Billy Napier says Gators are in ‘heated competition’ for playing time

by | Aug 21, 2023 | 0 comments

As the Florida Gators prepare for their season-opener against Utah, head coach Billy Napier is focusing on finding consistency within the team. After the second scrimmage, he expressed that the quality of football was improving and becoming more competitive. However, he still believes that more players need to be developed to play winning football.

“I do think we took a step forward in terms of the quality of football,” Napier says. It was much more competitive. I do think that we continue to need to develop more players who can play winning football and sustain the entirety of a scrimmage. We need more consistency.”

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“The margin for error is small.”

While there are quite a few young players who are getting better, there is still uncertainty about whether they are ready for what’s coming.

“I do think that the closer we get to the game, the more the attention to detail has to improve. The level of focus on urgency that we bring to every meeting, every walk-through, every practice rep, knowing that we are going to compete against the very best in the entire country, and the margin of error is small.”

To achieve this, Napier is trying to find a balance between the experienced and the newcomers in the squad.

“There are a lot of players on our team who are veterans and experienced,” Napier says. “They understand what is expected of them and what it’s going to be like. We have a huge group of players who haven’t played a ton of football. I think we need to refine our game.”

“Young players have made significant progress.”

After a mass exodus in the transfer portal last season, Napier had to find 11 new portal players to add experience to the team. Add these to the last two recruiting classes and there are many new faces competing with the established players for playing time.

“We have a group of established players, but we have a lot of players who are right in the middle of heated competition. We’re just going to let that competition take its place. But I do think we’ve made a ton of progress. A lot of these young players have made significant progress. Kamran James, in particular, Ja’Keem Jackson, Jordan Castell. I think Manny Nunnery has had a really good camp. I think Jaden Robinson has had a really good camp. Caleb Banks has been impressive at times. T.J. Searcy. I think Lyndell is a guy who’s done really well. We all know about Knijeah [Harris] because he had a good experience in the spring. Tony Livingston, Hayden Hansen, both really have accelerated their growth. Treyaun Webb… Those are a few off the top of my head.”

“I’m really excited about the young group of edge players.”

If there’s one place where the Gators really need young players to step up, it would be at the EDGE spot after the season-ending injury to Justus Boone. Napier praises what he has ready to go there.

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“I’m really excited about the young group of edge players. I would like to know if there’s a better group of young edge players in the country. You think about Kelby [Collins], Kamran [James], TJ [Searcy], Jack’s [Pyburn] a young player. I think that room there, we’re just going to have to live with growing pains.”

Photo credit: Ashley Ray, UAA Communcations

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