Billy Napier wants to see ‘actions and right attitude’ against Vanderbilt

by | Oct 5, 2023 | 0 comments

Graham Mertz

Florida Gators head coach, Billy Napier, met with the media one last time before Florida takes on Vanderbilt. Napier discussed various topics, including the team’s energy and attitude, the value of adversity for young players, missed tackles, preparation for Vanderbilt’s quarterbacks, and more.

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Opening statement:

“I appreciate the approach the players took today, you know. Good energy out there today. I thought we flew around. Certainly finished strong, thought it was competitive, especially the good-on-good periods. We had some four-point play work, we did some team run, 7-on, some move the field at the end. It was a spirited day, and ultimately tired of talking about it, I know you guys are too, so at this point it’s all about action, and it’s about our attitude, right. We can talk about all these things until we’re blue in the face, right, we want to see actions and we want to see the right attitude, and ultimately Saturday at 4 o’clock we play Vanderbilt and it presents that opportunity. So we’re excited about Homecoming, all the events that come with that. Certainly unique in the fact there’s going to be so many people coming back obviously to celebrate their time here. This place has impacted a lot of people, and I think our team’s excited about representing all that comes with the University of Florida this weekend, so what questions do we have here.”

Moving forward from a tough loss:

“I think ultimately we control our actions and we control our attitude. We play Vanderbilt Saturday at 4 o’clock, and that’s our next opportunity, so that’s what we’re focused on.”

The value of going through adversity for young players:

“I think we all would agree in here that we, you guys are all successful to some degree at what you do and you wouldn’t be here without struggle at some point. You went through some tough times. I would tell you in my life the more challenging things that I’ve been through have made me better. Maybe you don’t quite understand it when you’re in the middle of it, but I think that’s true, you know what I mean. You know I’ve been fired, I’ve had, I observed my dad go through a very difficult experience with ALS. You know, I mean, you lose football games, but I think about other things in life outside of football. I think the game of football presents opportunities for our young people to learn about what’s to come. This is about as simple as it’s going to be for our young people. They don’t realize that right now, and I think as you get older and life gets more complicated, you have more people depending on you to be consistent, to do your job, to provide, to set an example. That’s the great thing about the game, OK, that’s ultimately why I coach the game. You like to think that these things present opportunity, and I do believe that. I think it’s a relevant question.”

Missed tackles:

“Time will tell. Time will tell. I’m hopeful it’s an outlier. Did you read that book? Did you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier. You should go read that one. I’m hopeful that it is an outlier and I like to think that we take pride in tackling and we work on tackling. We were lethargic, in particular early in the game. If you evaluated every missed tackle in that game, a lot of those were early in that game. So, clearly, I think fundamentally we could have been better. But I think there’s also an attitude to how you play defense and how you attack. So it’s about actions. It’s about attitude. We play Vanderbilt Saturday in 4 o’clock.”

Preparing for Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks

“These two quarterbacks are very similar to some degree in terms of skill set, level of athleticism and who they are as passers. They both have similar experience. And then I also would say that ultimately you’re trying to create favorable down and distances where you have an opportunity to affect the quarterback. That’s ultimately why we’ve had success doing it is because we put them in passing downs to some degree. It’s a part of every game. I would say turnovers in general, when you start thinking about creating takeaways, attacking the ball, that starts with the quarterback. We inventory all the ways that you can affect the quarterback and we teach each one of those, the strategy behind those, fundamentally all the things that come with that. It’s definitely a huge part each week. And for these two players, it’ll be important as well.”

On freshman cornerback Ja’Keem Jackson:

“Ja’Keem is an impressive young player. He’s got traits. He was a fantastic high school player, comes from a great family, he’s got character, he’s very consistent in his work habits, and he’s done a nice job. He had a tremendous camp and he’s played as a rookie partly because we believe in and we think he deserves to play. And look, there’s other good players in that room. So for him to be able to run out there. He made some plays on special teams. He’s got some big roles on game changers and certainly got a bright future in front of him. If he’ll keep the same character, if he’ll continue to have the same work habits and keep that attitude where he is, he’s going to be a good player.”

Facing counter runs after struggling against Kentucky:

“I think, to be more specific, plays with pullers… they ran the long trap and ultimately that was unique. They had ran it one time before and ran a little bit of 21 (personnel) when Liam was there. Ultimately that’s where some of the misfits were in the game. It’s outstanding that you recognized that, a lot of respect to that. Long trap in a light box against cover 5, it’s a good football play. Caught us in some pressures. That was one of the issues in the game. But outside of that I think we had players in position. We’ve got to play the blocks a little bit better. We have to compress the gaps to make the holes smaller and ultimately we have get some overlap on the back side. Now that’s a legitimate … that’s awesome.”

Criticism from the public:

“It’s part of the job. It’s what you sign up for. Look, we get to coach football for a living. We’re well compensated. If we don’t do well, we deserve to be criticized. Did we think it wasn’t going to be that way? I think ultimately, it is what it is. I would like to think my standards and our standards are more demanding than anyone from the outside to some degree. There’s a perspective element to it, as well, relative to the body of work. You watch football when you have an opportunity. Every team has its own set of issues and problems. We have ours. We control our work and we control our attitude toward the work. We need to come up with solutions. We have to be solution-oriented. I’m hopeful we can do that.”

Florida’s leadership group:

“We have three different cross-sections of the team, right? So we have an accountability group, that ultimately is a reflection of the entire team, selected by their peers regardless of age, positions, side of the ball. Then we have what we call class reps. That’s about 16 guys, four from each group, one, two, three, four-plus years. And then we have what we call the heartbeat group, which is made up of people that maybe didn’t fall in one of those two categories but are very influential independent of their role on the team. Maybe it’s a walk-on who’s a fantastic representative of the team, the university, you know, works his butt off, makes our team better, has influence. We have those groups in the summer that compete each week. One of the things that we did to come up with that heartbeat group was like, ‘Okay, who on your team that wasn’t a captain had the most influence on your team? Who did the best job? Who was a really good leader on your team that maybe wasn’t selected as a captain?’ So, you know, we meet with those three groups. Monday the accountability group, Tuesday the class reps and Wednesday the heartbeat group. So, and look, I think ultimately the players have a great pulse. You know, they spend a lot more time around each other. And ultimately, you want to empower them, give them feedback, and ultimately listen to their feedback. So, player-led teams ultimately are the best teams.”

Another being limited along the offensive line:

“So you know, it’s one of the solutions that we’re pursuing to some degree, right? In terms of continuity up front. We haven’t, you know, it’s not just game day where continuity becomes an issue. It’s also in how you practice, who’s available during the week, the mixture of rotations. I think that we’ve got some guys that are working their butt off. It’s great to have Kam Waites back, Lyndell Hudson has had a really good week, Jordan Herman. You know, there’s a lot of plays out there where he looks like he can be, he’s got a chance. He’s got to continue to develop. But I think, you know, Damieon obviously is healthy. So Lyndell, Damieon, Kam will be a factor. Probably, even if Austin was available, Kam Waites, it’s great to have him back. So, those are the players that would be playing at tackle.”

Florida’s injury report:

“We’ve got a number of players that have been modified throughout the week. We’ll be evaluating those guys Thursday, Friday, all the way up until four o’clock. So, and you know, it’s a normal process that we go through. We’re probably more transparent than most. But I do think that, I’ve been pleased with the players that have been able to go, if that makes sense. I’m excited to watch those guys.”


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