Billy Napier talks Max Brown, The Swamp, and injuries ahead of Florida State

by | Nov 22, 2023 | 0 comments

The Florida Gators are scheduled to host CFP No. 5, and their rival, Florida State, this Saturday night in The Swamp. Here is everything that Florida head coach Billy Napier said ahead of the matchup.


Opening statement:

“Good day’s work today. Thought we, much like last week, I thought we got better as we went yesterday and then obviously picked up where we left off. You know, in games like this, I think composure is important. I like to tell the players I want them under control, but just barely. And, you know, this game will be about matchups, line of scrimmage, edges in the slot, outside, special teams. Ultimately, you know, we’re going to put the ball down and it’s going to be about individual matchups. And there’s great opportunity there. I do think extra effort plays, you know, will be a signature part of the game. We need to play really well situationally in the game, situational football is going to be important. And certainly, always looking for that game-changer advantage. You know, and I think for four hours here, you know, we got to get in the right frame of mind here and get ready to throw down. So, good day’s work, and we certainly have more work left to do. We’ll get some rest, we’ll move the schedule up three hours tomorrow so practice will be a little bit earlier, try to get the guys off the field and give them opportunity to spend time with family for local players, and anybody that has family coming in town. We’ll have a lot of guys over to our houses if they don’t have an opportunity to be with family. So, hope you guys are doing well. Want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and what questions do we have?”

How Max Brown has responded to the first-team role:

“Yeah, he’s done a great job. And ultimately, I think he’s benefiting from playing with the first team, he gets an opportunity to work with that group, all the reps. You know, he typically is working with the second unit, so there’s some advantages there. And I think overall, he’s accumulated quite a bit of reps, you know. So, he’s been in the building. Graham has been, you know, almost putting his coaching hat on. It’s been good, it’s been a good week. It’s fun to see the players rally around him. You know, I think Max is a player that has the players’ respect, his work ethic, the improvement that he’s shown, I think ultimately that’s how he’s earned the respect of the players and the staff. Everyone knows where he started day one, and they know where he’s at now as a player, and I think ultimately they respect that. So, helps that he was productive when he got in the game last week. I think that helps him mentally. But you know, there’ll be some butterflies, you know, that’s coming. But Max, he’s done a great job so far this week.”

The impact of The Swamp on opposing quarterbacks and opponents?

“That’s a great question, and I think it’s one that… it’s important that our fans, Gator Nation as a whole, you know, they can have a significant impact on the game. I mean, we have one of the best if not the best venue in all of college football, and we play there Saturday night in a rivalry game, one that is historic. You know, I was talking to the players after practice today. You know, when I was growing up, this was the game, I used to watch this game. It’s humbling to be a part of and it’s something that I think each one of us, we have to have respect for that. But our fans can make a significant impact relative to how they can affect how Florida State operates on offense, especially with an inexperienced, backup quarterback. So, it’s been rowdy in there in the past, but we need it to be special and we’re going to need them to do their part Saturday night.”

Austin Barber’s availability:

“I think we’ve listed him as questionable and I would say that describes his current state. You know, I think ultimately, the injury is one that doesn’t require surgery, it’s ultimately a pain tolerance deal. So, you know, he’s questionable, and I think ultimately, that’s the way we would describe his status right now.”

New wrinkles with Max Brown:

“I think there could be something to that. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to execution. I think it’s really important – I think we’ve put a huge emphasis on players around Max raising their level of play to compensate for Graham’s experience. Ultimately we’re putting a different type of player on the field, but the most significant difference is the experience factor. Max has accumulated a lot of reps, but game day’s a little different, right? The play speed, the operation, the ability to communicate. I think the healthy thing for our team is, I think I’ve seen players rally around. Everybody understands they need to raise their level of play to help make up for Max’s experience factor, but Max is definitely a different type of player than Graham, and I think there will be some elements there that could be a factor.”

Keys to the matchup:

“Yeah, no, I think there’s a number of things. I think ultimately without getting too specific, this is… Florida State has a good football team. I think they force you… you’ve got to be sound in what you do in all three parts of your team. Ultimately, it comes down to matchups. I think with the way they play and the way we play, there’s a key component there. There’s going to be individual matchups throughout the entire game. The attention to detail, the finish, the technique with effort, I think there’s an extra effort element to rivalry games because of what’s at stake and the emotion that comes with playing in this game. So, those things I listed earlier without getting too specific about the plan. I think ultimately you’ve got to go play winning football.”

The return of CB Devin Moore:

“I think Devin gives us a taller, longer player. Gives some play strength there. Devin’s just had a tough time with the injury component, but when he’s been available, he’s been very effective. As we go forward here, hopefully we can keep Devin healthy. He gives us a significant player, especially when we’re talking about matching up.”

Is there a desperation factor to Saturday’s game?:

“I don’t think we view it that way. I think ultimately we view it as – I think our players respect this game. I think there’s an importance there. The tradition, the history, the consequence. The legendary players that have played in this game and what it means to so many people throughout our state and across the country. I do think there’s a lot at stake for this group of players. This is a fun group to coach. I think they all understand there are some significant things here relative to seniors playing their last game at The Swamp, bowl eligibility potentially at stake here. Certainly just the rivalry in general I think is enough motivation, right? We’ll have a motivated group.”

Offense responding to defensive defensive stops:

“I think we’ve scored on the first possession quite a bit lately. We need to play consistently and we need to play complimentary football. I think what you’re saying is accurate. Missouri is a good example of that. We had chances there on second, third and fourth possession of the game where our defense is getting us off the field and we need to take advantage of that. I think you’re spot on. I think that’s an accurate assessment and ultimately it’s one of the reasons we’ve had issues closing out games. We haven’t played well with all parts of our team all the time.”

How Princely Umanmielen has grown this season:

“Princely’s story is awesome. I think Princely first of all is a really bright young man and he has a great background. I have tremendous amount of respect for his family, how he was raised, values, the importance of work ethic, education… just terrific people. He came to Florida and got off to a little bit of a bumpy start. I think January of this past year, he kind of re-centered himself and has worked extremely hard. I think at the core of that is his growth as a person relative to having more discipline, making better choices and decisions, living lift by principle. I think his growth as a person has contributed to his development as a player. Certainly moving that room, we kind of separated the edge players from the interior defensive line and Mike Petersen has done a terrific job teaching there; I think there’s been some benefit. He’s matured, as well. I think he terrific offseason, improved all his metrics with strength and conditioning, gained a ton of lean muscle, worked hard, stronger, more explosive. Then I think he’s learning the game as he goes. As he gets more reps he’s continued to grow and develop as a player.”

On 64 Florida natives between both teams on Saturday:

“It’s part of our plan. I think it’s natural that you have quite a few from your home state. But I do think the local players in this game is more significant. They have to go back home and live with the consequences. It’s a key component to the game. Certainly a lot of these kids know each. That makes it even more competitive.”

Kingsley Eguakun’s injuries this year and his invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl:

“I think it’s been tough on Kingsley. Ultimately getting banged in training camp… then Kingsley. showed some toughness earlier in the year. Played against Tennessee, had a setback. Tried to play at Kentucky. Never quite has been himself. I think a high ankle is a very complicated injury. I’m pleased he’s getting an opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl; that’s a big deal. Kingsley’s played a ton of football, close to 30 starts. This guy has resumé of film. He’ll get his opportunity at the next level. I think sometimes for players and coaches, injuries can be one of the more challenging things that you go through. But Kingsley has done a lot for the University of Florida and certainly it’s important for him to be a Gator. He’s got his degree. He’s getting his master’s degree. And certainly he’s played a lot of good football for the Gators.”

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