Watch & Read: A very productive week

Press Conference

by Inside the Gators Staff
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Billy NapierGraham Mertz, and Ricky Pearsall spoke about the bye week and this weekend’s game against No. 1 Georgia during Monday’s press conference.

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BILLY NAPIER: Good weekend. I think when you watch college football on weekends, it becomes apparent everybody’s for the their own set of problems.

We had a very productive week. Obviously the players have been off for a couple days. It was good for them to be back in the building yesterday. We’re kind of a day ahead here from a process standpoint, so today will be like a Tuesday for us.

This is one of those games that you as a competitor look forward to being a part of. Obviously ton of history and tradition here. I think we’ve worked hard to educate our players about the importance of the game, the history behind the game.

Certainly we have a ton of respect for Georgia relative to the caliber of football they’ve been playing, the personnel that they have, the coaching staff, and the brand of football in general. Obviously been ranked No. 1 for a number of weeks in a row here, won several in a row. Ton of respect for Georgia.

It’s going to require our best. I know our players are excited about getting to work today.

What questions do we have here?

Q. Georgia puts you in a bind from a defensive standpoint, how do you answer those binds?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I think they do a fantastic job. I think the personnel is really good. Height, length, really good players at every level of the defense. Going to have to earn everything. I think is year eight for Kirby, if I’m not mistaken. There’s good continuity in terms of the veteran players have a good comprehension of the system.

Overall it’s about the fundamentals, it’s the execution and the personnel.

Q. For Graham, how do you think he’s up for that type of challenge?

BILLY NAPIER: I think playing well at quarterback is certainly a big part of the puzzle, right, if you’re going to put this thing together. I think the key is going to be that we play well around the quarterback. I think at each position group, there’s unique challenges relative to the plan that will be really, really important.

Q. How does it impact later in the week? How can you see some benefit from that?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I think one of the benefits of playing in the Sunbelt is you get a chance to play in a lot of midweek games, have unique schedules. I think we’ve come up with a blueprint we’ve used in the past that we’ll use this week. Ultimately excited about that. Be the first time we’ve done that. I think it will be good for the players and the staff.

Q. Are you already seeing some benefits from the alteration to the bye week or will that be determined later?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I do think we’ll have some of these guys that maybe were modified last week to have an opportunity to be full go today. We’ll give you a little bit more of an up-to-date injury report on Wednesday.

I think overall two days off for the players, good, healthy work last week. I thought huge emphasis on the fundamentals last week. I thought we got good quality work, including Thursday, I thought it was a really good workday.

Then I just think in general we played seven games. There’s not only a physical break here but there’s a mental break as well.

Q. Away from Gainesville, there’s been issues with false starts. Against a team like Georgia, how have you been able to address that?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I think procedurally when you play away from home, I don’t necessarily think if you evaluate our team, I think one of the things the open date exposed is we’ve had issues everywhere we’ve played, truth be known.

The margin of error is small. I think in this league in general, I don’t care who you play, where you play ’em, I think you can’t afford to give the opponent anything. Certainly undisciplined penalties are in that category.

Q. The momentum you generated with the players around Graham in South Carolina, how important is that to capitalize this week?

BILLY NAPIER: I think what we’ve learned is 15 is a very capable player. I think when given the opportunity, if we can protect him, if we can create separation, if we can win individual matchups, we’ve got a good designed play, he can get it to the right guy, right?

I do think that we are steadily improving around him. I think the freshmen tight ends are growing up. I think the continuity in the offensive line has helped us. I think we’re getting some pretty good receiver play week to week depending on who’s available.

I think that’s another area of our team where we’ve had different lineups for some weeks. But overall if you’re going to move the ball in this league, it takes every position’s got to do their part.

Q. You were on a staff of a team that won 26 straight. What goes into something like that? Georgia won 24 straight. How impressive is that?

BILLY NAPIER: I think ultimately, much like I mentioned before, it’s a new set of problems, right? It’s a new set of issues that you’re managing relative to keeping your team motivated.

They haven’t had one of those experiences that kind of recenters you at times, right? I think oftentimes we used to say sometimes maybe getting beat early in the year is good for you. Most of those championship teams did get beat early on.

Ultimately I think it speaks to the level of consistency that they’ve been able to achieve from a continuity standpoint. The systems on offense, defense and in the kicking game have remained the same, therefore the players continue to develop. They’re working on the same concepts, the same set of fundamentals. I think they benefited from that.

Obviously they’ve got a talented team. This is a result of a lot of hard work. I can remember, I think I told you guys this, when I got the job, I saw Kirby for the first time since he won it, I congratulated him because I think we all know, having been a part of that, the amount of work that goes into it.

It’s evaluation, it’s recruitment, it’s teaching and development. I think there’s an intangibles side of that as well that’s important. I think to sustain that is impressive.

Q. The defense, what stands out? They’re not creating a lot of sacks. Kirby was talking about creating havoc. Are you seeing a lot of havoc?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I think ultimately it’s the category of third down that you’re playing in. I think you want to be good on third down defense, make ’em play third and long. I think they’ve done a good job on the early downs creating those passing downs. Obviously those are much more difficult to convert.

That’s the key to the drill. I think it’s trying to keep third down manageable in the game will be part of the game, both sides of the ball, for us and them.

Q. The offensive line has improved over the last couple weeks…

BILLY NAPIER: I think continuity helps. I think the ability for players to be available so that we can practice at a certain intensity.

I think people don’t understand that this is a developmental game. You don’t just show up and play on Saturday. There’s a ton of work done. You got to stack days, right? You have a number of players that are banged up, that affects the entire rhythm of a practice. Certain position groups get depleted, it affects the entire team, right?

I think we’ve had inexperienced players, I wouldn’t say young players, but inexperienced players that are getting those reps, therefore they’re improving. I do think guys like Jake Slaughter, Kam Waites, those guys being available, being able to contribute have helped us.

I think we see Mazzccua, Damien improving. I think that’s a part of our team where we’ve improved from a fundamental standpoint.

Q. A lot has been made about Bowers. They have quality players on that team. To what impact does that change your defensive game plan?

BILLY NAPIER: Obviously this is not only one of the best players in America this year, last year, I mean, this is one of the best players of all time, if that makes sense. I mean, this guy is a really, really unique matchup relative to his ability to run routes and get open, his ability to run after the catch. They’re handing the guy sweeps. They were handing the guy the ball. He’s a terrific blocker. He’s tough. He’s got a really good set of fundamentals. Made him really hard to defend.

I think ultimately the matchups just change. I think these are probably questions more for them than they are for me. But we’ll prepare for the personnel that we’ve been watching.

What direction they go I think will be part of the next couple weeks for them. But probably having an open date helps. They’re not lacking for skill players. They got ’em, all positions. Obviously up front, it’s a big, tall, long group that’s very effective.

I think the quarterback gets a little bit better each week obviously as he gains experience.

Q. When you look to your offensive growth over the last two wins, how much of that is opponent driven or confidence in the coaching staff figuring out what you got or the players figuring out who they are?

BILLY NAPIER: I think it’s a little bit better execution, in my opinion. A little bit better fundamentals. I do think getting Trey back helps. Jake gaining experience helps. Just getting healthy to some degree. Trevor is back. I think you got a number of things that contribute to that.

Look, I think the coaches have done a good job. I think the tight ends have improved. We’re getting good play and production from boarding ham. I think Hayden Hansen is steadily getting better as he gains more experience.

Look, I think we’re going to continue to be challenged in this league. Every week’s a new week. I think for us to have some consistency, we got to continue to play at a high level across the board.

Q. Where are you guys in the havoc rate? Sacks are low, but… How would you assess where you are, where you want to be?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I mean, I think if you look at our team, we’d like to be ahead of schedule a little bit more in terms of forcing more third and longs. To do that you need to create negative plays. We’ve been playing probably too many downs in the four to six, two to three range. You’d like to play some more yardages and ultimately the havoc rate is not quite where we want it to be on normal downs, if that makes sense.

We’ve been pretty effective on third down, but we’re probably getting away with some there. We’re just playing really good in that area of our team, although we’re not playing in long yards as often as we’d like.

Q. What are some of the things you want the defense to accomplish during the bye week? How much is improvement a matter of those guys getting experience?

BILLY NAPIER: Takeaways is an area where we need to do better. I think ultimately we’d like to take the ball away a little bit more. Tackling at times has been an issue on our team. I think just overall gap integrity relative to fundamentals. Line of scrimmage, edges. Those are some of the areas we’ve worked hard for three practices last week.

Look, I mean, we just quality control the areas where we feel like statistically we need to be better, but more importantly what we know are chinks in the armor that we need to shore up as we run into the tougher part of the schedule.

Q. Can you walk us through the end of the South Carolina game, the play where Austin sent Jaden to the other side to stop the reverse. Austin was yelling him to get his attention before the play.

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, no, I mean, I think ultimately those things happen every week in college football, right? I’d have to revisit that one a little bit. I do think ultimately the players sometimes make mistakes. As coach you can recognize that and you can get it fixed.

I watched several games this weekend. It happens a lot (smiling). Yeah, that was definitely a big play in the game.

Q. Obviously been progress, but when you’re talking about measuring sticks, probably top of the list. Can there be too much put into that or do you try to downplay that in terms of this is the best team in college football for the last two years, unbelievable opportunity to prove yourself?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I mean, I think ultimately you try to get as specific as you can about the plan. All three parts of your team, there’s a conceptual part of the game, there’s a fundamental part. Certainly you want your players to be in the right frame of mind when it’s time to compete.

I don’t think you’ve got time to look up and think about that. I think ultimately you’re engrossed with preparing. I know as a staff ultimately we’re trying to position the players, put ’em in a sound play, give ’em an opportunity to compete, work on the fundamentals and the communication that will be important, and let’s go play.

I think we’re all aware of what Georgia has been able to accomplish. Certainly we have respect for that.

Q. You have the ability to host prospects up there. Do you plan on taking advantage of that? Where do you feel like the state of the class is in your efforts recruiting?

BILLY NAPIER: It’s definitely a benefit to get guys to the game. Certainly Georgia was able to do it last year. We’ll be able to do it this year.

You don’t get to have any interaction with them when they’re there, but they do get a seat in the stadium. I think that list is close to being full. It will be a good group.

I do feel great about the product we have, our ability to attract some of the best talent in the country. We work hard at it. We’ll continue to work hard at it.

Q. Do you think that steppingstone opens the door for more? Wouldn’t you like to be able to interact with them, have them in the locker room?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, I think ultimately there’s a set of rules that we got to play by. We’re going to play by the rules. It’s been that way for a long time.

You think about these neutral-site games have been taking place for a long time. The home team gets to take advantage. We played Dallas, we played Atlanta, all over the country. Sometimes you got a group there that matters, sometimes you don’t.

Ultimately it’s just good for them to be able to take in the game, to observe your team compete, ultimately try to play good and put on a good show.


Q. You had a week off because you’ve taken a few beatings lately.

GRAHAM MERTZ: It was good. The body needed it. I think anytime you get a bye week, I’ve never had one mid-season, I’ve always had it like week three or four, which has been wild. It’s nice right in the middle. Get your body, your mental right. It was a good bye week.

Q. Did you do anything special to get your body back to where you want it to be?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Just normal recovery stuff. Spending time up here, hot tub, cold tub, treatment. For me it was really — and just sleep. I think sleep is the greatest recovery tool in the world. For me, a lot of sleep this weekend.

Q. What stands out about Georgia’s defense?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think definitely multiple in what they do as far as fronts, coverages, pressures. I think they’re physical up front. They’re fast. You see that on tape. They fly around, make plays. Like I said, physical defense.

Across the board, they play a brand of football on defense that you can see when you’re watching film.

Q. What’s comparable in your career? 40th start coming up.

GRAHAM MERTZ: Wow, 40. Getting old.

Yeah, you talking like other defenses?

Q. 24-game winning streak.

GRAHAM MERTZ: I played some really good defenses. I think each team’s unique. It’s kind of hard to compare a team to another one. Played a lot of great fronts, secondaries.

I think, what was it, 2021 Michigan, they were legit, man. I think you watch tape and you see how people play. There’s a lot of teams that are playing great defense right now. We’ve played some really good teams on defense this year.

I think, yeah, they’re a great defense. You see it on tape.

Q. How much does the timing of getting the ball out matter this week?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It depends on the play. There’s scenarios where you have to hold onto the ball longer and make a play. That’s every week. I think we’ve sat in here, postgame, too, there’s games where I’ve been holding onto the ball a little too long. Make a smart play, whether that is throwing it away or checking it down.

Each week that’s the emphasis. You have to play each play. You can’t predetermine stuff like that. You still have to go out there and play the game.

Q. Coach Napier talked about the offense playing better around you. How have you seen that evolving, your chemistry with guys?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, I mean, we’re having a blast. I think the biggest thing with the young guys we do have in there, they’re growing up, they’re playing really their first college ball. It’s been cool to kind of see them mature through that process, really just understand what goes into the workweek, how to take care of your body, how to prep.

It’s been fun to see the guys really take that step because really once you hit that, like, week three or four of your college career, you get a feel for what’s going on, your head’s not spinning any more, you know what to expect.

A lot of guys around us are getting their first snaps. Not anymore, they play a lot of ball now, but they’ve gone through that process of maturing and understanding what goes into winning football. That’s been fun.

Q. How has getting Trey back and Arlis Boardingham’s development allowed you to expand the offense?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, I think those guys are playing fast. I think they’re playing confident in what they’re doing. When I know I have a matchup, I trust them to make the play.

I think across the board, like I said, the guys are really coming into their own of understanding what goes into winning football, like I said. Guys are doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re executing. Those two have been doing a great job of that. It’s been fun to play with them.

Q. This is a rivalry game. Have you ever thought about what it would be like never have to buy a drink again if you could pull off another rivalry win?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I’ve played in some rivalry games. I think that’s one thing that once you spend some time in college, you have an appreciation for ’em. I think anytime you go into a game that’s a rivalry game, you have to appreciate that, enjoy that process, whether it’s the whole week of seeing all the stuff on the TVs or all that. I mean, there’s countless different things you do during a rivalry week.

Yeah, I mean, we’re excited for it. Another opportunity to play. Yeah, I’m excited for this team.

Q. Have you leaned on any quarterbacks during the season for advice or just Danny?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me. One thing I appreciate from Danny is the constant communication. I think he’s been great as far as outside of football, like just being a mentor that I can just talk to about really anything. He’s been awesome.

Q. What did the offense accomplish during the bye week?

GRAHAM MERTZ: The emphasis was fundamentals. Anytime you get to this point in the season, when you’ve played, what, six, seven games, you got to really dive back into the fundamentals of what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, because you can lose that in the season because it’s just constantly going.

On my end, footwork, timing, understanding the holistic approach of playing quarterback. Everybody kind of dove into that in their position room. It was good.

Q. Billy told you after the game that this is why you came to Florida. This matchup is also why you come to Florida.

GRAHAM MERTZ: A lot of reasons to come to Florida.

Q. Was this something that was even on your radar, did you have an opportunity to play the two-time defending national champs?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, I mean, really when I committed here, man, it was the whole deal. I mean, playing in the SEC, playing in games like this. Like coach said, that’s why you come to Florida.

For me, I’m excited just to play another game. I mean, like completely being serious. I’m just enjoying it. I think I hit you guys after the game, but enjoying each week, each step in the process of playing, getting to game day.

Yeah, this is definitely why you come to Florida.

Q. Success putting wide receivers in the backfield, specifically Trey. What do you see that do to an opposing defense? Is there confusion that comes from that?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, it forces communication. I mean, I think just any defense you play, based on formation, they probably have a call defense, then they have to adjust on what they see.

Anytime you throw a guy with a lot of speed in the backfield, in addition with a running back, that causes some different communication.

I think you put it on tape, teams prep for it. You get a different look pretty much every time. Teams always have their own little wrinkles, so it’s good.

Q. Did you go football-less?


Q. What did you watch?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Are you talking about Saturday?

Q. Yeah.

GRAHAM MERTZ: I watched a bunch of games. I was spending some time with my girlfriend, Ricky and his girlfriend. We had the games on in the background. Yeah, just kind of around the league watching SEC ball, then I watched a little bit of the Bucks game yesterday. That was a wild ending.

It’s weird when you’re so into a season, kind of sitting back and having football on constantly, not playing. That was one thing that Rick and I talked about. It’s like a weird gut feeling that this just doesn’t feel right. You got to take some time off, get your body back, get your mind right.

Q. Is there a benefit to staying in a rhythm throughout the season?

GRAHAM MERTZ: 100%. I think it’s being honest with yourself, knowing that you’ve done a lot of work and your body needs it. We didn’t take, like, a week off just so we’re all clear. We just took like a day or two off. I kind of grabbed the guys and we did some stuff on our own. We had a good week off. Bodies are right.

Q. 24-game winning streak, what does that say?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It’s impressive. I mean, I think just across the board the way they run their program, to do that back-to-back years is extremely impressive. That’s why every level you play football, it’s to win a championship. To do that back-to-back years, it’s hard to do. It’s definitely impressive.

Yeah, we’re looking forward to this opportunity.

Q. As a quarterback, what kind of weapon is Brock Bowers?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I’ve seen highlights. First off, anytime a guy gets hurt, that’s never fun. I’ve been around a bunch of guys that have had injuries that have to deal with that. Obviously praying for him in that sense. It’s an NFL tight end. He’s an elite, elite tight end.

After every game, you go on your phone, you’re swiping, you see guys’ highlights, I see him every weekend. He’s a baller. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.

Q. (Question about younger offensive linemen.)

GRAHAM MERTZ: They’ve been awesome. Across the board in that room, a lot of different pieces have been plugged in in different areas. They’ve never flinched. That’s one thing I appreciate, is they come out there, they’re ready to go.

Yeah, I mean, I think guys like Slaughter and Kam, they’re doing a great job. Slaughter is putting in the time, the energy, the effort. He’s been doing a great job. I truly appreciate that.

Q. You have a relationship with a lot of your teammates, but the bond you have with Ricky is special. How much has that been something you appreciate, have the quarterback-receiver relationship?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It’s been awesome. I think it’s funny because our team, we definitely got a lot of young players. We got a lot of guys that have played a lot of ball and seen a lot of different things.

We always joke about we played each other in the Vegas Bowl in 2021 when he was at Arizona State, I was at Wisconsin. We always joke about stuff like that.

Rick is my boy. Ever since I got down here, we’ve both been on the same mission. I think I can say that about a lot of guys on this team, that’s why we’re so close. But, yeah, Rick is my guy.

Q. How much does that help you play on Saturday?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think a bunch. Whenever you get to know your teammate, coach always talks about it, but when you form that off-the-field — obviously when I got here, it was about on-the-field stuff, catching, watching film. It’s kind of like a wave of on the field, you get a little bit of time off, off-the-field stuff.

He’s been awesome. That’s my guy for life. Always have his back, he’ll always have mine. He’s a brother.

Q. You threw on an off day?


Q. Two days off, is that what you got?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, Friday, Saturday.

Q. It was too much for you to be off?

GRAHAM MERTZ: No, no, we still took our off time. It was just kind of everybody getting back, getting their feet back under them.

Q. How hard you’ve worked since you been here, how many days would you say you’ve taken off?

GRAHAM MERTZ: How many days I’ve taken off? What do you consider ‘off’? Does film count?

I don’t know. Couldn’t put a number on it.

Q. Zero?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It’s probably under, like, 10, but… Yeah, I couldn’t tell you honestly. Like I said, I always say it, but I love to do this. My free time, I love watching film. I sound like such a football nerd right now. I genuinely love this. It’s hard to separate myself from it. Especially when you’re at a place like this, it’s easy to just do it every day. The support staff, the coaches, the players, everybody, they love this place and they want to win, so…

When you wake up and you have that every day, it’s kind of hard to step away from it.

Q. Do you sense others are feeling that sense of urgency?

GRAHAM MERTZ: It wasn’t just Ricky, yeah. I think one thing we have learned is throughout the season, I mean, we always talk about winning football, guys know what it takes to win. They know what it takes in the week of prep.

I think it’s always just growing your week of prep, what you do, just kind of getting that little extra edge. I think you take everything that you’ve done, you add a little bid to it every week, you constantly develop that, trying to get better.

I think guys know what to do and how you need to prep to win. I think guys, we’re trying to stick to our normal schedule.

Q. Did you have a true off day during the bye?

GRAHAM MERTZ: Yeah, I took a day off, yeah.

Q. At first you faced skepticism. How gratifying has this been? How pleased are you with the way things are going right now?

GRAHAM MERTZ: I think there’s always, especially in this game, a narrative. You can fall victim to the narrative. When you have a mission, you have a process, you trust it, I think that’s where you truly find that growth. When you invest in yourself. Invest in what you’re doing, in the people around you, it just takes care of itself.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in a narrative, especially with social media nowadays. It’s easy to fall into that. If you stay true to yourself and your mission, that carries you further than any narrative can ever.

Q. How much has the offense grown?

GRAHAM MERTZ: A bunch. I think across the board where I see the growth, you guys don’t see because you’re not at practice every day, but you see it during practice. Whether that’s routes on air, indy, team period, seven-on-seven, it’s guys taking everything that’s happened in the game, good, bad or ugly, and applying it in the practice. For me it’s been seeing that transition in practice, how guys are approaching it. I think that’s really where you see the growth. It shows up on game day.

You guys see Saturday, a few days go by. Those few days are the big growth periods. It’s been fun. This offense, we’re close, playing together. Just got to keep getting better.


Q. What step did the offense take in that last game?

RICKY PEARSALL: We took big strides. I think it was more we were clicking on all cylinders, got the run and pass game going. We knew it was going to be a passing game. Knew they were going to give us a lot of man looks. Just took advantage of it.

Q. Do you think that showed you guys, gave you some belief that you can go toe to toe with an offense?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yes. I think that we kind of always believed that. I think we always had that chip on our shoulder that we can go out there and score as many points as possible. I think it’s on us at the end of the day.

It was a little bit of a confidence booster for us, yeah.

Q. You saw Georgia’s scheme last year. What did you learn from that?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, that they’re a really tough team obviously. They haven’t lost in about three years, so…

Q. 24 games.

RICKY PEARSALL: They’re a really good team. Tough team. I’m excited to go out there and compete with them.

Q. What makes their defense effective?

RICKY PEARSALL: Just about everything, man. They’ve just got gifted players out there. They’re really well-coached. They’re really fast.

I think the biggest thing I remember from last year that stands out is they run to the ball. They gain tackle. They do all that.

Q. Having a chance to watch the rest of the SEC football, when you see what other teams are dealing with, does that put things into perspective, your set of problems? Give you a little bit of perspective?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, I think it’s good, especially on a bye week like that, to be able to sit down, watch some football, sit back and analyze everything.

At the end of the day we can’t really control anything else that’s going on outside this building. Being able to focus on each other and ourselves, what’s going on in our locker room is my main concern.

Q. You take every opponent one week at a time. Have you seen any emphasis on this Georgia game throughout the year?

RICKY PEARSALL: Oh, for sure. For sure. Just showing that it’s a rivalry, a big game. They’re always a good team, ranked No. 1. They’re in the east. There’s a lot of emphasis on Georgia.

Q. How different was the bye week? Major changes compared to last year?

RICKY PEARSALL: To be honest, I don’t really remember the exact schedule of last year. I think we maybe added a different walk-through, maybe an extra walk-through, an extra day.

We just wanted to get back in the building as soon as possible and get as much work in as soon as possible.

Q. What did you focus on on the bye week as an offense?

RICKY PEARSALL: Just focusing on ourselves. We had two really big practices that I think we got better at within each other. It was sort of, like, a focus on Florida kind of practice, I think just fixing the things that we need to do.

Q. Having a bye week at this particular time, how important was it?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, I think it’s really important, especially being midway through a season like this, going into a really big game like this. It was really important obviously for me personally taking care of the body, putting an emphasis on recovery, emphasis on sleep. Really watching film. I think a bye week is a great time to watch to lot of film on your opponents, get ahead.

Q. The emergence of Trey Wilson, Khaliel, how has that impacted coverage? Does it open things up for you?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it makes our offense a little bit more scarier, to be honest. We got a lot of guys that are very versatile, can strike at any moment. Just having guys by your side that can do that, the ability to do that, just makes us a scary offense, more explosive offense. Defense has no choice but to respect it.

Q. Where have you seen the most growth from Trey?

RICKY PEARSALL: It’s just impressive to see a young guy get thrown in the fire like that, be able to adapt. He’s a play-maker. Just in the South Carolina game, tipped off my hands on that slant, he caught it, immediately started running. Just shows the player he is. He’s always alert, ready. That’s not an easy play man. The ball is coming. He’s running his route, not even expecting the ball. Just to be able to like he changed speed. Impressive.

Q. Can’t get too high after last week, how important is that in your mind?

RICKY PEARSALL: We can’t get too high, can’t get too low. We got to treat our wins just like our losses, just get back to work every and every week. We can’t get too excited about a game. We have to celebrate that win that night and next day roll.

Q. What do you appreciate about Brock Bowers?

RICKY PEARSALL: Man, he’s a really good player. I feel like I can’t say enough about him. He’s a super strong runner. He’s hard to take down. That’s the biggest thing I take away from him.

I’ve heard a lot of good things, the way he carries himself in the locker room, the amount of dedication he has in the locker room, in the film room. I think the most impressive part is just him as a player, going out there and making plays when his name’s called. He’s a great player. I think everybody can say the most about him.

Q. You and Trey have lined up in the backfield. What kind of confusion does that create?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, just creating opportunities for us. I think Coach Neighbors does a really good job of putting us in places where we can have success at, creating different matchups, putting us in the backfield, just being creative as an offense.

Q. Is that a role you’re comfortable in, being versatile?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, I like being placed in different positions, just show my versatility, be in the backfield, outside, inside receiver, wherever I can make plays at. I feel confident in each spot I am on the offense, so…

Q. What is the longest winning streak you’ve been on?

RICKY PEARSALL: Youth football, I know we had back-to-back winning seasons. We went undefeated (smiling).

I can’t remember. I don’t remember how many games we played as a regular season youth football team. I have to look, but we were really good.

Q. How old?

RICKY PEARSALL: When I was seven years old all the way up to high school I played on the same youth football team.

Q. What Georgia has done, how impressed are you?

RICKY PEARSALL: I’m really impressed, man. Especially being in the SEC, being in a high-level football like that, you can’t say enough about it. They’re on one of the greatest winning streaks ever.

Q. When the streak ended did you lose a game or age out?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think we lost. I can’t remember. I know we were really good. I remember winning. I cherish those moments.

Q. Have you noticed anything similar schematically between Georgia’s defense and the one you practice against?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, man, I think our defenses are just unique in their own ways. Different players, different coaches, different way of doing things. At the same time both really good defenses.

I’m going to take Jason Marshall over anybody going against them each and every day. He gets me better, I get him better. Competing against each other every day, that’s the main thing.

Q. The way they’re moving you and Trey around, has that eliminated some of the double-teams you’ve been seeing?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think being creative in an offense like that eliminates some of those double-teams, maybe confusing the defense in certain ways, getting to certain looks as a defense. We just got to find ways like that to be creative as an offense to confuse the defense, being able to go out there and create plays.

Q. A little bit more fun when it’s one on one?

RICKY PEARSALL: Oh, yeah, for sure. When it’s one on one, that’s when I get the most excited.

Q. How much have you enjoyed and appreciated the bond that you have with Graham?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, he’s actually one of my closest friends now. I appreciate him as a player, as a person. He’s just a great individual. On and off the field, he’s the same human.

I appreciate that more than anything. We hang out all the time outside of the field. Obviously our girlfriends are friends as well, so it makes it kind of easy. Just being in the building, his energy is contagious. We just build off of him. He’s a great dude.

Q. When you were deciding whether to return or go to the NFL, one thing you needed to figure out was who your quarterback was going to be. How great do you feel how it’s worked out?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure, I’m so excited, so blessed. God went to work with that. I just leave it up to him and trust his process. Obviously he’s doing things that I’m super excited to do.

I’m more than happy. I can’t even express how happy I am with Graham and what he’s been doing. I’m excited to keep going, man. We’re midway through the season talking about this. Hopefully you ask me that same question after the season and I give you even a better answer. Right now I’m just focused on one game at a time, one practice at a time, one rep with him.

Q. How much does it help the honest feedback process between you two?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure, I think that definitely helps, having a strong personal relationship with him, being able to be open with him, really talk through certain plays. Even if we get a little personal sometimes, we never take it that way.

I’ll be on the sideline yelling at him, Throw me the ball, just some receiver thing. It’s never personal, man. Just having a strong relationship like that, being able to walk through film, he’ll text me each and every day, be like, Hey, come to the film room, let’s watch some film today. We’ll watch film, talk through certain plays, make sure we’re on the same page. I think communication is probably one of the most important points on offense.

Q. Do you feel like you are at similar points in your careers, came back to school to show people what you can do?

RICKY PEARSALL: We always talk about it, we’re on the same mission, man. We talk about it damn near every day. We’re just on the same mission, same goals, same motivation.

Q. Do you get a sense besides even you guys a lot of people are ratcheting up, doing extra for this matchup?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, man, we always do extra. We always do extra. To be honest, it’s like a faceless opponent to us. I think Graham is a workhorse just as much as me. I think we’re always working.

Obviously it’s a different focus this week being a No. 1 team, being on the east. We’re workhorses. This is what we do. We’re football players. We work hard. Just another week for us.

Q. Do you and Graham have that signal or look that he knows?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yeah, for the most part. For me, I always think the ball is coming to me. That shows how I try to run my routes.

In the South Carolina game, on the game-winning play, we were looking at the signal together. I stand in the middle of the field because we’re getting the signal. I don’t know what side of the field I am going to be on yet. They signal to us the first time. I like a look at it twice to be sure. I knew what the play was after the first signal. He stood next to me, was like, Go win the game.

I kind of knew he was throwing me the ball. I just looked at him and said, Bet. Ran out there, lined up in the slot, we got the look we wanted. I knew it was coming to my way. I knew I just had to make the play.

He looked off the safety, that’s all we needed to get an opening. Came back my way, delivered a great ball, so…

Yeah, we have that look.

Video courtesy Gator Vision | Transcript courtesy ASAP

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