Princely Umanmielen: Defensive turnaround fueled by Armstrong’s trust in players

by | Sep 21, 2023 | 0 comments

Gators defense vs Tennessee

Florida Gators edge rusher Princely Umanmielen discusses the team’s strong defense, improvements in the pass rush, and the impact of new additions. He praises defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong’s trust in the players and emphasizes the importance of consistency. Umanmielen is optimistic about the team’s momentum and has high expectations for the season.


Season so far:

“I think minus the first game, the season has been going like pretty good so far. If I’m correct, we have like one of the top defenses in the country right now. So, I just hope we keep that going.”

Limiting big plays, what strides Florida has made:

“You know we always emphasize, since spring, not letting opponents get a lot of explosive plays. And to be honest, I just think the difference is the players, you know, more guys being bought in, being able to do their jobs and focusing.”

The feeling of chasing down Joe Milton III:

“During the play, I really didn’t think much of it. Then I came to the sideline and guys were like ‘Dang, man, you look fast!’ So yeah, it felt pretty good.”

The improvement of the pass rush:

“So far, even though I don’t think we have that many sacks, I think we’re doing a good job of affecting the quarterback. Like, putting pressure on the quarterback and things like that. But, you know, I feel like we’re gonna have more opportunities in these upcoming games to actually get home and get sacks on the quarterback.”

Expecting to make those type of plays:

“Yeah, for sure. To my standard, I expect to make plays like that, you know, every game. But sometimes in the game, you know, you don’t have those opportunities presented to you. Like, for example, if I was on the other side of that play, you know, I probably wouldn’t have been there. So you know, it’s just opportunities.”

The additions of Cam Jackson and Caleb Banks:

“Oh, yeah, for sure. Cam and Caleb, they’re a big difference. You know, they’re really big bodies on the inside. Cam was a big difference-maker in the Tennessee run game. You know, he was a big reason why we were able to, you know, dominate them in the right game. You know, those are great additions to our team this season.”

On having two gappers on the interior:

“You know, it’s much easier. Especially for the entire defense because they can take stress off the linebackers, too.”

Reasons for the defensive turnaround:

“I think it’s a combination of, you know, everything you just said. Play-calling, the personnel. You know, I think [Austin] Armstrong just really trust his players. Like, he really shows us that he trusts us. He’s not gonna go out there and rely on his scheme. He, you know, relies on the player. He tells us all the time, ‘Good players make good defenses.’ So you know, when he’s calling plays, he’s calling plays based off the players he’s got and trying to do it to their strengths. He’s not calling plays relying on the scheme. You know, he really has a lot of trust in us. And he shows that in his play-calling.”

On Napier being displeased with practice:

“This week, I wouldn’t say it was nothing like we got comfortable or nothing. I just feel like, you know, we’ve just got to go harder. You know, like, it was a gloomy day outside today. We had a couple of bad plays. But yeah, I just feel like we’ve just got to go harder. Like after practice, we all came up as a defense and talked to each other as a team. And you know, we just, we’re looking to get that fixed. For sure.”

Who spoke up after practice:

“Cam Jackson, he was letting everybody know that the way we practiced today is unacceptable. And then Teradja [Mitchell], he was just saying, like, ‘We can’t talk about it. We got to be about it. We got to go out there every day, we can’t have two good weeks in a row and then a bad week one week and then another two good. We’ve just got to make sure that we be consistent throughout the entire season.”

If he feels the meeting will erase the complacency:

“Oh, yeah, for sure. I think anytime the players have something to say, it really means a lot more because, you know, those are the guys that you’re going to war with. And just like, I told the defense, you know, tomorrow we have another opportunity, so we’ve got to come in tomorrow and lock in. The work week is not done.”

How much Armstrong’s teaching has helped the unit line up quickly:

“Yeah. He’s just really intense. Like, for example, last week, you know, Tennessee goes tempo like the whole game. His tempo that we were doing in practice was way faster, it was like an unrealistic tempo. So, he was just doing that to get us ready for Tennessee. And you know, Tennessee, I think there was only one play, where we weren’t lined up. And you know, we were ready because we went through it in practice. And in the middle of the game he walked up to us, he was like, ‘Is Tennessee’s tempo faster than mine?’ And we were all like, ‘no,’ because, you know, he just did it to a point in practice where it was unrealistic. But we were able to line up and practice, so we know if we can line up when he’s going unrealistically fast in practice, we were able to do it against Tennessee.”

How fast is unrealistically fast:

“Like to the point where if I have to go to the boundary, if the ball’s on this hash, and then the next play is on this hash I can’t even get to the other hash to get lined up yet.”

The number of seconds between plays in practice:

“Probably like four or five seconds.”

Playing for Armstrong:

“It’s really fun, especially he’s young, more relatable to us. So it’s just really fun. The intensity and the energy he brings is always top tier. Even when we were down versus Utah in the game, he was always positive. I never hear him saying anything negative to us the whole game he makes sure the only thing coming out of his mouth is positivity.”

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On Lyndell Hudson and Knijeah Harris:

“I don’t go against Knijeah that much, so I don’t know about him. But Lyndell, he was hurt at the beginning of season, he came in during the middle of camp. He actually really surprised me. When he came in, he’s a really solid player especially in pass protection. He should be really good.”

On Joe Milton being squished by Des Watson:

“Man. We all asked him, did you land on him? Everybody’s like, damn, we knew that hurt when he said yeah.”

Napier’s comfortability playing inexperienced players over veterans:

“I really like that because I remember being a young guy under Mullen, feeling like I should have gotten opportunities and not getting opportunities. So I like that he’s a coach if he sees a guy is ready to play he’s going to play him, not just someone’s older so they should play. He’s the type of coach no matter what age the person is if they’re ready to play, they’re ready to play. I really like that.”

Players realizing who should play from watching film:

“For example, Eugene in practice, everybody’s like, Eugene’s going to play. We know he’s going to play. Napier saw it and it happened.”

Not capitalizing on momentum last year and if it was a point of discussion:

“Last year, I didn’t really notice it during the weeks in practice – I probably did but didn’t notice it. It was just a fact. Last year, we’d win and then the next we would lose, then we’d lose, then the next week we’d lose. So we just have to keep going with the momentum and not let up. We got another opportunity this week to set ourselves for success next week and keep this train rolling.”

On if his iced arm was OK:

“Yeah. Just post-practice soreness.”

Napier’s comment on playing with fear and humility:

“It’s really important. We can’t practice, he told us a few weeks ago everybody was telling us how bad we were, nobody was telling us how good we were. We have to keep that in mind. We can’t practice like we’re just a super great team. The work’s not done yet. So we have to just keep practicing like we have a chip on our shoulder.”

The difference in culture:

“The big difference is how he sees and how he enforces character. A lot of our young guys he brings in surprisingly try to be leaders right off the bat as soon as they come in. So I think a bit part of his recruiting is character. He looks at the character of the players he’s bringing in. I think that’s big because it’s a team sport. Everybody has to be be one. I think he brings guys in that are unselfish. I think that’s a big part of how the program is changing, bring in guys with good character.”

How he got the Tennessee towel:

“I saw it on the floor and picked it up.”

On if he still has it:

“Did you see the play where I was hurt on the field. I felt it come off my hip. I think one of the players took it back.”

If Tennessee win has changed expectations:

“For sure. That gives us a lot more confidence, especially being Tennessee – No. 11 ranked team, one of the higher ranked teams in the SEC. It gives us a good base to start from especially in the SEC play for us to keep going and keep climbing.”

Photo credit: UAA Communications

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