Tyrek Tisdale commits to Florida

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 8.52.42 PM

Jim McElwain’s first full recruiting class just picked up another one.

Almost immediately upon arriving to Gainesville for his visit, ATH Tyrek Tisdale (Orlando, FL/Oak Ridge) gave McElwain his verbal commitment. Tisdale becomes the eighth commitment for the Class of 2016, which is highlighted by top corner Chauncey Gardner.

He’s an ATH by label, but he figures to play mostly running back, probably in a role not unlike the one Jeff Demps played, as a scat back. He’s not rated particularly highly, and he really needs to bulk up (198 lbs.) before getting to Florida. That said, there’s a lot to like about him. Like his speed. He could potentially find a role in the Florida offense as a change of pace back, and see some action on outside running plays or flare routes.

He also has a solid highlight reel.

As was the case with Spencer Perry, don’t be scared off by Tisdale’s lack of national attention. There’s a long way to go in the recruiting process, and besides, some of the rankings are really influenced by who offers and where a kid commits to anyway. Make no mistake, this kid has some potential.

Sources: Michael Frazier to declare for the NBA Draft

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 7.59.19 PM

A dismal 16-17 season left Gator basketball fans with nothing but hope for the future. Now, that hope is becoming less realistic and more blind.

Florida shooting guard Michael Frazier will skip his senior year at Florida and declare for the NBA Draft, according to multiple sources, including one close to In All Kinds Of Weather. Frazier held Gator records for most three pointers in a season (118) and most three pointers in a game (11). I’m upset at what this does to the Gators’ team, but Frazier did a lot for Gator basketball, and it’s his decision. And of course, I wish him nothing but the best of luck in his future endeavors.

But looking at this objectively, it doesn’t make any sense. Frazier is coming off of his worst year as a Gator in pretty much every phase of the game. His freshman and sophomore years were outstanding, and if he really wanted to sign an NBA contract, he should have declared after his sophomore year. I love Frazier, I really do, but he was simply not himself last year (not that anyone was, really) and thus severely damaged his draft stock. His outside shooting fell off (38% from three as opposed to 47% and 45% his first two seasons, respectively) and he displayed a general lack of confidence in his shot that seemed to epitomize Florida’s offensive struggles.

I project Frazier to go somewhere in the middle of the second round because of the upside he brings. Someone’s going to watch his highlights from his first two years, see what he’s capable of, think they can get him back to that level of effectiveness and take a chance on him. He was simply too good his freshman and sophomore years to let a bad junior season drop him out of the draft completely.

As for the Gators, well, this doesn’t exactly help. Regardless of Frazier’s off year, he was still the best player Florida had. And given what he did his first two years, plus the fact that Billy Donovan is his coach, the thought that he could have a bounce back senior year was not exactly a reach. But now this won’t happen, and now Florida’s going to be even more inexperienced than it was last year, unless you want to consider sophomores Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza and junior Chris Walker “experienced”. I’d love to be wrong, but Frazier’s departure gives me the sickening feeling that it’s going to be at least another couple years before Florida becomes a serious title contender again. Then again, Billy Donovan has worked miracles before.

So, good luck, Mike. I’ll miss tweeting things like “MF II IV A MF III” and I’ll miss watching you do things that inspire me to tweet such things. I can’t say I agree with your decision, both as a Gator fan and as a realist. But nonetheless, you were overall a great Gator, and I’m rooting for you going forward.

10 Days of Spring, Day 1: find the best starting OL rotation

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.35.18 AM

We’re introducing a new segment here at IAKOW called “Ten Days of Spring,” each installment of which will describe something the Gators must do in spring practice to better prepare themselves for the upcoming season. Sounds simple, right? Good, so let’s let to it.

We start today with part one of a two day piece on the Gators’ ground game, which exploded for well over 400 yards of total offense in the glorious 38-13 thrashing of Georgia last fall, (and don’t use what happened with :03 left on the clock to tell me I’m wrong) but the rest of the year was little better than average for an SEC team. In terms of replacing the backs they lost from last year’s team, Florida should be OK; they lose Matt Jones, but Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane should form a solid one-two punch. Add incoming freshman Jordan Scarlett to the mix, and Florida now has three potentially dangerous running backs. So the running backs themselves aren’t the problem (we’ll discuss them tomorrow in greater detail).

It’s the situation on the offensive line that leaves me worried.

Florida running backs tallied 418 yards last year against Georgia mainly because of the best team-wide blocking performance in years. Inversely, the lack of executing such helpful blocks on a consistent basis is why Florida’s running game was largely ineffective under Will Muschamp. So Jim McElwain had his work cut out for him in terms of piecing together an effective offensive line; that task is made harder by having to replace DJ Humphries, Chaz Green, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown and Tyler Moore, which equates to four of the five starters from last year, plus a key reserve.

Yikes.

There’s good news, though: (at least some) help is on the way. McElwain reeled in the nation’s best offensive tackle in this year’s class in Martez Ivey, and while he’s only a freshman, he displays ridiculous pure athleticism that just can’t be taught, running a 5.2 40 yard dash (unheard of for a lineman) and is extremely explosive with his first step off the snap. He’s also 20 years old, making him older than most freshman, and yes, the consensus opinion is that he will start in the fall.

There’s more help coming in the fall in the form of Tyler Jordan, who is not only a master in the art of recruiting, but he’s a damned good talent to boot. He unleashes a particular form of evil once he’s engaged the defender, using his quick feet and strong hands to either drive the defender out of the play or straight into the ground. He’s a good, not great athlete, but compensates by being incredibly intelligent and quick thinking; he rarely over pursues or takes wrong angles, and his footwork is exceptional. I bet he gets a chance to start at guard or center at some point as a true freshman.

But again, neither Jordan nor Ivey will get to campus until August, but a) both are talented enough and smart enough to start right away and b) Florida didn’t recruit either of them to watch their freshman years from the sidelines. And besides, Florida’s going to need more than five competent offensive linemen. So McElwain’s goal for spring ball is clear: find the best starting offensive line rotation that doesn’t include Thurman, Jordan or Ivey.

The key to the offensive line this spring is sophomore OT David Sharpe, who I expect to land one of the two starting tackle spots. I spoke with Sharpe last summer about what he planned to accomplish at Florida, and he sounded incredibly determined to become a key factor in the Gators’ offensive line when the time came. Well, that time has now come. Like Ivey, his natural athleticism is off the charts. He springs out of his stance on the snap and generates some scary force on impact with the defensive linemen. When he does get beat, he’s sometimes able to recover just enough to slow the lineman down and give his QB an extra second to do something that most tackles wouldn’t be able to give. But he’s no longer a last resort backup; he’s going to be counted on heavily going forward. I’d love to see him adjust to the bigger role he’ll be playing this spring, and if he does, he could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

Other guys that will be in the mix include Cam Dillard, Travaris Dorsey, Antonio Riles, Andrew Mike and Kavaris Harkless. But only Dillard and Riles has ever seen real game action, and the rest are redshirt freshmen. So McElwain and offensive line coach Mike Summers will have a tough task ahead of them in terms of picking a starting five heading into the summer. Of course, they’ll have two pieces to easily insert then in Ivey and Thurman, and possibly a third in Jordan (and maybe even a fourth in incoming freshman Brandon Sandifer), but as we remember from 2013, you’d better be prepared with adequate backups. Failure to do so can be fatal.

Of course, the lack of scholarship players available (just eight) on the offensive line gives McElwain an excuse to not build the SEC’s most fearsome offensive line by the spring game. But one of his top priorities this spring has to be- has to be- building an adequate one before the Orange and Blue Debut.

Idaho postpones 2017 game against Florida

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 3.38.54 PM

It looks like what turned out to be the most hyped up Gator football game that was never played will have to wait even longer to be settled.

Idaho has removed Florida from its 2017 schedule, and replaced the Gators with Missouri. There are going to be a lot of disappointed Gator fans upon reading this (particularly the ones who stuck it out in a mini hurricane), but, well, there’s no doubt Idaho AD Rob Spear was enticed by the $1.3 million Mizzou offered to host the Vandals, as it’s a substantially larger payout than the $975K Florida offered. It’s also a much shorter trip for the Vandals, and to a far less hostile environment no less. Spear has said that the game will be played in an “undetermined season.”

Florida now has three contractually obligated games to play that are in limbo, the first of which is the back end of a two game series with South Florida, and the other of which is the game against Colorado State Florida agreed to host in exchange for poaching McElwain out of Fort Collins (plus another $5 million). That game is slated to be played between 2017 and 2020, and this open date Idaho has created in 2017 makes it plausible that the game will take place then. Typically, when teams agree to play “between this year and that year”, both sides want to play it sooner rather than later, because open dates are much easier to fill the farther down the road they are. We knock on FSU’s out of conference schedule a lot- and rightfully so, because it’s downright laughable- but this is what happens when you’re suddenly forced to scramble to fill a date on your schedule with time, and not quality of opponent, as your top priority.

Florida’s 2017 schedule is already pretty daunting as it is, though, so if replacing Idaho with Colorado State is indeed what happens, it could make it the toughest in recent memory. The Gators are already slated to take on Michigan in the 2017 Cowboys Kickoff Classic in Dallas to complement the always tough SEC schedule, and then there’s the annual showdown with FSU. Florida is certain to make that fourth non conference team a true cupcake, but remember that the Gators usually play three cupcakes a year, of which at least one is an FCS team, plus FSU. For example, in 2009, Florida played Charleston Southern (FCS), Troy (Sun Belt cellar dweller) and Florida International (Conference USA cellar dweller). Compare that with what could be in 2017: Michigan (powerhouse Big 10), Florida State (powerhouse ACC), Colorado State (traditionally one of the best in the Mountain West) and one cupcake.

Yikes.

Before you get irritated with Idaho for backing out, remember that Florida basically did the same thing with its second game against USF, for reasons I can’t really understand. The Gators also repeatedly shy away from playing Miami on a yearly basis, and while playing in Sun Life Stadium is more of a 50/50 Gators/Canes split, that’s about as good of odds as you could possibly ask for when playing a road game at another BCS conference school. Plus, it’s a fantastic recruiting opportunity. So don’t criticize Idaho for not wanting to travel some 2,700 miles to take a beating they know damn well is coming.

Instead, let’s just take the opportunity to be grateful that Florida will be playing a better schedule than it has in years past. Let’s be honest, what’s the fun/gain in pummeling Eastern Michigan or Appalachian State? Playing tougher teams on a week to week basis will give us a better indication of where the team stands heading into the real important piece of the schedule, the SEC slate. And on another note, tougher schedules is exactly what the College Football Playoff wants to see. What if, in 2017, Florida goes 10-2 and finishes second in the SEC East to a team that gets pummeled in Atlanta- with Michigan, FSU and Colorado State on its schedule? That certainly would work in the Gators’ favor.

So yes, while Idaho backing out likely makes Florida’s 2017 schedule a war zone, it’s really not such a bad thing. Florida football teams since 2010 have lost virtually every major battle (rivalry games and big bowl games) they’ve been a part of, so stacking more battles in front of them will only help them get ready for the ones that really matter.

Interview: DB Spencer Perry says he’s “going to make some noise at UF”

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 1.35.53 AM

Last week, Florida picked up a pair of commits in Spencer Perry and Isaiah Johnson. Not a bad weekend’s work for Jim McElwain and his staff, who were hosting a bevy of Class of 2016 recruits.

In Perry, Florida’s getting a speedy bell-ringing defensive back from IMG Academy in Bradenton. McElwain already scored a big win in the defensive backs pool by getting Chauncey Gardner back onboard, and getting Perry is simply a case of the rich getting richer. Oh, and UF has quite a track record of producing talented DB’s, from Lito Sheppard to Reggie Nelson to Joe Haden to Vernon Hargreaves, and many, many more, so history is certainly working in Perry’s favor, too.

However, despite having all the tools you could really ask for in a defensive back (fast, hits hard, great nose for the football and high level of intelligence) Perry’s offer list isn’t quite what you’d expect it to be; Auburn, Michigan and Florida are the only top schools to extend an offer. But maybe that’s what makes him such a promising recruit.

Spencer was gracious enough to speak with me about a number of things, including his recruitment process, his decision to be a Gator, what he looks to accomplish, and more. He’s a humble kid, yet determined, and he- well, I suppose I should just let you listen to what he had to say for yourself.

DB Spencer Perry, WR Isaiah Johnson commit to Florida

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 3.05.29 AM

Score two more for Jim McElwain.

Yesterday, the Gators received verbal commitments from DB Spencer Perry (Auburn, AL/IMG Academy) and WR Isaiah Johnson (Palm Beach, FL/Dwyer). The pair are taking a visit to Gainesville this weekend, and neither wasted any time in giving Jim McElwain their verbal commitments. Florida’s 2016 recruiting class now consists of seven total players.

More importantly, McElwain finally stuck it to his Gator predecessor, and is beginning to fix bridges that he burned.

Perry’s offer list includes Auburn, Michigan and Mississippi State, along with twenty or so other FBS programs. He’s not one of the most nationally known recruits, but he’s an up and comer, picking up offers left and right- most notably from Auburn, and former Gator coach Will Muschamp, who’s been rather unpleasant to deal with on the recruiting trail. In fact, he was so impressed by Muschamp that he called him a genius. In general, Muschamp’s been nothing but trouble for Florida since the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and so it’s nice to finally pay him back by stealing a rising kid from his own backyard that had really liked him.

Johnson, on the other hand, was a former Miami Hurricane commit who is known for making guys miss after the catch and turning flares and hitches into long touchdowns. He was also offered by Miami, Louisville and Illinois- not bad- but his offer list is not what makes this pickup so big. He’s from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach- the same high school Jacoby Brissett once starred at, and thus, the same school Muschamp turned off by destroying Brissett’s career at UF.

McElwain still isn’t landing the premier players in the 2016 class, but for now, that’s OK. He doesn’t have to. This early in the game, it’s all about cleaning up the mess Muschamp started, and he’s doing that about as well as one could ask him to. Reeling in the big fish- the four and five stars- is going to be what this class ultimately needs, but it can wait until the summer. Again, though, it’s great to see that McElwain is able to overcome previous Muschamp failures and sway kids’ minds- maybe just as important as landing a five star.

That last bit isn’t to take away from either kid’s talent. Again, it’s still really early in the recruiting season, so their lack of offers and national attention at a point in the game where only a few dozen or so recruits are getting any isn’t something to be so concerned with. Both kids can play, as their hudl highlights show (here are Johnson’s, and here are Perry’s). And there’s still a whole year for them to improve and grow before we can definitively talk about what Florida is actually getting in them.

#3 Florida Outduels #11 FSU for fifth straight win over Seminoles

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.56.44 PM

Through 27 innings of baseball in 2014, FSU could only muster two runs against Florida- a testament to the Gators’ pitching staff.

This year, however, the Seminoles needed just one game to quadruple last season’s run total in the rivalry. Normally, that’s a recipe for disaster. But last night, it was a recipe for entertainment- because the Gators’ lineup simply outclassed their FSU counterparts to the tune of 14 runs and 16 hits, and Florida wound up on the good side of a lopsided 14-8 win. It’s the fifth consecutive time Florida has beaten FSU on the baseball diamond, the longest Gator winning streak in the series since the 1980’s.

But enough about history, and streaks. This win was just the latest of many impressive ones Florida has collected this year.

The Gators are now 19-3 on the year, and the only three losses came against teams they would beat in ensuing games- Miami, UCF and Tennessee. Resume-wise, Florida already owns series wins over Miami, Stony Brook and Tennessee, and now they’ve shown they can win the big midweek game, too, something the NCAA Tournament Committee looks at more than you’d think when it comes to seeding teams. Florida’s non conference schedule was pretty light, but now that the brunt of their schedule is approaching, it’s nice to see them be able to continue picking up wins in all types of situations- even when things don’t look good. Like tonight.

Florida pitcher Eric Hanhold promptly gave up hits to the first two FSU batters he faced to begin the game; both runners eventually scored. And just like that, Florida was down 2-0 before they even came to bat. But Richie Martin was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the first- and the floodgates opened. Harrison Bader rocketed one to deep center for a triple, scoring Martin, Josh Tobias singled Bader home, Mike Rivera blasted one into the gap to score Tobias, John Sternagle walked and then Jeremy Vasquez smacked a laser down the first base line to score Rivera and Sternagle. The carnage lasted over half an hour, and by the time the featherless Tribe finally staggered off the field, they had surrendered five runs and found themselves down three runs- a deficit they would never overcome.

See, that’s clutch hitting. It’s easy to explode for a bunch of runs against an also-ran like Rhode Island or Maine, but to do so with the pressure that comes with playing in a Florida-FSU game- after being down two runs before you step up the plate for the first time- is a whole different animal. This was a different type of test for Florida, and they passed it.

Anyway, from that point on, the teams went back and forth, trading punches in the form of multi-run innings (and highlighted by a crazy double steal), until JJ Schwarz landed the haymaker:

 

 

And that was that.

Now we come to the point where I try to nitpick and find something to complain about (because it’s early in the season and nobody is playing perfect ball at this point), but I’ve got nothing here. I can’t really bring myself to whine about the eight runs and 14 hits FSU tallied; A) the Noles’ lineup is more explosive than it was a year ago, B) Eric Hanhold is maybe Florida’s fourth best option as a starting pitcher, and forced the bullpen to do a lot more work than any bullpen is supposed to, and C) Florida’s offense did more than enough to render FSU’s offense irrelevant. And as an addendum to C), do remember that Florida’s offense is missing its best source of power, Pete Alonso, who should be back for Florida’s series against Alabama next weekend.

This Gator team continues chugging right along. They’ve given a legitimate reason to believe that this train is not to be derailed, and is bound for a much longer and more enjoyable ride this summer- maybe one that leads to Omaha. This ride is far from over, but if what we’ve seen so far is any indication of what’s to come, it could be the most exciting one the Gator Nation has ever seen.

Interview: Jordan Scarlett, Florida freshman RB

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.39.32 AM

It was a long and laborious recruiting process for Jordan Scarlett, one of the nation’s most highly touted running backs. The longtime Miami Hurricane commit eventually decommitted from the Canes, and two nights before National Signing Day, announced his decision to become a Florida Gator.

Scarlett was highly sought after for a reason. When covering his recruitment, I had this to say about him: “Scarlett is literally a terror for opposing defenses. While he doesn’t have the most amazing juke moves that some of these top backs have, he’s shifty enough on his feet to never let defenders get a clean shot at him, reducing their efforts to arm tackles; thus, he’s near impossible to bring down. Combine that with his 4.3 40 and ability to get to the edge and turn the corner, and you’ve got one of the best running backs in the country. Plain and simple.”

That’s all in the past now, though. Jordan is no longer being sought after or recruited. He’s no longer a Cane commit, a Florida lean, a key Jim McElwain target or even a Florida commit. He is now officially a Florida Gator. So what’s next?

Jordan was kind enough to spend some time with me on the phone and talk about a variety of things, including why he wanted to be a Gator to begin with, who he looks up to, what he hopes to accomplish at UF- and much, much more.

IAKOW March Madness pool: how to enter, rules and home page

Welcome to the official In All Kinds Of Weather March Madness bracket challenge.

Here’s the link to the group.

The scoring system goes as follows: 1 point for correct picks in the round of 64, 3 for the round of 32, and then 5, 10, 15 and 20 for the last four rounds. In addition, points will be awarded for correctly picking an upset; the amount of these bonus points you will get is the difference between the seed numbers.

So as a brief example: picking Kansas to beat New Mexico State is worth one point, as Kansas is the higher seed. Similarly, picking Oregon to beat Oklahoma State is worth one point because Oregon is the higher seed. But picking LSU to beat NC State is worth two, because LSU is the 9 seed, and 9-8 equals one, so one for the correct pick and one more for the upset. And if you have enough guts to pick Texas Southern over Arizona, you’ll get 14 points for that one if you get it right, because 15-2 equals 13, plus the standard one point for a correct pick.

That rule remains the same in later rounds, only the seed differential is multiplied by the number of points that round is worth. So if you have Oregon beating Oklahoma State and then beating Wisconsin in the round of 32, that pick would gain you 21 points for the upset (8-1 equals 7, times 3) and then three more for the correct pick- so 24 total.

Yes, gutsiness will be rewarded.

As for prizes? Well, the champion of the league will get a pretty neat experience. It’s a surprise! But after the national champion has been crowned, I will be reaching out to the winner via email to discuss the next steps.

Good luck, and go Gators.

How U like me now, Part II: Chauncey Gardner Re-commits back to Florida

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 2.54.17 PM

What a day this is turning out to be for Jim McElwain and his staff.

About an hour after Jacksonville DE Ja’Quan Bailey committed to Florida, the Gators re-gained the verbal pledge of top cornerback Chauncey Gardner (Cocoa, FL/Cocoa HS) through this tweet.

Gardner’s recruiting timeline reads much like a soap opera. He originally committed to Miami, but last summer, he dumped the Canes and committed to Florida. Then, after Will Muschamp was finishing up his job of thoroughly destroying the program, Gardner had seen enough and decommitted, saying he wanted to take more time to think his decision through. But then today, he met with McElwain and several assistants, including Kerry Dixon and Kirk Callahan, and decided to re-commit.

Ah, the world of recruiting.

But it’s worth the headache, because Gardner is a big catch. His offer list includes LSU, FSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Louisville, Georgia and Oklahoma; thus, most recruiting analysts rate him among the top ten cornerbacks of his class. He’s a physical corner that can hit hard and play excellent press coverage. His ball skills are tremendous, and his athleticism is off the charts. The reasons to like this kid go on and on. He’s a little small (6’0, 190 lbs) but he makes up for it by being so naturally talented (4.5 40 yard dash). With a little coaching, and technique improvements, he could be another lockdown corner for Florida.

His highlights are quite impressive. See for yourself.

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1672870/highlights/172837375/v2

Technically, it’s still a flip job to be able to get Gardner to commit because he was once committed to Miami, and so it’s a great job by McElwain to get him back on board- particularly after the Muschamp virus ran its course and left the Gator program in shambles. Remember, that’s really what made Gardner decommit in the first place; to be able to overcome the nuclear bomb Muschamp dropped on the program isn’t going to happen overnight, but winning back one of his prized recruits is definitely a good start- particularly because Gardner hails from South Florida, an area that Muschamp completely burned his bridges with his disgusting handling of the Jacoby Brissett saga.

So good job, Mac. Keep it up.