Florida head coach Billy Napier spoke to the media one last time before Florida’s matchup with Charlotte. Napier discussed various topics, including the team’s mindset, player suspensions, practice performance, upcoming opponents, and the development of the team’s culture.
“I think the big thing for our players, and we’ve talked about in particular last weekend and certainly this week early, you know, there is a humility that is required within the week in how you prepare. But ultimately when it’s time to play, there needs to be a confidence – I would use the word arrogance, but I don’t necessarily like that word – And then I would tell you during the week that there’s an element of fear, you know, relative to each opponent is dangerous enough to create issues for you. Maybe it’s an individual player, maybe it’s a unit, maybe it’s all parts of their team. And then obviously, you want to compete with fearlessness. And then we want to train and be uncomfortable during the week so that we can be comfortable on game day, right? So, you know, we’ve worked hard on the Sunday to Saturday routine, I do think this is physical. There’s a ton of work done in particular Tuesday, Wednesday, and then there’s a mental aspect to this that I think is really important to self discipline, in terms of how we live our life, and we have work to do and we have more to prove, right? There’s a mindset that we’re trying to develop here, to where we can be consistent and not depend on external things to motivate us. And that’s an attitude. That’s a culture and we’re working on that. I think we’ve been a little bit inconsistent in that this week, in my opinion. So we have a lot of work left to do to get ready to play Saturday. And I do appreciate the players being vocal about the things that need to be done better, I think that’s a healthy thing. We’re excited about being back in The Swamp this week and certainly you know it’s a privilege, and I think our players really we only get to do it so many times. So we got to make sure that we understand how sacred that is, and we got to be at our best and know who we represent.
Reaction to the suspensions:
“Yeah, no, I think it was to be expected, you know, regardless, there would have been in-house discipline, you know, so I think we landed about where we should have landed, truth be known. So, and they’ve done more besides just, you know, what the SEC has offered, so, it is what it is, you know, it’s no different than an injury. I think you got to put yourself in position to win the game, and we’ve got guys that are gonna be, this is an opportunity. I think sometimes injuries, suspensions, if you want to live in that world, they create opportunities for other players, ones that have been working hard and will be looking forward to Saturday.”
On if it’s a first half thing for both guys, can’t split them up:
“No it’s the first half of the game, all three players.”
What is Napier looking to see in practice that he hasn’t seen in recent practices?
“Yeah I mean, obviously, we make everything a story around here, but I think that ultimately we can do better, you know, and I think our expectation is the best that we have, right, we’re trying to improve, right? You know, did we do Tuesday better than we did it in the past. Ultimately, each person is competing against their best. And this game requires execution, it requires work, and 11 players working in synchronization. It’s an attention to detail game, and look, you got to erase the board completely, right. I mean you got to hit the reset button. You got to start over, it is a completely different entity. It is new personnel, new variables, different players available, different competition. So each week is its own entity. And I think when we allow the past maybe to affect us, that’s not what we want. We want a certain consistency here, a culture of, you know, competition, and we can do better.”
Offensive line shuffle
Did Kingsley Eguakun reinjure his ankle?
“He finished the game. I think he’s had some setbacks. I don’t necessarily think it’s a long-term issue. He just wasn’t quite ready to practice today, yesterday. He was a little closer today but not quite ready to go. And typically if a guy doesn’t practice Tuesday, Wednesday for us, he doesn’t play. Not a drastic setback, but not quite where he needed to be to compete and play. And the position he plays is obviously part of that.”
Lyndell Hudson and Knijeah Harris having an opportunity to play:
“All those guys play most every game. But I think the percentage of reps, we practice the way we’re going to start the game. And then obviously we rep two units the entire day. There’s an allocation of reps. In each position group, you’ve got a certain amount of reps in each practice and we literally, by the rep, ‘Hey, this guy’s gonna get 40 plays today. He’s gonna get 25. He’s gonna get whatever the case may be.’ So we just reallocated the reps.. One of the good things is going against the first defense in the good on good periods, which I think is helpful for them.”
The value of the swing tackle role:
“Yeah, we’re always looking for the third tackle. We’re always looking for the fourth-best inside player. Who’s the backup center. We work contingency plans from the very beginning of the offseason. So you go to anticipate that there’s … history’s the best indicator of the future and these guys are going to get banged up at some points and you’ve got to be ready to go.”
The benefit of playing young players:
“It’s a really good question. I talk with the staff a little bit, all the time, about, ‘Hey, you got to keep hope.’ Hope’s a very powerful thing. I think when hope is removed, that’s when you see different levels of motivation and obviously it creates issues. Competition is important. I think one of the things we benefitted from, in my opinion, is we have more competition. Almost every position group we have, every week there’s competition relative to who’s going to play and what the ratio of plays basically will be. And you can’t fool players. They’re much like the coaches. They’re watching, they’re evaluating, they’re in the film room. They know who the better players are. So there’s a certain level of integrity there. Look, we got to do what’s in the best interest of the team. Look, you keep some of those guys engaged. We play a lot of players. And one of the reasons we did that is what you’re describing. It benefits the overall culture of the team.”
Florida’s starting placekicker situation:
“I think both guys did good things. Again, we’ll continue to evaluate that all the way up until the game. The good thing is I think we do have two good kickers. Adam, the first one was a little low. We didn’t protect as well as we could and maybe it affected the second one. I don’t know about you guys, but that first drive off the first is a hard hook I’m worried about that the rest of the day. I don’t think it’s any different from the kicker. I think mental to go along with a good work week is important.”
The progress of the safety position:
“First of all, it’s been very competitive. I do think we’ve benefited from Moten’s maturity and experience, but I also think the young players have … there’s just a ton of value of getting a guy here in January. Think about Sharif, Bryce, Jordan all here in January and Moten just showed up in June. Miguel’s a rookie last year, played some snaps, but really didn’t play the back end. He’s played more that big star. That group has come along. But, look, we just played a couple games here, right. We have a lot left here. There will be challenges each week. Again, I think you’re gonna play good one week. That doesn’t mean you’re going to gonna play good this week. So we got to show up to be at our best this week.”
What stands out about Charlotte?
“I think the big thing here is you got a boat load of Power 5 transfers. All these guys were elite recruits to some degree coming out. They’ve got height. length and speed all over the field. They’re going to look the part, he’s got them playing hard independent of the score and I think they’re fundamentally sound, I think they’ve got an identity and, ultimately, you’ve got to beat them. They’re going to make you earn it.”
“If you’re not going about it the right way, expect to be confronted.”
His emphasis on maintaining momentum:
“I mean, it’s been a part of the entire offseason. I think it’s been a part of the messaging, the sports psych piece. I think our group is well-versed on the ebbs and flows of last year and I think it’s part of the game. I think if you’re going to do anything significant, your ability to sustain that intensity and urgency and focus. Hey, look, some days you might not be at your best but you grind it out and you play complimentary ball and you lean on the things that are working and you find ways to win games. I think the key is that there’s awareness. I’m talking to myself, not so much the players. I think from a leadership standpoint, it’s a failure that I accept like I didn’t do my part relative to educating the players and confronting the things that we all understand and know as coaches. This group is very much — they have awareness, I think. I think there’s a level of they will tell the truth to each other. I think there’s a camaraderie here and I think an understanding of we agreed to the expectation in the very beginning. And look, if you’re not going about it the right way, expect to be confronted.”
Richie Leonard’s performance at left guard:
“Richie is a guy who, first of all, he’s extremely smart and he’s instinctive. He has really good feet, he plays with leverage and he’s got a knack for blocking. The guy understands. He plays with really good initial quickness, he gets his hands inside, he can anticipate, he makes the others around him better because he’s a good communicator and he’s got some position versatility because he can slide in and play center if we need him to. Richie is a classic example of a guy who maybe doesn’t pass all the height, length and all of that but when it comes to putting the ball down and playing, he can do his job and he not only did that Saturday, he did it well.”
“Great throw. Great catch”
Kahleil Jackson’s impressive sideline catch against Tennessee:
“That’s one of the — I mean in the history of the Florida-Tennessee rivalry, that play in general will be one of significance I think. great throw, great catch and just the drill that you work on as a receiver coach, that might happen one time every five years. Good example of a guy, former walk-on, all he does is work. He’s tough, durable and he’s got good skill level. He’s tough and plays because he earned it and makes a play when it counted.”
Is Florida’s culture is where it needs to be:
“Yeah, it’s not where we want it to be right now but I think we’re getting closer. I think it’s week-to-week. When you get into this time of year, it’s week-to-week. We’re a 2-1 football team. We played average, below average, played McNeese and played pretty good against Tennessee. Next. What’s next?”