Welcome to our first edition of the IAKOW Mailbag! This is the perfect opportunity for our readers to directly ask about whatever they want. We’ll try to do them once or twice a month; email me questions at any time to email@example.com, and they’ll be answered in the next mailbag (or if we get a ton of them, we’ll do another mailbag episode soon thereafter and include them in that one).
So let’s get to it:
Q1: Jordan (Cairo, IL) asks: Do you think our offensive line transfers (TJ McCoy, Mason Halter) and the incoming freshmen (Tyler Jordan, Martez Ivey, Brandon Sandifer) will play right away?
A1: I think they’re going to have to. Remember, Florida returns only seven scholarship offensive linemen from last year, and only two of those have seen game action (David Sharpe and Trip Thurman). Those two guys figure to start, but the rest of the line is totally up in the air. You’re talking about redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores vs. true freshmen and transfers. I can’t tell you who our five starting offensive linemen will be, but I will say I’d be shocked if Ivey (probably at left tackle) wasn’t one of them.
Q2: Derek T asks: Our offense is getting all the ink this offseason. But what about our defense? How good can they be?
A2: It certainly seems they should be one of the nation’s best. This defense employs three players who could be starters on NFL rosters next year in Jon Bullard, Antonio Morrison and Vernon Hargreaves. Geoff Collinsis a highly underrated defensive mind, too. He brings a great energy to the table as well, and when you have a unit with this much natural talent, all you really need to do is get them to want to play for you. Which he’s done.
Q3: Juan (Miami Gardens, FL) asks: which freshmen (true or redshirt) do you think has the biggest impact on the team this year?
A3: I gotta go with Martez Ivey. The offensive line is easily this team’s biggest weakness, meaning the need there was greatest. He’s also freakishly talented. He’ll probably go through some growing pains, but by the end of the season, I’m betting he’s a freshman All-American.
Q4: Sarah (Buckhead, GA) asks: What do you think McElwain will be like as a disciplinarian? Strict like Muschamp? Let his players do whatever the hell they want without punishing them like Jimbo Fisher? In the middle?
A4: Every case is different. I will point out that Jimbo suspended Jameis Winston for their rivalry game against Clemson because of the student union center episode, and rightfully so. Somebody who just escaped sexual assault charges probably should not be screaming about “f*cking her right in the p*ssy” in public. As for McElwain, I think his approach will be based on what the ultimate legal decision is. We already know he’s not afraid to boot troublemakers because of the JC Jackson incident. I don’t think off the field issues will be anywhere near the problem they were under Meyer, put it that way.
Q5: Jacob C asks: What one game on our schedule do we absolutely HAVE HAVE HAVE to win, and why? (FSU, right?)
A5: As much as I’d love to demolish Florida State and shut their fans up, Georgia’s the big one. Always is. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has SEC and SEC East implications that the FSU rivalry doesn’t. You have to distinguish wanting to win so you can rub it in your opponents’ faces and wanting to win because it does a great deal to help your team. Personally, I’d enjoy the immediate aftermath of a win over FSU ever so slightly more than a win over Georgia, but I’d rather beat Georgia than FSU because we directly compete with Georgia for all the same prizes, if that makes any sense. Historically, the loser of this game has a very, very tough time making it to Atlanta- which should be the team’s primary goal all offseason and all year, not winning a single game on Thanksgiving weekend.
Q6: Chad G (Chicago, IL) asks: With Jarrad Davis fully healthy, what 3 LB’s do you think will start opening day? Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillan and Davis? And with LB being shallow, do we convert Keivonnis Davis to a LB or try someone new at the position?
A6: Antonio Morrison is a guaranteed starter assuming he’s healthy. Coaches have predicted he’d be ready for the opening game against New Mexico State as recently as last week. If he can’t play against New Mexico State (and let’s be real, we aren’t going to need him), the three guys you listed are pretty good bets. But I don’t see a need to convert anyone… yet. Matt Rolin is finally healthy, and Jeremi Powell isn’t a bad backup option. Should we have to convert somebody, I’d go with someone who played a hybrid role last year, like Alex McCalister.
Q7: Seth asks: Is Muschamp continuing to anti-recruit Florida? Is that why Spencer Perry decommitted? Am I justified in building a Muschamp scarecrow and torching it at the NMSU game once it gets out of hand?
A7: Yes, he is. Partly, but not completely. And you would be, except I’m pretty sure the Swamp has some sort of policy against lighting things on fire in the stands. These are all legitimate questions. But re: the first two, I can’t really say much more than that right now. Sorry.
Q8: Martin (Charlotte, NC) asks: Kelvin Taylor is gonna start for us, we all know that. Who’s second in line for carries in our first real game of the year (meaning ECU)?
A8: Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrobably Adam Lane, unless Jordan Scarlett absolutely explodes. I think Lane earned the opportunity to start the year as the #2 back with his performance in the Birmingham Bowl. They’re also different types of backs: Lane is the bowling ball, kind of like a Mike Alstott type of back, while Scarlett is the more traditional, all purpose back that can catch out of the backfield, make guys miss, and see the field well. I think they’ll be used in situations that are better suited for them. But by midseason, I do think Scarlett gets the second team reps at RB.
Q9: Sean W (Thomasville, GA) asks: Can I ask a baseball question? (Thanks) Point blank, how good will we be next year?
A9: Sure you can. And really good. The only guys who leave are Harrison Bader, Josh Tobias and Richie Martin… literally everybody else comes back. That means our top four starting pitchers (Logan Shore, AJ Puk, Alex Faedo and Dane Dunning) and six guys in our starting lineup, most notably JJ Schwarz, Mike Rivera, Dalton Guthrie, Buddy Reed, Peter Alonso and Jeremy Vasquez. We also get back Ryan Larson, a key contributor from the bench. So… yeah, really good.
Q10: Allen (Montgomery, AL) asks: We heard so much about the Michigan State series in basketball, but nothing since news of the schools being close to a deal first came out. Any update?
A10: I don’t think it’s going to happen as soon as we once expected. The deal was made with the assumption that Florida wouldn’t have an arena this coming winter, but now they do. Michigan State is adamant that the first game must be in East Lansing because they’ve already built their schedule around having that home game (against somebody). They could just push the series back a year, and have Florida travel to MSU when they actually don’t have a home facility in the winter of 2016-17. That’s my bet.