterans like that too often.

Andrew:                 Listen, big men ain’t growing on trees up in Gainesville either. If you got the opportunity to get a guy. I mean, granted, you don’t know what you’re going to get out of Big John when he comes back after not being able to play for a year, but still. Give a look here, Tennessee, Auburn. What is the matchups for both of those games? Obviously, Auburn plays with eight scholarship players, Bruce Pearl. They’re going to play hard, but give us the matchups, what needs to happen in those two games.

Eric:                          The physicality of Tennessee has been really well documented. For anyone who maybe went to the game in Gainesville last year, where we saw an incredibly physical game against Tennessee, that was something where you just really saw their physicality right at the forefront. Florida is going to have to work hard and try to match that level of toughness, which we know has not always been the case.

That’s one thing too. Tennessee actually shoots the ball really well, and they’re a team that whenever you see them talked about nationally they’re like, “That’s a tough physical team. They defend you.” They certainly do, but they’re like a Top 40 offensive team in the country too, and I don’t see that talked about very often. Florida needs to try to match their intensity on both sides of the ball, which is going to be tough.

Auburn, like you said, they don’t have a lot of scholarship guys, and they’re really undersized. I don’t think that means Florida is going to go and try to post them up with Hayes or anything like that, but if they can get the ball in the paint, there’s not going to be a lot of rim protection. There’s not going to be a lot of bulk that deters them from getting layups. If Florida can maybe up their rebounding intensity, get a couple extra chances, then maybe they can make that happen against a short-handed Auburn team.

Two really challenging games. Two of them that should be really close, and two chances for quality wins. I think that that’s something that’s just really great for Florida. When you’re a team that is starting to struggle, there’s nothing worse than not having many good win opportunities coming up in front of you. We saw that a couple years ago when Florida was kind of struggling. It was like, you better beat Kentucky twice, and that’s your only chance of getting to the tournament. Florida has several opportunities to get really quality wins here. I think that that is a good thing, as much as it might be scary to go against a bunch of daunting opponents back to back.

Andrew:                 They’re going 0-2 this week, right?

Eric:                          Yes. They are going 0-2, and that is the Fawcett jinx of the week.

Andrew:                 There you go. Last thing for you. Go on the record real quick. What does Florida need to do to get in the tournament?

Eric:                          I will say go 2-2 in the final four games, and then win a single game in the SEC Tournament, and I think that puts them in comfortably. When I say comfortably, maybe I shouldn’t say comfortably. That might mean a 9 seed, but if you go 2-2 and you win your first game of the SEC Tournament, with the strength of the League. I know I’m giving you a longer answer than you wanted.

The way that the selection committee has shown that they value your wins more than your losses, and Florida has a lot of good wins, even though they have a lot of bad losses. The committee is going to look positively on that. I guess that would make you go 3-3 in your last six. 2-2, and then win a game, maybe loss your next one in the SEC Tournament. I think you’re in there at a 8, 9, maybe a 10 seed. I think more like an 8 or 9.

Andrew:                 There you go. Nick, tell everybody where they can find Eric. We’ll get Eric out of here. We’ll start to talk some football. Maybe some baseball and softball.

Nick:                         Eric, as always, @EFawcett7 on Twitter. All of his writing and stuff is on Gator Country.

Andrew:                 There you go. Eric, we appreciate you coming on so much. We will talk to you next week. Hopefully you won’t jinx nobody this week.

Eric:                          Sounds good. Thanks, guys. I look forward to hearing your football chat after this. Take care.

Andrew:                 There you go.

Guys, welcome back. We appreciate Eric coming on and talking basketball, as always. Nick, it’s the middle of February and football never stops. Florida’s going to host their first Junior Day on Saturday. We’ll preview that on Friday with our normal baseball and softball preview. Nick, you’ve had the opportunity the last week and a half to talk to most of the assistant coaches. The rest of them will be talked to on Thursday. Overall, first impressions.

Nick:                         Really enjoyed these coaches. I thought it was a really good bunch of guys, and kind of different backgrounds. I’ll touch on those at least. Really intrigued by Ron English’s background. At one time was a head coach, one of only six African American head coaches in Division I. Charlton Warren spent 14 years in the Air Force, including 10 years active duty, four years there as a football player and a student. Then Christian Robinson, who’s 29 years old and coaching a position at the University of Florida.

Andrew:                 Younger than you and I, or younger than me.

Nick:                         I think we’re the same age. I’m a couple months older than him, and we are in different pay grades.

Andrew:                 Definitely different pay grades. The thing that I’ve taken away from these guys. Listen, everybody should have this, but the thing that I’ve taken away, Nick, from this staff compared to the other staff, is confidence. Listen, Jim McElwain talked the talk, but when you really got around his assistant coaches and people in his recruiting office, there was no confidence with those guys. Zero confidence.

I don’t want to bring up the past and all that other stuff, but the reason I say that is these guys are oozing with confidence. A lot of that is a lot of these guys were around when Urban was there, and they won a National Championship. Maybe that’s a big reason for that. I’m just taken away at the way these guys are just oozing with confidence. I mean, maybe it’s fake, fool’s gold, whatever it may be, but the confidence is back. I like that.

Nick:                         Yeah. I asked Christian Robinson personally. Obviously, he coached at Georgia, which is kind of in the same realm as Florida, but what do you put your rise? He attributed a lot to Grantham, but even for such a young guy, he’s not lacking confidence in his ability to coach and to get through to these guys. His first year at Georgia he was a graduate assistant, but he’s coaching guys that he played with. To me, that takes a level of confidence, just to get guys that you’ve played with to not treat you as just a buddy, but to listen to you as a coach.

Andrew:                 Right. That’s the thing. It’s not just Robinson. It was Grantham. It was Sunseri, which those two guys alone, they should have confidence. Just the guys in general, to have the confidence. The one thing, well I say the one thing, the two things that you’re hearing out of these guys is, one, they plan on winning a National Championship, and, two, you better play with relentless effort. That’s the two things that you’ve heard. Nick, I know you remember this, but the motto when Urban Meyer was around was 4-6 seconds. That was the phrase. It’s refreshing to hear.

Again, I could go back and rehash the past staff and the confidence they had. They didn’t have confidence. This staff has confidence. Again, it could be fool’s gold. It could be, but it’s shown a little bit on the recruiting trail. They’re not afraid to go up against the guys. Hearing Charlton Warren talk about his military past, the way he brings that to the table. To hear Ron English talk about how taking a step back from the game for a couple years was a positive thing. Both of those things probably impacted their career and will impact the way they coach. I like it. I think you and I both will agree that people who’ve been in the military, they know how to work. We respect them more than anything. I know a player who is playing for a guy who’s been in the military is definitely going to be worked and is going to be pushed the hardest he can be pushed.

Nick:                         There’s just a level of …

Andrew:                 Intensity.

Nick:                         Intensity. From the morning, make your bed. You make your bed, and you feel like I’ve accomplished something. He mentioned it today. Sitting up in meeting rooms, when it’s literally just eight of us in a room, and we’re watching film. It’s eight in the morning, and you just finished an hour and a half workout with Nick Savage. You’re not slouching. You’re not putting your feet up. You’re going to be sitting up at attention. There’s level of anyone that’s served the country or certainly gone to a military academy, it’s something that a level of that that’s going to be expected. I got that from him.

I think, from Ron English, he spent 16 years coaching before getting a head coaching job. I think he let that consume him. Three years off, you can attest to this, Jim McElwain can attest to this. People are wondering, why the heck is he going to Michigan? Not coaching for three years is an eternity in coaching circles. He went from being just, at the time, one of six African American head coaches in Division I football to not coaching, not doing anything. I think that taught him humility, embracing that humility, and then also perspective. I need to have balance. When I’m at home and not at the football field, am I really there? Am I really present? Am I talking to a recruit? Am I lamenting something that happened at practice? Am I wondering about something that was going on on film, or am I actually spending time with my family? Am I being there for my kids? I think that balance is something that he learned in those three years, and that’s something you bring to these kids’ life. It’s something you can teach them.

Andrew:                 I think what he said, and then kind of what Christian Robinson said, and this is something that stood out to me with Robinson, and then what English said as well. That is both of those guys are able to take something different into a family’s living room, and it’s different, but at the same time, it’s the same thing.

Nick:                         I think with Robinson it might not play as well with the recruits, but you and I talk about we’re talking about recruiting mom. When Christian Robinson goes down and says, “I can vouch for Todd Grantham. Football didn’t work out for me, but he gave me the tools to be the best football player I could be, and then gave me the tools and the opportunity to come back and pursue my next career and to pursue coaching. Look at me. Football doesn’t last forever as a player. He gave me the opportunity as a 22-year-old kid to come and coach at the University of Georgia. Here I am now at the University of Florida.”

I think that’s something that plays well, when you’re talking about recruiting, to moms and dads, who have the foresight of my kid might be able to play in the NFL, but you’re a torn ACL or hip injury, concussion away from that not being a reality anymore. Christian Robinson is a testament to Todd Grantham as not just a coach, but as a person to be able to give him that opportunity.

Andrew:                 Right. I think that’s a big thing. Listen, everyone wants to know, what is it about these coaches that set them apart? What did these coaches do? Are they going to be there when Junior is having a bad day or whatever it is? That’s something Robinson can do.

Nick:                         If my son fumbles, does his coach still care about him?

Andrew:                 Exactly.

Nick:                         Is it just a football relationship? What are you doing for me on the field, because that’s going to get me a bigger payday and a bigger job, or do you care about the guy under the helmet? Do you care about the actual person?

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. I think that’s the thing that it is. It kind of goes with Hevesy, and it kind of goes with the rest of those guys. They’ve been around Mullen a lot, so they’re able to kind of relate that to them. What Robinson said and what English said, and then what Charlton Warren said. Listen, you walk into a lot of these family’s homes and you’ve got a military background, and you tell a father or mother, “Your son is going to be taken care of, but he’s going to do what’s right.” When they research your background, and they figure out your background, that’s going to play well.

I say that because a lot of these families want that. A lot of these guys who either grew up in single-parent home, or grew up in two-parent home, they want their kid to go to school and grow up. You hear parents all the time saying, “I want so-and-so to go away from home to grow up.” What better way to grow up than playing under a guy like Charlton Warren, who’s going to probably call him in the morning and say, “Hey, bed made? It’s not? Come on over and let’s do some up-downs.” Whatever it may be. That stuff plays well in the homes.

Nick:                         You never have to worry about sending your son to somebody who served 10 years active military service.

Andrew:                 Exactly. One thing is you’re not going to want to go to Coach Warren and say, “Coach, I kind of got arrested.” “What?” That’s not going to be a good idea. Again, like I said, I like the confidence these guys have put out the last few days as they’ve been out talking at the press conferences. Everything we’ve learned from these guys through the recruiting trail is, like I said, confidence, and they’re all buying into that one single message, and that’s get Florida back to where they were. Nick, we said this since Urban left, and that’s that Florida hasn’t lived up to that standard.

Nick:                         Yeah. They haven’t. I’ve really been impressed with all, how many have we talked to now? We’ve talked to seven now? I’ve really been impressed that everyone that we’ve talked to. We’ll talk to Nick Savage, and that’s who I’m really looking forward to talking to. Really with this coaching staff, a lot of the guys were from Mississippi State. Charlton Warren really is the only one that really didn’t have any ties to Dan Mullen or to Mississippi State, other than coaching against him occasionally. I think that was one of the later additions.

To me, we’ve talked to all the guys on defense, and I think they all really stayed on message and kind of embodied what you would expect a Todd Grantham defense to be. Listen, you’re going to get burned at times, because you’re going to play aggressive, and when you play aggressively you’re going to get burned. I had a bunch of Georgia fans and other fans in my mentions about, “Wait till you get 3rd and Grantham, giving up those 3rd and 16s.” Stuff like that. Happened a bunch in Muschamp’s last year, when they were an ultra-aggressive defense. You’re going to get some of that, but I’d rather be aggressive and give up some big plays and say, “We took a shot,” than to be passive and just get nickeled and dimed to death.

Andrew:                 So what I exactly said last year about Randy Shannon, you want to be opposite finally. Now the truth comes out, Nicholas. Thank you. It’s always good to hear that I’m right.

Nick:                         Your slanted view of Randy Shannon has not gone unnoted on the podcast.

Andrew:                 No. It’s not slanted. It’s very accurate. I mean, three-star U, players getting arrested. It’s what it is. No. I’m with you. Listen, I think you and I have said this, and I think you and I have had this argument on this podcast many times. I think everybody knows where I stand, and that’s, listen, put some pressure. Put some pressure on these guys. Listen, look at Feleipe Franks. He was the best passer in the world when nobody was coming at him. It just is what it is. All quarterbacks are. It’s what you do when the pressure’s there, and that’s what separates them. I think that’s exactly what Grantham is going to do. I think, when you look at a guy like Sal Sunseri, his NFL experience of how to get pressure on the quarterback is going to be there. Listen, I like the plan so far.

Another thing that you’ve heard from these guys is that what happened last year they don’t care about. Every one of them has taken shots at Mike Kent, and every one of them said these guys are going to be different players when it comes spring football after seeing Nick Savage. Nick, the thing that it is is these guys respect Nick Savage. It’s daily on Twitter. Thanks, Coach Savage, for this. We had a St. Valentine’s Day. Lamical Perine said he brought the animal out in me. Was it Elijah Conliffe the other day was talking about it. These guys on a daily basis are talking about how the workout plan is so much different, and these guys are. This is going to be a pretty new football team body wise in the spring.

Nick:                         I think they’ll be different. It’s a short period of time. Listen, I did a lot of research when I lost 60 pounds about how much muscle you can put on and this and that and how much weight you can lose. I don’t know about some of these guys saying I put on 10 pounds of muscle in a week or two weeks. I don’t know if that’s even physically possible, but Nick Savage, he’s a young guy too, around our age, and getting a lot out of these guys. There’s something to be said for getting that kind of buy in. I certainly don’t remember tweets or social media messages about Mike Kent when he came in, or even Jeff Dillman when he came in his first year about how he’s changed stuff and what he’s getting out of the guys.

I’m interested to see it. I think the first time somebody gets hurt they’ll blame Nick Savage that they’re going too hard or something like that, and that’s just kind of the nature of it. I’m interested to talk to him and see what his philosophy is, what kind of lifts they’re doing, why he does that kind of stuff. I think that’ll be telling to be able to compare, to see what these guys valued, why they valued it, and then to see eventually the product on the field.

Andrew:                 We talk about it all the time. The one thing I’ll say is this. It’s competing. Nick, I don’t know how many times you and I said this last year, but we said it many times. Sometimes the guys just didn’t give a shit. It’s truth. It is what it is. I mean, it’s a hard truth, and I’m sure we’re going to have someone tell us that they care. Listen, did they want to win? Absolutely. These guys don’t play to lose. When you compete, and it’s a daily thing, I believe it was John Hevesy who said the other day he puts on the board the grades in the class from if the guys are in the same class together, and you have a winner and a loser. Listen, there is no participation ribbons. You’re either first, or you’re last.

I just think about it, all this stuff they’re doing is competing. Jacob Copeland was telling me a story. I was talking to him after Signing Day, and he was telling me about when he was on campus. They were having wrestling matches, and he said the guy who won was getting celebrated. The guy who lost wasn’t talked about. Listen, that’s how it should be. Compete every day.

Nick:                         That’s what you’re going to get. It’ll be interesting to see how that kind of stuff breaks down, especially with all these athletes. If I’m going to play linebacker, I’m going to look a little different than if I’m going to play safety. There’s a lot of athletes and people like that. I think you’ll be able to kind of even start seeing it when guys show up, in terms of that first day of spring when you’re not in pads yet. Just who looks different.

Andrew:                 Right. Exactly. Listen, I like to see competing. I like to see it more than anything. I do. I know when I first came aboard to cover this team more and more, even when I was just watching and hearing about when I was coaching, the mat drills. Everyone talked about them. They’re back.

Nick:                         What are those?

Andrew:                 Basically wrestling matches. That’s basically what they are. I mean, it’s 5:00 in the morning, and it’s hard work. I mean, a lot of people don’t like them, but they say that that’s what the difference is. You look at some of the animals that Mickey brought out. I mean, the Spikes, the Pouncey brothers. There was some animals that were playing football for the Gators.

Nick:                         What better way to pit one on one. Man versus man.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Again. Nick, listen, there’s a lot of egos on this football team, and I say that in a good way. Don’t none of them want to get beat.

Nick:                         No. Not a one.

Andrew:                 None of them wants to be the loser.

Nick:                         Not a one.

Andrew:                 Anyway, to recap this, we’re going to close this one out shortly. Went a little longer than expected, talked a little basketball, did this. We’ll be back on Friday. We’ll preview Junior Day. Nick and I will preview baseball and softball. Nick, Gators are #1 on the diamond again this year. Not too bad.

Nick:                         On the diamonds. On both of them.

Andrew:                 Yeah. Softball goes out and does their thing. Baseball goes out and does their thing. It’s good. How about we share championships this year, Nick? I’m cool for it.

Nick:                         I haven’t seen much of Hunter McMullen, Kirby’s younger brother, and then he comes in the 9th inning on Sunday throwing 94-96. I’m just like, what the? What’s going on here?

Andrew:                 What is it? Just rolling. Walton and Sully, they just roll these girls and guys out. I lost a first-round draft pick in baseball. I lost a superstar in softball. It’s okay. I got a five-star. Don’t worry about it.

Nick:                         Exactly.

Andrew:                 Anyway, Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone on Friday, and we’ll preview Junior Day and the diamond sports this weekend. We’ll be back.

Nick:                         www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. The podcast is there in audio and transcript form. You can also find the podcast on iTunes. Search @GatorCountry. Find us on social media @TheGatorCountry on Instagram, @GatorCountry on Facebook and Twitter. You can find me, @NickdelaTorreGC, and him, @AndrewSpiveyGC.

Andrew:                 There you go. Guys, we appreciate it so much. We’ll be back. We’ll be previewing everything. It’s going to be a loaded Junior Day. The three-star Randy Shannon kids are no longer filling out camps anymore, so should be fun. As always, guys, chomp, chomp. Go Braves.

Nick:                         You stay classy, Gator Country.

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