Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier met with the media on the SEC Teleconference ahead of Saturday’s matchup with McNeese. Here are the highlights from that session.
“Right in the middle of the process of preparing for McNeese. Obviously looking forward to being back home, playing in the Swamp in front of our people here. Big emphasis this week has been on preparing and competing like we’re playing against the best competition. We have to continue to develop the young players on our team; we need our veterans to play the best football of their career; and each part of the staff and the support throughout the organization taking pride in their role, getting better at their routine ultimately believing they can make an impact on the outcome on Saturday. Good work so far since Sunday and we look forward to this week.”
A lot of freshmen getting playing time
Question: Who are some of the young guys you felt handled the moment at Utah and earned more of a look?
Napier: “We had a lot of rookies play. Jordan Castell played a significant number of snaps. You mentioned TJ (Searcy), Kelby Collins had a role in the game. A lot of the young DBs play on special teams. Ja’Keem Jackson, Dijon Johnson, Sharrif Denson will have more of a role this week. Bryce Thornton played on special teams. Knijeah Harris played 13 plays in the game at offensive line. I think we played 14 true freshmen in the game and then we had eight transfers that were first time players for the University of Florida as well. 22 guys who had never played at UF played in the game last week and I anticipate that number could increase this week.”
Getting better play up front
Question: When you look at the SEC teams that lost this past weekend, kind of a common thread is they had a difficult time getting their running backs going. Utah’s a really good front. What is the challenge of O-line play when dealing with young players, transfers, and injuries? How challenging is it to improve mid-season?
Napier: “Well, I think that there were a number of factors that contributed maybe to our situation, I think in particular penalties, negative plays. Those are the enemy, right? I think football is a game of efficiency, you want to stay on schedule. I think we had a number of things that contributed to our inability. We got knocked off track, we’re playing behind the sticks a lot, and that affected our ability to be consistent and stick with the running game. But, you know, I’ve got a ton of confidence in our group. I think some of our issues were in protection, more than other stuff, but we’ve always had really good play up front. It’s been one of the things that we have invested in, we believe in. That group’s always played well, even last year I think that group played well for us. So I think you’re going to see improvement from this group as the season goes. We do have, I think we kind of went into the game with maybe only 13 starts with that group up front, so that group is inexperienced. I do sense it will continue to get better as we go. I think, you know, at some point we’ll get Kingsley Eguakun back. I think Lyndell Hudson, you know as the third tackle, will be available this week. So all those things I think will contribute to our group playing better, and I know they feel that they can play better as well.”
Photo: Mallory Peak, UAA Communications