GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we preview the 2022 football season for the Florida Gators as the season is just days away.
Andrew Spivey and Nick Marcinko break down how they think the depth chart will look for the Gators once Billy Napier releases it on Wednesday night.
Andrew and Nick also give you some keys for the Gators as they head into the Utah game and for the rest of the season.
Andrew: Andrew Spivey back. Nick, first time joining the podcast. We’re back, and we’re ready to have our first podcast of the new season. Utah is just a few days away. The Billy Napier era is underway. Talking season is over, Nick.
Nick: It’s all over. Before we get started, I just want to thank everyone at Gator Country, everyone on the Gator Country team, everyone on the message boards, for just giving me a warm welcome. It’s been a great two months here since I’ve started, and I’m so excited to get on with football season with you guys.
Andrew: We’ll see if you’re good luck. We’ll judge you at the end of the year to see if you’re good luck or not.
Nick: Fair enough.
Andrew: In reality, we’re very excited to have you. I think I speak for everyone, including yourself, Nick, that I’m ready to see the ball. I’m ready to see it get some air, and I’m ready to see Billy Napier and see what this team’s about. We’ve heard a lot of good things about Billy Napier. I’ll be the first to say I’ve known Billy Napier for a while. I’ve watched Billy Napier from his times at Bama to Arizona State to Louisiana. I’ve always thought very highly of him. I think he has a very bright future. I will say that I do think there is some challenges with this football team, especially some depth in some areas.
Also, you got Utah coming to town. That’s a very good football team walking into the Swamp for your first ever game. There’s a lot of pressure.
Nick: Absolutely. Billy Napier said it on Monday. He said, Gainesville transforms on game day. It’s going to be on a whole other level when Utah comes into town. I’ve seen some really good, really fun atmospheres in the Swamp, but I have a feeling that this one may top all of them. I think you could argue that Gainesville has transformed right now. Game week is here. There’s a buzz on campus. The players are super excited to get out there. I know we’re all super excited to watch Billy Napier run out of that tunnel, and hopefully lead this team to a victory on Saturday.
Andrew: I think the thing for me, Nick, the Swamp’s a different place. People always say Florida fans are fickle. All fans are fickle. Alabama fans are fickle. Auburn fans are fickle. LSU fans, every fan is fickle. When things aren’t going good, they’re not going to show up. It’s what fan is short for, fanatic. You’re going to have a few that will show up.
But there is definitely excitement. I think it’s excitement from everyone. Student tickets are sold out. That doesn’t mean anything. We’ll see if the students actually show up. It is a late game, so hopefully they will show up. It won’t be as hot. It’ll still be hot, but it won’t be as hot. Hopefully they show up.
Nick, I feel like I’m stupid when I say this, but he’s brought everybody together instead of separating everyone. Dan Mullen’s whole process was us against the world. Billy Napier is us against the world, but us, as in the Gator Nation, the fanbase, the students. Everyone together. I feel like that’s going to be a big thing. I hope so.
Like I said, Utah is coming in. They’re a hot team. They’re a good team, but the Swamp’s no joke. The energy is no joke. The crowd noise is no joke, and the heat’s no joke. Make it loud. Make it as uncomfortable for the Utes as humanly possible on Saturday.
Nick: Absolutely. I was listening to a radio show just the other day. I forget who it was, but he was saying Utah, nobody on their entire roster has played in an environment like the Swamp. He was saying some fans say we go to Oregon, whatever. He was saying that is not the same. The Swamp is a different place. It’s on another level. I do believe that. I think that the Swamp impacts games.
The Auburn game is the one that comes to my mind, when they came to the Swamp a couple years ago. That was just the most insane atmosphere I’ve ever seen. If we can create the sort of energy for this game, and that was a day game. This is going to be a night game. It’s just going to be a different level. I’m hoping that the fans show up. I know we said it’s a late game, so it’s not going to be as hot. We all know they’re going to be drinking all day long. Let’s just hope that they can get out there and really support Gator Nation.
Like you said, it seems to me like Billy Napier has this completely under control. The players that I’ve talked to in the locker room, and even the high school recruits, are noticing it. They’re saying everybody from the head coach to the assistant team nutritionist, they’re all on the same page. They all have the same goals. They all share the same message, and I think that consistency within the program is important, especially at this time. There’s always uncertainty with a new head coach entering the season, and Napier, to me and I think to a lot of other people, has really shown consistency with his message. He’s getting this team where they need to be as far as discipline is concerned.
I think Napier has really done all the right things going into this season. We’ll see how the team performs. Previous coaching staff did not really leave this roster in a fantastic spot for Billy Napier, to say the least. I think he’s done what he could to get this roster as ready as it could be this Saturday.
Andrew: Let’s go through it here. Let’s start to break down a little bit of the depth chart here. Obviously, we’re taping this Tuesday. Billy Napier says he’s going to give his depth chart Wednesday evening after practice. Little bit of a change. He’s actually having two press conferences a week, which I like. He’s the head man. He dictates the direction of the program, the direction of the team. I like it.
Let’s go through what we think is going to be the depth chart. Obviously, at quarterback we know it’s AR. That’s going to be your guy. That’s going to be your starter. Obviously, with Jack Miller down with the injury it’ll either be the walk-on Kyle Engel or Jalen Kitna listed. I’ll hope that they’re coming in in mop up duty and not because of an injury there. No surprises there.
At running back, Nick, this is where things get complicated. Maybe not complicated, because Billy Napier’s shown in the past he’s going to play a lot of guys. He’s going to rotate a lot of guys. Now, he’s going to play the hot hand when needed. He’s not going to have Dameon Pierce sitting on the bench when it’s 4th and 1 and the game’s on the line. How do you see this running back group shaking out? Who do you think gets the first carry in the game? If that means anything. Who do you think gets that first carry?
Nick: I do not think that who gets the first carry necessarily means anything. I will say Nay’Quan Wright gets the first carry, however you saw this in the roundtable that Gator Country just dropped, our intern Gentry picked Nay’Quan Wright to be the Offensive MVP. I went with Montrell Johnson. If that does not give you an idea of how deep and undecided this running back room is for the Florida Gators, there’s several options that they could go to off the bench.
I think Montrell Johnson is a beast of an athlete. He was clocked at some ridiculous speed during the spring game. I think it was 21 or 22 miles per hour or something like that. He’s an absolute unit. 218 pounds. He’s 5’11”. Scored 12 touchdowns as a true freshman last year. What I saw from him in the spring game is that he’s going to get a lot of looks in the redzone. Napier’s going to hand him the ball. He trusts him in the redzone, clearly. I kind of see Montrell at least leading the group in touchdowns this year. I think Nay’Quan Wright’s an awesome player. He stuck it out with Florida. He’s in it. He’s done his part for this Gator team, and I see him also doing really well.
What I will say is that I think all these running backs on our roster, they offer something different to the team. Nay’Quan Wright is more of your kind of every down back. He can kind of do it all. He can pass catch. He moves well in open field. Montrell Johnson is, in my opinion, the redzone guy. He’s the bruiser. He’s almost 220 pounds. He’ll run you over if he needs to, but he’s not slow either. Then you got Lorenzo Lingard, who has just incredible speed. We know that. He hasn’t really had his chance to shine yet, but I think this year he’s going to get his chance to get some significant playing time for the Gators.
Then you got the rookie, Trevor Etienne. He is a beast. He’s impressed so far. I do think he is near the bottom in the unit, simply because he’s a freshman, but we’ve seen Napier with Louisiana. He’s not afraid to play freshmen running backs. He’s not afraid to play freshmen, period. We saw it last year with the running back position. If you are capable of playing significant snaps and playing winning football, Billy Napier is going to play you. We will see Trevor Etienne this year. I don’t know how much, but we’re going to see him. He’s looked good so far in the blue and orange.
Andrew: Nay’Quan Wright, we’ve all talked about his story. Got shot at an early age. Everything he’s bounced back from. Injury is not going to concern him at all. He’ll be back. He’ll be healthy. I’ve said it for a long time. I think Nay’Quan Wright has a chance to be one of the best running backs in the country. What he does, not just running between the tackles, but what he does running the ball, but then catching the ball. He might be the best all-around back on this team. When I say might, he probably is. I think Nay’Quan Wright is special. I do. I think Montrell Johnson brings a change up to the group, and I think Etienne will see the third most carries there, with Lingard picking up the scraps there, at least early on, until he can show that he can do it.
For me, and it goes to what we’re going to talk about in a minute with the offensive line, if this offensive line can just halfway decently open up some holes, you got a chance to be a pretty good freaking offense. When you talk about what Nay’Quan can do, but you add in the dimension of an RPO with Anthony Richardson there, you’re talking about two elite runners in the backfield at one time. You can make some things happen there.
If the offensive line can be halfway decent, I’m expecting a big year from that running back group, in particular Nay’Quan and Montrell, but Etienne is a guy that at the end of the year if he’s getting RB1 carries wouldn’t shock me a bit. We all saw what his brother Travis can do. Trevor is as good of an athlete as him. Excited about the group there.
I guess that leads me into the receiver group, where there’s four quality running backs that we feel very good about at running back. You go to receiver, and that’s where it’s more of a lot of unspoken guys there that are maybe a little bit unproven. Obviously, Justin Shorter is back, but he needs to be more consistent. Xzavier Henderson’s back. Again, he needs to be more consistent. Can he do something besides run the go route? Then you bring in the transfer in Ricky Pearsall. You like what he can do. You know what he can do. He’s probably Wide Receiver 1 overall. Then Trent Whittemore is Mr. Consistent.
But outside of those four you go to Ja’Quavion Fraziars. You go to Daejon Reynolds. You go to Marcus Burke. You go to Caleb Douglas. All of those guys right there are just unproven guys. Not that they don’t have talent. We all saw what Fraziars and Burke did last year in some mop up duty. They can do it. They just have to show it and be consistent when they do it.
Nick, my question for you is is it Ricky’s receiver group, and then looking for who’s going to be consistent #2?
Nick: Here’s the deal. In my opinion, as of now, it is Ricky’s. It is his receiver group. I do think that. But if this offense is going to hum at the level we want it to go at, we’re going to need that 1A, 1B kind of receiver group, absolutely. With that being said, we’re going to need Shorter. We’re going to need Henderson. We’re going to need one of those two guys to really step up and be that dog. One good wide receiver and one okay wide receiver is not going to cut it in the SEC.
I love Ricky Pearsall. I’ve watched him a lot since he’s come here, and I think he’s a guy that’s going to lead the team in catches this year, probably yards as well. He is a guy that can move in open space. He’s a guy that we can do a lot of different things with. We can get him the ball early. He can run a post. He can do a lot of different things.
I think you nailed it when you said those guys, Burke, Fraziars, Reynolds, we’re also going to need those guys, at least one of them, to step up and be a serious contributor this year. Let’s say Shorter and Henderson, one of those two makes a big jump. There’s two good wide receivers. We’re going to need someone to fill that 3 spot as well. Shorter and Reynolds are not bad receivers, by any means, but they do need to show more consistency with their route running. They need to get open more.
Then you look at Burke, Reynolds, Fraziars. Which one of those guys is going to be that guy for Florida, because we’re going to need to lean on, if not multiple people, at least one of that group of three right there.
Andrew: I’m going to go out on a limb here, Nick, and say that Caleb Douglas and Ja’Quavion Fraziars is your two receivers that surprise you the most.
Nick: I agree. I don’t know if Douglas is going to contribute as much this year, but I think for sure next year. Caleb Douglas is a guy that I think a lot of people slept on coming out of high school. That guy can play football. He’s an SEC caliber receiver. There’s no doubt in my mind. He just looks natural at the position. You watch him. He doesn’t make rookie mistakes like a rookie would. He can go out there and make plays. I’m really excited about him. I do hope he contributes this year, because he’s looked great. He’s looked the part. I’m excited for Caleb Douglas, absolutely.
Andrew: For me, Justin Shorter, it’s about consistency with the guy. You see games where he goes for over 100. Then you see games where he goes for 10 yards. For me, how consistent can he be? Can he finally be that consistent guy that week in and week out you can depend on? We know he has the ability. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen it multiple times that he’s been able to go out and make plays. It’s just about being consistent there. Really need to see that.
I’ve been a big fan of Ja’Quavion since he was in high school. I think he has the ability to be a really good player. All reports are Xzavier Henderson has done better this fall camp, so want to see that. You can’t be a one route runner and expect to win in the SEC.
Nick: Yeah. Here’s the thing with Henderson. He is a very, very fast player. When he’s in open field, and when he gets going, there might not be a player on the Florida Gator roster that could catch him. He’s that fast. However, to me, his quickness is where he needs to improve. He needs to be able to get that jump off the line in order to run other routes besides the go route.
The go route, you can just get going and eventually you’ll beat the guy, but he needs to be quicker off the line, so that he can run these slants, he can run an end route, he can run curls. He just needs to work on his quickness, and I do think he’s gotten better, from what I’ve seen. He looks to be a little bit quicker off the line, and he has been working on different routes. I’m exited for him. I’m wishing him the best. Like I said, we need consistency out of Shorter and Henderson.
Andrew: Let’s go to tight end. Billy Napier loves to throw the ball to tight ends. Man, does he love to throw the ball to tight ends. Does he have a guy on this roster that it consistently can go to? I don’t know. Dante Zanders and Keon Zipperer are your 1, 2 guys there. Dante’s a defensive end back to tight end and everything else. It’ll be interesting to see if one of those guys step up.
I’m still looking at Nick Elksnis. He’s a guy that last fall camp was spectacular. We thought he was going to have a big year. Injuries kind of derailed him a little bit. You need one of those guys to step up. I think that’s definitely 1, 2, 3 on the depth chart, Zanders, Zipperer, and Nick.
You need consistent play there, somebody that Billy can throw the ball to. Anthony Richardson needs a tight end that can be his safe guy, can be his big target there. We all thought it was going to be Keon Zipperer coming out of high school. Maybe this is the year he steps up and does it. You need one of those guys to step up out of this group. It’s not to say there’s not talent there. It’s just unproven talent, again.
Nick: Right. I think Zip and Elk, they’re very capable tight ends, but to me the guy I’m looking at here is Nick. He’s the one that in my opinion has the chance to be that guy. Dante Zanders is a good player, but how good is Dante? How good is he? What’s his ceiling at?
Andrew: Right. What’s his ability in the passing game?
Nick: Right. Zanders, he did play an excellent spring game, but how good can he actually be is the question. To me, I don’t see him being like a five, six touchdown a year kind of guy. I think he could grab a few. He may catch three passes for 30 yards. Maybe he’ll surprise us. Who knows? But I’m looking at Nick Elk for that kind of guy. I want to see him transition into Billy Napier’s tight end. I want him to be the guy that can just make plays.
Because right now I don’t know if we have a tight end that can seriously go out and change the game for us. We’ve seen it with Billy Napier. He wants multiple tight ends that can really play. I think we have tight ends that can play, but I want to see a gamechanger emerge, like you said. One of those three guys you mentioned, they have to step up and be the tight end for the Florida Gators that we need.
Andrew: Again, I think Zip can do it. I think Elk can do it. I think it’s a question of will they. Again, I think the ceiling is a little bit smaller for Zanders, just because he’s rotated back and forth.
Andrew: I think he’s going to give you some consistent play there. I don’t know that he gives you the take the top off the defense, that kind of stuff. Again, you need to see it there. Let’s run through the offensive line real quick, and then we’ll get to defense.
For me, Nick, I think the starting five is pretty set. You can disagree here, if you think so. I think it’s going to be Gouraige, Ethan White, Kingsley, O’Cyrus, and Tarquin. I think that’s going to be your starting five.
Nick: I agree. I think Josh Braun is a very valuable six.
Nick: He’s a guy that he can play. He’s a guard, but I know at least when he was first here they flirted with the idea of him playing tackle.
Nick: I think he’s pretty much a guard now, but still he’s a versatile player. We talked about this a little bit before, Andrew. He’s a guy that they will throw in the game. He’s not going to ride the bench for all four quarters. Although he’s not in the starting group, he’s going to play on Saturday.
Andrew: Yes. Again, everybody gets so focused on the depth chart here. I think when you see the depth chart you’re going to see Austin Barber as your second tackle. That doesn’t mean that Austin Barber is going to be the first one to go in the game at tackle. I think it could very easily be Braun. I think it probably will be Braun there.
You always want ten offensive linemen. For me, Nick, looking at it, I get eight, maybe nine. I get the starting five, and then I get Barber. I get Richie Leonard. That gets me to seven. Excuse me, eight with Braun, Leonard, and Barber. I think you can make the case that Riley Simonds is ready. I think you could make the case possibly that Kam Waites is ready to get you to ten. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with Waites or Simonds to get me to ten. I’m very comfortable with eight, and I think that’s kind of where the staff is. They’re good with eight. If they have to get to ten, it’s a little hold my breath.
Nick: The thing is you want ten good playable, capable offensive linemen.
Nick: But I would say that there’s very few teams in the country that actually have ten offensive linemen that can play winning football. When you look at it like that, sitting at eight before the season starts, in my opinion, is a pretty good spot to be in. Like I said, there’s very few teams in the country that actually have ten guys that can play winning football on the offensive line.
I think Billy Napier is comfortable with where his offensive line is at. We ask Billy questions all the time about it, and, like you said, he’s comfortable with eight, and they’re looking to add two more. If they can add that two more, we’re going to be in a really good spot along the offensive line.
Andrew: Yeah. Again, you’ve got to figure out how you want to go to get to your ten. Again, do you really need ten? Yes and no. Do you ever get to ten is tough. Again, in a year or two, you better have ten. Now, I understand it. That’s kind of where I’m at there. Again, some holes. Some things that you would say need to improve. Some players there that are good players that just are unproven players.
Let’s go to the defensive side of the ball, Nick. We’ll start with the end/edge. Obviously, the edge is going to be Brenton Cox. At that other defensive end spot, it’s either going to be Princely or Sapp. Those are the two guys that have kind of shown that they can be that guy. I think the biggest question is who backs up Brenton Cox at that edge spot? Is it Lloyd Summerall? Who is it? Who can be that guy to step up and be that guy? Or do they just move a guy like Tyreak Sapp over there when Brenton Cox needs a breather?
Nick: I think both of those options are possible. I like Lloyd Summerall coming off backing up Cox there, but there’s other guys. There’s Powell that’s there, and I could also see them moving Sapp over there when Princely’s on the field and stuff like that. Because I think Princely, I want to call him my dark horse MVP this year on the defense. This is for a number of reasons.
Princely, I’m not even going to try to pronounce his last name. Princely has really impressed me, and I know he’s impressed the coaches since stepping foot in Gainesville. He was a guy that came in and quickly realized that he was undersized, and that his body was not where it needed to be to play SEC football. He said I need to get bigger, I need to get stronger, I need to get faster, and he did. He did exactly that. Now he gets his chance to shine here.
I think with Dexter and Cox along the defensive line, those two are going to draw a lot of attention, and he might just be able to slip to get to the quarterback relatively easily this year. He’s a really good player. He’s fast. I’m super excited to watch him play this year.
I’m not worried about the edge rushers, although I think we’re thin. We have options. This is kind of the theme with the whole teams. We’ve mentioned it time and time again. It’s just inexperienced depth. That’s truly what it is. It’s young guys that are coming in. We really truly don’t know how good these players are.
Andrew: Tyreak Sapp’s a guy that we don’t know how good he can be.
Nick: Right. Do we really know how good Lloyd Summerall is?
Andrew: No. I think Lloyd Summerall’s been misused a little bit in some of the past years. I think he’s been a little undersized. He’s finally a little bit bigger. We’ll see. We’ll see what he is. Again, you have options. It’s just unproven options.
I wanted to hit on Princely real quick with you. I’m a big fan of Princely too. I think Princely has a motor and a physicality about him that he has that dog in him that’s going to just go get the quarterback. That’s what you want out of that guy. Again, him and Sapp together I really like it.
For me, defensive line, it’s all about the inside. We all know what Gervon Dexter can be and is. Who helps him? Who takes the double team off of him? Is it Jalen Lee? Is it Chris McClellan? Is it Chris Thomas? Is it big Des? Who is it? I personally think that it’s Jalen Lee early on, and then I think it’s followed closely by Chris McClellan, but McClellan’s a freshman. He’s just a guy that’s been here since January. What can he do consistently there? Can big Des play multiple plays? I don’t think so, but we’ll see. Somebody’s got to step up though and say, Gervon, I’m going to help you out here. I’m going to take the double team off of you. I’m going to create some holes for my linebackers to run freely.
Nick: Agreed. To somewhat answer your question, I think Jalen Lee is going to be the guy that at the very least takes the first snap alongside Dexter. But like you said, we need guys like Chris McClellan. We need a guy like Desmond Watson to get playing time this year to really fulfill that defensive tackle rotation, because, as we know, these defensive tackles can’t play every single snap of the game. They cannot. We need four solid defensive tackles in there to ease Gervon Dexter. We know that Gervon Dexter’s going to draw a lot of attention. He’s a guy that he may not put it up on the stat sheet, but he’s a guy that affects the game in many ways.
I don’t think Desmond Watson is going to play as much as I think a lot of us were hoping. He’s back to practicing with the Gators, which is a good thing. I think that tells me that the staff is trying to get him out there to play. I think it’s possible you see him in on early down packages, but he will not be in there on 3rd downs, and I think it’s possible you see him in on goal line as well. It’s going to be tough to move him on the goal line.
Defensive tackle unit is the room that I’m worried about, simply because there just isn’t a whole lot of depth behind the starting rotation.
Nick: It’s a room where, God forbid, we have two to three injuries, there’s going to be an issue, and the staff is going to have to move guys along the defensive line to go play tackle, which we’ve seen that before. This could be guys like Tyreak Sapp, like Justus Boone.
Andrew: You know what the good news is?
Nick: What’s that?
Andrew: Chaos is in the room. Chaos is going to get this group right.
Nick: That’s true.
Andrew: Chaos is going to have these guys ready to go. Chaos is going to have a group that’s got a little dog in them there. I think too what may help them out a little bit is the emergence of some of these linebackers. Obviously, we know Ventrell Miller, captain. Quarterback of your defense. Amari Burney’s playing really well. Finally, the guy has a position he’s settled at and is playing. Now, he’s got to get healthy. We’ll see how much he plays in the Utah game. I think he plays a good bit. Diwun Black has picked up the defense a lot better, and then my freshman of the year so far is Shemar James, who early on I’ve been told that he picked up the defense in about a week. He’s a former running back in high school, so he can guard the tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He’ll be fine there.
You have some guys there. Again, little unproven, but guys that can make the plays there. That should help the defensive tackle spot as well. You think about it. On 3rd and long, if you can get a group of Shemar James and Diwun Black on the field at linebacker to cover in space, you feel pretty good about them being able to cover up the opposing tight end or the opposing running backs. Much more than you have in the past, where it was like, oh my God, please don’t match your running back up against our linebacker.olutely love. I think back in:
Andrew: He’s old-school.
Nick: Yeah. He’s old-school. He’s going to hit you. He reminds me a lot of David Reese.
Andrew: Yeah. To give you a little Shemar comparable, Alex Anzalone. I think they compare a lot there.
Let’s go to defensive back. We’ll start with corner. This is where I think you run into some question marks big time. Jason Marshall, injured. We’ll see how much he plays early on. He’s been injured a lot. After him, it’s Avery Helm. He had a solid season last year. Had some ups and downs. How much did he improve this off season? Obviously, Corey Raymond being on staff now will help that a lot. After that, you’re going to Jalen Kimber, who’s a transfer in, and you’re going to Devin Moore, who’s a freshman, and you’re going to Jordan Young, who hasn’t played very much at all either.
All of that to say, you’re still waiting on Jaydon Hill to get back from injury. Your cornerback, it’s tough to look at this cornerback group and say this is going to be the guy, because none of them have proven that. Jason Marshall had an up and down year last year. Avery Helm did the same. Marshall’s injured right now. Then who plays after those two guys?
Then you go to nickel. You got Tre’Vez Johnson and Jadarrius Perkins there, two guys that were up and down last year as well. A lot of question marks at the cornerback and nickelback spot heading into the season. Again, good news, Corey Raymond, the master of DBs, is coaching you up, but he can’t play.
Nick: Right. I think when the depth chart, it’s released on Wednesday night, we’re shooting this on a Tuesday, so tomorrow, there’s going to be some people with some questions, because it’s only going to be four guys, and we have a lot more than four guys that are in the running to crack that depth chart. Or people are going to be upset because the word or is listed everywhere in the DB room, because, like you said, there’s just a mess of guys.
With Jason Marshall hurt and Jaydon Hill, who I think a lot of people thought that was going to be our 1 and 2 going into the season. Those were going to be our starting corners, Jason Marshall and Jaydon Hill. If both of those can’t play, then you look at guys like Avery Helm. Can he have more of a consistency? I thought he was decent last year. I did think he had some inconsistencies in his play, but can he step up? Can Jordan Young step up? Is Devin Moore going to be that guy as a true freshman? We’ll see.
The good news is there’s a lot of bodies in that room, which is unlike some of our other positions on defense. We do have the numbers there. It’s just a matter of who can step up in that unit and really lock down these SEC wide receivers.
Andrew: You look at that, and then you go to safety. You got two veterans, compared to others, in Rashad Torrence and Trey Dean. Again, I’m a big Trey Dean fan. I think it just is a matter of the coaching staff, and they have, they understand what he does best, and that is getting in close to the line and just being a nasty old-school safety. I think he’ll be fine there. Rashad Torrence, he’s done well at times. After that, it looks like it’s going to be a battle with Kamari Wilson and Donovan McMillon and Corey Collier and Kamar Wilcoxson. All four of those guys are kind of battling to be that next guy up at that safety spot. The two proven veterans, the seasoned veterans there, help that defensive secondary that at cornerback is just so depleted of experience.ike we’re entering into the:
Nick: We’re already seeing more established scheme, more established coaching staff. Then you look at the guys behind them. Kamari Wilson and Donovan McMillon are going to be my two guys that I want to see kind of win out that backup job. Those are guys that are going to play a lot as well. We’re going to see the safety group rotate a lot this season.
It’s the theme. It’s the theme of the depth chart is just inexperienced depth. Billy Napier said it time and time again. It’s not that these players are not capable. It’s not that they’re not very talented. It’s that we just don’t know what they can do yet, because we just haven’t seen it.
Andrew: Game day is so much different than practice.
Nick: I was going to say.
Andrew: Simulate it as much as you want, doesn’t matter.
Nick: I was just going to say, it’s different. It’s different than practice. It’s just a different game. We can report all we want about how a guy looks in practice. That does not mean he’s going to play like he is in practice. But it’s still an exciting time. Me personally, I want to see how these guys that haven’t played a lot, what can they do? Because it’s going to be an awesome shock when all these guys come in, and they’re really good. It might be a disappointment when a player doesn’t turn out, but a lot of them are going to turn out to be really good players for us.
I think it’s just an exciting time to be a Gator fan. We may not win 10 games this year, but Billy Napier is putting a stress on creating this depth. It’s going to take him a couple years, so you guys have to be patient with him. We have a lot of young players on the team right now, and we’re going to have a lot more next year, just because I think we’re probably going to take 27 to 28 commits. We’re going to be young for a couple years, but Billy Napier’s got this going in the right direction.
Andrew: We were going to get into a little Utah talk, but we’ll save that for Friday, just so we can continue on this path that we’re on here for a second. What you said is exactly right. Napier’s got this going in the right direction. You look at some of these guys. Let’s just focus on Amari Burney for a second. Burney’s a guy that has some potential to be a really good player. I think he’s been misused a ton. He’s been moved around a ton to where he just has been lost at times. New staff, new ideas with him. Maybe the light shines for him, and he comes on.
I think that can be said for a lot of guys, that new staff being able to move positions to where they’re probably more comfortable, more suited for, is going to be a big thing. And a thing that we may, when we look back at this season in a couple months and say, so-and-so had a great year, where did that come from? I think we’re going to look at it and say, different coaching. Different spots, played different spots. Trey Dean is a guy that I think we very well may look back and say, that’s the guy we all thought he was. At the end of the day, what Trey Dean is is a big hitting safety. He’s not a guy that’s going to be your best pass covering safety. He’s just not. That’s not what he’s there for.
You look at a guy like Keon Zipperer. His game is definitely not being the best pass blocker. That’s just not him. That’s not his game. He’s more of a catch the ball and do things kind of player. Again, new coaching staff. I think things can be changed in a lot of ways, and I think we may look back and say, so-and-so had a really good year, where did that come from? We can point to just the new staff in general.
I want to ask you this, Nick, real quick. We got about five or ten minutes here before we get out of here. What’s a successful year for you? Throw the records out. Let me preface this by saying, I’m a guy who says if you don’t win a championship every year it’s a waste. You play to win the championship. Obviously, I think we’re all seeing and thinking that championship may be a little out of the question this year. Maybe not. We’ll see. For you, what’s a successful year?
Nick: The beautiful thing about college football is you just never know. For this year, I think a successful season is eight wins. I say this for a number of reasons. When Napier was first hired, the one thing I wanted to see in his first season was I did not want the Gators to lose to teams that we should beat every single year. We saw it with Dan Mullen. The losses to Missouri. The losses to Kentucky. We have historically dominated those teams. We need to go in and beat the teams we’re supposed to beat.
Now, I know that’s a little weird, because there’s a bunch of teams this year that you could say are similar to us in skill level. You got Kentucky, Tennessee, FSU. Those are three games in my opinion that are arguably the most important games on the season, just because I think they could change the outlook on our season. If we lose all three of those games, or even let’s say we lose two of them, we’re going to finish at 6-6. I know Gator fans aren’t going to be too happy with that. If we could take two of three from them, we’re looking at an 8-4 finish, maybe a 9-3 finish. That would be pretty successful, in my opinion.
But a lot of this depends on how healthy this team stays, because we’ve sat here for 45 minutes and talked to you about the depth on this Gator team and how inexperienced it is. If we have injuries this year, if we get the injury bug, it’s not going to be pretty for the Gators this year. That is not Billy Napier’s fault. I think the season depends on a lot. It depends if we stay healthy. I think if this Florida Gator roster can go out and get eight wins, that’s going to be pretty successful, in my opinion.
Andrew: For me, it comes down to a couple things. I want to see a football team that’s disciplined. I am so sick and tired of seeing teams on 4th and 1 line up offsides, on 4th and 1 at the 1 jump off or have false starts, jump the snap. I’m tired of it. The plays where it’s a big play in the game, and you make a stop, and you have to slap the other guy’s helmet, or you have to push him out of bounds or throw freaking shoe. Play disciplined football. Play like you’re the University of Florida, who should be there. Play disciplined football. Play more physical brand of football. Obviously, I think that you’re still a work in progress on both lines of scrimmage, but you can still play physical football, hat on hat, and play more physical football.
For me, the record per say, throw it out the window for me. Obviously, you want to see results, everything else, but for me it’s not so much win record driven success. It’s seeing the little things. Seeing the penalties go down, seeing the team get more physical, seeing the team play more like a team there, developing identities across the thing, and just feeling like at the end of the year the program is on an upward trend instead of a downward trend.
The last few years it’s always seemed like it was on the downward trend. Have it go on the upward trend, and I think you’re looking at a successful year. Like you said, recruiting is going really well for these guys. Continue to show positivity, and recruiting will continue to grow for you. In the next few years we won’t be talking about championship is out the window. It’ll be it’s championship or bust.
Nick: Right. I will add this. I think when you look at Florida’s season this year, their record, you said throw it out the window, I’m going to say this. I’m going to say, no matter what the Florida Gator record is this year, my opinion on Billy Napier will not change. I say that for a few reasons, simply because I know where this roster is at. It’s thin. It’s thin pretty much across the board. Like I said, God forbid we get an injury bug. It could get ugly for the Florida Gators this year.
With that being said, I do still want to see us win the games that we should win. I want to see us go out there and compete against good teams. I want to go to College Station and watch us play a brand of football that we’re all proud of. That leads back to physicality. I want the team to be more physical. I can’t tell you how many times last year I sat and watched the games, and it would be a 3rd and 3, 3rd and 4 situation, and our cornerbacks are seven yards off the line of scrimmage. I would look at my roommate and say, this is a slant right here. Boom. Slant. 1st down.
Those little changes are what I want to see this year. Patrick Toney is saying all the right things this year. I’m excited to watch his scheme work. It’s going to be really fun to watch. He’s going to have creepers in on every play. Just kind of simulated pass rush. It’s going to be fun to watch.
Andrew: What you hit on is exactly it. Compete. You want to see us compete. That’s the thing. That word compete is so misconstrued at times. Compete is one thing. No matter the score, no matter the opponent, no matter the circumstance, you compete. Urban Meyer’s four to six second line has always been talked about, but that’s what it is. Compete. Compete every play. Don’t give away a play, and positive things will happen. Too many times last year there were noncompetitive plays. Don’t be that way. Be competitive.
I’m the same way. I don’t judge Billy Napier too much on this season, because of the depleted roster and at certain places non-SEC quality players there. It’s all about competing. Patrick Toney is going to do well. That’s a man that’s going to be a head coach soon. I’m excited.
Kick off at 7:00 in the Swamp on Saturday night. You and I will be back on Friday. We’ll do some predictions. We’ll talk a little bit about Utah, talk a little about any surprises we see in that depth chart as well. Give our players to pick and be ready to go. Nick, appreciate it. First podcast down. Lot more to go. It’s going to be a good season. Don’t worry about it.
Nick: Yes, sir. Thank you guys so much. I was really excited to shoot this podcast today, and I’m really excited to cover the Florida Gators for you guys this season. It should be a fun entertaining season. I know me and Andrew and the rest of the Gator Country staff are really excited to get going here and show up on Saturdays, watch the games with you guys, and just talk Gator football.
Andrew: We’ll be live in the Swamp starting with Gator Walk and everything else. We’ll have recruiting coverage as well. Be ready. Let us know if you guys want any questions answered. If you see us on Saturday, say hello. As always, we appreciate it, and check us out at GatorCountry.com.