Watch & Read: Changes made to road game itinerary

Press Conference

by Inside the Gators Staff
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COACH NAPIER: I think it’s important that we understand that growth, improvement, development, is not a one-day event. I think ultimately for the individual players, staff members that we have, for us as a team, you just don’t get to the top of a mountain in one day. You’ve got to climb the mountain.

And I think there’s important things to remember while we do that. It’s going to require a tremendous amount of work. I think that you’ve got to stretch yourself. You’ve got to get uncomfortable. It’s going to be harder than you thought it was going to be. There’s going to be some uncomfortable days.

I think it’s important that we always keep a really good attitude toward learning and we apply the things that we learn along the way. Look, this requires focus.

I think there’s distractions. You can get distracted with failure. You can get distracted with success. And I think success is probably even more of an issue at times.

And I do think there’s an accountability piece here. Growth can be accelerated when you have a watchful eye watching you closely, and I think it’s beneficial for us, not only the staff members, but also the leadership on our team, we provide that.

And we’ve got to build on the past. We’ve got to take the things that we know are true, that we’ve learned that are true and apply those. Applications, it’s one thing to know; it’s another thing to apply. And we have to practice what we know works, tweak and adapt and evolve in the areas where we know we need to do that.

And then ultimately, I think if you’re going to continue to grow, you’ve got to remember to back up a little bit, take a deep breath and have some gratitude for where you’re at and the opportunities that come with that.

And I think ultimately that’s where we’re at as a team. I think we have to continue to grow, improve, develop. We showed signs of life Saturday in certain parts of our team. I do think it’s important that we understand that even though we got a good result, there are some areas where we need to improve, whether that’s communication, fundamentals, decision-making, a lack of discipline at times when it comes to penalties.

But overall we did a lot of positive things. We’re excited about turning the page. I think every week is a new week. There’s mental toughness required. Whether you had success the prior week or you had failure the prior week, the ability to turn the page and get started on the next challenge is important.

So South Carolina is a team that we have tremendous respect for. Shane Beamer is an outstanding coach and motivator and always has his team ready to be competitive and play.

They play with good effort. I do think he’s got a tough group and they cause problems for every team that they’ve played.

I think Williams Brice is one of the tougher venues, better venues in the country, having played there many times in the past. And, look, we’re an underdog on the road in the SEC. And this is an area on our team where we need to accept the challenge and take the next step by playing well and winning a game on the road.

We challenged the staff to do their best work. Our job is to connect with people and produce results. I do think there’s an element to this game that is about connection. There’s a human element. And I think we want to have an aggressive mindset this week.

We want to have good energy, and we want to work to help our players, to teach our players, to lead our players, to mentor our players. And I think that we’re excited about getting to work today and certainly getting on the grass tomorrow.

Q. What tweaks, if any, have you guys made with your process on the road? And you mentioned slow starts. Do you have some data that you have on starts on the road versus maybe at home?

COACH NAPIER: I think we’re going to try to get to Columbia a little earlier this week. We’re tweaking our schedule on Thursday. We’re going to put a huge emphasis on sleep Wednesday night and things that, just little things. I think we’re going to arrive to the stadium a little earlier, all these things are typical quality control that we do.

I think, ultimately, there’s a pulse from the players that you’ve got to take into account. Most of it is mental. I do think that — I just met with the accountability group at 11 and we talked about mentally being prepared, physically being prepared, but also emotionally being prepared. You’ve got to anticipate and visualize what it’s going to be like, that it will be challenging.

There will be ups and downs in the game. Our dialogue during the week about being prepared to respond — offense supporting defense and defense supporting offense and playing really good in the kicking game.

I think ultimately, kind of what I described earlier, we’ve got to know and apply the things that we’ve learned in the past.

Q. Where does the energy come from? Because I don’t know that we ever followed up on this — not to go back, but Shemar, after the last road game, it was early start, just kind of was tough to get going.

COACH NAPIER: I think, look, if we had bounced back and played better in the game and won the game we never would have had that conversation. I mean, I think some of this is a product of result. But ultimately it’s our job to do the best job we can do for the players. And I think ultimately you have to listen to them a little bit.

So we tweaked things and I think ultimately — bottom line is when the ball’s spotted and we kick it off, we’ve got to be ready to mix it up. And if you’ve done a good job preparing all week, you’re mentally prepared, you can communicate at a high level, you can play fast, you can anticipate.

And then physically you’ve got to have a sharp sword. You’ve got to be ready to go. That axe can’t be dull. Gotta make the work a little bit easier.

If we take the right approach Tuesday, Wednesday, if we’re growing and improving in the physical parts of our team, we can apply that. And then again, like I mentioned before, there’s an emotional component that I think we have to bring that, gotta create an edge. And that’s what this week’s about.

Q. Talk about the dynamic that having Arlis Boardingham being able to run the routes in the middle and Trey Wilson (phonetic) kind of stretching the field horizontally. Could you talk about the dynamic that brings to your offense?

COACH NAPIER: Arlis is a young man who — he’s a part of that group of players. I can still remember when we hit the ground after the signing period was over, all right, who are the available players? And we evaluated a ton of players. This guy’s in California.

And we started a dialogue with him. He’s a sharp young man. Comes from a great family. He has a unique skill set.

He had a little bit of an injury last year that set back his development because all this tight end stuff was new, but we do think that this guy has a future. And it’s good to see some of that.

This guy, he’s a good run-after-catch player. And I think he’s a guy that’s capable of running a full route tree. He can play inside and outside. Smart enough to handle it. I think he’s learning the fundamentals of the position.

For a freshman to be able to do go what he did the other day I think is impressive.

And certainly Trey, Trey’s a guy you have to be intentional about, making sure he has an opportunity to impact the game every week. And Trey has got unique acceleration. He’s quick. He’s tough to tackle. He’s got some play strengths.

Those two guys played well Saturday. And ultimately can they sustain it? That’s the question. Young player, can you keep your humility, can you keep your practice habits, your approach?

I do think that’s part of our team that I’m excited about. I think we do have a group of young players that are getting comfortable on game day but they’re also getting comfortable what the week looks like and how to prepare and be ready to be at your best for the team.

Q. I know each game stands on its own but obviously you did an effective job on Spencer Rattler last year. Anything you take from that and the challenging of facing him again in the passing game this year?

COACH NAPIER: No, these are two completely different teams. Spencer is a really great player. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the entire country. He’s got a good group of skill players. They do a nice job of designing concepts. They’re very multiple.

And there’s no doubt. Every week affecting the quarterback is important. But when you play a guy like Spencer, it’s even more important.

Q. How do you feel about your secondary? You had to start two freshmen at safety, for example. And obviously it’s going to pay dividends down the road, but in the present, how dicy is that and what were your thoughts?

COACH NAPIER: Those guys got here in January, and I do think that because they are smart and mature and really work hard at it, and they come from good backgrounds. They were a little bit more prepared.

Bryce comes from a really good program, and certainly Jordan has been working as a secondary player for a long time. I think they transition well. Jackson has earned snaps, and he’s had some really good days, good plays and he’s made some mistakes along the way. So he continues to get better. He showed some toughness and some resiliency by overcoming some of those things.

I do think that all those guys are very capable players. And nowadays you’ve got to be able to get a young player ready to go at about every position, truthfully, now.

Q. You mentioned the lead-up to the game, in order to spur some quicker starts on the road. What are some of the things that you think need to happen on the field, maybe offensively, to get yourselves going faster, anything you’ve noticed?

(Audio interrupted)

COACH NAPIER: In there with the preparation, like, look, it’s going to be a 50-round fight. There’s going to be ups and downs. And you’ve got to be prepared for that.

Q. From an evaluation standpoint, is there something on the recruiting trail that you look for to determine whether you think a player’s going to be able to handle everything that comes with being a first-year player ready to go year one to overwhelming them potentially?

COACH NAPIER: I think that’s a great question. We’ve actually spent some time, we’re trying to develop right now a set of things that revolve around that in terms of — for me it’s not necessarily about whether they’re going to be able to play as a rookie. It’s more about are they going to stick. Because I think player retention is a really important part of today’s world.

You’ve got to get it right on front end or you’ll have this never-ending cycle of turnover that’s hard to deal with. So you’d like to get stability in the roster and then you can spend time on other things, if that makes sense.

I think you’re spot on. I think it’s a big deal. But I think you kind of know, but sometimes we’re wrong. The guys you thought weren’t going to be ready to go are ready to go and the ones you thought were ready won’t be ready. So kind of sorts itself out.

There’s no doubt that some positions where maybe you have a need, if you can get them here in January, I think that’s a huge advantage.

Q. You were very complimentary of Montrell after the game. Where have you seen him make the most growth since you were recruiting him?

COACH NAPIER: I think Montrell’s one of those unique kids that just showed up and had it. I mean, he’s very bright. He’s very smart. He’s very aware. And he’s gifted. We wouldn’t have got Montrell Johnson at Louisiana if it wasn’t for COVID.

There’s no doubt, if that evaluation process would have been like it is nowadays, he would have went somewhere else. Ultimately we found him. Nobody else found him. I think he was committed to Arizona at some point. We flipped him.

And then he shows up. I can remember in my notes from the second scrimmage, he was wearing No. 25. It was like 25 is a dude. So he’s big and certainly in a Group of Five he was big. He’s effective out there in our league.

Imagine him in Group of Five football. He was freshman of the year in the conference, and it was a no-brainer, we needed a running back. It was a no-brainer to get him here.

So people don’t understand that Montrell’s a really good leader. He has the ability to affect other people. Fun to be around, too. And I think although he did drop the ball the other day, I think he catches it well. He’s a good protector. I think he’ll play at the next level.

And he’s a guy that you meet him, he’s a guy you can be proud of in terms of how he represents the university, himself, the team, his family. He’s a good kid.

Q. (Indiscernible) dropped.

COACH NAPIER: He did. That’s who he is.

Q. Could you talk about the procedural issues on the road, the offensive line? I know you (indiscernible) crowd noise. Is there anything else on the road to do with that?

COACH NAPIER: I think the thing I would say is some weeks we’ve handled it really well, some weeks we haven’t. We went and played some of these places and not had those issues.

So I think it’s week to week. Ultimately it’s about, during the week, making sure that we’re doing all the things we can do to prevent those issues. But I think I don’t want to make too big of a deal about it because I think we’ve done it really well on the road at times. We haven’t had those issues.

But it is definitely part of our past and we have to make sure that we’re on top of our game so it isn’t in the future.

Q. (Indiscernible) about the metaphor of climbing the mountain. How far up the mountain do you think you all are?

COACH NAPIER: I think there’s some clouds, and I can’t see the top of the mountain yet. That’s what I would tell you.

Look, we have to understand that it’s easy to get about halfway up, easy to get about three-quarters of the way up, a lot of people do that. But the ability to kind of put your blinders on — the air gets thinner, becomes more challenging, the terrain, the temperature.

So all these little small things that are happening right in front of us, those are the things that we have to focus on. And ultimately, if you slip and fall, it’s a long way down to the bottom, too.

I think it’s important to keep perspective here relative to what all goes into the challenge. I think we have to keep that mindset. Rain, sleet or snow, we have to keep building. Somebody’s got to wake up and do the work every day. And we’re going to be relentless in how we do that.


Q. (Indiscernible) his willingness to move inside?

RICKY PEARSALL: It just shows his versatility. But he’s a really good player.

Q. What are some of the things that you think need to happen with this offense to get started faster on the road? We just talked to Billy and he said that’s huge for you guys this week. What needs to happen, do you think?

RICKY PEARSALL: Just continuing to emphasize that in practice each and every day. I think that’s where it starts, first and foremost, is you practice how you play. So come to practice with great energy and encourage all the guys as a leader.

Q. (Indiscernible) a win, Billy said a couple weeks ago after that loss on the road to Kentucky that there was a little bit of embarrassment. Are you guys sensing that maybe there’s a sense that you want to show a little bit of redemption on the road going back?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure. I think all the guys are well aware of we haven’t played our best ball on the road. So just continuing to emphasize that throughout the locker room. And we’ve got to highlight that each and every day.

We obviously know best that we haven’t been playing our best ball on the road. So continuing to nail that into all the guys’ heads. And everything’s got to be even more detailed throughout this week heading into that environment.

Q. How much (indiscernible) would it to be go into a bye week with some momentum not letting the loss hangover before pivotal end of the month?

RICKY PEARSALL: It will be really good for the guys just to have another win and have back-to-back wins. I think that’s going to be really important for the team.

Q. Is there anything operationally, like, once the ball is live that you feel like you guys need to do better that maybe through six weeks look at and go, this needs to improve for sure?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it’s more of we’ve got to continue to build that momentum within the start of the game and come out playing fast. I think that’s always encouraging for the guys when we go out there and we’re in a game environment and we’re just clicking on all cylinders. And I think it just gives each guy confidence throughout the game.

Q. Trey Wilson (phonetic) and Arlis catching the ball in the middle of the field, how does that open up the whole offense from your standpoint?

RICKY PEARSALL: It’s definitely going to open up the offense, having more guys out there making plays. They see it on film, the other team sees it on film. They’ll have to guard that. That’s going to benefit us across all cylinders. Obviously passing the ball will open up the run game, vice versa, the run game is going to open up the pass game. So we all kind of play with each other on that. For sure, I hope so.

Q. You’re not watching obviously because you’re in the middle of a play, but when you watch film later, what do you see with some of the beatings or some of the hits Graham Mertz is taking?

RICKY PEARSALL: I joke with him all the time. He should slide a little bit earlier. He’s a tough guy. He’s just trying to fight for every yard. So hats off to him. But I tell him to slide because we need him.

Q. What does it do for the team, though, when your quarterback is that resilient and able to kind of shake that stuff off?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure. Just being the leader he is and seeing what he puts on the line, it’s motivating for all the guys because football is a violent sport. We all play it. We’ve got to go out there. We’ve got to lay our bodies on the line for each other. So seeing a guy doing that, putting it on full display motivates.

Q. Trey Wilson and Andy Jean contribute to the season, two freshmen. What kind of mentor are you trying to be for those guys?

RICKY PEARSALL: Just to make sure they can operate in the building as a pro and just being a pro every single day, whatever it takes, having a set schedule each and every day. Make sure they’re handling their business. Don’t get complacent.

But those are both two really talented young guys. I’m super excited for them. I think they have a lot going for them, and I’m excited for them moving forward.

Q. (Indiscernible) the fourth down conversion, could you walk us through that play and how hard it was to hang on to it?

RICKY PEARSALL: Basically I saw motion. He ran with the motion. I knew it was some kind of man coverage. Had a guy over me. He was playing soft press. He was a little outside leverage on me. I knew if I use this leverage, slide him out, he’s trying to funnel me inside. So I knew that he would have to bite on it.

And I came across his face and just the ball was there, made a play on it. It was a little behind me. But obviously the opportunity was there and it was a fourth down, big play for us. I knew how to make it. Big-time players have to make big-time catches.

Q. Seen a lot of reversals from you guys this year. How effective do you think that’s been for the offense and being able to showcase it more?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it’s really good to put on tape for defenses to see because obviously we have a lot of motions, run a lot of motions, a lot of (indiscernible) motions. And being able to pull the guy away from the run game is going to be really important for us. It will open up the hole a little bit bigger, get people out of the box.

Q. Are you lobbying for being able to throw trick play after Kahleil threw that pick?

RICKY PEARSALL: We joked about it. I definitely said something. I’m willing to do whatever.

Q. Can you make that throw?

RICKY PEARSALL: Oh, yes, I can make that throw. Shout-out to Kahleil though. I still think he can make that throw.

Q. The pass?

RICKY PEARSALL: I’m not sure. I think I have two. I think one got called back. Have to fact check me on that one.

Q. What’s it going to take to maybe get a little more (indiscernible) down field (indiscernible)?

RICKY PEARSALL: Honestly, I don’t really know the answer to that. But I’ve just got to execute whatever is planned for me. And whatever the play call is, regardless if it’s run play or pass play, I’ve got to go out there and get open and give my full effort.

If it’s blocking for one of my guys in the backfield, if that’s what it is. And if it’s running a pass play, I have to get open for Graham and be available for him.

Q. 25 points in two road games, how much of an onus is it on the offense in terms of, like you said, starting fast and operation throughout the game in this kind of game on the road?

RICKY PEARSALL: It’s definitely a big urgency for us. They’re going to put on a hostile environment, a good environment for us to come there. It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be noisy. And as an offense we have to have better communication when you step into environments like that.

So making sure we emphasize that and continue to stress the urgency throughout practice, prepare for that.

Q. Graham, (indiscernible) Big Ten on the road before. Do you sense urgency for him to shake the label (indiscernible)?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure. He came in already with the energy and he’s already watched film on them. He’s just an impressive guy when it comes to that.

Q. Talking about tweaks to make to get better on the road and stuff. You mentioned emphasizing sleep on a Wednesday night. Do you guys lose sleep going — I know you can speak for yourself but how big of an issue is that when you go on the road and — have you ever said I wish I had gotten eight hours instead of six?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it’s more being a student-athlete in general. We don’t get as much sleep as maybe other people just because how busy our schedules are. Especially if you’re a dedicated guy you have a system and way of doing things.

And if you’re sticking to that and obviously want to get extra work in, I think you’re not going to get as many hours as maybe somebody that’s not doing that.

But Coach has done a good job of getting players’ feedback on certain things. And I think sleep was one of those. We just had a leadership meeting and we emphasized getting more rest throughout the week. Obviously sleep is the best recovery tool that we have. Getting more hours of sleep is going to help.

Q. Do you think with all these guys most (inaudible) how much you sleep?

RICKY PEARSALL: We don’t really have anything that’s going to track it. But we actually just did this new thing on teamwork. We have a sleep questionnaire that we fill out, so all the guys are required to do that each and every morning.

Q. Graham completing 80 percent of his throws.

RICKY PEARSALL: That’s pretty good.

Q. When was the last time you played with someone doing that?

RICKY PEARSALL: I don’t know. Maybe myself when I was quarterback in pee wee, but that’s about it.

Q. What’s it say about — the downfield throwing isn’t quite there at times but otherwise seems to really be making the best of every opportunity?

RICKY PEARSALL: He’s just a football guru. He’s a dedicated guy. He’s constantly in the film room. He’s constantly with Coach O’Hara watching film, and I’ll sneak in there sometimes and just kind of see what they’re talking about and maybe gain some new knowledge and information I need, just being on the same page.

He’s just one of those guys that’s super involved and wants to know about everything, each and every detail about defenses. And obviously I think that’s helped him tremendously.

And as a receiver we’ve got to help him. We’ve got to get open, be available for him in each and every way we can.

Q. You launched the T-shirt sale last week with the one-handed catch. Curious about how that’s going and your thoughts as an athlete being able to kind of capitalize on that opportunity and what it means for you and other athletes?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it’s a good part about NIL nowadays is I’m able to do that, which is really cool opportunity for myself. So that’s a tremendous blessing to be able to do that. I just recently — it’s super new. So I’m going to post about it and get that word out, but I’m excited to see where it goes with it.

Q. Feels like every week just about talking more explosiveness in the passing game, getting down field more. Anything stand out for you that you can create more opportunity into being more explosive? What do you think about that aspect of offensive play so far this season?

RICKY PEARSALL: Being a receiver, I’ve just got to do my job. That’s the only thing I’m worried about is doing my job and how I can help the players around me and my own teammates.

For me it doesn’t really matter what we’re calling as long as we’re executing it and going out and giving our full effort, and making sure I’m doing my job and the dude next to me is doing their job.

It takes 11 guys in order to have success on certain things like that. I think we’ve just got to make sure that we emphasize certain things like that in practice and work at it. That’s the only thing we can do is move on and focus on what we can do in that moment in time.

Q. Can you talk about what Billy Gonzales is bringing to the receivers room, improving you and each player as route runners and pass catchers, et cetera?

RICKY PEARSALL: Personally he helped me tremendously throughout this period of time I’ve been with him, just soaking up all the knowledge I can from him and always asking questions because I know he has a resumé that follows him.

And I think all the guys in the room respect him. As soon as he walked in that room I think all the guys had their eyes glued onto him and wanted to hear what he had to say.

And just continuing each day to gain more and more knowledge from him and just really apply what he’s telling us in the meeting room and going out on the practice field and working at it.

But I’m kind of a perfectionist when I go out there I put as much detail in my work as possible and gain as much information from him as possible. And not only that he’s a great leader for the room.

Q. Is there one specific thing he’s improved with you?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, just emphasizing blocking and hand placement and having a wider base in my blocking. And I think that’s something that I’ve emphasized throughout this time. And obviously top-of-the-route stuff he’s always emphasizing that. We have to be able to separate at the top of the route. That’s the most important part about the route. Emphasizing stuff like that.

Q. Talking about Zach and Graham, when are you going to break one off on return?

RICKY PEARSALL: I’m trying, I’m giving my full effort on that. Hopefully it’s this game. Each and every opportunity I go out there and I’m able to do that and all the guys trust me out there, that I just gotta go out there give it my all, my best abilities and do what I see.

Q. Have you had one yet where you thought you were going to take it to the house?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think that every time. Every time I step out there to be honest. There’s been times I’ve seen a lot of green grass and I get excited.

Probably the Charlotte one was one, yeah, this one is going to the house. Obviously it got called back because of the penalty.

But I even had that last game against Vanderbilt when I creased it for 18 yards. As soon as I break the first level I’m like, yeah, this is going to go.

Q. Charlotte, if it wasn’t called back —

RICKY PEARSALL: That’s true.

Q. Was it good to see the special teams have a good game? Seems like every week we’ve been asking about it to put it all together?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think for sure. I think special teams, one of the things is a bunch of guys like Coach Napier talked about it it’s offense and defense coming together and we’ve got to execute some plays a little bit better, and we just gotta keep working at it just like everything else in regards to practice.


Q. When they pitched the (indiscernible) position, they pitched that to you, how did you receive that and how has everything worked out for you?

JAYDON HILL: I looked at it more so as a team need, and with my skill set I feel like that I could come into that position and play pretty well.

Q. How has it worked out, do you think?

JAYDON HILL: I’ve embraced that role. I’m just still trying to fill it out. But I feel like I’m doing pretty decent at that position.

Q. What’s the hardest part about transitioning?

JAYDON HILL: I would say things happen a lot faster as far as the urgency of getting lined up, urgency of getting a call to the cornerback, safety. It’s not just you who has to call, you have to relay it to everybody. I feel that’s the biggest, talking every play.

Q. What’s the most satisfied or proud of what you’ve done so far?

JAYDON HILL: Probably just the position as a whole, just embracing the role because it’s a lot more you have to deal with just besides covering a wideout. That’s a lot easier said than done. But it’s more so of just embracing the role as a whole. I feel that’s probably the biggest thing.

Q. Making this move, has it improved your drafting, NFL Draft opportunities to show them you can play inside and you can play outside? Does that help your draft —

JAYDON HILL: Yes, sir, no doubt. I feel it shows more versatility. Like I said before, my skill set, I feel like I cannot just cover but I can do a lot more things. Yeah.

Q. Experience you did something (inaudible) Vanderbilt, speaking up ability to do that, is that something — as much outside?

JAYDON HILL: I will say I feel like I always could get by screens and stuff like that, but it came with a lot of work, too. When I moved the position in spring, I struggled a lot. It kind of just came with reps. Repetition and I would say just out there with those wideouts every day just banging and defeating blocks. So it comes with just experience and reps.

Q. On that note, how much physicality does this position require. How do you feel you’ve done with that?

JAYDON HILL: You’ve got to take on blocks. I’ve got to take on linemen, pulling in linemen. It’s not always fun. We don’t always get the credit. But I make the gaps smaller for Shemar and Scooby to make the tackle. I love it. I love it for those guys.

Q. Alabama your best performance?

JAYDON HILL: I would say I played pretty decent. But I feel like I can play way a lot better. I feel like that was a decent game, I would say, for myself.

Q. You said you’re still settling in there. What do you want to get comfortable with?

JAYDON HILL: Just being consistent at that position. I feel like that’s like the biggest thing I’ve been harping on myself. Just being consistent throughout this whole year.

Q. The pass defense did a really good job against South Carolina. You were on the field last year with Rattler and anything you can take from that, model from that in terms of this…

JAYDON HILL: It’s a totally different year. We gave them a good whipping last year in the Swamp. But totally different year, this year we’re coming on the road, we’re being tested. The statistics show that we haven’t been that good on the road. So we have to put that behind us and come out and get this W.

Q. How do you feel the younger guys are developing in the secondary, start at freshman and safety, and Ja’Keem was out there, what kind of mentor are you trying to be to those guys?

JAYDON HILL: Like Bryce, Jordan, Ja’Keem, being out there with those guys, and I will say those guys are really mature. And they took that step as far as the urgency because that’s the biggest thing we preach is urgency. As a freshman coming in, kind of laid back but you understand you’re a play away from playing. Those guys are playing now and they were just in high school a couple months ago.

It’s like the time is now and y’all are — like, I’m a couple years older, but y’all are out on the same field as me playing on the same secondary, we have to be on the same page.

Q. (Question about quarterback sacks)

JAYDON HILL: Yes, sir.

Q. What’s that been like?

JAYDON HILL: It’s so fun. I really want me a sack so bad. I’ve come up short a couple times. That’s another thing I’ve been trying to work, my pass rush moves, it’s a lot different, blitzing.

Q. From that standpoint, we talked about you being fully healthy. How much faster do you feel you are, playing a position that requires you to be a little faster, how much faster do you feel you’ve gotten in the offseason?

JAYDON HILL: I would say explosive. I feel like I’ve gotten a bit more explosive as far as, like you said, just being healthy and having this full year of health and just working in the weight room with those guys — Ed, Tiger, Coach Hocke — just keep my body going.

Q. Is it getting low to the ground, your hips, what ways are you more explosive?

JAYDON HILL: Everything, as a DB we play knees bent the whole game. It’s more so like every step, that twitch, it’s like that’s something we work on in the weight room, like in the off-times it’s more so of just like — like I said earlier, it comes with reps. It comes with you just keep doing it. Just explosive. It’s really just that first step that’s kind of like where I was like trying to catch back up on last year.

Q. Energy of defense and pressures and trying to get to quarterbacks. They have you blitzing from the slot and just the way that you guys put pressure on the quarterback. How much different is it than what you guys did last year?

JAYDON HILL: Coach Armstrong does a good job of scheming things up and putting us in the best position possible. And I would say it’s a bit different. I feel like we pressure a little bit more this year. We have different ways of doing it. And it’s fun to play in because anybody can blitz. He’ll send corners. He’ll send everybody.

Q. (Inaudible) coach you’ve ever been around?

JAYDON HILL: I would say Coach Armstrong (indiscernible) is one at all times — probably on one right now.

Q. You said you embraced the role because of team need, but you came back from injury, you’re starting last year at corner. Was there no hesitance whatsoever in your mind to kind of embrace this new challenge, and not look at it as a reset but maybe start new and embrace new challenge? There’s no hesitance on your part whatsoever?

JAYDON HILL: No, no, because I look at it like star is different from corner, but you’re still a defensive back. You know what I’m saying? For me personally, I feel I can play any position in the secondary. With this offer being offered to me to play star, it’s like why not.

Q. (Indiscernible) some of these younger guys in the secondary just improve, everyone says in-game reps are so valuable. Now they have some experience. How much have you seen them grow?

JAYDON HILL: Night and day. I probably saw that big play Jock (phonetic) gave up, but then got the two big stops to get us off the field. That’s grown-man football. That’s that stuff we love to see.

With him being a young guy and not knowing, like, the impact he just had on that play, that’s big. He don’t even understand why we’re so happy.

Q. Do you think it will click for him one day where he realizes maybe this is a turning point where it’s indicative of how far he’s come really?

JAYDON HILL: Oh, yes, most definitely he’ll look back on this one day and, man, that was a big drive.

Q. Back to Armstrong, what’s it like being coached by him on the sideline, because he’s so fired up? But when it’s time to break stuff down and get on the board, what do you feel like he does for you guys?

JAYDON HILL: I feel like Coach Armstrong, you’re talking on the sidelines? One thing he does is he keeps us level headed. And I would say, he’s big on one play, one drive. And he just — he doesn’t get too high, too low.

If you make a mistake on the field, how do we correct that, how can we make that not happen again. He makes sure everybody stays cool throughout and you still are like on your toes trying to make a play.

Q. Sounds like a couple guys would (indiscernible) say something to you guys if he doesn’t like your energy or body language.

JAYDON HILL: Coach Armstrong does a good job of pushing buttons, I will say.

Q. How so?

JAYDON HILL: So for me, for instance, we were in walk-through before the game. He was like, let me know if you all don’t want me to call man off on third down, if that’s too much for you to cover. It’s like, come on, Coach, that’s something. He’ll trigger you.

Q. Here’s this guy, high energy and yet you’re saying he’s nice and calm, too. Kind of like a split personality?

JAYDON HILL: You’ve got to know him. You have to know Coach Armstrong. I will say he does a good job bringing energy. That’s like the biggest thing as far as in our defense, he walks in the room, he is lighting it up instantly.

Q. You mentioned the obviously team’s had trouble on the road, 1-7 since Billy came in. Has the approach changed much from, say, Utah to Kentucky to other games? Do you look back and say, I wish we would have done this or that to get more prepared? Can you pinpoint things that might have gone wrong in the preparation that might have contributed to these slow starts?

JAYDON HILL: I feel like it’s not as big as we’re making it seem as far as like what needs to be fixed. It comes down to us just executing and having the same passion and joy that we play with in the Swamp and taking it on the road and not coming out flat, coming out swinging instead of taking the hits. And I feel like that’s probably the biggest thing.

It’s not, we can say this, we can say that, but it’s more so just us and just executing. I mean, it’s a lot easier said than done, but we’ve got to do it.

Q. This is kind of a rubber match with Spencer for you. The Cotton Bowl, he was phenomenal in that game. Does that kind of show you his capability?

JAYDON HILL: Yes, Spencer Rattler, definitely, we came out the same year. Spencer definitely, he was one of the top players in our class. I’ve always known he was a good quarterback. He’s very electric. He can get things going for his guys, and we’ve just got to do a good job staying disciplined doing our job as a defense.

Q. You were always number 23?

JAYDON HILL: Yes, sir.

Q. Do you have any familiarity with how Chauncey played the same position you are now?

JAYDON HILL: Yeah, yeah, when I was in high school coming out, Chauncey was a part of my recruitment. He used to hit me up a lot. I still talk to Chauncey still to this day.

Q. About this position at all?

JAYDON HILL: Yes. Sometimes. We talk ball.

Q. He made that move.

JAYDON HILL: But Chauncey was from safety to star?

Q. Cornerback to safety to star.

JAYDON HILL: Chauncey is really versatile. I feel like we kind of share some of the same traces as far as ability to cover, rush, do a lot of things. Chauncey, we talk ball a lot. He came down in spring, teaching me different things about the position and things like that.

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