“It’s a big week. It’s Tennesee week.”
Florida fans are avoiding the color orange like the plague, and their eagerness for the Gators to pull an upset over the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers is growing.
Napier said he’s aware of the importance of the rivalry, but when it comes to the game plan, it sounds like the second-year head coach is looking forward to a defensive battle. Napier believes the Tennesse front will bring a challenge.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” Napier said. “They’ve got several edge players that I think are significant and can create issues for you. I think they are exactly what you’d expect from an SEC opponent up front.”
The Tennessee defensive front has combined for 11 sacks after two games, with linebacker Aaron Beasley and James Pearce Jr. leading the way. They’re slipping past offensive lines and creating bad third-down situations for their opponent, eradicating the other team’s game plan.
Napier praised his defenders as well, especially defensive lineman Jamari Lyons after a solid performance against McNeese State. The redshirt freshman forced a safety and recorded a tackle-for-loss in both games.
“He’s done a lot from the maturity and football intelligence,” Napier said. “But ultimately he’s twitchy. He’s hard to block. Last year he was on the scout team and I used to tell those guys (Lyons is) hard to block. So no surprise there.”
Redshirt sophomore Scooby Williams has also been at the forefront of the Gators’ defense.
“Coach Bateman’s done a good job with him,” Napier said. “(Williams) was an edge player that moved inside, there was a transition there, but man, he’s got all the traits you’re looking for and I’m really proud of him.”
Williams moved from the edge to inside linebacker this season and looks like he’s right at home. He’s recorded five tackles, including one for a loss and a sack against McNeese State.
Napier has a game plan to shut down the versatile Volunteers offense, but it will come with its challenges.
“I think they’re very systematic in their approach with the run perimeter attacks. I think they do a good job,” Napier said. “They put you where you have to decide what you want to do. I have a ton of respect for the way they play. I think in particular systematically they’re tough.
“They do a good job upfront. They run the ball, I think their offensive line coach does a good job. I think they’re effective. They have depth at running back. The element of the quarterback ultimately adds to that. You pair that with the perimeter attacks and the vertical passing game, they can present some issues to you.”
The Florida faithful will find out if Napier and his young squad can overcome the odds and take down the Volunteers at The Swamp. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. EDT and will broadcast on ESPN. The Gators are seven-point underdogs.