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!
Mike DiRocco (4:04 PM)
Sorry a bit late. Let's get going.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Florida College Football Players are Out for the Season due to Major Injuries?
Mike DiRocco (4:05 PM)
Chris -- Ronald Powell (ACL) and Nick Alajajian (knee) are out.
Considering SC's pass rush, how many attempts do you think Jeff will get? And do you think they will try more designed runs for him, maybe not all read options, but maybe a 5 wide QB draw on one of the 3rd and longs? Personally I hope he gets around 20 attempts on a lot of short quick passes and finally take some shots downfield. And do you think Debose can carry the little momentum he got with the return last game and make a play this week?
Mike DiRocco (4:07 PM)
Matt -- It's hard to guess his attempts because if the running game is working well, they'll stick with it and he won't pass much. They're going to keep going to whatever works so he might only throw 15 times if they're running the ball. I expect to see the zone read a lot. As for Debose, he's like groundhog day. You see him once, then you don't see him for a long time.
Think all those players we'll have back from injury will really be 100%?
Mike DiRocco (4:08 PM)
Bruce -- No, I don't. Muschamp has not exactly been completely truthful with injuries with the media during the season. I wouldn't be surprised if Wilson (eye) and Easley (knee) don't play.
Think South Carolina will have difficulty being up for a 3rd big game in a row?
Mike DiRocco (4:09 PM)
Julio -- South Carolina certainly has a pretty tough stretch -- Georgia, LSU and Florida. It's not easy to navigate that for sure, but I think they'll be up for this game. It's basically for them to win the division.
I remember back in 08, that UF used the yardage of UGA's Moreno in 07 as a big motivational tool. Think that Muschamp will try something similar with all those yards Lattimore put on UF in 10?
Mike DiRocco (4:09 PM)
Bret -- Don't think so. He wasn't here then and using something from two years ago doesn't seem like it would get the guys fired up much.
GLRose (Wilmington, OH)
If Ohio State could compete in a BCS game this year, and Florida and OSU were to make it, would this years Gators beat Meyer's Buckeyes?
Mike DiRocco (4:10 PM)
GLRose -- I don't know because I haven't seen much of Ohio State. I do know that they were not a good team last year and UF beat them then. I think part of their success is that the Big Ten is down this year.
Brent (Jacksonville, FL)
I keep hearing the coaches and Driskel talk about throwing the ball away instead of taking a sack, but I haven't seen it once all season. I know it's probably more obvious on TV than it is for Jeff, but he's gotta know he can't break 4 tackles and he's 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Doesn't he?
Mike DiRocco (4:11 PM)
Brent -- He has done a few times, but you're right, he probably needs to do it more. It's part of the process that all young QBs go through. He'll get it. If he's still doing it next year, then it's a problem.
How often will we see Easley, Hunter, Flolyd and McCray ruffle Shaw's feathers on Saturday? Will we get enough pressure on USC's weak offensive line to throw off their passing game? It's been awhile since I've seen the HBC throw his visor in the Swamp, and I'm making the trip this weekend just for that!
Mike DiRocco (4:12 PM)
Anthony -- UF doesn't have much of a pass rush, although the Gators have been good in spots. Easley, Hunter and Floyd haven't provided much pass rush. McCray has a chance to make some problems for SC, though. He's UF's best pass rusher.
I know Pease and Muschamp have said that they see a good passing game in practice and haven't needed it in the game, and I agree with them. However, at times it seems we struggle a bit in pass-blocking. Is that just my personal perception?
Mike DiRocco (4:13 PM)
Sean -- Nope, you're right about that. This OL, while significantly tougher and better than last year, still needs some work. But they did a solid job against LSU's DEs so they deserve some credit.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Jeff Driskel have to make some plays with his arm this week for the Gators to hand South Carolina there second loss in a row?
Mike DiRocco (4:14 PM)
Tony -- At some point he'll have to make plays in the passing game. Will it be this week? I don't know. UF will have to be behind by double digits for the Gators to really start throwing the ball around and I don't see SC's offense getting that far ahead against UF's defense. I'm expecting an LSU-type game.
Any news on the OL injuries and status for Saturday?
Mike DiRocco (4:16 PM)
ND -- Here's what Will said today. Wilson (eye), Jenkins (hammy) and Easley (knee) practiced on Tuesday. Harrison (arm) and Nixon (upper body) were expected to practice today. Now, how truthful Muschamp is about their status we won't know for sure until Saturday, but I'm hearing that Wilson may not play.
Hey Mike, great work you do here. If South Carolina or Georgia decide to load the box to stop the run, are Pease and the (coachless) Wide Receiver Unit ready to step up, or are we committed to running no matter what?
Mike DiRocco (4:17 PM)
Bart -- They want to run the ball. The WRs have been good in spots and made some plays this year, but not the past two weeks. What helps UF is that Driskel can run, so loading the box doesn't necessarily mean teams will always stop the run.
Danny (Palm Beach)
How well do you think Florida's O-line will fair against USC's vaunted front four, considering how well it kept Driskel upright against LSU's front four?
Mike DiRocco (4:18 PM)
Danny -- Depends. If it's the starting group, I think they'll be OK. They handled LSU's front pretty well, didn't they? However, if they're missing Harrison and/or Wilson, I think they'll struggle a bit. Despite what the players say, those guys aren't as good as the first-teamers. If they were, they'd be playing.
Is J. Harrison going to be ready to go Saturday or is Muschamp just blowing smoke about him?
Mike DiRocco (4:19 PM)
Cole -- I haven't heard any rumbling that he won't be going. Most of what I've heard surrounds Wilson possibly not going.
Hey Mike, Florida and South Carolina seemingly have very similar gameplans with strong defense, bruising RBs, and efficient role-playing QBs. Who do you give the edge to on Saturday and why?
Mike DiRocco (4:21 PM)
Zack -- I think Driskel is a better runner and a better passer mechanically, but Shaw is more experienced. South Carolina has better WRs and an elite pass rusher. The Gamecocks can make plays in the passing game and UF hasn't been able to recently. But playing at home helps.
Clayton (Nashville, Tenn. )
Mike, last week the Gators came out throwing against Vandy and floundered a little before running it more. Would do you expect Pease and company throwing South Carolina off-guard in some fashion to keep the Gamecocks' defense off-balance?
Mike DiRocco (4:22 PM)
Clayton -- Not really. They're not good enough offensively to do much in the passing game. They're going to do what they do best, which is run the ball, be physical, and get Driskel to make a few plays with his feet.
I keep reading from the Gator coaching staff that the passing game, in large, has not been used much because they have not needed it. Do you think that the Gator offense really can pass effectively if they need to, or the Gators in big trouble if South Carolina stops the run?
Mike DiRocco (4:23 PM)
Chris -- I don't think the passing game is in good shape at all, mainly because the OL is not as good in pass protection as it should be and the WRs are just not making plays against good defenses. If UF can't run the ball, they will lose on Saturday.
Mike--feeling anxious here. The Gators have gone 6-0 with impressive road and Top 5 wins to date. I know South Carolina is coming off a physical game and loss at LSU plus traveling again to the Swamp. What odds are you giving the Gators to win in what will likely be a close and low scoring game? Do you see Pease dialing up some packages to use Reed and Burton to provide some balance against the South Carolina D-Line?
Mike DiRocco (4:24 PM)
Ron -- I think UF doesn't do anything fancy. They'll run the ball. Pease said this week if something is working he's going to keep at it. That means if they're running the ball well, they'll keep pounding it. As for Burton, he's had one good game and really been a non-factor otherwise. Not sure if he's going to do much Saturday against that defense.
Michael sims (cairo)
do you thank gators can win the east
Mike DiRocco (4:26 PM)
Michael -- Sure. But they've got to beat SC. If they lose to SC, that means the Gamecocks will own the tiebreaker over UF and GA and UF would have to then beat Georgia and Missouri and hope SC lost another game. SC's remaining SEC schecule: Tennessee and Arkansas. Don't see them losing either game.
Is O-line healthy?
Mike DiRocco (4:26 PM)
Welby -- Not completely. Keep hearing Wilson's eye injury will keep him out again and Harrison hurt the arm he uses to snap the ball will so we'll see how that affects him.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
I still think Connor Shaw is average at best as a passer and susceptible to the turnover. Do you think the Gator defense can shut down Latimore, and allow the secondary to make some plays?
Mike DiRocco (4:27 PM)
Tony -- Nobody shuts down Lattimore. Unless he's hurt (and he's supposedly got a bruised hip), the best anyone can do is limit the damage he does, make him work for everything he gets. UF has the ability to do that.
Brian (Lexington, SC)
Looks like a game with mirror teams; strong d, strong running game. Lines of scrimmage will be very important
Mike DiRocco (4:28 PM)
Brian -- Always is in close games. UF's OL is banged up right now, so that will be a huge factor.
Joe (Lake County)
Mike, do you think we'll be able to run the ball as well against the Gamecocks as we did LSU? It blows my mind that we dominated the Tigers on the ground, but then they turned around and dominated SC
Mike DiRocco (4:29 PM)
Joe -- UF should be able to run the ball on anybody. The OL run blocks very well and Gillislee is as good a back as any in the country. But if the OL is using three backups, that will be a problem.
What do you think is a tougher test. FL Off vs. SC Def or FL Def vs. SC Off?
Mike DiRocco (4:30 PM)
Daniel -- I think they're both equally tough matchups. Mistakes, like turnovers, will decide the game. I do think that UF has a huge advantage in the kicking game.
JD (Lakeland, FL)
What do you think about Josh Evans comments about Lattimore? Kind of bonehead in my opinion. Like they need any extra motivation...
Mike DiRocco (4:31 PM)
JD -- Nah, the kid was giving his honest opinion. I think he's wrong, but I'm not going to rip the kid for giving his opinion. We in the media always want people to speak freely, but when they do and say something remotely controversial, we rip them. I try not to do that.
Jeff (Tampa, FL)
Are the Gators still undefeatd heading into Tallahassee?
Mike DiRocco (4:32 PM)
Jeff -- Gotta win this week to do that. I think you beat Mizzou and Georgia.
Who do you think most of blame goes to in the passing game? I honestly think its 50-50 on the receivers and Driskel. Also do you expect Gillislee to have a similar game to the LSU game? I dont see it because SC will be stacking the box throughout the game. I think Driskel will have a big game on the ground.
Mike DiRocco (4:34 PM)
Angel -- I think more of the blame goes to the WRs and the previous coaching staff. Driskel is a young QB and there's going to be growing pains. You expect that. But the WRs are not getting separation, aren't consistently making plays, and are dropping the ball, too. The previous staff didn't exactly develop any WRs and missed on some. Muschamp's staff didn't hit on Any guys they signed, either, although Pittman and Andrades have potential. They've got some good commits, though.
Mike--another tough game this weekend in the Swamp. Know South Carolina is loaded on both sides of the line and even though they are coming off a brusing loss at LSU and traveling again, what odds are you placing on the Gators to win. What packages do you see Pease dialing up to keep the South Carolina D-Line honest? For example, do see a little more use of Reed and Burton (who are tough matchups on line backers) so Driskel and Gilly don't carry the full load?
Mike DiRocco (4:37 PM)
Ron -- Not to be a copout, but 50-50 on the odds. This is, to me, a repeat of the LSU game. UF is at home, so that helps.I'm still trying to find out why people are always wanting Burton to be more involved. He had one good game against Tennessee -- which, at this point, is equal to a mid-major program because of the lack of speed on defense -- and has done nothing in the other five games. Take out UT and he's run for 18 yards on seven carries, has seven catches for 74 yards, and dropped two passes.
Will Jelani Jenkins have a cast Saturday? Does he look to be a big factor in the game?
Mike DiRocco (4:37 PM)
Mac -- He will have a cast. Don't think he'll be much of a factor. He's still trying to get back into football shape and can't play a full game.
jack b (fort walton beach)
The gators dominated the line of scrimmage against LSU and LSU seemed to win the line of scrimmage battle with South Carolina. Do you think we have the advantage there this saturday?
Mike DiRocco (4:38 PM)
jack b -- I think your defensive front can win the battle. As for the OL, depends on how many guys are hurt and how many are 100 pct. If Wilson and Harrison don't play, things will be rough.
Will Pease run more draw plays to Gilly to neutralize the outside pressure from Clowney?
Mike DiRocco (4:39 PM)
Gregory -- They may run right at him, become sometimes that's the best strategy against elite guys like him. Also, the zone read will be use a lot and that neutralizes pass rushers.
Tony (Ft. Lauterdale)
Lets say UF does beat SC...even if UGA beats UF, is thare anyway for the Gators to win the East???
Mike DiRocco (4:41 PM)
Tony -- If UF beats SC and loses to GA, they can still win the East. There's too many scenarios to go over right now, but it's not out of reach by any means.
Justin (Lenoir city, TN)
Without that INT Mettenburger threw to give USC first and goal at the two I don't know how close that game would have been. With the success LSU's D had do you see us having the same success? And what is your predictions for the game?
Mike DiRocco (4:42 PM)
Justin -- UF's defense is darn good and I don't expect SC to put up a lot of points. I think this will be a fourth-quarter game, much like the 2006 game.
Hey Mike, One area that people aren't talking much about is special teams. The Gator punting has been a real weapon, but Sanders is a terrific returner. Do you think they will go with directional punting?
Mike DiRocco (4:43 PM)
Jake -- They do that at times, but Christy is great at kicking the ball high and dropping it inside the 20. He and Sturgis will be huge factors in the game.
Which position match up gives both S. Carolina and UF the biggest advantage/chance of winning?
Mike DiRocco (4:44 PM)
Chris -- Clowney vs. UF's OTs certainly favors the Gamecocks. UF's DBs vs. SC's WRs favors UF.
Ryan (Miami, FL)
How do you see Pease using Reed as a mismatch against SC's secondary?
Mike DiRocco (4:44 PM)
Ryan -- If Reed can stay on the field, he'll be a weapon in the middle of the field. I do like the TE screen they've thrown to him, too.
Brian (Tampa, FL)
Looking ahead a bit...what do you think will be the Gators' largest obstacles to overcome in Doak, and are we up to it?
Mike DiRocco (4:45 PM)
Brian -- Wow, waaaaaay ahead. The biggest problem will be handling FSU's defensive front.
Mike, it seemed like LSU played max protect most of the game and Mettenberg had time to throw. Do you think Uf will do something similiar? Driskel has shown he can make any throw if he has time.
Mike DiRocco (4:46 PM)
Jason -- What good is it if UF goes max protect if the WRs can't get open? If you go max protect that means you have fewer people running patterns. If it's just Hammond and Dunbar, I don't see them doing much against the SC secondary.
David (Jacksonville, Florida)
Do you think voters and not just the computers will give Florida more respect if/when they beat South Carolina this Saturday?
Mike DiRocco (4:46 PM)
David -- Geez, they're No. 3 in the AP poll. How much more respect can they get?
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey Mike, do any former players come back to visit the program at practices or games?
Mike DiRocco (4:47 PM)
Craig -- Sure do. There was a bunch of them on the sideline for the LSU game.
South Carolina will be without 3 of their DT's. Shouldn't we assume we will see lots of runs up the middle? Will we get to see Joyer take some inside runs?
Mike DiRocco (4:48 PM)
jack -- UF's going to run the ball up the middle regardless of the status of a team's defensive line. That's what they do. Joyer's carries will be few this season. He's needed to clear space. I think the best way to use him is in the passing game.
Chris (Naples, FL)
I saw a couple mentions on the SC board that there is a stomach flu going around up there... have you heard anything about that?
Mike DiRocco (4:48 PM)
Chris -- Yup. Spurrier said it today, that the flu was running through the team. Could be an issue, but it's early enough in the week that they could recover.
Ash (Jacksonville, FL)
What have you heard about SC injuries? I've heard a few things about the Defensive tackle and secondary
Mike DiRocco (4:49 PM)
Ash -- Quarles is doubtful and Lattimore has a bruised hip.
Brent (Jacksonville, FL)
Where are you getting your information on Wilson (injury)? I saw where Chaz Green said he was happy to see Wilson get healthy and come back. It seemed credible, coming from a fellow line man. Could your inside info be wrong?
Mike DiRocco (4:50 PM)
Brent -- Just hearing stuff. And yes, it could be wrong. Just hearing rumblings. Green also said "no comment" when someone asked him how Wilson looked at practice on Tuesday.
Mike -- I've wondered all season if we would see Trey Burton take the snap, act like he's going up the middle, but then back off and throw... Kinda like Tebow used to do.
Mike DiRocco (4:51 PM)
Ryan -- Some other writers have said that, too. My response is this: Why would you take a guy out of the game who can run and can pass to put a guy in the game who isn't as good a runner and a bad passer? Just have Driskel do it. It'd work better.
Charlie (Jacksonville, FL)
You say there is no shutting down Lattimore, but LSU held him to 34 yards..do you believe UF has that ability?
Mike DiRocco (4:52 PM)
Charlie -- I used the caveat of an injury, and Lattimore suffered a bruised him. Plus, I think Spurrier panicked a bit and forced the passing game. Certainly UF can keep Lattimore from rushing for 100 yards, but it'll be tough.
Mike, it seems unlikely this team would match the 95 and 2009 teams with an undefeated regular season. I know we'd hate it to happen, but which remaining game do you feel UF is most likely to drop?
Mike DiRocco (4:53 PM)
Gene -- SC and FSU.
West Side Gata (The Longest Beach)
Mike, I am a proud Gator, but I do not think right now we are the #2.....right now. That being said, big one this weekend. What is something that people are not talking about that can propel Gators over those Gamies this weekend?
Mike DiRocco (4:54 PM)
West Side Gata -- Everyone's talking about Shaw and Driskel and Lattimore and Clowney and Gillislee. Almost no one is mentioning Kyle Christy and Caleb Sturgis. UF has a HUGE advantage in the kicking game. It's not sexy, but field position will be a major factor in this game and right now Christy owns that.
Andre (Monticello, FL)
Mike, this is an unusual offense the running game has been good. When will we see the passing game balance out the offense.
Mike DiRocco (4:54 PM)
Andre -- Next season, if the committed receivers are any good.
Hi Mike, As an FSU fan... I know coaching is a big factor in getting the "W". Who out coaches who in this one?
Mike DiRocco (4:55 PM)
Mack -- Hard to pick Muschamp to out-coach Spurrier, one of the all-time greats. But Spurrier said it best today: the players have to execute. The coach can have the idea, draw it up, and call it at the perfect time, but if one guy misses a block it doesn't work.
mark kierce (Orlando)
Will Muschamp is a phenomenal head coach. He brings a physical style plan to the Gators. Will Muschamp has different persona Gators never had its truly a blessing to have him as a teacher of the game. If its one thing bothers me is the passing game. Driskel has talent and skill role as a passer he knows how to manage the game. Can you compare LSU defense to the Gamecocks defense? What do think Muschamp gameplan is going into this game? Knowing its run first Do you think Coach Pease is planning for more of a balance attack?
Mike DiRocco (4:57 PM)
mark -- Lotta stuff there. The WRs have to start making more plays in the passing game and Driskel has to get rid of the ball sooner. It's that simple. Fix that, and it'll work, although the WR issue likely won't be fixed until next season. LSU and SC have similar defenses, with big-time pass rushers and good cover guys. It'd be hard to pick one over the other. UF is going to run the football. Period. That's what they want to do and if it works they'll stick with it.
If Easley is out again, how much of a drop-off will we see, i.e. how well have the freshmen been doing (Bullard, Fowler)?
Mike DiRocco (4:58 PM)
Brian -- I think Bullard has played better lately than Fowler, especially in the running game.
I heard the coaches say that they are still rolling out this new offense as Driskel can learn it. At this point in the year, are there new wrinkles/schemes they are still installing?
Mike DiRocco (4:58 PM)
Daniel -- No. Maybe a trick play here and there, but the offense is completely installed.
Brandon (Albany, GA)
Do you think Brent Pease will run a few of those jet sweeps with Andre Debose? Patton does an excellent job, but I'd like to see how Debose runs it being that he's the most athletic WR we have.
Mike DiRocco (4:59 PM)
Brandon -- That's all Patton. He's done a great job with it. Debose is still dealing with consistency issues.
Switching gears to Bball. Any chance we land Parker?
Mike DiRocco (5:01 PM)
CP -- Sure, but from what I understand his family has a great relationship with Tom Izzo. Might be hard to crack that.
Mike DiRocco (5:02 PM)
OK everyone, thanks again. Have to write a story and then go watch my son's freshman football team beat its rival tonight.Same time next week.