As part of a new series, Bourbon Meyer will get to know a few of the writers and bloggers who cover Gator athletics. This week Dan Thompson sat down with Adam Silverstein from OnlyGators.com to discuss Adam’s thoughts on the meteoric rise of his blog and about his opinions on the Gators football team for next season.
DT: Adam, thanks for sitting down with me today. How did OnlyGators start and how did it grow so quickly? It seemed to go from a Twitter handle to bustling blog in just a short period of time.
AS: I’d like to sit here and say it was all in the planning but there were a handful of factors that contributed to my site’s growth. The Twitter account was opened early on purpose as a way to create an audience while the blog was still being constructed. It was only supposed to be a one-month gap but due to some unforeseen issues, it took longer than I wanted to get the site up and running. In the meantime, I had cultivated a large following on there by tweeting a lot of information that simply was not available on Twitter at the time. The site then happened to open on Oct. 1 – less than a week after Tim Tebow’s concussion against Kentucky, so it helped that it was a national story. That first month also had so many big news stories that there was always a steady stream of information for readers to check out. In addition to all of the news on Tebow and the breaks in Erin Andrews’s stalking case, Newsday did a feature on me and the website, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time for some exclusive news on Matt Elam’s commitment status and the major previously unreported injury suffered by Moses Jenkins. Sometimes things just work out and that month ended up being the perfect time to launch the site.
A number of other things happened over the subsequent two months that undoubtedly helped increase the site’s popularity. Don’t forget – that was the crazy 2009 football season where something newsworthy seemed to happen every week. I was able to post exclusive pictures of the Nike Pro Combat uniforms (which crashed the site and forced me to upgrade the server), Brandon Spikes was suspended, Carlos Dunlap was arrested, Urban Meyer resigned and came back (his 911 call was also released), the coaching staff was raided by Louisville, Elam switched his commitment to Florida State, MySpace pictures of Lynden Trail and Leon Orr made the national news, Bradley Beal committed. It was non-stop and all happened to occur in the first 90 days the site was open.
DT: When did you realize that running OnlyGators would be a full-time job, not just a hobby on the side?
AS: I’m not exactly sure that there was a particular moment or instance when I had that realization. And truth is that I do not consider it a full-time job today though I may spend full-time hours working on it. Coming out of college I had dedicated myself to working in-house for a sports franchise rather than being on the outside writing about one. While working for a team in a non-communications role, I realized that I wanted to change directions and get back to my roots. I started OnlyGators as a way to rekindle that desire, hoping that it would either lead to a full-time job in the field or at least become something that satisfied the part of me that wanted to continue writing about sports. Luckily it has succeeded in doing both. I’ve unfortunately had to turn down some full-time opportunities for one reason or another but have been able to maintain and grow OnlyGators while I still look for that perfect situation.
DT: What has been the highlight of your time running OnlyGators?
AS: That’s a tough question because so many things have happened that I have been thankful for or will look back on and smile about years from now. Being able to interview Erin Andrews candidly about both her life and the unfortunate circumstances she found herself in a few years ago was touching. I never thought I’d speak and joke around with Jack Youngblood for a good hour. Getting a call from SiriusXM to come on and “break” the news live on the air (they had not announced it yet) that Will Muschamp was hired as the Gators’ new head coach was admittedly pretty awesome. I suppose the best part is that a some athletes and coaches I’ve written about have gotten in contact with me to either thank me for certain things I’ve said or just to tell me that they read the site all the time and check it out every day. I’ve also seen the site pulled up on a laptop here and there at a coffee shop or lunch place – that’s always really cool.
DT: You recently started contributing to InsidetheGators.com on the Rivals network. How has that experience been?
AS: It’s definitely been great and a lot of fun. I used to read Rivals and ITG when I was in college and being able to contribute to the site now on a normal basis is certainly something I enjoy. I plan to begin writing more commentary pieces there this football season and hope that can be a nice change of pace for both the site and the people that follow my writings.
DT: Switching gears for a minute, what are your predictions for the Gators football team in the fall?
AS: Florida fans may be surprised at how much improvement they see from the team compared to one year ago. Despite injuries to Dominique Easley and Ronald Powell, I expect the defense to take another step up from last year’s unit that finished No. 8 in the country. The key on this side of the field is health. So many starters were injured and missing from the spring game – they need to get healthy and back to fill in all of those gaps. Offensively one of the quarterbacks is going to need to step up and take control of the unit to ensure it has some success. A two-quarterback approach may be acceptable for the coaches but you know the old saying – “If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none.” There are going to be enough questions on offense with the wide receivers’ production and whether or not Mike Gillislee can stay healthy that the team cannot also worry about who will be under center each series.
DT: If we could play a quick game, who would you choose from these position battles:
DT: Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel?
AS: Driskel – his athleticism and ability to extend plays makes the difference in the end.
DT: Chaz Green or Matt Patchan?
AS: Patchan – a tie on all counts comes down to experience and maturity. No matter who wins, I expect both to see plenty of time rotating.
DT: Jabari Gorman or Pop Saunders?
AS: Saunders – seeing so much time on the field in 2011 will make a difference when summer practice rolls around.
DT: Purifoy or Watkins?
AS: Purifoy – you always see players pop up and surprise you. However, I expect both Watkins and Gorman to see more than their fair share of action.
DT: Who do you think will be the stand-out freshman on the Gators football team next year?
AS: It is a little too early to say. Out of the six players already enrolled, Antonio Morrison looked like he can be a big-time contributor. However, both Dante Fowler, Jr. (at Buck linebacker) and Kent Taylor (at tight end/pass catcher) could really stand out during the season depending how they perform over the summer.
DT: Who do you think will be a player that will really surprise people next season?
AS: If Muschamp and Dan Quinn just let Sharrif Floyd play defensive tackle full-time, I am almost positive he would have a breakout season. He’s a player who I legitimately believe can be a top-five NFL draft pick if he plays to his full potential and is provided that opportunity. Short of that happening, Jelani Jenkins is my choice. Fans certainly know that Jenkins is a talented player but he received more criticism than praise last season for all of his dropped interceptions. Another year older, another year wiser and another year more polished, Jenkins has the athleticism and talent to take his game to another level and really make a difference on the field.
DT: What’s next for OnlyGators.com?
AS: The goals right now are to get better each day and continue to seek out new opportunities wherever they might exist. I’m hoping to bring on a former player to contribute football columns next season (just as I had with basketball and baseball this year) while still providing the type of content that the readers want to check out on a daily basis. The most important thing for me is to keep OnlyGators free for the fans and readers. I plan to explore additional ways to raise revenue for the site in order to continue making that possible in the future.
DT: Adam, thanks again for joining me today and for your contributions to the Gators blogging community.—— Daniel Thompson is a graduate of the University of Florida, majoring 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.