Florida head coach, Billy Napier, speaks to the SEC media ahead of the Kentucky matchup and discusses the Wildcats and highlights the play of Jordan Castell and Scooby Williams.
“We’re off to a good start. Right in the middle of preparation, obviously abig game. Ton of respect for Kentucky. Got to go play at their place at 12 noon. A ton of respect for Coach Stoops and the program that he’s built, the brand of football that they play. Obviously, for us, it’s an SEC opponent, and there’s a certain mentality that comes from playing on the road in this league, so I’ve been pleased with our veteran players, and certainly, we have a lot of young players who will be, you know, this will be their first opportunity to go experience those types of things, so we expect it to be a challenge, and we look forward to the opportunities that come with that.”
The SEC expanding travel roster to 74 players
“Well I think it’s, you know, in today’s era and climate I would say, it’s been beneficial. I mean it’s, I know there are other leagues that carry 80 players. I think the SEC kind of came to an agreement to meet in the middle at 74, maybe the Big 10’s at 74 and the ACC’s at 80, but I do think the more players that you can keep engaged, the better. Special teams is ultimately the area where it helps you the most, right, so, and then young players who maybe continue to develop and grow. But very rarely will those four that we add contribute to the game in my opinion. It’s more about just the experience for some young players who in the future are going to be critical parts of your team.”
If it’s just beneficial for them to travel and experience atmospheres:
“Yeah be engaged and, you know, I mean it’s one of the tougher things we have to do as coaches, it’s tell those guys that might be 71, 72, 73, 74, there’s always a handful of players on your team you wish you could take, who’ve maybe been working hard, they’re making progress, they’re developing. It’s disappointing when they don’t make the travel roster, right, so I think with the portal, I think most of my counterparts in the league would agree the more players that get to travel the better.”
On Jordan Castell
“Well, I think pretty quickly once we get the football piece. I think spring practice, OTAs, we do a ton of things to where a young player that shows up in January has an opportunity to go through the best teaching progression, in my opinion, to have an opportunity to play as a freshman. You know, we teach our system about five times before we even play a game.
Jordan, you know, he not only did that, but I think his intentional approach, the extra that he did on his own, and obviously he’s very talented. You know, 6-2, 200 pounds, has range, can tackle, can cover. He’s smart and mature, you know. So I think Jordan is a product of his work. You know, his fundamentals are really good for a young player. And I think he’s taken the time to learn that system. He knows he’s a really good communicator. But, you know, it didn’t happen overnight. This guy continues to get better and he’s a product of a lot of hard work, and it’ll continue to be that way in the future.”
The challenge posed by Kentucky receiving corps
“Yeah, no, I think they’ve got a good group. The two true sophomores from last that played in [inaudible] last year, they’ve taken a good step forward. You throw the Virginia Tech transfer in there, you know, they’ve got some speed and got some wiggle. And the quarterback can throw it all over the park, right? So, you know, I think they’re capable of run after catch plays, I think they can win one-on-one matchups. And then there is, you know, the vertical passing game, the shots, the movement passes. So, they do a good job of distributing the ball to all those guys. And I think they’re good players.”
On Scooby Williams
“Yeah, Scooby’s been awesome. You know, Scooby is an example of a young man who played on the edge in high school and developed, made the transition to be able to play stack ‘backer. Obviously, you see the game differently when you’re on the edge, you’re kind of viewing it out of one eye. And all of sudden, moving there, playing stack ‘backer and I’ve got to see the game with both eyes. Communicate more, process more, much more of a communicator and the mental piece.
So, he’s done outstanding. I think this offseason, in particular, has been critical. And then, you know, he’s got some of those pass-rush traits from high school, they’re natural for him. Instinctive, he’s a good blitzer. I’ve been very pleased with Scooby and I think he can only get better. You know, he’s developed some better practice habits. He has shown some toughness, working his way through some injuries. And I respect that.”
On the Defense
“Well, we’re off to a good start. I do think we will continue to be challenged every week in our league. We played a good quality defense. I think the exciting thing, like you mentioned before, we are in year two of the system. All the coaches and all the second-tier parts of that side of the ball relative to the graduate assistants, the quality control, interns, analysts, everybody is in year two. I think we’re doing a better job making use of our time. Anticipating what’s next.
The teacher is in year two, not just the student. I also think that we’ve added some really good pieces there from a personnel standpoint. Significant inside players. Some really good young players on the edges and in the secondary. A lot of new faces both from the portal and the true freshmen that are playing and contributing. Obviously, Austin Armstrong has done a tremendous job from a leadership and connection standpoint. I think they’re playing with confidence and I think that’s half the battle.”