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!
LSU10, Flordia 13, what do you think?
Michael DiRocco (3:59 PM)
Zane -- I think that's the kind of game Florida will have to win. I don't think the Gators' offense is good enough to put up 30 points on that defense.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is the Worst Florida College Football team in History?
Michael DiRocco (4:00 PM)
Chris -- Has to be the 1979 team that went 0-10-1.
Gator hater (Kentucky Fan)
Are the Gators good enough to beat Bama in the SEC championship.[If they can beat them they can beat any one]
Michael DiRocco (4:01 PM)
Gator hater -- I don't think so. Alabama is playing at a level that's above pretty much everybody in the country. Florida just doesn't have the OL and DL to compete with the Crimson Tide yet.
Austin Meehan (Winter Park, FL)
Hey Mike, a basketball question here: can you see Braxton starting over Scottie at PG vs. G'Town on Nov. 9th?
Michael DiRocco (4:02 PM)
Austin -- No. I think Wilbekin will be the starter at point guard when the season begins. From talking to Billy, none of the freshmen are as ready as Beal was to come in and play a significant role early in the season. That might change come January.
I am very impressed with Brent Pease as our OC. The way he has brought along Driskel has been great. Such an improvement over the OC position from 09-11. What are your thoughts on Pease so far?
Michael DiRocco (4:05 PM)
Bruce -- I think Muschamp's hiring of Pease was a fantastic move. Not only has he done a good job with Driskel, but he's a very good play-caller. Here's why: The Gators are about 65/70 percent run on offense, yet it doesn't feel that way when you watch the games. It feels like a balanced attack, and only after the game looking at stats do you realize they didn't throw it as much as you thought.
What are your thoughts on new offensive line coach Tim Davis and what he has brought to the team?
Michael DiRocco (4:06 PM)
Julio -- Hiring Davis was another great move by Muschamp. The players love him and have responded to him much more than they did against Frank Verducci. The line is better than it was last season -- probably not as good as they've been saying, but better and tougher.
While not elite, it does seem the wide receivers are better than in the past. All the while being led by a graduate assistant. Wow!
Michael DiRocco (4:08 PM)
Mark -- Nobody has killed these WRs more than I have the past two-plus season and I still don't think they're anything special, but I will give them credit. They are making big plays and seem to be getting open more. Part of that is scheme (Pease) but that's also a credit to how much they've improved. Pease has done some work with the WRs, too.
I don't wanna compare lines here but from watching LSU's O-line performance against Townson's D-line it gives me alot more hope on our boys being able to pressure Z Mett. Are we gonna see more blitzs from Quinn or will we be focused on stopping those beasts at RB for the Tigers?
Michael DiRocco (4:09 PM)
CP -- UF would love to be able to pressure Mettenberger with just a four-man rush. They've got a chance, especially if they attack the LT. Chris Faulk is out for the season and his replacements (Alex Hurst and Josh Dworaczyk) have struggled. I think Dan Quinn will mix things up and blitz some, but the bottom line is the Gators need to stop LSU's running game to win this game.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Does this week's LSU game carry the same significance for Will Muschamp and the restoraton of his program, and returning it to national prominence, as the Clemson game did for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State a couple of weeks ago?
Michael DiRocco (4:10 PM)
Tony -- Interesting question. I don't think it's quite at that level because FSU was already being touted as a national championship contender when the season began. This game is more of a measuring stick to see how UF compares to the league's elite teams.
DiRoc, What do you think are the three key areas to win in this game? For me, I'd like to see us win the turnover battle, rush for 125, and hold them to 150ish yards rushing. I think if we can limit their run game, and put some pressure on mettenberger we'll be fine on D.
Michael DiRocco (4:12 PM)
Jeremy -- My three keys are, 1. No turnovers; 2. Find a way to run the ball and not be one-dimensional; 3. Pressure Mettenberger and force him into a couple mistakes.
Keenan (Atlanta, GA)
Just to piggyback on your previous answer. We all knew the LSU game would be a barometer and measuring stick for Florida. But did you antiicpate the same could be said for Zach Mettenberger and the Tigers after a subpar performance on the road at Auburn, followed by an inexcusably close game versus Towson?
Michael DiRocco (4:18 PM)
Keenan -- I have been surprised by how average Mettenberger has looked. I know some of his issues have to do with the OL, but he just doesn't look comfortable in the pocket and has made a lot of mistakes. He's a first-year starter, but he is older so you wouldn't expect as much growing pains. I think LSU's last game is a throw-away because the Tigers obviously weren't up for that game and were probably looking ahead to this game. The Auburn game is a concern, though, because Mettenberger struggled on the road. LSU's defense is fantastic. Everything rides on the offense and so far the Tigers have proven they can run the ball and that's it.
Am I wrong to worry a ton about LSU's DEs vs our OTs? Not sure if we will hold up.
Michael DiRocco (4:20 PM)
Bret -- No, that's probably one of the biggest concerns on offense. Especially at LT, where Xavier Nixon has struggled. Don't be surprised if freshman D.J. Humphries gets the start there, or at least plays significant minutes. Driskel is going to need to get the ball out quickly because that rush is going to be in his face pretty quickly.
Do you think we could see more designed runs from Driskel this week? Even if not designed, I feel like Driskel needs to utilize his speed more often. Really opens up the field and causes mismatches.
Michael DiRocco (4:21 PM)
John -- He's going to have to make plays with his feet on Saturday. It could be on a scramble out of the pocket where he finds a WR open or on a called run. Regardless of how he does it, he can be the x-factor and hurt LSU's defense.
Gator out of water (Texas)
Mike, with the strength of the LSU front 7 do you see our O-line being able to create running lanes up the middle for Gilly and Brown. Any chance Joyer gets his number called more this game due to his size and strength?
Michael DiRocco (4:23 PM)
Gator -- I think the Gators will have some success running the ball, because the OL is better, but it won't be 200 yards. UF just needs to run the ball enough to not be one-dimensional. Gillislee doesn't need much room so he should be able to gain some yards. I don't think Joyer gets a carry. UF needs him to help clear space. He may be involved in the pass game, though, because he's got good hands.
Henry J. (Barnett College)
Think we might see more Hunter Joyer to help with pass protection?
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Henry -- You'll see Joyer, Gillislee, and Reed helping in pass protection, especially if the OL isn't holding up.
Florida has been amazing against the run this year. Given that is all that LSU does well, if UF can generate turnovers I look for them to win and win big. I also look for everyone saying "Well, LSU wasn't as good as we thought anyways" all next week. Thoughts?
Michael DiRocco (4:26 PM)
Cody -- I'd be really surprised if Florida won big. UF has been solid against the run, but the Tigers are a physical team and they're going to keep coming and coming and coming at you. UF needs to get a few turnovers to win this game. As for people saying that LSU wasn't as good as they thought, that doesn't matter. The Tigers, especially on defense, pass the eye test. They're a very good team, one of the two best in the league.
Owen (Fairfield, NY)
Odd question here but with Jelani Jenkins having his hand in a cast, I was wondering if it will be much harder for him to get an INT. I guess it may depend on the kind of cast.
Michael DiRocco (4:28 PM)
Owen -- Given the fact that Jenkins dropped six INTs last season without a cast, I don't know that wearing one could make it much harder for him to get one now.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do you think Driskel & the WRs wll be able to take advantage of the inexperienced LSU corners? Or will Mingo and Montgomery pressure Driskel and make this a non-issue?
Michael DiRocco (4:30 PM)
Tony -- I think Driskel will be under heavy pressure all day. That's not because I expect UF's OL to play poorly, it's just that LSU's defensive front is fantastic. Those ends will create havoc. But UF has to hit a few plays down the field and that means the WRs are going to have to win some one-on-one matchups.
cookie (sumter, sc)
whats the status fa wide out
Michael DiRocco (4:31 PM)
cookie -- Everyone is healthy and I expect Hammond and Dunbar to start. Patton is becoming more involved.
What is the health status of Jordan Reed? I know Muschamp relied earlier that Easley and Burton will play, but do you know whether they are full go or will be limited? Thx
Michael DiRocco (4:32 PM)
Brian -- I'm expecting everyone to be fully ready to go, with the possible exception being Easley because of his knee. DC Dan Quinn said today, however, that Easley is 100 percent. Muschamp has said before that he's not going to be completely truthful with injuries during the season, so we'll see.
With the return of Chaz Green at RT, do you think Kyle Koehne will play more in the tackle rotation or more at guard?
Michael DiRocco (4:33 PM)
Luke -- Depends on how the game progresses. If Nixon falters and Humphries becomes overwhelmed at LT, then we could see Koehne there. That's the most likely scenario as I see it.
TallyGator (Tallahassee, FL)
Any chance the Gators get a little too confident based on how LSU has looked the past few weeks or will Muschamp keep them grounded and focused? It seems as if some Gator fans are already chalking this up as a win even though LSU has been known to play down to their competition in the past.
Michael DiRocco (4:35 PM)
TallyGator -- No way do I think the Gators get overconfident. Why? Last October. Muschamp has been shoving that down their throats all offseason and into the bye week. I don't know about the fans, but I do believe that UF has a better chance of winning this game on Saturday than I did before the season started. But don't kid yourself, LSU will be ready for this game.
Kevin (Jacksonville Beach, FL)
How many trick/gadget plays do you think LSU will run against Florida?
Michael DiRocco (4:36 PM)
Kevin -- The Tigers haven't run many this year, other than using the wildcat with Russel Shepard. And Les Miles said on the conference call (in response to my question) that he'd rather not try a lot of them. That being said, I'd be really surprised if he doesn't roll at least one out there. Probably not on special teams, because UF is certainly waiting for that after what happened the last two years.
Your gut feeling on whether or not D.J. Humphries is out there starting on the first offensive play?
Michael DiRocco (4:37 PM)
Cody -- My gut feeling is Nixon starts but we see a lot of Humphries.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
What top recruits will attend the game on Saturday? If so, do you think a victory would result in any of the prospects committing before they left Gainesville?
Michael DiRocco (4:40 PM)
Tony -- Here are a few that will be there:2013 prospectsMontravius Adams Marcell HarrisLaremy TunsilMarquez North2014 prospectsJohnnie DixonWill GrierWade FreebeckDuke DawsonFor a more complete list, check out our message board, where recruiting writer Derek Tyson breaks it down.Here's a link: http://insider.espn.go.com/insider/florida/forums/_/chompions-club#!/topic/1349192783-569-889
I have been noticing other teams sometimes rushing 3 or 4 DEs. I think UF has done this some. Do you think that UF could do this more in the future as well?
Michael DiRocco (4:44 PM)
Erdrick -- Well, they kind of do already. McCray is a DE/LB so there are plays where they're rushing three ends.
I assume you caught the Gators behind the scenes look on ESPNU last night. What did you think of it?
Michael DiRocco (4:45 PM)
Harvey -- I thought it was well done. It's great to see those candid moments that we don't normally get to. I'd love to get that kind of access on a daily basis. That way I'd be able to provide a ton more in-depth stuff for you guys.
Lauren (Jacksonville, FL)
We hear a lot about LSU's front 7 and I agree that we haven't faced any of the sort, but what about their new corners? Have they had any true tests yet this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:48 PM)
Lauren -- Not really, although Washington did throw the ball 36 times. But the best pass defense is a great pass rush, and the Tigers have that. That leads to poor throws and that makes any DB better.
Gator out of water (Texas)
Final score prediction? Be bold!
Michael DiRocco (4:49 PM)
Gator -- LSU 17, Florida 13. Gators keep it close but LSU's defensive front is too much for them to overcome.
I know it was only Towson but I was surprised at the number of empty seats throughout the game in Baton Rouge. Seems like attendance is down throughout college football.
Michael DiRocco (4:51 PM)
Buddy -- Attendance is dropping. According to an al.com story, attendance at FBS schools is down 2 percent from the same period last season. The economy certainly has something to do with that, but there's also the quality of the opponent and rising ticket prices.
How do you see the offensive game plan going against LSU? I'm seeing us trying to control the game on the ground, but would like to see us mix it up a little, by testing their secondary deep ??
Michael DiRocco (4:52 PM)
Jim -- You must be hiding in Muschamp's office. I think that's exactly what's going to happen. Maybe not testing the secondary deep, but certainly looking to make big plays in the passing game. That might mean a 20- or 25-yard completion, not necessarily a 70-yarder.
Josh Evans (Gainesville, FL)
Did you see Josh Turner from Texas get trucked last week by Okie State's Joseph Randle? I guess I'm not the only one. Is there something in the name, or is it just a coincidence? :)
Michael DiRocco (4:53 PM)
Josh -- Ha. I missed that. I will say this: Stop ducking your head when you tackle. That's dangerous.
Jeff (Tampa, FL)
Who is Billy D targeting to join the two monster recruits already in the fold?
Michael DiRocco (4:55 PM)
Jeff -- Too many to list, but here's a link to the complete list:http://espn.go.com/colleges/basketball/recruiting/school/_/id/57/class/2013/page/considering
Michael DiRocco (4:58 PM)
OK everyone, that's it for this week. As usual, I had fun. Same time next week.