The head coach opened up Mizzou week on Monday by answering questions from the media, and everything from Jimbo Fisher being fired to the transfer portal came up.
Napier knows Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz well having played him three times over the past three seasons (twice at Louisiana). He previewed the Tigers fairly well, but that doesn’t mean Florida’s defense will slow down Brady Cook and Co.
Here is everything the Florida head coach said during his Monday press conference.
Opening Statement (LSU loss)
Obviously, not the result we wanted in Baton Rouge Saturday night.
And look, we’re talking the last couple of weeks here, you know, reality is we’re talking about one more stop. We’re talking about finishing one more possession. (We) certainly had our opportunities, and there are things that we can do better. I do want to compliment the players relative to their state of mind. The mindset, I thought we were ready to compete in particular early.
I think you guys will have more questions about that, but the reality is here, we’re going to turn the page really quickly and get ready for a good Missouri team. Sometimes when you’re going through, you know, trials, troubles, hardship, adversity, whatever you want to call it. Just talking with the staff and the players earlier today, I think it’s critical at this point that, especially for our young players, that we are a good example.
I was talking to the veterans and the accountability group. Don’t avoid it. I think you got to lean into it. You got to attack it… I think there’s an element here to any great competitor, anyone that’s had success in life, they can tell you their story and they can talk about the things that they experienced that were challenges.
It’s essentially training. Much like you train strength, train endurance. You’re not born tough. You’re not born with endurance. I think it’s a test of your faith that allows you to develop faith. I do think it’s a test of your character. It allows you to develop character.
I think challenge presents opportunity, and it’s important that we are action-oriented, solution-oriented for our players and you go make it happen. I think sometimes you get in these situations, you don’t want to let things happen. You want to make it happen. So we’ve got a model for our young people. Every role matters. You know, we use the terms, make the difference, make an impact, be the difference, and those are two that are more important than ever right now.
Opening Statement (Week 12 at Missouri)
So, Mizzou has got a good football team. They play complementary football. Eli’s done a nice job there in year four. They’ve gotten incrementally better. They’re getting good quarterback play. They’ve got some significant match-up players like most teams in our league do, and I do think they’ve been opportunistic and they’ve won games. LSU and Georgia have been their two losses.
So, good football team, tough place to play. It’s going to be important for our guys to have a good week. Just listening to our guys earlier, I think they’re about to work, and I think there’s an attitude that I respect from that group.
On defensive corrections after reviewing LSU loss
It’s much like every week. I think it is communication, it’s alignment. I think that there are fundamentals and techniques that can improve — playing with good discipline, good leverage. LSU contributes to some of that, right?
Obviously, the quarterback’s ability to escape and extend, and even when we kept him in the pocket and played coverage, he was able to get through the progression.
We won some matchups, we lost some matchups. I do feel like the effort was good. I mean, when I watch all three parts of our team, I do feel like the effort was good. So, some of it is very specific. There are times where we can help the players and there’s times where players have opportunities.
I think it’s a combination of all those things.
On dealing with Missouri's mobile QB Brady Cook
Yeah, they victimized most people they play against, not just the Gators, right? The athletic quarterback, depending on the skill around him and your strengths, can be an issue. This guy, for sure, has the ability on third down to escape and extend, you know? Makes some plays with his feet. There’s no doubt about it.
He’s also playing really efficiently, in my opinion. They’re doing a good job using their skill. They play with balance. They do a good job with the run concepts. There is some familiarity here because of our past experience with Eli. So, I do think they do a good job and the quarterback has been at the — he’s essentially the foundation of the efficiency they’ve had on offense.
On senior running back Cody Schrader
Yeah, low to the ground, pretty heavy, 5-foot-9 inches, 214 pounds. The guy’s got good instincts and vision. I think he can get small and plays with pad level and power. Ultimately, I think he’s a guy that’s been productive as a running back for a long time, and I think they do a good job, conceptually, creating running lanes for him and he’s able to maximize those.
So, he’s been a productive player. It’s a great story. I love stories like that. I’ve got respect for it, and certainly, he’s part of the challenge when you play Mizzou. For the most part, he carries the load.
On facing Missouri HC Eliah Drinkwitz for a fourth time with a new OC
He’s really systematic on offense. I think they do a good job. They play with balance. They’re committed to a run game that is well-designed.
I think the new coordinator has implemented some concepts in the throw game. They’re doing a good job using the skill they got. I think the back’s a good player, they’re getting pretty good play from a couple of tight ends and then I think their front is playing well. You know, I think that gets overlooked.
And then the skill players, the receiver group has you know they’re all a little bit different, and I think that they do a good job utilizing that group.
On two SEC coaches getting fired and pressure
It’s been that way in this league for a long time. I think you know what you sign up for. I think we all do. But I mean it’s part of life, right? If the AP decided they’re going to fire you one day, it comes with the territory, right?
So, we all have a job to do, and ultimately I think we view it as a challenge. You view it as an opportunity. And look, these are well-thought-out decisions. You don’t just flip a coin and decide to be the head coach of the Florida Gators.
I think for me, you go into it with a strategy and a plan. You adapt, you evolve, you adjust, and we’re in the middle of our process. It’s been happening for a long time that way.
Do you feel confident in the timeline?
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think we knew it was going to be easy, you know? And look, I think you have to go into it. I mean, you develop a skill set. You’re equipped.
These same things I’m talking about relative to our players. I can tell you I wouldn’t be up here without going through a lot of tough stuff to some degree. So, you’re equipped with faith, you’re equipped with discipline, your ability to come up with solutions and you got to be tough-minded.
You’ve got to have endurance. You’ve got to be able to persevere. You got to surround yourself with really good people. It’s not like you thought we were going to run the table the first year. It is what it is, right? So I think we have to continue to be action-oriented, solution-oriented.
And I do believe in what we do and how we do it. There’s always adjustments that are required, but we have tremendous leadership here, top down. We have great resources. We have a tremendous product to sell. This place has done it before, and I’m firmly confident that we’re capable of doing it again.
On WR Ricky Pearsall
Ricky is, I don’t want to say underrated because I think he’s pretty highly regarded out there. I know the National Football League feels that way.
Ricky, in my opinion, is a product of a lot of work. He’s highly skilled. He can win at the line of scrimmage, he can win at the top of the route, he has good awareness, he understands coverage and leverage and he’s run routes.
He’s to a point in his career where he has a good understanding of what we’re trying to do conceptually, and he’s creative. His hand selection is outstanding, and I think he’s going to test a lot better than people anticipate. This guy has a 40-inch vertical. His short shuttle, L drill, those numbers will be impressive. He’s bigger than you think.
So, Ricky, he’s up there. I’ve coached some good players. I’ll tell you what I really appreciate about Ricky Pearsall is the consistency and the person that shows up every day. His attitude, his energy, his leadership. He’s a tough dude and he has values. He’s equipped with some things that allow him to be really consistent as a performer. So he’ll be a great pro. He’ll play for a long time.
On the transfer portal
It’s more coverage, right? It’s more drama. You know, I think it’s just another element to strategy, relative to what you’re going to do. And it’s new, so there’s not a huge sample size of evidence relative to what works and what doesn’t work. I do think that, you know, our game continues to evolve and it’s important that you keep up.
There’s an element to that, but ultimately we’ve got conviction about how we do it. It’s much like the National Football League, in my opinion. You’re talking about, you want to build your team through the draft, and each offseason you’re evaluating the depth on your team, the impact players, the immediate, where do you need immediate presence? And that’s the NFL free agency model. So, I think we’re living in a world that’s very much the same.
You throw NIL into that equation and now you’re you’re living in a salary cap model, right? The problem is we have no contracts. Our drafted players have no contracts. I’d like to know that we had him for four or five years. So, the instability, I think is magnified.
Since when have college fanbases been patient? Okay. That’s what I’d like to know. Everywhere I’ve been the fan bases and patient in my life, and I’ve got two brothers that are high school coaches. My dad coached high school football for a few more, I guess.
On having to recruit his own players to stay
I feel good about the employer experience here. There’s going to be attrition now, just so we all understand. I mean, that’s a product of the environment that we’ve created at this level. So you used to anticipate (losing) a half dozen guys a year and now you probably anticipate twice as many.
Some of which you anticipate happening, some maybe you don’t anticipate happening. I probably would say if you’re on the fence, you know, maybe this is not the right place for you, but it’d be different if I didn’t have confidence in the experience of the scholar-athlete here. The player experience here, I think is second to none.
So, when you talk, start talking about the degree, the alumni network, the experiences that are available through GatorMade, from a life-skills and player development standpoint. The resources that we have to offer from a facility standpoint, infrastructure standpoint, location, gameday. It’s a tough place to beat. I think there’s an element to that, you know, but I also think that life is pretty good at UF right now.
How has the offense has established an identity this year?
Most weeks I’d like to have one or two more scores a game you know and I think ultimately I’m evaluating it within the play within the possession.
I think we’re sound in what we do. We have developed more consistency. I think early on we had some issues, we had some struggles. I do think we’ve developed some consistency.
We’ve also developed some players, some guys that were backups, that have gotten experience, that have improved. Whether that’s the two freshman tight ends or Jake Slaughter or we get Kam Waites back, Tre Wilson gains confidence and gets experience, whatever the case may be.
I think players have improved. We’re getting a little bit more consistency across the board, and that’s allowed us to be a little bit more effective. We need to play better complementary football. Ultimately, that’s our issue. Has nothing to do with just one unit. We have to put all parts of our team together at this point where we’re at. That’s the issue.
It’s the defense shows up and the offense doesn’t. Not just week to week, but half to half or quarter to quarter. So, consistency is what we’re seeking, and I do think we need to continue to develop players. We need to see improvement from players and we need to eliminate some of the mistakes that have nothing to do with the opponent. I think that’s my struggle. That’s what I think about.
I can handle some of the matchups that we get positioned in and hey, look, it is what it is. But some of these things that we can help. That’s what I’m concerned with right now.
On injuries last week
Devin’s injury happened Thursday during practice. That’s why it wasn’t reported. So, we’re pretty transparent when it comes to injuries. Wednesday, you’ll know where we’re at. Between now and then, we’re going to work on getting as many players available as we can.