Watch & Read: Met a lot of goals in win over Charlotte

Press Conference

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Billy Napier, Graham Mertz, and Caleb Banks met with the media on Monday to review the win over Charlotte and take a look at this Saturday’s conference game against Kentucky.


BILLY NAPIER: We really had a lot of good stuff on the film. I was proud of our team. There was lots of parts of our team where we executed really well. Met a lot of goals — offense, defense, and special teams.

Certainly we’re well aware of the red zone issues, and certainly we’ve got to get more touchdowns in the red area, but I thought we were good. I think that we moved the ball really well throughout the day, created 19 explosive plays. We were over 11 yards a pass attempt. We were right at 5 a carry.

Ultimately didn’t do a great job on third down and certainly the red zone, forced to kick five field goals. Those were the areas of concern.

I do think we met every goal in special teams in the game outside of the two penalties. Then defensively, we’re lights out outside of one possession.

The two turnovers, we didn’t get any turnovers compared with the red zone issues, keep with the game a little bit closer than it should have been. But I would tell you we had a lot of players play their first significant time. Some of those guys played well.

I think we pretty much understand where the issues were, whether those were mental errors or fundamental or technique issues in the game. But I thought we did take some steps forward in certain parts of our team, which was beneficial.

I think this is a big week. Obviously Kentucky has a really good football team. We’ve got a ton of respect for Coach Stoops and the program that he’s built there, the consistency in which they play and the brand of football that they play — the fundamentals, the philosophy.

It’s a tough place to go play. We’ve got to go up there and play at 12:00 noon. Our players are well aware of the program Kentucky has. They’ve beaten us two years in a row. I do think there are challenges that come with going on the road and playing in this league, and certainly Kentucky is one of those.

We’re off to a good start. I thought the players were in a good — the frame of mind was really good yesterday. Sometimes you can capitalize off winning but maybe not playing to the expectation, and certainly I think that’s kind of where we’re at.

It’s going to be an important week, and obviously an SEC East opponent and first opportunity on the road in the league. What questions do we have here?

Q. Billy, Micah, is he going to be back able to play this week?

BILLY NAPIER: Yes, Micah will be back.

Q. Offensive line, you had three new guys in there more or less. Does that part of it, red zone issues, do you think? Could you pinpoint that a little bit?

BILLY NAPIER: The red zone issues were, simply put, mental errors and fundamental technique issues. I do think from a design perspective there was one or two plays that we could help the players with, but very technical. I mean, we know exactly where the issues are.

Q. The defense obviously has impressed throughout the season, but where do you think they can improve? I know you mentioned that one possession, but in what areas?

BILLY NAPIER: We’re trying to get more takeaways. How many do we have? I think we have one maybe in four games.

I do think we’ve done a better job playing the normal downs better. We’ve done a good job of getting off the field on third down. And when we do get into the red zone, for the most part, we’re playing pretty good down there.

I think they were a little over five rushing in the game, so a little bit better in that area. The quarterback being able to run obviously affects those stats. Outside of the one possession, they hit us on the speed option. Tough pattern match first quarters, the route concept there, and we busted on the quarterback draw, just flat out busted. We’re in the perfect call. We’ve just got to do what he’s supposed to do.

I think there’s lots of ways to win. The key is that we grow through some of the mistakes but also learn from some of the successes for sure.

Q. A couple of Kentucky skill guys, obviously Devin Leary, the quarterback, and then Ray Davis, the guy you were familiar with last year at Vanderbilt?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, they’re transfer heavy on offense. They’ve got a good group of skill players. Running back, primarily the player you’re talking about is the featured back. The quarterback was fantastic at NC State, he’s had a terrific career. He’s off to a good start.

I think they’ve got skill players at receiver, at least two true freshmen that played last year, a back, a sophomore that transferred from Virginia Tech, and then the tight end, I feel like this one guy, he’s been there forever.

They’ve got a good group. I think up front is where they made some progress. In general, I do think they have a good complementary group of players on offense for sure.

Q. A little bit of a mixed bag last year in terms of the first game of the year, that time slot. Do you enjoy that as a coach, prefer it over waiting all day Saturday in the hotel for a night game?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I don’t view it that way. We don’t get to decide that. We’ve got to play at different times. One of the reasons why we formatted training camp the way we did this year.

I like to win, okay? I don’t care what time the game is. I like to win.

Q. Do you find it easier to get up and go as opposed to kind of wait, wait, wait, wait?

BILLY NAPIER: Don’t think of it that way. I think we find out, what, ten days ahead of time what time the game is. So it is what it is.

Q. What do you see in Kentucky’s defense? It’s pretty impressive, but what have you seen?

BILLY NAPIER: Kentucky, that’s one of the reasons why they’ve been able to be very consistent as a program and as a team is because they play really good defense. They’ve got an identity. They understand who they are and how they play. It’s a veteran group, and I think they’ve added a couple transfers also that have provided depth at certain positions.

But they’ve got a good group of defensive coaches. Obviously the head coach is defensive background. They’re systematic in what they do, and they do a really good job, play well at all levels of the defense, in my opinion.

Q. Any idea if Kingsley will be back this week?

BILLY NAPIER: I think it’s to be determined. I think that he’s made progress. We anticipate him practicing tomorrow. I’ll be able to let you know Wednesday.

Q. Are you almost surprised when Graham doesn’t complete a pass right now? I’m looking at 77.8, and it’s fifth nationally right now.

BILLY NAPIER: We’re pleased with Graham. Graham’s made our team better. His work habits, his attitude, his practice approach, the way he prepares, his leadership. I think this guy has done a really good job for our team.

He’s playing at a high level. We need to keep him cleaner. He got hit a few too many times on Saturday, but the ball’s going where it’s supposed to go. The guy’s been really accurate.

And Saturday — look, I think, if you charted the incompletions, some of those are bad design and some of those are drops, so I think — or maybe he’s throwing it away because of the rush. So he’s playing really efficient for us right now.

Q. It’s early still, but are you happy for him, what you’re seeing, considering he left the place he’d been for all those years and is having the success he’s having so far?

BILLY NAPIER: One of the most gratifying things as a coach is when a guy works extremely hard and he gets the result. I think ultimately for me I see a guy who’s having fun playing football, and he’s voiced that to me. Man, this is unbelievable.

He’s just having fun playing the game, right? It makes me want to play again, to be quite honest. He’s just in the moment. He’s enjoying it. I think it’s been great to see him.

He’s a great competitor on game day. This guy’s tough. He’s into it. He’s present. I think he’s just in a good place. I’m proud of him.

Q. Just following up on the point about keeping Graham cleaner, nine sacks allowed. You guys were so good last year certainly protecting the quarterback. What are you seeing in that aspect? How much of it is on the offensive line or even Graham holding the ball, or what are your thoughts?

BILLY NAPIER: I think any time you start talking about sacks and pressures, typically all position groups are contributing. If you just went down a list right now, I think that that would be the case this year as well, whether it’s the back had a mental error or the — we had an issue in protection with the front guys or a receiver didn’t separate or you held the ball too long.

Like one of the sacks Saturday was a result of we just held it too long. We like to speak to the quarterbacks in terms of what is the ball out time, like, hey, ball needs to be out of your hand, right?

Look, we have a new group of players on the O-line, and then we’ve had injuries. So that group, the continuity has not been there this year so far. So we’ve played with a mixture of lineups, and I think that’s contributed to some of the issues we’ve had. But I do think at times we played really well also.

Q. You mentioned the importance of generating more explosive plays. Almost 200 passing yards on explosive passes. How important was that to get going against Charlotte, especially as you start to get into this road stretch against defenses like Kentucky’s?

BILLY NAPIER: I think typically it’s good to — you’ve got to create explosives to win, right? We know that you’ve got to take care of the ball, and you’ve got to get takeaways. You need to win the explosive battle. You need to win the rush battle, and you try to make a game changing play every week on special teams.

If you just simplified it, those are things that could contribute to that. In our league, rushing the ball consistently can be challenging at times depending on who you’re playing. So you’re going to have to create some explosives in the throw game.

Q. Then in the special teams, did you look at the ten guys on the field and maybe what led to that situation? You also mentioned the block in the black, you wanted to look at that before you commented.

BILLY NAPIER: I think the block in the back, Jaden, it is a bang-bang play. It is a technique, choice, decision. He’s trying to do exactly what he’s coached to do, but it’s right there in the gray area. Is it a block in the back? Probably from the guy who threw the penalty, he viewed it that way.

I would say it was a good call. I do think it’s close. Jaden Robinson is very close to doing exactly what he was coached to do. The good thing is later on in the game, he’s in a very similar situation, and he did it exactly right.

No one’s more conscientious than that kid. Look, those things are going to happen.

Q. And the ten players on the field?

BILLY NAPIER: Again, it was very similar to another situation we’ve had this year where significant loss of yardage on the play. So is it the kicker? Is it the punter? The returner is the missing piece there. We’re in a grouping where we can go, say, for a rush we think it’s safe, and then we pull a returner off and it’s rush. So we’re one short.

Q. What’s your assessment on special teams through four games?

BILLY NAPIER: I think we took a step forward Saturday. I think we’re getting better specialist play. Saturday was a step in the right direction. I thought all the operations were really good. Rocco was great. Jeremy had one of his better days. And Trey Smack has been a weapon.

The touchbacks, where essentially we haven’t had to cover a kick this year because of him. Obviously he’s done a fantastic job stepping up as the placekicker as well.

It is an area on our team where we are playing young players, and I think a lot of guys are getting significant time that this is their first college football. So I think those players are getting better.

We’ve won more one-on-ones in Saturday’s game. I think that was the reason we were able to have some of the returns that we did have.

I think we’ve got to eliminate some of these communication errors, game day operation errors, much like you guys have talked about. But I do think that — I believe it’s an area on our team where we have a chance to continue to improve because the personnel that’s out there playing.

Q. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the last time Florida went to Kentucky, they had 15 penalties on the offensive line, a ton of false starts. I know Kingsley’s status is still to be determined. He’s the only guy that played in that game. Have you visited with him yet about the challenge of playing there, maybe what guys can do better if he’s out there Saturday?

BILLY NAPIER: I think that was a part of last year, playing on the road. I think we played at Tennessee early last year on the road, and we procedurally were pretty good. I think, as a result of the conversations about the year prior.

So that’s in the past. I think we’ve resolved that for the most part. Obviously it’s part of playing on the road in this league. It’s going to be challenging. We’ve got to do a good job with the nonverbal count. I think, for the most part, when we’ve done that, we’ve done a decent job.

But those are some of the challenges that are an issue with going on the road. You see it every week in college football. It’s like every game you turn on where — I mean, look at the teams that have to play here.

I’m hopeful that the things that we’ve done in training camp and the things that we do throughout the week can replicate that for the players. If not, we’ve got to evaluate our process and think about what we can do better for the players.


Q. Graham, what was your reaction to Ricky’s catch? In that moment.

GRAHAM MERTZ: Wild. In that moment — what were you going to say?

Q. In that moment, just when it happened.

GRAHAM MERTZ: Presnap, I mean, if you watch the tape, I looked out at C.D. and signaled him a different route because I thought it was a certain look. Then I realized it was a different look when I looked and scanned the whole field.

So I had a feeling I was going to have to work Ricky. I had a feeling it was going to be a tight window because the boundary safety — or the post safety was more off the hash. So I tried to look him off a little bit, come back into that hole.

In the zone I knew there was a hole there. I threw it a little too high, just tried to fit it over that back. From my viewpoint, it came off my hand. It felt like it had a little juice to it, figured it would be a high catch tackle. I just see a — you see all these jerseys and just a hand go up and just snipe it. I was like no way he caught that, after the hit.

But that’s just what our receivers in that room do, like they just make crazy catches all week. Then all the work in the off-season. Him, the entire room on the jugs machine getting extra catches and working that stuff.

That was a wild catch. That’s got to be catch of the year.

Q. Is it the best catch you’ve ever seen or been part of?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah. I mean, hard not to be. That was wild.

Q. (No microphone) says he does stuff like that in practice all the time? Coach says Ricky makes catches like that all the time in practice. He said it was amazing, but he wasn’t surprised.

GRAHAM MERTZ: We know what Ricky, his talent, what he does. He shows it every week. Like I just said, that whole room, they make catches during the week when we’re in one-on-ones, when we’re in practice. Yeah, they make plays.

Probably not to that extent every day. He’s not going up one hand doing the jump every day, but he makes plays. That’s what kind of player he is. He’s a difference maker.

Q. How was it to get Arlis Boardingham and Andy Jean involved in the passing game?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It was big. Any time a younger guy gets his first touchdown, his first reception, that’s a fun thing to be a part of. I kind of rolled out and threw a deeper ball to Andy, and just seeing the juice he got up with — I mean, it’s really fun to see a guy get his first touchdown, first reception in The Swamp. It was definitely fun.

With all the work they put in, you see them every day, and to see that kind of come to fruition, it’s definitely a blast.

Q. Did you have a chance to talk to Ricky and his decision about coming back to school, maybe trying to prove himself a little bit?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, when I came on my visit, they were in practice. I don’t remember all the details, but it was like, if we come back, it’s go time.

From the jump, I knew exactly — I knew the standard he was going to hold me to, and I know the standard that I’m going to hold him to. From the start, we knew what we were going to do. We were going to be about our work, and we were going to work together and really push that across the entire offense.

Q. When you talk about you’ve been sacked nine times this year, somewhere around the neighborhood of 20 last year. Coach Napier mentioned there were a few, or there was one maybe where you held onto it a little bit too long. What’s the balance for you between getting —

GRAHAM MERTZ: Third and five, third and six.

Q. — balance for you between you getting the ball and potentially making a bad throw versus taking a sack? What is your mindset on that, I think?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think any time you get into a third down — we call them four-point plays in the fringe, red zone, or fourth down. On my end, you need to know what their tendencies are, what they put on tape, the looks you could get. You always have to have that — in quarterback world, you call that internal clock, but knowing kind of how — it’s a feel thing. Knowing when you’ve got to get the ball out, where the ball’s got to go.

There was one play where I held onto it way too long, just it was one play I’d love to have back because I had a throw, and it’s a big one. You convert that, then we have another shot to score points.

I think one thing I do gotta say is Trey Smack had a great game, and we’ve got to do our job and score seven points — or six points and then seven, but he did a great job of extending that lead when we needed him. So definitely thankful for that.

Q. Talked to you a couple of weeks ago about the amount of explosive plays you’re confident this offense would generate. How impressive was it to have more than 200 yards of explosive plays in Charlotte?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, I think that’s one thing I was proud about was the guys making plays down the field. Across the board guys just playing smart football on the back end. They were kind of zoning us off, had a post safety that was deep. So we didn’t have a lot of our post shots or things down the middle. Everything was kind of deep over, we call them climb routes.

Guys having a feel for the zone, feeling where they need to be. I think about Andy getting a little more depth on the run. Arlis got — same thing, got a little more depth because he felt the guy underneath him.

Late in the game, Ricky had the same thing, and he sat it down in the zone when I climbed up because he felt the guy on top of him.

I think that just goes to show the amount of detail that all those coaches in every room talk about is, when you’re getting zoned out, where the void is, and getting a feel for when you’re going to get the ball.

I think scramble plays and extending the pocket is great, but I also think that we can get back there and stay in the pocket and deliver on time that they’re doing a great job.

Q. What have you seen in Jake Slaughter, just from a procedural hitting the line standpoint in the last few weeks?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think he’s doing a great job. I think, when we’re in here doing blitz pickup, we’re on the field talking. We talk through at a high level of what we’re seeing, what we’re feeling, how to get us in the right call. I think slaughter has done a fantastic job in that sense of preparation and then executing.

Q. Speaking of zones, I guess Ricky’s catch notwithstanding, you haven’t missed many this year.


Q. You’re like 77.8 percent completion percentage. Can you get in the zone as a quarterback, like a guy hitting threes? Are you seeing the field any different? Is the ball coming out of your hand better? I was joking with Billy, it’s like when you miss one, it’s almost a surprise right now.

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think that’s kind of — I always talk about like getting in the flow. I don’t know why I got a flash of the Elf movie. You ain’t in the flow. You’ve got to get out of the flow. I don’t know why that popped in my head. I think it’s a flow thing.

For me, I say it every week, but it’s doing my job and getting the ball to our playmakers. When a team zones us out, taking what they give you. It’s easy to want to force the ball down the field into double coverage, but it’s not smart. For me, it just goes back to doing my job and doing it on a consistent basis.

From the start, my thing has been I want to be a consistent player here. I want to do that every week. I do get frustrated when I don’t make that play, and there’s definitely three or four plays in the game last week that I want back, and I want to execute those.

I think that brings you back every week to go back to that route of, oh, I just need to execute and do my job.

Q. What’s the level of gratification for you personally, though, having made this move, left behind a program that you were there for four years, to be having the success you’re having early?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I owe this university everything I got, and I try to hold that every day. I tell the coaches every single day that I’m blessed to be here and I’m thankful for it. I think I said it the day after they announced me starter that it’s a blessing and it’s a privilege to be here.

That’s what wakes me up every day. That’s why I’m excited. I enjoy doing what I’m doing. I love this sport. I love this team. I love this university.

It’s been an absolute pleasure, and I’m definitely doing what I love to do with the people I love to do it with. So it’s a blessing.

Q. You’ve played in some tough road environments in the Big Ten and so forth, but for the offense and for the younger guys, how much do you think Utah is a benefit, going back to Kentucky, having that road experience under your belt, do you think?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think any time you go on the road, there’s an element of the team’s mindset, and you’ve got to have that road warrior mentality. It’s really — if you go into any road game, it’s a hostile environment. I mean, you’ve got your boys with you.

There’s a mental approach, and I think that’s any game that you have to have an edge. Yeah, we went to Utah, and we didn’t execute. We mentally didn’t have that edge. So across the board, we’re talking about that. We’ve got to go out and execute at a high level and just have fun doing it. That’s our plan.

Q. In your delivery, have they worked with you or done anything mechanically that has changed your delivery since you’ve been here, your footwork or whatever?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Like throwing the football?

Q. Yeah.

GRAHAM MERTZ: For sure. The one thing I appreciate a ton is the attention to detail that our coaching staff has. I mean, they look at every throw, and they tell me what they see. I’ve played a lot of football.

I have a great quarterback coach back in Kansas City. So sometimes I know what’s going on with my motion, and I know sometimes I’m overstrided, sometimes I’m long.

We do a great job during the week of kind of building in in our individual time of mechanics and clean up the delivery. So it’s been great.

Q. How much do you attribute that to your completion percentage? I mean, you’re up 20 percentage points from where you were last year.

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think it’s across the board. When you’re prepping to play quarterback, it’s a holistic approach that mechanics, your reads, seeing the field, delivery, where you’re putting it on guys. If you’re really be in their eyes, telling them this is the zone, there’s a guy right here, put it right here and turn up.

I think across the board it’s a holistic approach that for me I find so much enjoyment because you’ve never arrived. There’s always room to grow. That’s why I love this game.

Q. Are you ever surprised by a defense on the field? You’re renowned for your film work and study and all that, but this weekend Mark Stoops is known as a defensive guru. How often do you go out there and go, man, I didn’t see that coming?

GRAHAM MERTZ: My freshman year, that happened a couple times, but I’m confident I’ve seen a lot of defenses. I mean, I was blessed at Wisconsin to have a great coordinator, defensive coordinator in Coach Leonard, so he threw the — I always joke about it, he threw the kitchen sink at me in practices, blitzes, coverage, combinations, everything. Here we’ve got Coach Armstrong who does the same thing.

And in game, I’ve had a bunch of different looks. It just goes back to preparation and knowing and understanding defenses, where guys should be. When something looks a little off, that means, okay, something’s probably off. Then you’ve got to analyze a little bit more.

There really hasn’t been an opportunity in a while where I’ve seen something where I haven’t been prepared, I haven’t seen it. So for me, it’s gathering all the information, getting our guys in the right protection, run game check, combination with routes. For me, that’s the game within the game. A lot of people don’t really have the opportunity to experience that, but that’s where the game gets fun.

It’s like a chess game. It’s a blast.

Q. Have you guys talked a lot about how you had the edge going into Tennessee week, whether it’s rivalry or a ranked opponent. What do you feel like the team’s mindset will be for Kentucky? You’ve lost two in a row to them. It’s your first SEC road game. What do you sense maybe the intensity will be like this week?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think, when you talk about mentality, and I really appreciated our approach going into the Tennessee game. I thought it was great, great week of prep. I think the mentality is built within the week of work.

I think we’re still building it this week, so it’s TBD. We know, when we’re playing our best ball, it’s great execution, it’s confidence, it’s guys trusting the guys around them. So we know what contributes to winning football, and for us it’s kind of going through the week, sharpening that blade of what we need to be for that week.

I think that holds true to every week. It all comes down to just execution in this game. We’ve seen that on both ends this year.

Q. Do you think that Kentucky losing streak will be something that’s addressed, or is that not even — do you think essentially it’s like Tennessee week?

GRAHAM MERTZ: No, it’s been addressed.

Q. You mentioned some of the presnap issues at Utah. Do you change the process or the approach? Other than maybe you said mindset, going in, knowing you’re going to face some similar issues, challenges.

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think any road game, you look at any team that’s come into The Swamp, there’s issues where, if you’re not in your game or not communicating at a high level, there’s penalties that pop up.

We’ve been on the road. We’ve seen that. I guarantee you you’re going to work at communicating on a high level. I mean, that’s every week. I can do a better job. I can communicate better. I can make sure everybody’s on the same page. So that will be a point of emphasis for me.


Q. Take me through that play that you all had early in the fourth quarter, you and Kelby combined on that sack, just how big of a play that was in the game.

CALEB BANKS: We practice that play a lot, so we had to just make sure we were lined up right. I kind of did my little jig getting over. I got there first. I hope Kelby sees this, but, yeah, I got there first.

I guess we shared the sack, but, yeah, it was a team effort. Took him down. Celebrated. Got off the field.

Q. How do you feel like you guys did in terms of getting pressure on Jalon? You guys finished with four sacks.

CALEB BANKS: We come with effort. How can I say this? We try to come at the quarterbacks every game the same way. Try to bring the pressures.

Armstrong is a big — he likes to send a lot of pressures. As you can see, he’s very aggressive. So we kind of feed off that and try to get to the quarterback as much as we can.

Q. You’re from Michigan, but is there a homecoming element to this game? Having played college in Louisville and all, do you have any friends there in Kentucky?

CALEB BANKS: I have a lot of high school friends that play at the University of Kentucky.

Q. How excited are you playing against Kentucky? I know you didn’t get a chance to.

CALEB BANKS: I’m very excited. I think it’s going to be like an All-Star Game, I feel like. Everybody from my school is going to be there. Deone, Maxwell, one of the left tackles. We’re really good friends. It’s going to be a good game.

Q. Graham just said it’s been addressed this team has lost two in a row to Kentucky and doesn’t want to make it three. What’s your motivation personally to make sure that doesn’t happen?

CALEB BANKS: Like I said, we come to every game with the same type of mentality. We’re going to come as hard as we can to possibly win on the road, first SEC game on the road. We’re going to take that very personal and do what we’ve got to do to win.

Q. How many do you know on the team?

CALEB BANKS: I believe it’s four or five.

Q. Did you trash talk early on this week?

CALEB BANKS: No, not yet.

Q. Will there be any?

CALEB BANKS: Maybe. I’m a trash talker myself, so there might be. Yeah, it’s coming.

Q. You mentioned takeaways, but what’s something this defense, not that can do better, that maybe we’re not noticing up front? You guys look like you’re pretty hard to block right now, but what can you improve?

CALEB BANKS: Overall, I feel like we can improve — I mean, there’s always room for improvement. I think we’re doing a good job with a lot of things. I think we can improve on getting to the ball quicker, like just tackling. I know we’ve been really good with tackling, but I know we can do better with tackling.

Q. Scooby and Shemar, what kind of impact do you think they’re having as a duo?

CALEB BANKS: Those are some dudes right there. They’re pretty good. They’ve got the Gator in them. They bring a lot of energy. They impact the defense a lot.

Scooby is a really big leader. Shemar is a really big leader. They help the defense in practice, games. They kind of lead us through, giving us the call, strong left, strong right.

For example, we were playing in — when we played Tennessee, gave us the call every time, got us lined up. If it was too loud and we couldn’t hear. Pretty big impact.

Q. Are you surprised at how well the defense has played so far this year? You all are ranked fifth nationally and just keep getting better. Are you surprised by any of that?

CALEB BANKS: No, sir. I knew we were going to be pretty good from when I first got here.

Q. What was it about the program that told you it was going to be a good defense?

CALEB BANKS: Just how we like clicked, became as one like pretty early on. There was no type of — what can I say? There wasn’t no type of bad energy. I feel like everybody, we loved each other right from the start. We got along very well. So I knew it was going to be a really good team.

Q. You bought in before Austin Armstrong got here. How much of an elevation has his position just been in this program?

CALEB BANKS: I got here like five days — probably like a week before Armstrong got here, like two, three weeks before Armstrong got here. So I don’t really know. Can’t really tell you.

Q. Is Kelby coming on? It looked like the other night he was.

CALEB BANKS: Kelby, he’s getting better. He’s evolving. He’s doing good. He’s learning to play. He knows all the plays, but he’s going to be really good throughout the season.

Q. Coming out of high school, what stands out about him, do you think?

CALEB BANKS: His pad rushing. He’s a pretty big guy, pretty heavy guy, but he moves like he’s small. He’s going to be a very big element in pass and run game.

Q. You mentioned that Shemar and Scooby had that Gator in them. Define that. What is that Gator?

CALEB BANKS: Got that Gator in them. Just like a dog. We used to say he’s like a dog, like a pitbull, like an aggressive dog. The neighbors say we’re not the Dogs, we’re the Gators. So we’ve got the Gator.

Q. What do you think of Austin Armstrong’s personnel grouping so far, the way he’s using you guys on different downs? What’s the excitement level when you know it’s your down to go out there?

CALEB BANKS: I love the pass rush, so whenever I hear “Code V,” that’s our pass rush thing, I kind of get really excited.

I think his personnel is really great. I feel like he kind of sets it up very well.

Q. You feel like he does a good job of putting guys in position?

CALEB BANKS: Definitely do, yes, sir.

Q. You realize how hard it is getting on the field as a first year guy. I don’t know how many snaps you played, but it wasn’t a ton. What do you think about the impact some of these young guys — I mentioned Kelby, but Jordan, for example, and some of these other guys who are getting involved young?

CALEB BANKS: It’s very important. Like playing as a freshman, I feel like that’s like a really big deal. Starting out early on — I didn’t get to start early on. I told them, when you get that opportunity, you take it. They’re doing a really good job with that.

They’re not showing no signs of nervousness. When we’re getting ready to go, they’re ready to go. Helmets on, getting ready to go to work with each other.

Q. When you see guys on the line beating up on each other, are you having fun out there when you get to do that?

CALEB BANKS: Yes, sir. It’s just amazing. I love going against — I trash talk, so it’s kind of fun just being able to beat somebody up and not be able to get in trouble for it (laughter).

Q. What’s the most fun? Is it knocking a guy flat on his butt? Is it just — I mean, looking him in the eye and knowing that you are just dominating the heck out of him?

CALEB BANKS: Yeah, so like, for example, when we played Tennessee, I kind of like threw the guard or whatever, and he got up, trash talked. One of the plays, I guess he told like the tackle to try to hit me when I wasn’t looking, and he kind of like, boom, caught me, kind of ran me over a little bit. I just got up and started laughing.

It’s just kind of fun having that type of competition. Being in the SEC, it’s very aggressive. So being able to just run into each other and run people over, it’s pretty fun.

Q. Who’s the best trash talker, you or Cam?

CALEB BANKS: Me. Cam kind of feeds off of my talking. He’s not really a trash talker. He’ll say stuff, but it will only be when I kind of initiate it. I go you suck. Then Cam will be like, yeah, you suck. It will kind of go like that.

Q. Who’s the biggest competition for you in terms of trash talker on the team?

CALEB BANKS: That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Q. What about on offense?

CALEB BANKS: Offense, oh, here we go. I would probably say Kingsley. Me and Kingsley talk trash to each other a lot. We be going at it.

Q. It’s got to be a DB, right? Those guys talk all the time.

CALEB BANKS: They don’t really say too much. They kind of just be out there doing their thing.

Q. As far as trash talking, do you practice it? Is it just your personality? Always been that way?

CALEB BANKS: It’s just me. I be joking around. I don’t really be serious. At the end of the game, it’s just football. That’s just how it is, stuff like that.

Q. Does it ever get inside your head?

CALEB BANKS: No, it doesn’t get in my head. When we played Charlotte, I told the guy, I’m getting in your head. He was like, you’re getting in there. We just started laughing. It was funny.

Q. Billy said after the game he feels like the way that the game against Charlotte went could give you guys an edge this week, just maybe playing them too close. He made a comment that he thinks that this group thrives off of hate. I guess people doubted you guys. What’s your reaction to that? Do you feel like he’s right?

CALEB BANKS: I feel like he’s correct. Honestly, I read everything. I see everything. It feeds like — it’s like fuel to my fire. It makes me go harder every play, every game, practice. I just saw that thing about it doesn’t mess with me at all. I kind of find it kind of funny sometimes.

Okay, that’s how you feel. When we win, you know what I’m saying?

Q. You don’t let it get to you?

CALEB BANKS: No, I don’t. I embrace it.

Video courtesy Gator Vision | Transcript courtesy ASAP

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