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!
Michael DiRocco (3:59 PM)
OK, everyone, let's get started. Probably not going to be a lot of people on here today but we'll still have a good time, I'm sure.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Will the Florida Gators Go Bowling this season?
Michael DiRocco (4:00 PM)
Chris -- They're likely headed for the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl if they don't beat FSU. If they beat the Noles, then they've got a chance to make the Sugar Bowl or possibly the national title game (if several other things happen).
Ethan (Starke, Fl)
Who do you you think has the best defense? Offense? Special Teams? I think the Gators will win because they have the advantage in two out of those three categories.
Michael DiRocco (4:08 PM)
Ethan -- Honestly, I think both defenses are pretty equal. FSU rushes the passer much better than UF, but I think UF's secondary is much better. Offensively, no question it's FSU. Special teams probably UF, mainly because of P Kyle Christy and the coverage units.
Is Driskel 100% for the FSU game?
Michael DiRocco (4:09 PM)
Jeff -- Muschamp said today he'll start and he's "fine." But I don't think he'll be 100 percent. He had his ankle heavily taped at practice on Tuesday. But he's got to play for UF to have any chance.
Ry (West Coast Gator)
I think that Jeff Driskell has done an adequate job, but the reality is that he has only had one game of over 200 yards. Although Jacoby did not light it up, I did feel like he had a better sense in the pocket and his passes were on the money. Jeff is starting, but knowing what has happened in the past against FSU (i.e. FSU blatantly twisting Percy's hurt ankle), I think there is a good chance Brissett plays. Thoughts on Brissett making things right in this rivalry again?
Michael DiRocco (4:11 PM)
Ry -- Brissett holds onto the ball even longer than Driskel does, and against FSU that's a huge issue. They won't have much time to throw the ball against the Noles. Brissett isn't as mobile and would be a sitting duck for those DEs. Brissett wouldn't have any better passing stats this year than Driskel, because the OL and WRs are the same. That's what's really holding the offense back. Not the QB play.
Conor (State College)
What bowl game do you think Florida will be in?
Michael DiRocco (4:12 PM)
Conor -- They're likely headed for the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl if they don't beat FSU. If they beat the Noles, then they've got a chance to make the Sugar Bowl or possibly the national title game (if several other things happen).
Ethan (Starke, Fl)
What's your favorite part of Thanksgiving?
Michael DiRocco (4:13 PM)
Ethan -- On this Thanksgiving it'll be watching the Patriots stick it up Rex Ryan's nose. But generally, just the chance to relax around family and enjoy the day.
ND loses to SC. ALA/UG winner vs. UF in NCG. book it.Should the SEC just break away from the rest of conferences and award the SEC Champs the National Champs.? whats the point of playing each other again the BCS CG? , the PAC and Big 12 are so far below the SEC in football its not even funny.
Michael DiRocco (4:15 PM)
BeeBee -- Well, that's one way to make the SEC's regular season more exciting. The Pac-12 and Big 12 aren't as far behind as you make it seem. The Big East and ACC are, however. The bottom line is that we're headed -- probably quicker than we realized -- for super conferences. Four 16-team leagues. Then things will get interesting.
How do see you EJ handling the Gators' defensive pressure? He isn't exactly known to be the most composed QB when under pressure..
Michael DiRocco (4:18 PM)
Jon -- I'll give you a quick preview of what I put in my five storylines that will run tomorrow. Manuel has been sacked 21 times. Nine of those came against NC State (four) and Va Tech (five). He threw picks in both of those games and those were two of the three games in which he completed less than 60 percent of his passes. UF has to get to him on Saturday and force him into bad throws. He's shown so far this year he hasn't handled it well.
Conor (State College)
Which team in the top 25 is the most underrated and overrated?
Michael DiRocco (4:21 PM)
Conor -- Under-rated would be South Carolina. They just got caught in a meatgrinder with three amazingly tough games in a row. They're still very good. Over-rated would be (and this'll get me in trouble and called a UF homer) Georgia. The Bulldogs have beaten two FBS teams with winning records this year: UF and Vandy. And they needed six TOs to beat UF.
Ry Again (West Coast Gator)
Mike, Ry again. With the job Will is doing it seems inevitable that coaches get their opportunities elsewhere. If there was one coach that you could see leave for better opportunities first, who would that be and why?
Michael DiRocco (4:23 PM)
Ry -- I assume you're asking about UF assistants. If that's the case, I think D.J. Durkin would be the first to leave. He's done a great job with the LBs and special teams. He'll be a defensive coordinator somewhere soon. Plus, he's a great recruiter.
Ethan (Starke, Fl)
Should Driskel start next season as one of the Heisman front runners?
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Ethan -- No. His numbers won't be good enough this season to earn that kind of hype, plus a lot of the offense's success depends on whether the OL gets better (which I think it will) and if somebody emerges at WR. Counting on four freshmen there is risky.
Conor (State College)
Thanks for the response!
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Conor -- No problem. That's what I'm here for.
Yo Dude (Over Here)
Any truth to the rumor that Reed is considering leaving early? I mean its not like we have this stable of receivers that can't get on the field, if we lose him then what?
Michael DiRocco (4:28 PM)
Yo Dude -- Wishbone. Just kidding. He is considering it, but in my opinion he should stay another year and continue to learn how to play the position. But he's got good size, speed, athleticism, hands and he's a matchup nightmare. The Patriots have shown how valuable a guy like him can be. He's a heavier Aaron Hernandez.
This is looking ahead a little bit, but do you think Miami will be a threat next year? Specifically, to us?
Michael DiRocco (4:30 PM)
Brian -- Wow. Waaaaaaaaay ahead. The Canes will bring back a lot of young, talented players. But they're dealing with scholly reductions still and won't be as deep as UF. So even if they have a couple guys that are better than what UF has at a position or two, the Gators should win that game.
jack b (fort walton beach)
Until the Ga game we played with great defense, our kicking game was exceptional and we has some timely offense. What do you think has happened for us to regress like we have. I would also love to see us do our trash talking this weekend with out shoulder pads and not our mouths like we did against Ga.
Michael DiRocco (4:32 PM)
jack -- Three things: injuries on the OL, a somewhat vanilla game plan, and the lack of playmakers at WR to keep defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage. Regarding the game plan, I'm not saying Brent Pease was holding stuff back, but Muschamp did admit against Jax State that he just wanted to run the ball and get out of there in the second half. Maybe a little of that against Missouri and ULL, too, because the Gators knew they would win those games.
What's the offense need to do in this game to up their production? And do you see Pease dialing up a similar offensive scheme to what we used against LSU now that the OL is supposedly healthy? Both defenses seem to be relatively similar to each other..
Michael DiRocco (4:34 PM)
Jon -- OL being healthy is a good start. But for me it boils down to the WRs doing something, anything, to make a play. They've got to get open, break a tackle, make a tough catch. Something. That's been the biggest problem with the offense this year. And I do think UF's attack against FSU will be run the ball, play defense, and play field position. They'll try to keep pounding the ball all day so eventually they can wear the Noles down in the fourth quarter. Provided, of course, that they don't turn it over a bunch and have to throw a ton to stay in the game.
Vegas has the line set at 7.5 in the Noles favor.Too little?
Michael DiRocco (4:35 PM)
chief -- Too little? Nobody has scored more than 20 points on UF's defense this season and this will be the toughest defense FSU has faced all year. I think FSU wins by less than seven.
Hey Bro (In the hizzy)
With everything that Will has done for this team, where do you see the Mighty Gators starting next season ranked?
Michael DiRocco (4:36 PM)
Hey Bro -- It depends somewhat on which players leave early. Assuming Easley, Elam, Floyd, Jenkins and Reed leave early, I see the Gators coming in anywhere from 8-12.
Would you agree with me on that turnovers will be the deciding factor in Saturdays game of UF vs FSU. Last year we had what 3 with 2 pick sixes. Without those its a tie game. This year our defense has done much better in the TO department. I think we stand a decent chance to win this game with our defense and special teams for field position.
Michael DiRocco (4:38 PM)
Kenneth -- I agree turnovers will decide it. A big factor in that will be field position, too. If UF can pin FSU deep and then get a turnover in FSU territory, that's a huge help to an offense that isn't exactly prolific.
Mike, I dont see how super conferences makes a conference stronger. ACC adds two more teams, UConn and UL, they are still bad. B1G adds Cinn and Central Michigan, that makes them better? Big 12 adds, Boise, BYU, so what? PAC adds Hawaii and Colorado St, WOW. then SEC adds Virg Tech and NC St, doesnt make SEC stronger, although Tech is better than Vandy.
Michael DiRocco (4:40 PM)
BeeBee -- It's not a matter of being stronger. It's a matter of those four super conferences essentially leaving the NCAA and forming their own league. Every team in those leagues, even the ones from non-BCS leagues now, will have to raise their level of play, recruiting, investment to keep up. Hopefully, anyway. That'll level the playing field somewhat.
Ethan (Starke, Fl)
Chances that Matt Elam goes within the first five picks in the Draft?
Michael DiRocco (4:42 PM)
Ethan -- Zero. There's at least five other defensive players I can name off the top of my head that'll go before he will. He's probably a late first round or early second-round pick.
Do you think Florida would beat Ohio State this year? Go bucks... ;-)
Michael DiRocco (4:43 PM)
Urban -- It's essentially the same teams that played last year and UF won that game. Both are markedly better than they were. I think Braxton Miller would have some trouble against UF's defense.
How do you feel about the WR we have, and the ones that are coming in with 13 class? Can we really count on freshman to learn a new system and be a big enough upgrade to make this offense better?
Michael DiRocco (4:47 PM)
Kenneth -- WRs UF has not are not very good. Pittman and Andrades not included because they're freshmen and they need more time to develop. But the other ones aren't very good. As for counting on freshman, you don't have much choice. You need one of those four to have a Sammy Watkins-type freshman season and another one to at least turn out to be a big contributor.
With the top 2 TE from last years class on board, and a full year in, do you think we might see more of a 2 TE set next year? Especially since we don't have a solid 3 or 4 WR to count on.
Michael DiRocco (4:54 PM)
Kenneth -- If Reed stays, then the tandem of him and Kent Taylor as receivers and Colin Thompson as a blocker would work very well. Burton and Westbrook are just blockers at this point. I expected Taylor to contribute more this year but an injury set him back.
With Easly and Elam saying to players that they will return next year, do you think we can expect to have a better pash rush in terms of sacks next year? I really like what Fowler and Bullard are doing. And we also get Powell back from injury? He could have been a big difference maker this year.
Michael DiRocco (5:01 PM)
Kenneth -- I don't believe for a second they're coming back. Elam has been planning on leaving all season. I think the sack total will go up next year, though, because Fowler and Bullard have shown they've got a lot of potential and talent. Adding Powell to the mix should give the Gators three pretty darn good pass rushers.
Tom (Augusta, GA)
Whats it like knowing that the gator's domination in Jacksonville is over?
Michael DiRocco (5:02 PM)
Tom -- I could care less who wins that game. I'm not a Gators fan. But to be honest, it's good for the rivalry that Georgia has won a few lately. One-sided rivalries get boring. This one has heated up again, and as a journalist, I love that.
Michael DiRocco (5:03 PM)
OK everyone, that's it for this week. I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving.