Chat with Mike DiRocco
Welcome to GatorNation! On Wednesday, reporter Mike DiRocco stops by to chat about the state of Florida football.
DiRocco came to ESPN.com in 2011 after spending more than 10 years covering UF for the Florida Times-Union. He lives in Middleburg, Fla., with his wife and two sons.
Send your questions now and join DiRocco Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET!
Pretty sure you have seen all the open UF practices, from what you saw and heard who do you think should start at Quaterback and why?
Michael DiRocco (3:59 PM)
UF_Peru,There was only one open practice, and I thought Brissett looked a bit better that day. I do think he'll end up being the starter. I think he's a little bit better passer than Driskel and that will end up being the difference.
Those Gilleslee look as strong in practices as everyone says? Kind of hesitant to believe that last year he was not good enough to get any significant reps with an under sized back field and now he is the best we have or should i be worried?
Michael DiRocco (4:00 PM)
UF_Peru,Gilly has had a great spring and camp and I don't think you should worry about him being capable of getting the job done. He's a physical runner perfectly suited to what the Gators want to do. You should be worried about whether he can stay healthy, though, because he's been dinged up the past two years and that's what has kept him from being a bigger part of the offense.
Hey Mike! Admittedly, I haven't had a lot of time to pay attention to the QB situation, but are we talking about two guys that are so good they can't decide which, or is this a case of going with the better of two mediocre college QBs?
Michael DiRocco (4:02 PM)
Kyle,I think it's more of the latter. Think about it: What are the chances that the competition is so close because both guys are tearing it up? Pretty low. I think they're both about average right now. That doesn't mean one of them won't develop into a very good player -- and I think that will happen because I really like Brent Pease as a coach. They're just young and don't have much experience.
Jon Ballard (Irvine, Kentucky)
There is no way that Driskel/Brisset are dead lock even after Muschamp has watched them go head to head for months. Who should get the job and why?
Michael DiRocco (4:03 PM)
Jon,I have a hard time believing that myself, but everyone I've talked to has said it's true. Neither of those guys has consistently been better than the other. I think it'll end up being Brissett. He's a little better passer.
Tom (Fleming Island)
How do you see the QB rotation playing out? What if they both play equally well in the game as they have in practice - then what? Don't they at some point have to pick a guy and says "lets go". Who in your opinion gives Florida the best chance?
Michael DiRocco (4:09 PM)
Tom,Holy cow. Five questions right in a row. Here' we go:QB rotation -- I think whichever guys plays the best Saturday will get the start against Texas A&M. I also think that the competition will continue throughout the season. Unless one makes a huge move -- and since they haven't yet it's unlikely that one will -- they'll both play a lot. I think Brissett will turn out to be the better of the two, though.CBs -- Purifoy and Roberson should be the starters, in my opinion. That gives the Gators two big, physical corners.Ian Silberman -- He is the backup LG right now, and that's as high on the depth chart as he's ever been. He'll have a chance to play because James Wilson's injury history suggests he'll get hurt sometime this season.Illegal procedure/motion penalties -- I think there will be 3 or 4, but nothing too disturbing. You have to expect some of those in the first game situation because no matter how they tried to simulate it in practice, it's always faster in the game.Impact freshmen -- Dante Fowler on defense and Kent Taylor on offense are the two biggest, I think. Also keep an eye on LB Antonio Morrison, WR Latroy Pittman and CB Brian Poole.
Tro (Chicago, IL)
What do you think of the gator starting RBs and WRs?
Michael DiRocco (4:11 PM)
Tro,I like the RBs, especially Gilly and Jones. They're a great fit for the between-the-tackles attack.I'm not a fan of the WRs, however. There just aren't any consistent playmakers or guys who can get separation. Pittman, however, is a guy to keep your eye on.
I know it is a year off, but with Jafar Mann moving to OG, our DT depth looks worrisome for 2013. Sr. Damian Jacobs, Jr. Leon Orr and So/R.Fr. Q. Williams looks like the only returning players at the position and it is hard for true freshmen (though Ivie and Brantley looked talented) to make a dent on the DL in the SEC. The loss of Omari Phillips really hurts. Thoughts?
Michael DiRocco (4:12 PM)
Bruce,I wouldn't be surprised to see Mann move back to DT, plus Dan Quinn talked today about some DEs moving inside and playing some DT, too. Bullard is a guy who could do that. If Fowler keeps getting bigger he may end up at DT, too. They'll be mixing and matching to create depth.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What are you most excited to see when the Gators finally kick if off this season? And what is your biggest concern other than quarterback play from Bissett or Driskel?
Michael DiRocco (4:14 PM)
Tony,I'm really looking forward to seeing if the pass rush has improved, specifically how good Dante Fowler is.My biggest concern is the WRs. No consistent playmakers and nobody who can get separation. Maybe they'll be better but they've been disappointing for 2 years now.
Steve (Fleming Island - Near Middleburg)
Can you talk about the great class Billy Donovan is recruiting? He has two 5 stars with two more considering. Might turn out to be one of his best classes ever. Thanks.
Michael DiRocco (4:16 PM)
Steve,Billy is cleaning up, for sure. Kasey Hill is a monster. Consider this: If Pat Young comes back next season, with the addition of Hill and the two transfers (Finney-Smith and Harris), the Gators could be the favorite to win the national title.
Will RB Matt Jones see significant/any playing time this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:17 PM)
EDEARL,Two people from Sopchoppy in the chat at the same time? AWESOME!Anyway, Jones will get a lot of PT this year. He's a perfect fit for what they want to do, plus he's had a solid camp. He'll get work behind Gilly and Mack Brown.
answer the question Mike
Michael DiRocco (4:18 PM)
c-dog,Which question? Thought I've hit them all.
Special teams didn't look so special last year, and with Rainey gone I expect a so so year from them. Is there much hope for any significant improvement there this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:19 PM)
KC,Roberson will be the punt returner. Not sure what to expect there because no one has seen him do it.Debose may be the nation's top kick returner, but it's unclear how the new kickoff rules will affect him.The coverage units should be better because the Gators are deeper. Lot of freshmen will play there, especially guys like Morrison, Poole, Bailey.
Has Deante Saunders fallen out of favor since his incident?
Michael DiRocco (4:20 PM)
Bryson,Yup. He's deep on the depth chart. Got passed at the end of last season. He's a good player, though, and he'll have a chance to work his way back.
Do you think the O-line will be much improved due to increased strength? Or will they get manhandled by LSU again?
Michael DiRocco (4:22 PM)
Zach,The Gators will be better here because of a Crucial hire that Muschamp made: strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman. He brought the Olympic style lifting here and the line should be much stronger. That being said, the LSU defensive front is probably the best in the country. Few teams would fare well against that group.
Jack Reeves (Seattle, WA)
DC Quinn wants a more aggressive defense that forces takeaways. What is he doing in practice to emphasize this?
Michael DiRocco (4:23 PM)
Jack,He begins every meeting by going over the takeaways from the previous practice. He's also showing clips of NFL teams forcing turnovers. Every practice they drill stripping the ball.
Phillip (a Stadium near you)
Jon,any chance Bowling Green comes into the Swamp and gives The Gators a scare like Miami Ohio two years ago?
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Phillip,Always a chance, but the Gators' defense should keep that from happening.
Pookie (Lake Wales, Fla)
Is Brisset as immobile as he appears? He seems slow. Or was that just indecision last season?
Michael DiRocco (4:25 PM)
Pookie,He's not beating Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey in a footrace, but he's not John Brantley, either. He can move around a bit. He is just a prototypical pocket passer and wants to stay in there as long as he can and make the throw.
Jack Reeves (Seattle, WA)
Which freshman do you think will have the biggest impact in 2012?
Michael DiRocco (4:27 PM)
Jack,DE/Buck Dante Fowler. He showed up to camp 40 pounds heavier than when he signed and was still just as quick. UF needs pass rush help and he'll be given every chance to provide it.Another guy could be WR Latroy Pittman. Gators desperately need a receiver to emerge. He's been bogged down by learning the entire offense but if he can settle in there he could be a big part of the passing attack in the second half of the season.
Does Muschamp have any rituals he will do with this team? Pregame/Uniforms etc? Similar to Meyer creating Gator Walk ?
Michael DiRocco (4:28 PM)
TJ,Nothing new. They'll still do Gator walk and sing the fight song.
Which player would have the best oppurtunity to go pro (even if he stays) beside elam and the d line guys? (Basically is could their be a guy who leaves that we don't expect as of now)
Michael DiRocco (4:29 PM)
russianTurtles,LB Jelani Jenkins
Most "experts" term used lightly are saying UF 7-5 or 8-4. Am i crazy to think we should compete and what i mean by compete have a chance to win every game?
Michael DiRocco (4:29 PM)
Malcolm,You should be competitive in every game, but yes, you are crazy about the LSU game. I don't see you winning that game.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Jelani Jenkins have a monster senior year in Gainesville? Or does Mushcamp bench him for not delivering his buddy Stefon Diggs? :)
Michael DiRocco (4:30 PM)
Tony,He needs to make more big plays. That's pretty much the only area in which he needs to improve. If he does that he could end up on an All-SEC team.
Is TE a concern considering Reed was banged up in camp and Thompson is out for an extended period of time? Seems like strong TE play could make life a little easier for the young QBs and maybe take some heat off of the WR crew.
Michael DiRocco (4:31 PM)
Roger,Don't forget the loss of AC Leonard, who I thought was primed for a big season. Keep an eye on Kent Taylor. He's a great athlete with good hands who will be a big part of the passing game. Tevin Westbrook, who moved from DL, had a good camp and surprised the coaches.
What do you think of OL coach Tim Davis and what he brings to the table? He looks to be a huge improvement over Verducci.
Michael DiRocco (4:32 PM)
Julio,Davis was a good hire. The players LOVE him, and when players love a coach they play hard for him. They didn't love Verducci.
Heard Mann is gonna run with the O-line for a couple weeks, how do you think he does there? Heard his hs coach said he expected the change to OG
Michael DiRocco (4:34 PM)
russianTurtles,Hard to say because I've never seen him play there. I think it says more about the quality depth on the OL than anything else. That unit still needs another year to get the depth to the point where Muschamp is comfortable.
KC (So. Florida)
Are you there? 20 minutes in and nothing going on...
Michael DiRocco (4:35 PM)
KC,I've been posting since 4 p.m. Not sure what's going on if things aren't posted.
How hot do you think Will Muschamps seat will get this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:37 PM)
Matt,I think he's OK this year -- provided the Gators are better than 6-6 in the regular season (which I think they will be). If not, then it'll get warm, but I believe Muschamp has a longer leash than Zook did because of the state of the program when he got here.
Brent Pease is well known for running complex offenses with lots of motions and audibles. Don't you anticipate this being a major problem with a sophomore quarterback at the helm and young players/first time starters across the board at skill positions?
Michael DiRocco (4:38 PM)
Tyler,I do think it'll be a bit of an issue, but not a significant one. They've been working on it all camp, but it's different in games than practice. Expect some blips in the first game and maybe the second (road game in tough environment) but it'll get ironed out quickly.
Steve Spurrier (Gator HOF)
Mike, now I know you boys aren't going to lose to Georgia two years in a row and make me look bad, are you? I still have my property rights to the Bulldogs and would like to keep if that way?
Michael DiRocco (4:39 PM)
Steve,I'm sure Gator Nation would love another run of dominance over the Bulldogs like you had.
what differences will be noticeable on during the first game between last years offense and peases scheme this year
Michael DiRocco (4:40 PM)
rob,A lot of shifts and motions to create mismatches on defense. A lot more with the RBs and TEs than WRs, but the WRs will move some, too. Plus, more running between the tackles.
Florida changed the game in the early '90s and all the other teams in the SEC had to catch up which took several years. Now UF seems to be a victim of its own previous success lately and is likewise playing catchup, meaning coaching/talent changes and ability to dominate of all places, the swamp. When, if ever does Florida become a dominant feared SEC team again? Has UM gotten the death penalty yet?
Michael DiRocco (4:41 PM)
John,I think UF is a year away from competing for the division title and not that far away from Alabama and LSU. They've closed the gap over the past two seasons. But the bottom line is the Gators need to find a big-time QB in order to be a great program again.
With T A&M opening their season with the Gators, do you think the Aggies have more time to prepare for the game then us? or because of the progressive changes in offense it only gives us an extra advantage on the SEC newcomer?
Michael DiRocco (4:43 PM)
Chris,I think the situation actually benefits UF more than the Aggies. They have a new coach, new offense and new QB and they won't have a game under their belt in which to work the kinks out. You definitely want to play them early in the year instead of late.
Where does the gator offense finish in the SEC?
Michael DiRocco (4:43 PM)
Trane,Upper third in rushing, middle third in passing.
Michael DiRocco (4:45 PM)
Marc, Trane,I think the situation actually benefits UF more than the Aggies. They have a new coach, new offense and new QB and they won't have a game under their belt in which to work the kinks out. You definitely want to play them early in the year instead of late.
Leroy (Los Angeles)
Max Garcia has to redshirt this year as a transfer but are there any reports on how his is doing even if it is scout team work?
Michael DiRocco (4:46 PM)
Leroy,The staff really loves him and he's going to be a starter next season at RT probably.
If UF has any player get some heismen love, who will it be?
Michael DiRocco (4:47 PM)
russianTurtles,The only one it could possibly be is Gillislee, but that's a looooooooooooooong shot.
Jack Reeves (Seattle, WA)
Coach Boom has repeatedly noted how much Nickel and Dime coverage they used LY. Can we expect more of the same and is Quinn doing anything exotic up front with pressure packages, stunts, etc?
Michael DiRocco (4:49 PM)
Jack,The strength of the defense is in the secondary so it makes sense to get as many of those guys on the field. Plus, UF is facing some opponents in its first three games that will throw it around a bunch. Quinn will use stunts and blitzes, but he's hoping the Gators can get pressure without having to blitz.
What do I have to do to get your job and get paid to talk gator football?
Michael DiRocco (4:51 PM)
russianTurtles,Go to Jacksonville University, spend 18 1/2 years at the Times-Union, then get lucky enough to hook on with ESPN.It really is a great gig. Writing about college football, going to games, not being stuck in an offense.
who has the best D? gators dawgs cocks
Michael DiRocco (4:52 PM)
Trane,SC right now. I think UF has a chance to be better than Georgia if the Gators start forcing more turnovers than the 14 they forced last season.
Mike I am thinking 9-3 this year I believe we win one game against the tough teams UGA, SC, or LSU. Then next year 2013 we compete for the BCS. Thoughts on this?
Michael DiRocco (4:55 PM)
Chris,Not LSU, but 10 wins is achievable if you win a couple swing games. Next year competing for the national title might be a bit optimistic, but certainly competing for the division and SEC is realistic.
What do you predict our record to be this year and do you think we will finish as a top 5 defense?
Michael DiRocco (4:56 PM)
Justin,Definitely at least 8-4 but could go as high as 10 if you win two swing games from SC, Georgia and FSU. Pretty close to a top 5 defense last year. Have to be better up on the DL, though.
Do you think Bullard will have a impact on rushing the QB this year for UF?
Michael DiRocco (4:57 PM)
chris,Not as much as Fowler, but he'll play a lot.
You mentioned Muschsmp is fine as long as no 6-6? r u serious??? yOu think they will be worse or even the same as last year??? Come on, anything worse than 9-3 is bad
Michael DiRocco (4:58 PM)
Bob,You have to understand the state of the program when Muschamp got here. Last year was more about fixing attitude, entitlement and chemistry issues than anything else. I look at this as year 1 of his tenure, and I think Jeremy Foley does, too. That's why he's safe.
Marc (Grand Rapids, MI)
How is Marcus Maye progressing? havent heard much about him lately? Is he going to return and play this fall?
Michael DiRocco (4:59 PM)
Marc,I think he's headed for a redshirt.
Mike I thing Florida goes 9-3 this year with one win over UGA, So Carolina, or LSU. Next year conf. champs and at least 10 wins or 11. Thoughts?
Michael DiRocco (4:59 PM)
Chris,10 wins is achievable if you win a couple swing games. Next year competing for the national title might be a bit optimistic, but certainly competing for the division and SEC is realistic.
As of right now, which team (that is better on paper) do the Gator match up that best with? And which team, that seems worse, could give the Gators some unexpected trouble?
Michael DiRocco (5:02 PM)
Trane,Believe it or not, maybe FSU. The Noles have a great defensive front but they have trouble running the ball and really didn't do much offensively last year against UF. Vandy could give UF trouble. Jordan Rodgers had a big game last year and that program is in the middle of a resurgence under James Franklin. They believe they belong on the field with anyone.
Mike,Been reading all your articles on Powell. Any chance he redshirts this year? Or can we expect him back in October like most articles suggest?
Michael DiRocco (5:03 PM)
CP,I think he's going to play this year. Mid- to late-October, most likely. I don't know how effective he'll be but he wants to play and they're rehabbing him to get him back ASAP.
You think Bullard will be able to get pressure on the QBs this year?
Michael DiRocco (5:03 PM)
chris,I do, but I think Fowler will be the better player this year of the two.
Michael DiRocco (5:04 PM)
Thanks everyone.Looking forward to doing it again next week -- when we finally have games to talk about!