As part of a new series, Bourbon Meyer will get to know a few of the writers and bloggers who cover Gator athletics. Today, Dan Thompson sat down with Lance Davis, recruiting writer from AlligatorArmy.com to discuss Gator recruiting, the upcoming season and what it is like to be a Gators fan attending Auburn University.
DT: Thank you for joining me. I am curious Lance, how did you get involved with Gators recruiting, blogging, but more importantly, how did you become a Gator fan in Auburn, Alabama?
LD: I became interested in recruiting when I was in ninth grade. My computers teacher, a huge Alabama fan, called me to his desk and told me, “You guys got a commitment from the top quarterback in the country.” Somehow, up until that point, I had never heard of recruiting, so I responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said, “Tim Tebow. He’s the top high school quarterback in the country. He’s going to play for Florida.” He then showed me Rivals.com, told me a little bit of what recruiting is all about. I became fascinated with it. I had the entire Rivals100 from 2006 memorized.
My Gators fandom is more or less an unsolved mystery. I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life. My family and most of my friends are Auburn fans. I have no affiliation with the University of Florida, whatsoever. But, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked the Gators. I’ve tried to pinpoint a moment or an event that may have triggered my fandom, but I can’t. My parents joke that I got the orange and blue right, just picked the wrong team.
I’ve always loved sports, but I’ve never been that great at them, so I figured journalism would be a solid career choice. I paired my love of Florida with my desire to write, and that’s how I landed in blogging about the Gators. My first opportunity came from Justin Wells when he was at Swamp247. He was kind enough to give me an opportunity to write recruiting updates. It was my first real writing opportunity, and I can’t thank him enough. I got the chance to speak with recruits like Andrew Buie, Ahmad Christian, Lamar Dawson, Chase Hounshell and Dante Phillips. It was a great experience. Currently, Andy Hutchins of SB Nation has been kind enough to let me write recruiting for Alligator Army. I’m having a blast with it. I’ve learned a lot about writing from reading Andy’s work.
DT: What is it like rooting for Florida when you attend Auburn and do you root for Auburn as a second team?
LD: It’s weird. I walk by Jordan-Hare Stadium every day on my way to class, and sometimes I get frustrated with the lack of success Florida has had there in recent years. I don’t wear Florida apparel to class — I don’t want to be that guy, and I don’t want any confrontation. My friends are great, though. They clown on me for Florida’s loss this past season and always talk about how much better than Cam Newton is than Tim Tebow. When they mention the 2010 title, I’ll tell them “you’re welcome,” considering Florida let Cam Newton get away. I’d love to be at UF surrounded by Gator Nation, but I’m blessed to be a part of the Auburn Family.
DT: So you have obviously been involved in Gators recruiting for sometime now, what has been your favorite recruit to cover and follow?
LD: Marcus Roberson was a fun one. He committed to Texas Tech two weeks before Signing Day, because his uncle was on the Red Raiders’ staff. The day he committed, he said it was “50-50″ whether he’d sign with Texas Tech. Then he committed to Auburn two days before Signing Day. The very next day, he de-committed from Auburn. And on Signing Day, he signed with Florida. As Justin Wells said, “Roberson marches to the beat of his own drum.” It was a huge get for Florida, though, as Roberson started last season and is the best corner on the team.
DT: Florida obviously signed a great class in 2012, but missed a few at the end. Who do you think the Gators will miss the most out of the ones they missed (Tracy Howard, Stefon Diggs, Nelson Agholor, Avery Young, Leonard Williams, Josh Harvey-Clemmons)?
LD: Probably Stefon Diggs. He would’ve made an impact right away, at receiver and punt returner. Florida needed a playmaker at receiver, and although Latroy Pittman has been turning heads, signing Diggs would’ve been huge. Fortunately for Florida, Diggs signed with Maryland, so unless the two teams meet in a bowl game, he won’t hurt the Gators directly.
DT: Who is your surprise player of the 2012 class that maybe some people may be unfamiliar with?
LD: Brian Cox Jr. is going to be really good. He was rated a three-star defensive end by Rivals, but that had a lot to do with him being injured most of his senior season. Between playing at St. Thomas Aquinas for his senior season — albeit for a short period of time before the injury — and his dad playing in the NFL, he’s definitely got the upbringing to be great. And with the depth problems for Florida at defensive end, he could find the field early.
DT: Which player do you think will have the biggest impact of his freshman year?
LD: I could see tight end Kent Taylor having a big freshman season. With A.C. Leonard’s suspension length undetermined and Jordan Reed the only other legitimate tight end, Taylor could get plenty of early playing time. He’s a tremendous pass catcher, though he could work on his blocking. Overall, a great prospect who I could definitely see making a huge impact. Colin Thompson, too, but he’s more of a blocker, like a sixth offensive lineman.
DT: The Gators have 15 players committed for the 2013 class. Who do you think are the top 3 players from that group? Who are you still iffy on, that surprised you when they committed?
LD: I’d rank them 1) Ahmad Fulwood, 2) Nick Washington, 3) Kelvin Taylor. I like Fulwood’s height — you can’t teach 6’4″. I think he can come in and contribute right away and give whoever is playing quarterback a reliable target down field. I like Washington because he’s like a spork. He can do a little bit of everything. He can play corner, safety, and he’s also good enough to play baseball at UF. Plus, of Florida’s current commits, he’s probably the best recruiter. And Kelvin Taylor, his records speak for themselves. He has some size at 5’10, 215. His dad, obviously, had great success running the ball at Florida and in the NFL. He plans on enrolling early, and that’s huge.
DT: Switching gears for a minute, what are your predictions for the Gators football team in the fall?
LD: Another rebuilding year, but better than last season. I see Florida going 8-4 in the regular season. Some games — such as the Texas A&M, Georgia and South Carolina games — I could see going either way. The defense is going to be great, but I’m not sure what to expect from the offense. I can’t see the offense being significantly better. I think we’ll see a huge improvement from last year’s team, but it’s going to be tough to win more than eight or nine games.
DT: If we could play a quick game, who would you choose from these position battles:
DT: Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel?
LD: Brissett. I like his poise. I like his deep ball. He doesn’t have the mobility that Driskel has, but he can still move around if he needs to.
DT: Chaz Green or Matt Patchan?
LD: Matt Patchan. They’ve both had good springs, and I like Green, but Patchan has a little more experience. Plus, I think he’s developed into a leader on the offensive line.
DT: Jabari Gorman or Pop Saunders?
LD: Pop Saunders. Gorman had a really impressive spring game, but there’s no substitute for all the games Saunders started last season. Gorman had some good moments on special teams and late in games early last year, but Pop brought it all season.
DT: Purifoy or Watkins?
LD: Louchiez Purifoy. Jaylen Watkins was OK last season, but he rotated in and out with Cody Riggs. Roberson had his side of the field locked down, but the other side… you never knew what you were going to get. Muschamp said Purifoy has “done some nice things” in spring (he says that about everyone), and I’d like to see him get a shot.
DT: Who will be the stand out player for the Gators football team this upcoming season?
LD: Matt Elam. He’s the team’s superstar, a leader on defense, and the most NFL-ready player on the roster. With the defensive line poised to be one of the best in the SEC, there could be plenty of interceptions up for grabs. Plus, in Florida’s loss to FSU last year, Elam seemed like the only player playing with any passion. When he got into it with Greg Reid, it was a little over the edge, but I was totally OK with it, because no one else on Florida was doing anything.
DT: Last question, what is next for Lance Davis?
LD: For now, I’m going to keep posting on Alligator Army. I enjoy writing there, and Andy has been great to me. Spring 2013 will be my last semester at Auburn, and I’ll be doing an internship that summer. I’d love to be able to intern somewhere in Gainesville or Atlanta, but I’ll gladly go to wherever will have me. I’d love to write sports for many years to come.
DT: Thanks for joining me Lance, it has been a pleasure.—— Daniel Thompson is a graduate of the University of Florida, with degrees in Political Science and Economics. During his time as an Undergraduate, Thompson worked at the University of Florida Football Recruiting Office for three years. He can be found on Twitter @DK_Thompson and @SND_Gators and manages TheGatorsDaily.com.