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 (4:00 PM)
Hello everyone. Let's get started.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who will be the Best Freshmen in College Football for Florida in 2013?
Michael DiRocco (4:01 PM)
Chris -- I'm going to go with LB Daniel McMillian. I think he'll be a starter by midseason. He's athletic, tough, and smart -- a good mix to get a lot of playing time on Will Muschamp's defense.
Who do we have a better shot of landing Dillon Bates or Raekwon McMillan
Michael DiRocco (4:02 PM)
joe -- I think McMillan is the better guess.
What happens if a specialized position ie. long snapper gets hurt in the middle of the season do teams have a contingency plan for this?
Michael DiRocco (4:03 PM)
Mike -- They generally do. For example, Drew Ferris is UF's top long snapper. If he got hurt, Kyle Crofoot would take over. Coaches obsess over these positions as much as they do all the others.
Who do you think comes up with the most catches this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:04 PM)
Mike -- That's an interesting question. I think it's either going to be Quinton Dunbar or Trey Burton. Burton will probably get a lot of work in the short to intermediate passing game while Dunbar will be more of a weapon on the edge.
Brian (Burlington )
Who is our best and most likely buck option now?
Michael DiRocco (4:05 PM)
Brian -- It's Ronald Powell and Dante Fowler. Fowler is the starter right now because Powell is still coming back from the ACL, but I expect him to regain that starting spot, which would mean Fowler will end up playing some strongside backer and defensive end.
Michael DiRocco (4:13 PM)
Got a few emailed questions from UF fan Gary, and here are the answers:Q: What's with the hype surrounding Trent Harris? ESPN doesn't even have him rated.A: He likely will be when the updated rankings come out later this summer. FSU and Georgia have offered, in addition to UF. He's got good size and athleticism and Muschamp liked what he saw. Sometimes kids get overlooked and then catch fire on the recruiting trail. All it takes is one offer (FSU and BC offered first) for a kid's momentum to start building. That's what happened here. What's the possibility of UF getting matthew thomas? Highly unlikely in my opinion being that UF and FSU are rivals, and Thomas is so talented.A: It doesn't appear that FSU is going to release him from his letter of intent, so he's going to be at FSU for a year. After that, I can see FSU releasing him, but with restrictions as to what schools he can go to -- and I imagine UF would be one of those schools.Here's a stretch. What is the possibility of UF going for Golson? We do have some serious depth problems at qb and driskel will be a senior next season.A: I don't think that's likely. UF really likes Will Grier, who is already committed and seems like there's no chance of wavering. He's their top option at QB right now and is penciled in as the starter in 2015.
Tanner (Bettendorf, Iowa)
Is there any worry from the coaching staff about lack of run support from the safety position? With Watkins and Riggs listed to start in the secondary it seems as though tackling might have a steep falloff from last season with Elam and Evans who were both solid against the run.
Michael DiRocco (4:15 PM)
Tanner -- There's general concern about the safety position because the guys they were counting on to develop have had trouble with communication issues on the field. That's why Watkins and Riggs are back there. Those two aren't the biggest guys, but they are solid tacklers. And don't forget, Evans had his trouble tackling in 2011. None of the safeties are the playmaker that Elam was, but Watkins and Riggs are solid players who won't give up the big play -- which is really what you want out of your safeties.
Paul (Ft Lauderdale)
Hi Mike, I was following the UGA chat on here the other day and the reporter said he likes UGA's chances again this year against UF because our O line "is a mess". I was thinking it may be a stength instead, especially with the transfers coming in. Can this line be dominant? You're thoughts?
Michael DiRocco (4:16 PM)
Paul -- Maybe he was referring to the fact that UF had a lot of injuries on the line in the spring. But every one of those guys is expected to be 100 percent by August practices. I do believe the line will be a strength this season, especially on the left side with Humphries and Garcia. This line will be better than last year's unit, especially in pass protection.
Jeff (Tampa, FL)
Does Janoris Jenkins have friends on the Georgia football team? Both parties seem to have the same issue. Is this continuing issue with key players, a symptom, of the problem, that prevents Georgia from getting over the hump, both in the conference, and nationally?
Michael DiRocco (4:21 PM)
Jeff -- I think marijuana is an issue everywhere, not just at Georgia and Florida. I don't think it played a part in Georgia not making a run at a national title. I'm not as close to the Georgia program so I don't have a complete answer to why they haven't been able to win more SEC titles or play for a national title. But I do believe that QB play in big games has been an issue. Stafford and Murray are great players but they stumbled in some big moments. You have to have fantastic QB play -- meaning no mistakes and making a play when needed -- to win national titles and they've just missed there. But that's probably nitpicking. It's hard to win national titles. What Georgia has done under Mark Richt has been fantastic. He's kept them in contention for SEC titles, with the exception of a couple years, pretty much every season.
john (Locust NC)
Do you believe the early game at Miami is the most important game of the year for this young team?
Michael DiRocco (4:23 PM)
john -- The MOST important game? No. But it is a huge early-season game, especially for the offense. That's a talented, if unproven, defense the Gators will face and they've got to be more effective in the passing game. That game will give us a chance to see if the offense can be more balanced or if it'll be like 2012 again.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Who turns their program around faster, Gus Malzahn or Butch Jones?
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Tony -- I think Tennessee has further to go talent-wise than Auburn, but Butch Jones has gotten off to a very good start. The Eastern Division is a little easier, I think, so that's a point in Jones' favor. However, I like Malzahn's offense. If he can find a QB, I think the Tigers make more strides in the next two seasons than the Vols.
What coaching staffs affect the recruiting rankings the most when their evaluations turn into offers?
Michael DiRocco (4:26 PM)
TJ -- Well, any of the big-time schools, really. But if Bama or LSU or Ohio State or UF or FSU offer a kid that may be further down in the rankings, other schools jump in and that generally drives interest in the kid up -- which in turn gets reflected in outside opinions. If I had to pick one, I'd got with Nick Saban and Alabama.
Josh Howell (Albany, GA)
Mike, do you get to watch the Gators Practice? If so, how is Matt Jones looking? Is the hype for real with this kid?
Michael DiRocco (4:28 PM)
Josh -- I've seen several practices, and I can tell you that Matt Jones appears to be the real deal. He's a big (6-2, 228), physical back with good speed. UF doesn't full tackle in practice often. They do what Muschamp calls thud -- they just come up and hit the RB, kind of thud into him, and the play is blown dead. Muschamp jokes that those guys think they've tackled Jones, but when they do go full contact those guys aren't making the tackle the way they do in thud -- they're getting blown backwards and Jones is getting extra yards.
Brian (Burlington )
Do you like our chances with Bo Scarborough? Think it would be Fowler like recruitment? With a late flip
Michael DiRocco (4:29 PM)
Brian -- It's possible, but I think Scarbrough is pretty much wrapped up in Alabama's net.
Will the Gators be able to open up some offensive power with an effective passing game for a change?
Michael DiRocco (4:32 PM)
Steve -- That's the hope, but it's still unclear. The WRs didn't really do much in the spring and they've got to improve in the summer and in August under new coach Joker Phillips. Plus, there's four freshmen coming in (Demarcus Robinson enrolled early). If 2-3 guys can emerge as consistent players, then the passing offense can improve. But we really won't know that until August.
Should we expect to see Kelvin Taylor get a lot of carries this season? Who will be the better Freshman RB, Taylor or Lane?
Michael DiRocco (4:34 PM)
Jack -- I expect him to get 50-75 carries this season. Matt Jones is the unquestioned starter and right now Mack Brown is ahead of Taylor on the depth chart. I don't see Lane getting much work, unless there are injuries or he is just out of this world in August practices.
Blake (Benton, ky)
Who do you think the next commit could be?
Michael DiRocco (4:35 PM)
Blake -- That's hard to say. I think UF has a good shot at Dillon Bates, who is going to announce in early July.
Any word on Roderick Johnson? I heard he was having possible academic issues. Think he will move to OG?
Michael DiRocco (4:36 PM)
Tony -- From my understanding, all the recruits but Reed should enroll in Summer B. The Gators need depth at every OL position so that's a possibility.
What do you think of the tailback situation at UF? Obviously Jones is the starter now, but do you see Taylor overtaking Brown at the #2 spot during the season? It seems Taylor may be the better guy for carries but is still learning the offense and his role when he doesn't have the rock. What would be your splits on how you see carries being divided throughout the season between the 3?
Michael DiRocco (4:39 PM)
Brian -- I think Taylor is more talented than Brown, but his playing time depends on if he figures out the offense and gets better as a pass blocker. Let's say for argument that he's still No. 3 when the season begins. I'd break up the carries this way: I'd expect Jones to get 45-50 percent. Driskel will get about 15-20 percent, then Brown getting another 15-20 percent, and Taylor getting 10 percent.
In 2014, our only returning interior O Lineman will be Sr. Max Garcia, Sr. Ian Silberman, FR/SO Octavius Jackson, Jr. Trip Thurman and FR/SO Cameron Dillard (this of course does not including 2014 true freshmen). That is 5 guys for 3 spots and two of them are seniors. This worries me alot moving forward.
Michael DiRocco (4:42 PM)
Larry -- The depth at OL is not where it needs to be, for sure. But signee Cam Dillard is working at center and likely will be set to take over in 2014. Plus, you can move Trenton Brown and Chaz Green inside if needed. The OL is going to be significantly younger in 2014 and 2015, but the idea is to get some class balance, which takes several seasons.
Do you think VH3 will start immediately or work his way in like others have as the season progresses?
Michael DiRocco (4:43 PM)
John -- It'll be hard for him to bump Purifoy and Roberson out of a spot, and there are some other talented, experienced guys (Watkins, Poole, Riggs) who will be playing a lot in the secondary, too. I believe he'll play a lot but probably not start.
Paul (Ft Lauderdale)
Based on last year's success, what do you feel are reasonable expectations this year, all things considered (draft, schedule, etc)? Can UF win the conference in your eyes this year or are we looking at another year in program development?
Michael DiRocco (4:45 PM)
Paul -- Everything comes down to the WRs. That position is what is holding this team from being elite, in my opinion. If the group develops and several players become consistent playmakers, then the Gators can win the Eastern Division and play for the SEC title. If not, then it'll be like last year: defense and special teams will have to carry the day, and that means no margin for error.
Will Travon Young play TE, OT or OG?
Michael DiRocco (4:47 PM)
Mark -- I think he starts out at tight end. He's a project for sure, and that's probably easier for him to learn at first.
Who will be the starter at RT?
Michael DiRocco (4:48 PM)
John -- Chaz Green and Tyler Moore are listed as co-starters, but I believe Moore will win that job and be the starter on opening day.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Have you heard any recruiting buzz about Michael Irvin Jr in your circles? His name has come up recently in a couple of articles about breakout performers emerging as a strong prospect?
Michael DiRocco (4:50 PM)
Tony -- He's a Class of 2016 kid so his name really hasn't come up much. But I'd probably put Miami in the lead for obvious reasons.
Yvonne (West Palm)
With Jarran Reed not making it in for 2013, do you think he will be back for 2014?
Michael DiRocco (4:55 PM)
Yvonne -- That's his intent, but a lot can change in a year.
We are hearing a lot about Powell & Fowler for good reason, but what are your thoughts on Cox? An eventual sleeper?
Michael DiRocco (4:56 PM)
Ryan -- I like Cox. He made several plays at the spring game and was noticeable on the field during practices. His biggest problem is he's playing behind Bullard and there's no reason to take Bullard off the field. But I think Cox will be a guy to watch in 2014 and 2015.
Jeff (Tampa, FL)
Is Brent Pease in trouble if the offense does not improve significantly in 2013?
Michael DiRocco (4:57 PM)
Jeff -- I don't think so because the WR position is so bad. That is what is holding the entire team back, in my opinion. They've got to find consistent playmakers. Once they do that, then we can judge the offense fairly.
Josh Howell (Albany, GA)
Do you feel as if Aaron Murray is UGA's Tebow? Not taking anything away from Todd Gurley, but when you have a quarterback that can on any givin play throw a 80 yard touchdown it opens up the running game. So do you feel that UGA will have a major issue when Murray leaves?
Michael DiRocco (4:59 PM)
Josh -- Replacing Murray will certainly be hard, but it depends on how well Richt has recruited. UF banked on Brantley and he turned out to not be the answer. That can happen anywhere. UF's string of quality starters from Grossman to Tebow was fantastic and out of the norm.
Ryan (DeLand, FL)
UF has had some unfortunate turns in recruiting the last week or so.. How do you see Muschamp making up ground?
Michael DiRocco (4:59 PM)
Ryan -- Plenty of time left and remember, this is going to be a smaller class (11 graduating seniors) so Muschamp can afford to be a bit choosy. Worry if things are going badly in January, not in May.
What is your expectation in how the receptions will be split up? I'd love to see your breakdown for the top 6 to 8 in terms of receptions and what percentage of the team's receptions they will have.
Michael DiRocco (5:03 PM)
Brian -- I don't think there's six-eight viable options, to be honest with you. I expect Dunbar and Burton to get the majority of the catches. Say 20 percent each (40 catches or so). Then I'd put Robinson next with 20 catches (10 percent). I believe Bailey and Fulwood will be around 10-20 catches as well. Then I'd put the tight end position in the 20-30 catch range and the rest of the receptions split up among Debose, Pittman, Andrades and Patton.
You've said before that our WR are very inconsistent, what do you believe is the root of that inconsistency? Is it a lack of talent? lack of strength? conditioning issues? lack of motivation? What is it that they are missing?
Michael DiRocco (5:04 PM)
Diego -- The talent level isn't there, they haven't gotten good coaching (although I expect that to change with Joker Phillips), and they've struggled with understanding coverages. That's a terrible trifecta, but that's what has been happening over the last three years.
Do Bostwick and Brantley get into the rotation early next year do you think?
Michael DiRocco (5:05 PM)
Justin -- They both have a chance to because the Gators are a bit thin on experience at defensive tackle. I like Brantley's chances a little better.
Who do you see stArting at wr I thank demarcus in the mix
Michael DiRocco (5:05 PM)
Michael -- If UF lines up in a three-WR set on opening day, I expect to see Dunbar, Burton and Robinson.
I agree with you that this team has been weak at WR for a few years. In your opinion, how did that happen? Misses on key recruits? Bas evaluations in recruiting and going after the wrong guys? Transfers? Or poor coaching?
Michael DiRocco (5:07 PM)
Steve -- This sort of piggy-backs on a previous question. There have been some recruiting misses, some bad evaluations, and a different philosophy (Muschamp wants bigger receivers; Meyer preferred smaller shifty guys). But the main culprit has been coaching. Guys didn't develop under Azzanni, Hill and Hamdan. Joker Phillips should change that.
Was it a mistake to allow Brissett to get away and stick with Driskel? Driskel made some plays, but he sure was inconsistent. Do you think Brissett would have been able to be more productive in the passing game?
Michael DiRocco (5:08 PM)
Curly -- I don't believe Brissett would have had any more success. He still would have had to throw to the same group of disappointing WRs. In fact, I don't know if UF wins as many games because Driskel's running ability was key in several.
Do you think Billy D would consider moving Scottie Wilbekin to the 2 spot and starting Kasey Hill at the one, or Scottie at 1 and Michael Frazier at the 2?
Michael DiRocco (5:09 PM)
Brandon -- I don't see Wilbekin as a shooting guard. To me, he's a pure point guard. I can see Hill playing the 2 before Wilbekin.
How do you see the Gators using Trey Burton this year? In a related question, what does the TE spot look like this year? While Burton might play somewhat of a TE spot, he isn't really a true TE and will be moved around a lot. Who do you think will play a more true TE spot? Have Taylor or Thompson emerged as starter material?
Michael DiRocco (5:10 PM)
Brian -- I think Burton still takes some wildcat snaps, but I see him more as a receiver than a jack-of-all-trades guy. UF has options at RB now and he's not big enough to work at tight end. The TEs have been disappointing, and Muschamp has said several times the group has to get significantly better. Right now the starter would probably be Clay Burton.
Michael DiRocco (5:11 PM)
Okay everyone, that's it for this week. We'll do it again next week.