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!
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will be the Very First Florida Gaotors College Football Game of the 2012 Season?
Michael DiRocco (4:03 PM)
Sept. 1 against Bowling Green.
Who MUST the Gators get in this class in order for it to be considered successful? Either to keep committed or have commit? Thanks
Michael DiRocco (4:05 PM)
Edgar,It's already pretty good, but I think if UF adds Demarcus Walker and Laremy Tunsil the Gators could end up with the top class in the country. Another receiver wouldn't hurt, either.
Rob (Woodbridge, VA by way of Belle Glade)
What are the chances of either Brissett or Driskell transferring once a starter is named.
Michael DiRocco (4:06 PM)
Rob,I think the QB competition will continue throughout the season so there won't be a loser, per se. However, I do think if one of them did win the job outright by the middle of the season and started the rest of the way, then I think it's 75 percent the loser transfers.
Eric Johnston (Fort Lauderdale)
Last year our passing game was a wreck. Well our offense was a wreck. We have heard about our downhill running game plan. Can we develop a passing game? Is pass protection going to be any better this year? Also, who do you see as our "go to" receiver (if anyone)?
Michael DiRocco (4:11 PM)
Eric,The passing game is still a question mark, especially anything beyond the 10-15 yard range. The QBs are really struggling beyond that range. I think the passing game will be better than last year, though, because the line will be better. As far as a go-to receiver, it'll probably be Frankie Hammond because he has been the most consistent guy in camp so far.
Mark (Washington DC)
By my count, UF has only 7 scholarship receivers (including 2 true freshman). What are your thoughts on this and on the receivers in general?
Michael DiRocco (4:12 PM)
Mark,I've been a HUGE critic of the WRs. The fact that there aren't any consistent playmakers at that spot confounds me. How can UF not have a stable of those kind of guys when they recruit this state?That being said, I think the future looks pretty good. Pittman and Andrades seem to be guys that will develop into good players and the Gators are doing a good job recruiting that spot. Ahmad Fulwood, if he does indeed sign, has a chance to be very good. Like his hands.
scooterp (upstate NY)
Your opinion on who should be the QB starter. Don't take the easy way out.
Michael DiRocco (4:14 PM)
Scooterp,I think it should be Brissett. He just seems to be a better fit for the offense and in the one practice I saw he looked a little better.
scooterp (upstate NY)
Why does it seem like we struggle with recruiting OL?
Michael DiRocco (4:16 PM)
Scooterp,It's not necessarily that UF struggles recruiting them, it's that some of them have been forced to play early and that's not ideal. The best situation is for any OL to come in and redshirt immediately so they can get stronger and adapt to the speed of the game. The Gators have missed on some guys and that has hurt the depth, too. I think Humphries has a chance to be pretty good, though.
James Williams (St. Louis, MO)
Ultimately, who do you think will win out in the qb battle?
Michael DiRocco (4:17 PM)
James, See my previous answer for details, but I think it's Brissett.
Does florida end up landing walker?
Michael DiRocco (4:17 PM)
Bill,Derek Tyson, our recruiting guy at GatorNation, says he thinks UF has a very good chance of landing Walker.
Do you truly believe that Muschamp has yet to choose a starting QB, or is he just keeping the decision "close to his chest"?
Michael DiRocco (4:19 PM)
Justin,I think he and the staff know who the starter will be by now but just are waiting until next week to announce it. Again, I expect this to be a weekly competition unless Muschamp surprises me by sticking with one guy for the season.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think is the Best Florida Gator that is Playing Now in the NFL?
Michael DiRocco (4:20 PM)
Chris,Maurkice Pouncey. He was an All-Pro as a rookie and is a dominant player.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Is there an inside story as to why the Gators had a string of decommits in such rapid succession?
Michael DiRocco (4:22 PM)
Tony,I know that several of the decommits were mutual decisions. Adams was a guy who probably wasn't going to be able to get into school anyway so that's part of it, too. Not trying to be a copout, but our recruiting guy, Derek Tyson, has written a series of stories on this subject that can go into much more detail. Check out www.GatorNationESPN.com for details.
Robert (Toronto, ON, Canada)
Can the Gators Defense be top 3 in the SEC this year? Any updates on R. Powell?
Michael DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Robert,They've got a chance, if they can force more turnovers and improve their pass rush. UF forced just 14 last year, which was the fewest in a single season since 1950. The pass rush looks like it'll be better with Dominique Easley moving to end and the emergence of freshman Dante Fowler, Jr., who looks like an absolute beast.Bama and LSU, obviously, are the top two. UF will battle Georgia and South Carolina for the No. 3 spot.
Who do you have winning the Strong Side Linebacker position? Also, I have read that Kyle Koehne may be first team Left Guard ahead of James Wilson. Thoughts?
Michael DiRocco (4:26 PM)
Julio,I think it'll be Kitchens. He and Ball were fighting for it and Ball missed a few days with an ankle that set him slightly behind.The job belongs to McCray when/if Powell returns. McCray is playing in Powell's spot now.
I just can't seem to get behind Muschamp...how long does he get before we hire someone who actually has head coaching experience?
Michael DiRocco (4:27 PM)
Matt,I think Muschamp gets the 2012 and 2013 season before he gets put on the hot seat. He had a mess to clean up last season and the Gators had only 72 scholarship players (including four walkons) so depth was a huge issue.The thing I like about Muschamp is he has a plan and he's sticking to it. He's not taking shortcuts.
Do the gators beat the noles this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:29 PM)
Iwantfsutowin,Last year's meeting was one of the most bizarre games I've ever seen. How does a team get only 95 yards of offense and win by 14 points? Because UF tripped all over itself.That being said, I don't think FSU is a great team this year. Still not sold on EJ, although that defensive front is FANTASTIC. Still, I like the Noles to win that game this year.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
The Gators have two marquee opponents at home, and Georgia on a neutral field. Can Florida win 2 out of the 3? Are they in Atlanta if they do?
Michael DiRocco (4:32 PM)
Tony, I just can't see UF beating LSU -- unless the Tigers have a rash of injuries to 10 starters. If you're talking about South Carolina as the other marquee opponent, I think the Gators can win that game. They would have won last year had they just played mistake-free football. This year's offense will be better in that area, I believe. If UF can somehow beat SC and Georgia, plus get road wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee, the Gators have an excellent chance to get to Atlanta. However, I think UF is a year away from being an division title contender.
Damon (Ft. Hood, Texas)
Do you see Gillisee producing and being the main back or do you it being running back by commitee? Also why isn,t Matt Elam getting more publicity? He has been dominant the last few years and is one of the best safeties in the country.
Michael DiRocco (4:33 PM)
Damon,I do think Gillislee can be a 1,000-yard back (UF's first since 2004) -- provided he stays healthy.Now, he's not going to be a 20-15 carry per game back because UF does have some other talented backs that will get touches, but Gillislee will be the main back.
Do you see Spurrier ever coming back and being a part of the program again? Could he eventually replace Foley as AD if/when Foley steps aside?
Michael DiRocco (4:35 PM)
Matt,Nope. I think Spurrier is done at UF. He'll obviously visit when he retires and will always be an important part (maybe the most important part) of the program's history.As for him replacing Foley as athletic director -- NO WAY. Spurrier couldn't do that kind of job. Not because he's not smart enough. He just has no desire to do anything like that. He doesn't like glad-handing and certainly wouldn't be a good fund-raiser. I think when he's done coaching he'll play a lot of golf.
Smitty (Los Angeles)
Quinteze Williams, DE or DT? Does Jafar Mann make an impact this year?
Michael DiRocco (4:36 PM)
Smitty, Right now Williams is more of a DT, but that could change in the future. Mann's name has not come up with Muschamp or Quinn at all so I don't think he's a guy we'll see play this year unless there's a ton of injuries to the DL.
Derrin (Plano, TX)
Do the Gators have three solid corners to matchup against Rogers, Hunter, and Patterson in Knoxville? Or will the defensive line need to put extreme pressure of Bray?
Michael DiRocco (4:37 PM)
Derrin,UF has four very good corners: Roberson, Purifoy, Watkins and Riggs. The secondary will be the strength of this defense. Elam and Evans are very good safeties -- Elam one of the best in the country -- and there's a lot of depth, plus some talented freshmen who will make an impact (Bailey, Poole) in spots and on special teams.
Leroy (Washington DC)
What position do you see Tommy Jordan settling in at? I kinda think of him as a center but I have not heard much on him.
Michael DiRocco (4:47 PM)
Leroy, He's been working at guard. He's just a redshirt freshman so he's got a ways to go before he's ready.
Do you get the sense that all the secrecy surrounding the program when coupled with mediocre on-field results has dampened fan enthusiasm heading into the season?
Michael DiRocco (4:49 PM)
NYCG8tr,I think enthusiasm is still pretty high heading into the season. However, fans are starting to grow weary of not getting much information from the program. And I do think the stands will have plenty of empty pockets if the Gators struggle out of the gate and lose a few games.Plus, the November schedule is awful. If I were a fan I wouldn't drive to Gainesville to watch Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.
Edward Aschoff (ESPN break room)
Greetings! you seem convinced lsu AND bama will have the top 2 defenses in the SEC next year. LSU i'll give ya. But bama? you think they'll be appreciably better than the gators' defense?
Michael DiRocco (4:52 PM)
Ed,I do. I know Bama lost a lot of guys to the NFL (and I'm ecstatic the Pats got Hightower) but I'm a huge believer in Nick Saban. He's recruited well and his staff has already proven they are able to develop players into big-time studs. UF's defense is going to be very good, but they're still missing that big-time, first-round NFL Draft pick (Elam, maybe?).
Do you think Ronald Powell will stick around for the 2013 season?
Michael DiRocco (4:54 PM)
Bruce,First of all, you reside in the city with my all-time favorite name. That's an interesting question about Powell. If he's able to come back in October and has a good year then I think he could leave early for the NFL. However, I think it's more likely he comes back and plays OK (he has missed a lot of practice time and contact work) and comes back for 2013.If he had been completely healthy this year I think he would have left after the season, provided he had a good year (which everyone predicted).
Jacoby Brissett (Film Room)
Mike, will any of my buddies on the outside help me out this year and make my job easier in the rugged SEC?
Michael DiRocco (4:55 PM)
Jacoby,If you don't know the answer to that question after 20 practices, then the answer is probably no.
In an earlier question you state Alabama and LSU are the top two defenses. Seeing what Florida returns and what Alabama does not, how can you say so confidently Alabama is better?
Michael DiRocco (5:02 PM)
Here's my answer from an earlier question. Should explain my position pretty well:I know Bama lost a lot of guys to the NFL (and I'm ecstatic the Pats got Hightower) but I'm a huge believer in Nick Saban. He's recruited well and his staff has already proven they are able to develop players into big-time studs. UF's defense is going to be very good, but they're still missing that big-time, first-round NFL Draft pick (Elam, maybe?).
Buck (Chicago near Wrigley)
Being from Chitown, I am interested to see how Antonio Morrison does on the field this year. I think he may be the next in line at Weak Side Linebacker after Jelani Jenkins leaves. What do you think?
Michael DiRocco (5:03 PM)
Buck,Send me a piece of ivy from Wrigley, would ya?I know the coaching staff LOVES Morrison. He's a big hitter and he matches that with speed and solid instincts. He will be on the field a lot this year.I think he does step in for Jenkins when he goes. If Jenkins doesn't leave after this year, I still see Morrison getting a starting job because he's that talented.
Michael DiRocco (5:09 PM)
Everyone,Thanks again for joining me. Same time next week, but this time we'll finally be able to talk about games. See you then.