Florida head coach Billy Napier spoke to the media during this week’s SEC Teleconference to discuss the upcoming matchup with LSU. Napier talked about the LSU offense, the significant number of freshmen playing this season, and the involvement of Trevor Etienne and Eugene Wilson.
“Yeah excited about a big challenge. Obviously LSU’s got a really good football team, very talented across the board. Great place to play, you know, and certainly as a competitor you look forward to playing in these types of venues. We’re right in the middle of the prep, pleased with our team so far this week. You know, this is a group that’s got some resiliency about them and wants to continue to work hard to improve.”
On the LSU-Alabama game:
“Well I think, you know, it was, man, what a football game, right. Very competitive all the way until you get into the fourth, I mean it’s back and forth. A lot of really impressive athletes. Having played in that game, you understand the environment, how important it is to both programs and both teams and the players and staff. It was impressive to watch the competitive spirit of the players, the physicality, the extra-effort plays. You know, and Alabama probably played as well as they’ve played this year in my opinion. We watch these teams, you know, throughout the season as we’re studying the other opponent. Yeah, it was a heck of a football game.”
LSU’s success on third down:
“Well I mean they’ve got, it’s a catch-22, right. They’ve got elite skill at receiver, and then you pair that with a tight end who’s very savvy, can get open and separate when matched-up as well, .and then the backs are a threat. The quarterback’s a trump card because of the athleticism. You know ultimately our research over the years would say the best third-down teams in America are the ones that have the athletic quarterbacks, you know, and oftentimes can get you out of a scenario in protection or when the defense does a good job of matching the pattern, the quarterback’s ability to escape and extend and, you know, make plays with his feet. So, LSU fits in that category, there’s a reason they have the No. 1 statistical offense in the country, and certainly third down’s a big part of that.”
The benefit and long-term growth opportunity of playing freshmen:
“I mean, I think that for this group in particular, you know, they arrived in January for the most part. I think D.D. [Dijon Johnson] and Tre [Wilson] were maybe the only two that are playing that weren’t midyear enrollees, right? So, they came here with the intent of being competitive, you know, and many of these guys have earned playing time, and it is what it is. I think it’s part of building the program. I think, you’ve got to go through some of the growing pains now, but I do think it’ll be beneficial. It’s been beneficial already throughout the season. right, as we see some of these guys get more and more comfortable.
We did have a handful rookies last week that probably played more snaps than they’ve been playing due to some injuries. But I do think, you know, experience is critical, developing a veteran team, having some young talent contribute. Ultimately those guys not only have experience down the road, but they’ve proved to be effective leaders as well. So you know, our team is made up of some vets and some guys down in the middle, and we do have quite a few rookies playing, in particular on defense.”
On if the amount of freshmen playing is a selling point to future recruiting classes:
“Well, I think ultimately, we’re going to play the the best players. You know, I think, regardless of if they’re a veteran player or they’re a transfer or a high school player, our job is to build a competitive team and win championships and be a contender consistently. But we’re gonna play the best players. and sometimes that may be a rookie, you know? And I think we’re willing to do that. So ,you know, I think you’ve got to be careful in recruiting, ultimately, in terms of promise and anything. I mean, I think my comments are always, ‘Hey, look, you’re gonna have to compete for playing time here.’ These kids are well-informed, right? There’s so much information, they know the depth chart, they know the players on the team. They sense that there may be opportunity. And then ultimately, I’m hopeful they’re coming here for a lot more. You know, it’s about the total package. It’s about the people, the process that we have in place, the belief in what we’re doing, and that they want to develop as a person, student and player, and they see the University of Florida as a place where they can do everything. So, we’ve got an incredible product to sell. If we work hard, and we’re thorough, and we are diligent in recruiting, we should be able to recruit at a very high level here, consistently.
So, sometimes rookies are going to play, sometimes they’re not. And I think football is a developmental game. I do you think young players maybe are a little bit more prepared to play than maybe 10 years ago. I also think that you need a system in all parts of your team to where you can get a young player ready. You know, especially with the portal element these days. You know, a player needs to be able to come in at certain positions and be able to impact your team in year one. I think we proved that we can do that.”
Going back to Louisiana for both Napier and some players:
“Our time in Louisiana was fantastic. Really appreciative of the people in Acadiana and Lafayette for the first-class experience for not only myself, but our family as well. My wife, Ali, and our kids really enjoyed our time there. One of the reasons we stayed there as long as we did. We’ve got some kids from Louisiana, and I think anytime you go back to your home state there’s an element of that, that’s significant. I know our guys will be excited. But, look, we play in the SEC. Every week presents a great opportunity. There’s always some challenges to each opponent that we play. This is going to be a great opportunity for our team and some of the players on our team.”
The challenge of preparing for Jayden Daniels and Garrett Nussmeier:
“Part of the challenge this week will be the uncertainty around their quarterback situation. Both of these players have experience and both have done a nice job of moving the offense. Nussmeier because of kind of the flow of the last couple of years has had an opportunity to play significant snaps and really play at some meaningful times. They both do a good job of making decisions, distributing the ball. Obviously Jayden has played as good as any player in the country this year and has had some really impressive performances. Jayden’s ability to run is the great equalizer. I know I mentioned that earlier. Nussmeier knows the system, he’s accumulated reps in the system and they have fantastic front and skill players around him. Either way, it’s a great challenge there and one that is going to require us to be at our absolute best.”
Getting Trevor Etienne and Eugene Wilson III more touches:
“Yeah, I think every week we do that. That’s part of the plan, try to get the best players the ball. Trey and Trevor have been fantastic. Sometimes the defense can dictate where the ball goes, particularly in the throw game. These days with the run-pass option, the perimeter tags, the quarterback delivers the ball accordingly to that. Those two are some of our best and we’re always trying to get them the ball. What I appreciate about both those guys is their attitude has been … a lot of fun to coach, their work habits, the example that they set and how they prepare. They’re both good young players with bright futures and key parts of our offense, for sure.”