The Florida Gators face off against the top-ranked team in the nation, the Georgia Bulldogs, this coming Saturday in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs come into this game with an impressive 24-game winning streak and have not lost a regular season game since the Gators defeated them 44-28 in 2020.
Florida head coach Billy Napier dives into the matchup, the culture he’s building at Florida, and Steve Spurrier speaking to the team this week.
Billy Napier: “Good day today. I think it’s important as you approach a game like this that you have a belief in a system in terms of how you prepare. We believe in preparation. We think it allows the players to play with poise, have confidence. I think if you’re intentional and detailed in everything you do as you approach a game like this it gives you an opportunity to be that type of player — a player that can play with poise, have confidence. I think attitude is a choice. I think young people, it’s important that they have hope, that they have belief, that there is opportunity. Our guys have a chance to choose their attitude every day, and so far, so good this week. I think it’s important that we eliminate uncertainty with the level of detail in which we prepare. I think we’ve got an opportunity, we’re a little bit ahead here to be as prepared as possible.”
Oscar Delp stepping in Brock Bowers?
Billy Napier: “Obviously talented at every position. It’s a deep team. They’re able to survive some of those injuries. And look, the freshman’s really good, too. They’ve got a very capable group. That guy has made plays this year, too. It’s plug and play. I do have a ton of respect for the caliber of player Brock Bowers is. He’s certainly a generational talent. I’d rather play them without him than with him. It is what it is.”
Intimidation factor when looking at a star-studded opponent?
Billy Napier: “They get to put 11 out there at a time. We get to put 11 out there at a time. And ultimately the team that plays the best most Saturdays wins the game. These guys have done it a lot. I think the key here is we focus on the things we can control. Oftentimes, this game is about not screwing it up as it is making a play. We want to go over there with the intention of making things happen. But I do have a ton of respect for them, for Georgia, no question about it — and the players do as well.”
ESPN article on culture change?
Billy Napier: “I think we’ve grown a lot. I don’t think there’s any question. This group we have has a leadership element that I respect. We have leadership at lots of different levels of our team. I think we have some veteran players that are doing a really good job setting a good example. I think we have within each class of players I think there’s a good voice there within the locker room. And I think we have some unsung players who do not play a lot but also have the ability to lead on a team. This group does have a maturity about it. They go about their business the right way. We don’t have a lot of distractions. Everybody’s trying to do their best for the team. It’s a fun group to coach.”
How’d you change the culture?
Billy Napier: “One day at a time, one person at a time. I think it’s ultimately, you know, what we do, but consistency is important. I believe in football for a lot of reasons. I think it probably resembles life as much as anything out there. I think it gives us an opportunity to teach set of values, and I think ultimately, that’s what we’ve done. You know, we’ve tried to improve the player experience, tried to improve our product relative to recruiting. I think the players see that, that there’s a plan and we care about them as people, that we are trying to prioritize their education, and that we do have a plan to help develop them as players. I think, ultimately, that’s what’s required. They have to know that you care about them, to know that you’re invested in their development. As a person, as a student and as a football player. They’ve got to think, ‘Hey, I can get better. You can help me get better.’ So, we’ve hired really good. We’ve got a group of people that have character and integrity, and it’s a genuine group. I think it’s a group that works really hard to help the player. So ultimately, everything we do is about the player. And I think ultimately, they’ve seen that. And, you know, it helps when you experience a little bit of success along the way. We’ve had our f–, you know, we’ve made mistakes as well. But I think also, we’ve showed progress and I think the players are seeing that.”
Getting Kingsley Eguakun back this week
Billy Napier: “I think, ultimately, we get a guy that has leadership, he has presence, and he has experience. I would tell you that anytime you get a guy that’s started I don’t know how many games, twenty-plus games in his carrier, I think that’s beneficial for your career. While he’s been out, Jake Slaughter, I would consider Slaughter a starter at this point. I’ve got a ton of respect for how Jake’s played as of late. We’ve developed some depth there that I think will be beneficial for our team.”
Jonathan Odom’s injury
Billy Napier: “Yeah, he’s in concussion protocol, ultimately. He’s close but he’s making progress right now.”
Steve Spurrier speaking to the team this week
Billy Napier: “Coach has been great to me since my first day I got the job. He’s been awesome. Ultimately, for me, it’s a blessing to have him around. The wisdom, had an opportunity to spend some time with him, and he’s the right balance of staying out of your way but also giving you some insight. I think you’d be foolish not to take full advantage of having such an accomplished coach. I think for me, in my career, as a young player I’m watching him coach. Ultimately, he comes back to South Carolina, that’s ultimately, Coach had tremendous success here but I think to go to South Carolina and for him to do what he did at South Carolina, I think that’s kind of the exclamation point to his career, in my opinion. Coach has got conviction about the University of Florida. He cares about this place. It’s important to him. It’s always good to have him around.”
Georgia’s offensive line and how Florida can get pressure on Carson Beck
Billy Napier: “I don’t know that we want to get that specific in terms of that. But that’s a good question. Every week I think protect and affect. I think, ultimately, it’s about protecting your quarterback and affecting their quarterback. It’s an element to the game. You want to try and disrupt (their quarterback). I think takeaways start with the quarterback, to some degree. So, yeah, it’s part of each game and certainly it’s part of this game. We’ll be trying to do both of those — protect our quarterback and affect theirs.”
On winning the line of scrimmage this week vs Georgia
Billy Napier: “I think every week in this league is a line of scrimmage emphasis week. There’s not a week off. I think, ultimately, if you want to have a program that is a consistent contender, that can win a championship, that can be sustainable and can win a championship, that can be sustainable, and repeatable you have to have really good play in the trenches. You’ve got to have the height, the length, the power, the twitch on the edges. That’s a really important piece of the puzzle. I think, ultimately, a huge part of their success is they have had that in the past. I think a lot of the teams that I have been a part of that were able to win championships had really good line of scrimmage play. They had significant players on both fronts. It’s definitely part of how we’re trying top put our football team together and part of their formula for success has been being good up front on both sides.”