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 Thomas Goldkamp, staff analyst/reporter from Gatorcountry to discuss how Thomas got into sports journalism, his favorite stories from the past few years, and his outlook on the Gators next season.
DT: Thomas, thank you for joining me. How did you get involved in reporting and writing? I know you have an interesting path from engineering to journalism.
TG: It happened pretty much by accident. My freshman year at Florida, I began an SEC blog just to aggregate news from around the league and talk football with other SEC fans. I ended up pouring a lot of time into it, and my grades started slipping in electrical engineering.
I wanted to have fun in college. So rather than focusing and buckling down like a good student, I decided to switch majors when it became obvious I wasn’t going to be able to screw around and maintain my scholarship in engineering. Since I enjoyed writing about sports so much, journalism seemed like a natural fit. So here we are.
DT: What has been your favorite story to cover?
TG: I don’t know that there’s any one story in particular. Because of my background, I like doing any story that involves numbers. I’m big on statistical analysis and finding trends in the stats.
But if I had to pick one story I’ve written, it would probably be the feature I did on former walk-on punter David Lerner helping others cope with Crohn’s disease.
DT: I know you are a big fan of using statistics and charts to explain your stories. What has been your toughest story to gather meaningful statistics for to draw conclusions and correlation?
TG: To be honest, as much as I like writing about statistics and crunching numbers, I’m far from an expert. I only have minimal background in actual statistics courses, so I try to steer clear of anything too heavy.
The most interesting piece I’ve ever done was comparing how the major recruiting services did evaluating talent five years after each recruiting class was ranked. It took me 60-plus hours to search through and find out what happened to each player the major services ranked, then attribute points based on five ranking criteria. All in all, it ended up showing that the three major services (Rivals, Scout and ESPN) are all very similar when it comes to whose rankings are the most accurate. If you’ve got 20 minutes or so, you can check out that piece here.
The other fun piece with numbers I do is making a composite recruiting ranking. I input where each recruit is ranked in four of the major recruiting services and run it through a formula to come up with a sort of average ranking of all the top recruits. You can find that one here.
DT: I know you have written both general sports articles and articles focused on recruiting, what is your preference in coverage?
TG: I’m not a huge fan of covering recruiting, because there’s a lot of time spent tracking down kids who, for the most part, would rather do anything than talk to you. It also tends to get a little too generic for me, asking the same kids the same questions over and over again. I much prefer following a team through the ebbs and flows of a season and watching players grow up and mature through their college careers.
DT: Switching gears for a minute, what are your predictions for the Gators football team in the fall?
TG: I see six games on the schedule that Florida probably should win. After that, most of the remaining six games are toss-ups. Right now, I’m leaning toward eight wins in the regular season. There’s certainly a chance the Gators get to nine, but I can’t see anything better than that, realistically. Florida still has some holes on offense, and the injuries up front on defense are a little concerning.
DT: If we could play a quick game, who would you choose from these position battles:
DT: Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel?
DT: Chaz Green or Matt Patchan?
TG: A healthy Patchan, but that’s a tough one.
DT: Jabari Gorman or Pop Saunders?
DT: Purifoy or Watkins?
DT: Who will be the stand out player for the Gators football team this upcoming season
TG: This sounds insane, but I can easily see whoever wins the starting quarterback job doing well this year. It seems like it’s been forever since the Gators had that one guy on offense they could really rely on, and both of these guys are too talented not to make some serious noise after a full year and the experience they got last year. My guess is the starter plays well enough to get the expectations ramped way up for the 2013 season. Aside from that, I feel like Sharrif Floyd is poised for a monster season.
DT: Who is one incoming or redshirt freshmen that may impress the Gators fans this year?
TG: This may seem like taking the easy way out, but it has to be Latroy Pittman. We saw what he could do this spring, and he looked like the best receiver on the roster, in my opinion. A close second would be junior college defensive tackle Damien Jacobs. Of the guys who will get here this summer, I’d keep a close eye on tight end Kent Taylor.
DT: If Will Muschamp goes 6-6/7-5 this season, do you still think he has another season or two of support from Jeremy Foley?
TG: There’s no simple answer to that question. It really depends on how he does it, if you ask me. If there aren’t any major injuries and he goes 6-6, losing to Georgia and Florida State, you can bet there will be a strong contingent wanting him gone. Foley will feel that pressure big-time. But if it unfolds kind of like last year and he’s 7-5 after dealing with a few major injuries (starting quarterback going down), he could survive depending on how certain games break.I think eight wins in the regular season needs to be the benchmark this year for Muschamp. That’s still not up to Florida standards, but it would be a two-game improvement from last year and it’s almost unrealistic to expect much more than that given the problems the team still has.Barring total disaster, I still think he gets a third year from Foley, even with a 6-6 year.
DT: Thanks Thomas, for sitting down with me today.
TG: No problem, enjoyed doing it!—- 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.