Billy Napier discusses Florida and Tennessee matchup and the emergence of Scooby, Lyons

by | Sep 14, 2023 | 0 comments

Scooby Williams sack against McNeese

Florida head coach Billy Napier spoke to the media one last time before Florida’s matchup with Tennessee. Napier discusses the return of starting center Kingsley Eguakun, the team’s focus and preparation, Tennessee’s defensive front, the emergence of Jamari Lyons and Scooby Williams, and the health of the team. Coach Napier also discusses the team’s sense of urgency and intensity leading up to their game against Tennessee.

WATCH or LISTEN: Florida vs Tennessee Preview and Prediction

Opening statement:

Napier: “I was just talking to the team just now about loyalty and I think it’s a trait that we all should seek in life, being a person that’s loyal and whether that is on a team, in a family, in a community, I think you have strength in numbers and I think football resembles life in a lot of ways and certainly, we’re trying to create a loyal culture. I think sometimes, that is people who encourage you, that motivate you, that inspire you but there’s also people that hold you accountable and tell you the truth sometimes and set a great example. Certainly, our team has made progress in that area, I believe that. I also believe if you’re an elite competitor, you live for opportunities like these. These games, this is why you come to the University of Florida, to play in these games. And certainly, we’re excited about playing in front of our crowd. Look, our players, they feed off of our fans. They bring great energy and certainly they can make it difficult for the other team to play and that is exactly what we want them to do. We’re asking everybody to wear blue this weekend and I know our fans are excited about the game.”

Loyal fans:

Napier: “It’s a non-factor here. It’s not a topic of conversation at the University of Florida. Talk about loyal, we have loyal fans, we have passionate fans and ultimately, it’s a motivator for me. The more people I meet, the more stories they tell me about the great memories they have of the success that’s been had here in athletics as a whole and in football in general. It’s a motivator. We came here to make Florida a contender again, to be in contention, to be relevant again, to win championships. We’re in the process of creating that.”

Practice production and the return of starting center Kingsley Eguakun:

Napier; “I think we benefit. Another body there. Ultimately, being able to spread the reps out, some younger players are a little bit further along so they’ve been able to gain knowledge and experience and be more productive and effective. It’s been good. I think that ultimately, these games, you’ve got the players’ attention. It’s more about the quality of the work. How intentional are we? How deliberate are we? And then what we do, the plan is in to some degree outside of a handful of situations but we’ll do what we do from now until we kick it off from a mental standpoint, from a self-discipline standpoint. It’s been a good week. If you’re a competitor, these are the ones you live for.”

The focus from the players:

Napier: “One of the things we try to take great pride in, is defining the expectations of the players. We try to map out their week for them and then it’s ultimately up to them to do it. At the end of the week, when it’s time to play, if you’ve done the work and dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s and you follow through, I think the coaching staff and all parts of the organization are just like the players. We’re doing our part if we’re staying on schedule, if we’re following through and doing the things we’re supposed to be doing, taking pride in our work and our role. Then, ultimately, you show up to the park a little bit more confident. Sometimes you know where the issues are at, much like anything in life. But so far, so good.”

Tennessee’s defensive front:

Napier: “I think they’ve done a good job. I think, ultimately, big, long twitchy, inside powerful, on the edge, they’ve created issues. They’ve got several edge players that I think are significant and can create issues for you. And I think that ultimately time will tell but, certainly, it’s SEC play. It’s Eastern Division and it’s a top-25 opponent. It’s what you’d expect. I think they are exactly what you’d expect from an SEC opponent up front.”

Whether or not this game can inspire leadership:

Napier: “It uncovers it. Adversity’s a little bit like a mirror to some degree. You end up looking in the mirror and figuring out who you are and what you’re made of. This group’s been through its fair share, I would say. So, their ability to focus, set a good example, we got three different cross sections of leadership that we meet with, one on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, lots of different roles, lots of different players. We got a group that is growing up, some veterans and some rookies that do a good job.”

The emergence of Jamari Lyons:

Napier: “He’s part of that first class. He’s big, he’s twitchy. Jamari is unique in that he had shoulder surgery in the spring of his senior year. He had both shoulders fixed. So that set him back pretty significantly. He showed up that summer and he was out of shape. It was just tough for him to get over the hump. So that whole first year was just about getting back in shape. He started at where he should start an offseason. And it’s just Year 2. He’s done a lot from the maturity and football intelligence. But ultimately he’s twitchy. He’s hard to block. Last year he was on scout team and I used to tell those guys this guy’s hard to block. So no surprise there. He’s worked hard, too. “I think ultimately you have the traits. Then you got to develop the fundamentals, the technique, football intelligence. Some guys have played a lot of football and there’s an instincts portion to that. They’re a step ahead in those areas. I would say once he got over the surgery he was a little bit close to what we thought he was coming out.”

Backup quarterback Jack Miller coming off the injury report:

Napier: “He’s been able to participate all week. He’s done a good job. He certainly benefits our team when he’s out there.”

Playing more man coverage against a team like Tennessee:

“I think they’re very systematic in their approach with the run perimeter attacks. I think they do a good job. They put you where you have to decide what you want to do. I have a ton of respect for the way they play. I think in particular systematically they’re tough. They do a good job up front. They run the ball. These guys rush the ball. I think their offensive line coach does a good job. I think they’re effective. They have depth at running back. The element of the quarterback ultimately adds to that. You pair that with the perimeter attacks and the vertical passing game they can present some issues to you.”

Whether or not Tennessee can lull opponents to sleep with passes to the perimeter before striking over the middle:

Napier: “It’s part of what they do. I think ultimately they’re going to take their shots. Football nowadays even the way we play sometimes the defense is giving you the perimeter stuff and you take that. The fan sees it as a throw to the perimeter, but ultimately that was a running play. We just picked where the numbers were at. They’re no different. I think they’re two games in and their quarterback has done a good job of distributing the ball. Sometimes that includes handing it off.”

How Tennessee has adapted to their personnel:

Napier: “They do a good job featuring the skill that they have. Ultimately Josh has done a good job. You go back to UCF when he started this approach. I think every team is about taking the players that you have that year and trying the formations, concepts and distributing the ball to your best skill players.”

Treyaun Webb stepping into role as the third back:

Napier: “Treyaun was right in the heat of that competition. He had a really good offseason. Treyaun Webb is going to be a really good player, you could see it Saturday. I think he kind of took it, I was impressed. His ground level, the decisiveness, the toughness, he’s not scared. That’s one thing I would say I appreciate about Treyaun Webb, he’s a tough dude. He does a great job in pass protection. I tell him all the time, I say, ‘Tell them where you’re from Treyaun.’ He’s from Duval. I love him, he shows up, he’s a worker, he’s gained probably 10-12 pounds since he’s gotten here. I think he could be really effective for us.”

The team being the healthiest it’s been in a while:

Napier: “Yeah, I mean, I think every team in America probably right now is, I don’t know that any player on our team is going to the park 100 percent, okay that’s reality. We probably have fewer guys below the line, but we got a team that’s got to work hard between now and gameday to be ready, be their best. Ultimately this is a week-to-week grind, to have the self-discipline and follow through and use the recovery modalities, use the training room, get good sleep, make sure you are eating and drinking the right things. I think every week is a grind to try to be at your best, you might not be 100, but let’s be the best we can be when we get to gameday.”

The sense of urgency and intensity this week:

Napier: “These kids are educated. We’ve tried to do our part relative to educating them on the history of this game in particular. I think that will be effective, and look they respect the opponent. They know that the intensity, the speed, the physicality, the urgency that’s going to be required to win a game like this, they know what they are getting into, and I think the veterans have done a good job of explaining to a lot of these new cats that may not have played in one of these games before.”

The process of adapting to ILB for Scooby Williams:

Napier: “That’s a great story to write about. This guy was an edge player. So early in his career you are kind of like wanting to see him do more. I can remember, Scooby and I had a lot of heart to hearts, just like ‘hey, let’s go.’ The reality is, the way I say it is when you are an edge player you’re a one eye player, you see the game through one eye essentially. Now you move in there on the inside and now I’ve got to see the game with two eyes, and there’s a lot more decision making, football matters, eye discipline matters, not to mention the communication aspect, and then the coverage component. So I think Scooby has done a good job year two in the system, Coach Bateman’s done a good job with him. He was an edge player that moved inside, there was a transition there, but man, he’s got all the traits you’re looking for an I’m really proud of him.”

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Photo credit: Molly Kaiser, UAA Communications

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