Watch & Read: In recruiting you win some and lose some

Press Conference & Depth Chart

by Inside the Gators Staff
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During Wednesday’s press conference Billy NapierRicky Pearsall and Jaydon Hill spoke about the loss to LSU and this weekend’s game against No. 11 Missouri.


BILLY NAPIER: How many of you played basketball growing up? Got any hoopers in here? You know, there’s an old adage in basketball, when you fast break, you get a good pass, you score a basket, what do you do? What’s kind of the unwritten rule in basketball. What do you do? You point to the passer, right? No doubt. You point to the passer.

Look, basketball, there’s five players. There’s probably 15 on the team. But that’s a thing that we can apply to what we do in football. There’s no question. We put 11 out there at a time, we’ve got 120 guys that work hard each week. But it takes a number of people to contribute to the final product, right? It’s important that we appreciate everyone’s role. We’ve got to point to the passer a little bit more often.

Look, we can say that in life as well. It’s not just in a team setting. I encouraged the guys today to — you know, you’re around guys every day that go about their business the right way that are working hard. Maybe their role is not as big as yours, but we’ve got to go out of our way to tell them we appreciate what they do. That may be staff members. That may be people in the organization, people that take care of the facility.

So got to point to the passer a little more often in life, I think. Good day’s work. Much better. This time of year, we kind of pull back a little bit on the volume, but the intensity is still there, and I thought we had that today.

This is an important game, and there’s going to be a lot of things that are important. Obviously turnover margin, big plays, first down efficiency. This is about playing high level football and executing at a high level. It’s important that we continue to prepare. We’ve got a lot of work left to do here in the next couple of days.

What questions have we got?

Q. Who do you point to?

BILLY NAPIER: This time of year, I’m pointing to my wife every day when I see her. She’s chasing those three kids around. They’re all three playing multiple sports. So, yeah, I’m pointing — she’s definitely —

Q. (No microphone)?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, we’ve got some work to do. We’ve got a ton of people. I think that can apply to a lot of areas. Maybe that made you think of somebody.

Q. Yeah, the same person as you. Not the same person, but relative —

BILLY NAPIER: The same role in life. What else we got?

Q. They have one of the better tandems of receivers in the league. How do you handle that with such a young secondary?

BILLY NAPIER: It’s one of the areas where I think they made a big jump. I think the new coordinator’s brought some new elements to the throw game. Look, they’re balanced, right? So it’s the challenge of stopping the run game and then matching up. I think you’ve got to pick the poison there.

When you do get put in those matchups, you’ve got to win them. I think every defensive call has got a weakness, and I think it’s important that we do a good job mixing it up, and you’ve got to do a good job of disguising. When you do get — those guys are going to be in those positions, and it’s about leverage, eye discipline, good fundamentals and techniques. If you can start the play the right way and communicate well and be in the right things, you’ve got a chance.

Q. Can you speak a little bit to decreasing the volume this time of year? What’s the benefits of that from a physical approach and mentally as well?

BILLY NAPIER: I would think most coaches say that’s the case. We kind of break our year up into three tiers. 1 through 4, 5 through 8, and 9 through 12. We’ve done that for a long time. Look, we’ve got great people in the training room, sports science, strength and conditioning. It’s all — we’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s definitely, it’s called for, some players more than others. Very individualized approach.

Some players got more tread on the tires than others.

Q. Just at the beginning of the week, how did you think you were able to overcome that travel snafu issue with Sunday and into Monday there?

BILLY NAPIER: Yeah, interesting that you know about that. We had some issues with landing in Gainesville, ended up having to fly to Orlando and bus back over. I will say this, I thought the operations people with the UAA and Josh Thompson, that whole crew, Spiegs was outstanding. We had some contingency plans in place, and we just got back a little bit later than normal.

So we exchanged our Sunday, Mondays for that reason. We got back, I think, 9:00 in the morning or something like that, so we decided probably not the right thing to bring them back to the facility that day.

But it’s been good. We just exchanged the work and stayed on schedule.

Q. Colder weather at night, is that something you can prepare for physically, mentally, with a lot of kids who are kind of sunbelt kids from Florida and Georgia from your roster?

BILLY NAPIER: I always tell them, hell, you want to play in the National Football League, you’ll have to do it on a consistent basis, especially in the playoffs. It’s part of it. A lot of these kids have been around it. They’ll be part of that. They’ll have to get adjusted to it.

Q. Could you speak a little bit to the challenges that come with recruiting this time of year and keeping a strong class together, just when the results have been what they’ve been on the field as of late.

BILLY NAPIER: It’s a battle. I think — look, it’s not this time of year. It’s every day of the year. It’s part of the job. Look, I would tell you, you win some, you lose some. I think it’s highly competitive. I think it’s good to have some players that everybody wants, truth be known.

Look, it comes with the territory. I think recruiting challenges your resiliency. Ultimately for me, I think it’s important that we get it right in the front end. We want players that have conviction about being here, that believe in the experience that they’re going to have at the University of Florida relative to the degree, all the things that come along with being an alumni here, the resources that we have to offer as a football program.

Sometimes you’re going to go through some things like that. It’s nothing new. This is a year round battle that we do. We do it every year. We’re right in the middle of some of those.

Q. You have a few losses like you’ve had, is it important to punch back and maybe go get some wins in recruiting? Is that like the most important thing right now, keep the momentum going or get it back?

BILLY NAPIER: I think momentum’s real. Look, I think anyone would — at any profession, I think momentum is a key component, right? I think ultimately there’s one way to get momentum back, and that’s to go compete. We specifically have talked about that.

So I’m watching Buffalo the other night, and I’m sitting there thinking we’re not the only team in America that can go through some challenges, right? I think it’s part of it.

Look, it’s what we sign up for, right? It’s part of the challenge. It’s part of the competition. I think recruiting is highly competitive. I enjoy it. There’s always going to be some of that. It’s not going away. So you’ve got to get used to it.

Q. As a team that’s so young and most of your kids come from winning programs where they’ve been in playoffs and championships. How do you deal with them, they’re losing games for the first time. They’re looking at maybe a 5-6, 5-7 record. How do you deal with that?

BILLY NAPIER: I would say that these kids have been through — each one of them is a little different in terms of what their experience has been like. I think they’ve all been through some adversity to some degree. I don’t think that — I don’t think we’ve had anybody there that’s undefeated. We do have some that come from great programs, and we also have different levels of success coming from high school.

Ultimately, I think, we talked about it earlier in the week. I think toughness, endurance, faith, your ability to overcome, resiliency, those things are developed. You’re not born with them. So you’ve got to go through tough things to develop some of those things. I think it will prove beneficial.

Some of the tougher things I’ve been through in life have ultimately you didn’t understand it at the time, but you look back, and you benefited from it to some degree. So I think this is part of growth for a lot of guys on our team.

Q. Are you able to speak to Caleb Douglas’ progress and maybe provide an update on Austin Barber, considering he went down twice in the game and was able to come back?

BILLY NAPIER: Caleb is not quite ready to go. Austin, we’ll have — Austin’s questionable. We’ll take a good look over the next couple of days. Outside of that, I think those are the two you asked about, but I think we just sent you the depth.

Q. Missouri just overall, a lot of things to be concerned about obviously. You talk about the running back, the receivers. What just stands out, I guess, about that team? What’s the main kind of thread, the characteristic of it?

BILLY NAPIER: I think they play complementary football. I think they’re good on both sides. I think they’ve made an improvement. They have — the group of players that they’re coaching is essentially almost the same group they had last year. They have a lot of guys coming back.

So I think that it’s year 2 in both systems. I think the new coordinator on offense has added a few elements, but it’s really the same system, both sides of the ball, special teams included, and I think they’re benefitting from that.

I think veteran players, second year with the coordinator on defense, and I think they play complementary football. I think they rush the ball, they stop the run. They do a good job mixing it up in the throw game. They have balance. They’re aggressive on defense. There’s a number of front pressuring coverage variables.

They’ve got a good football team, without question.

Q. With Eli Drinkwitz’s success in year 4, guys sticking with it through thick and thin, is that a good lesson in patience, I guess? We’ve talked to you a lot about that, and you’ve mentioned for several of the programs you’ve faced the fact that they’re in year 4 or year 8 or all that, and does that give you some solace in the struggle?

BILLY NAPIER: I think — look, we are where we’re at. We have to compete. We have to stay in the present, work on the issues that we have. Come up with solutions.

There’s a number of people that have turned it around, and there’s some that haven’t, right? I think ultimately Missouri is a good example. Eli is a good coach. He’s hired well. He’s done a good job evaluating. He’s got some veteran players, and they’re playing at a high level.

Yeah, I think — again, patience is part of the game, but ultimately you’ve got to produce, right? I think we all understand that when we get into the profession.


Q. Looking ahead a little bit, how important to you would it be to crack 1,000 yards? It hasn’t been done at this school unbelievably since — do you even know? Do you know when?

RICKY PEARSALL: 2002, right? Yeah, someone told me that. I’m very excited to be able to go and do that. It’s a goal I set in the very beginning of the season. So I’m still working towards it. Still got to go get it.

Q. How old were you when that happened?

RICKY PEARSALL: 2. That’s when I found out about football right there.

Q. How do you go about keeping a positive mindset despite the results not really shaking out the way you guys desired?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think all the guys have done a very good job keeping a positive mindset inside the locker room. I think it started with the coaches. They’ve done a tremendous job keeping our heads in it. Obviously I think the leaders stepped up this week too as well making sure — we’ve got a lot of young guys in the group, keeping their heads up too and making sure we stayed locked in.

Q. Have you thought about this being your last college road game? Have you gotten emotional yet at all?

RICKY PEARSALL: Yes, it’s been an emotional roller coaster for me for sure. It’s my last year, and I’m not really trying to think about it right now. I’ve got to obviously give my all for these last two games. My two last collegiate games ever, so it’s really crazy.

Q. Maybe another COVID year, medical redshirt, hardship waiver?

RICKY PEARSALL: There might be somewhere in there with all the new rules or something, but I don’t know.

Q. Talk about the chemistry that you’ve developed on the field with Graham and how that’s elevated your game this year.

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure. I think just putting in the work and the time, I think that’s the most important thing. Me and Graham put in a lot of work, man. I think that’s ultimately where trust comes from.

And just getting to know the guy off the field as well. We became really good friends. We hang out off the field. Obviously we get extra work in after practices and through summer workouts and stuff like that.

Q. You being a savvy receiver and a new quarterback coming in, and you think, hey, I’ve got to get on his good side so he knows where to throw the ball?

RICKY PEARSALL: I text him. You can ask him. I text him before every game, I’m always open. I think we saw eye to eye before he got here. He’s a really experienced quarterback, a great guy. We just clicked right away.

Q. How do you reflect on your decision to come here and what it’s meant to be a Gator the last couple of years?

RICKY PEARSALL: It’s meant everything to me. I can’t thank Gator nation enough for accepting me and welcoming me into their family, and obviously accepting their traditions, everything that comes with the University of Florida. I’m super blessed to be here in these shoes.

Q. (No microphone) you see them all time in the program. How motivated do you see them to bounce back from this performance last week?

RICKY PEARSALL: They’re very motivated. I think today specifically we brought a lot of energy from that side of the ball. I think team run is actually the period that I saw the most energy from those guys. They were flying around today.

Q. Kind of all the way back in August about being a mentor to Eugene but just how you’ve seen him grow and develop. I think he’s got five touchdown passes in the last three games. He’s really becoming a factor. How has he managed to do that over the course of the last few months?

RICKY PEARSALL: It’s funny because, when he first got here, he was really quiet. I was like, is this how he always is? He’s definitely opened up in the time that he’s been here, and his personality is coming out. I started with that because I think what stood out to me the most is the person he is.

But you can’t ignore how good of an athlete he is and the big strides he took this year. I’m just super proud of him. I look forward to watching him on TV one day when I have an off day or something on a Saturday and watching him ball out on the television on a Saturday.

I’m super excited for him. He’s going to be an amazing player in the future. He is now.

Q. You’ve shown a lot of resilience and fight in every game really pretty much. Cold weather, what’s the coldest game you’ve played in? It’s going to be in the 30s on Saturday night.

RICKY PEARSALL: I’m not sure. I think I played in one year at Utah. It was really cold over there, I think.

Q. Another factor, very good team, what are some of the headwinds you guys are facing? How do you just kind of battle through all that stuff?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think first it comes down to ultimately fixing our own problems that we have and going through practice and making sure that we’re not shooting ourselves in the foot and we’re eliminating our own mistakes, first and foremost. Obviously we’re going in, and we’re facing a really good Missouri team, a really well coached team and super talented.

Guys specifically, the DBs actually there, they’re really good. I’m excited to go over there and face them, but I don’t think the cold weather is going to be much of a factor.

Q. Are you wearing sleeves?

RICKY PEARSALL: I don’t think I’m wearing sleeves.

Q. Going into someplace that’s cold and being like, this isn’t going to bother us? This isn’t going to affect us? We’re not going to wear sleeves? We’re not going to wear a turtleneck?

RICKY PEARSALL: I’ll probably wear a turtleneck. I might have the little cutoff sleeves here, but I’m not going to have the long sleeves. I don’t think it’s anything — it is a little mental. When you first get out there, okay, it might be cold, but once you’re out there, and you’re running, you’re not going to notice it.

Q. And with the cornerbacks, do you look forward to that, the one-on-one matchup when you face an elite, strong corner?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think they jumped out on film to me specifically. And then obviously the rest of the receiver group. Watching them, they have a really talented two corner group over there. I’m just excited to get the opportunity to go against them and compete.

Q. Did you hear for the last couple weeks, their running back?

RICKY PEARSALL: I have. He’s been performing really well. I heard his story. He came from a D-II school, right?

Q. (No microphone) and told them to give him a chance?

RICKY PEARSALL: Really? I didn’t hear about that.

Q. What does it say about recruiting that a guy like that can still come out of nowhere and actually lead the SEC in rushing?

RICKY PEARSALL: For sure. I think a guy like that, I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder for sure. Even with me and my whole process I had to go through, I had that chip on my shoulder as well. There’s talent everywhere, and I think he got found and got his opportunity, and he’s excelling and proving everybody wrong.

Q. With your route running, your precision, exactly what is it — obviously you’re getting the ball thrown to you more, but what’s made the difference in having such a good season?

RICKY PEARSALL: Just play by play mentality, to be honest. What I can do on that one play. Just lock in for those five to seven seconds on that play and just run as good of routes as I can and make sure I’m getting open every play for Graham and just obviously developing those relationships and watching a lot of film, all those sorts of things. There’s a bunch of things. I have a whole list.

Q. That FSU game to end last season on that kind of a note?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think it was really big. I think obviously we came out of it with an L, so it wasn’t too big for me. But being able to go there for the first time in that rivalry game and have a good performance like that, it definitely gave me a confidence booster going into the off-season and putting in that work.

Q. I’ve got to ask you the tough question here, did Kahleil catch it? What did you see on that pass? Were you surprised?

RICKY PEARSALL: I’m going to say he got it. I for sure think they got the wrong call.

Q. How do you move on this week from a big play that’s called back like that? How important is it to forget about it?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think specifically Kahleil, he did a good job of bouncing back mentally. It is tough as a receiver, when you get a big catch like that, and as an offense to be like we could have been down there with a big time catch. I think just being a receiver too and having the mentality of next play, next play mentality, because you’ve got to think as a wideout, you’re running routes, running routes, running routes. You might be open half those plays but you don’t get the ball thrown to you.

I think you’ve got to have next play mentality, and he does a great job with that. Kahleil is a really good player.

Q. What did you think of Jayden?

RICKY PEARSALL: I think he had an incredible performance. Shout out to him. He’s one of my really close buddies.

Q. What was your (no microphone)?

RICKY PEARSALL: To go win the Heisman.

Q. (No microphone)?

RICKY PEARSALL: Actually, yeah, Coach Napier gave me my Senior Bowl invite yesterday, and he gave me the Shrine Bowl one two weeks before that. It will be incredible to do that, actually text him and see what he’s going to do. I can’t say all that much.

Q. (No microphone) with Jayden. How much did you guys practice?

RICKY PEARSALL: We practiced a lot. Before pregame, I thought one of us was going to forget it, but as soon as I saw him, we got it down.


Q. In the LSU game, how much of that was correctible, self-inflicted wounds, in your opinion?

JAYDON HILL: I would say 90 percent of the explosive plays was somebody not doing their job. More than half of that was self inflicted, we caused it. Not taking away from them having good players, but it just comes down to us not executing.

Q. Does it give you a more positive mindset when you see it’s stuff we can easily fix and move on to the next week rather than something you feel you’re really overmatched?

JAYDON HILL: It’s much easier said than done. It’s been kind of the same recurring problems, but like I said before, it’s easier said than done. We’ve got to take pride in it, take pride in the performance at the end of the day.

Q. Communication is never easy on the road. How much harder is it when you have freshman safeties and guys doing it for the first time versus guys like yourself?

JAYDON HILL: Like I was told when I came in, once you’re on the field, we don’t really look at it as classification like that because you’re out here. Freshmen playing early, you’re lucky to play early, but you’ve just got to play on point as if you’re a vet. All those factors do play a part in it like communication at a young age, 17, 18 years old, and you’re flying around.

I just try to do my best to keep them going, level headed, and stuff like that.

Q. When you go back — when you look back to your freshman year, how hard is it to adjust to the speed of a game, high level game, like LSU with high level athletes when you’re a freshman or sophomore? What’s that like?

JAYDON HILL: It’s really fast. You go from playing guys in high school, you could lose a step, maybe not play the best of technique and you can still make the play. At this level, one step off, and they could go for six.

Q. What has allowed Ricky Pearsall to take his game to the next level? I don’t know if you realized he could become the first 1,000-yard receiver at Florida since 2002, which given all the great players, it’s pretty amazing.

JAYDON HILL: Personally, I feel like Ricky will get to 1,000. Yeah, he’ll definitely get that no doubt. Ricky is a great player. Just the way he approaches the game, like his preparation, just his work ethic. That’s what makes him a great player.

Q. Has he elevated his game this year?


Q. In what way?

JAYDON HILL: I would just say being confident and more consistent with himself. More consistent with his game and more confident in himself.

Q. On a personal level, I know it’s not about you, but you are keeping track of what you’re up to and everything. How much pride do you take in the performance you put out this year?

JAYDON HILL: With me personally, I try to make every play that comes my way, I’m sure every guy says that, but I try to fly around as much as I can and make every play that comes my way. That’s what I kind of take pride in and being consistent. That’s what I try to do every game.

Q. Have you done that?

JAYDON HILL: I would say for the most part, yes, sir.

Q. A week ago you guys had to go against Nabers and Thomas, and now you’re going against Luther Burden and Theo Wease. Would you talk about the challenge of those receivers compared to the ones you had last week maybe?

JAYDON HILL: Last week, those guys are first round, second round type of guys. They’re good players. This week we have another group of receivers that can go too. Like I said earlier, it comes down, one-on-one matchups and taking pride in your performance. At the end of the day, it comes down to you or him.

As a leader, I guess I say like a struggling secondary, like these are the type of talks we have to have as a unit. Enough becomes enough. We’ve got to make plays.

Q. How much is getting in a bowl game motivation for you guys as players? You guys talk about getting this win?

JAYDON HILL: At the end of the day, if you’re a real competitor and you like winning, winning like — the bowl games come with winning. Me, I love winning. I’m sure like most of the guys in there, we all won a bowl game, so we’ve got to win. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to win.

Q. Competing and pride, as a group, as a unit, have the last couple weeks been embarrassing for the defense?

JAYDON HILL: Yeah, obviously.

Q. Your injuries, you had some struggles going back to high school. Just how gratifying is it with the season you’re having? How gratifying is this whole stretch for you?

JAYDON HILL: Regardless of the fact, it’s a blessing. All the things I’ve been through and still able to keep going. Yeah, it’s a blessing. When you look at it from like that standpoint for sure.

Q. Do you keep — I don’t think you have like hardware put in your body, but you always hear some guys that keep a screw or whatever to remind them?

JAYDON HILL: I didn’t get no screws or nothing like that. No, no, no, I got scars. That’s it. That’s all I need.

Q. (No microphone)? You came in and played on the inside. Are you showing another side to the NFL?

JAYDON HILL: I would just say that shows a bit of versatility. At the next level, me personally, I feel like I can play anywhere in the secondary, and I was able to show them like just that versatility. I guess it had some benefits to it for sure.

Q. Ricky mentioned he got the Senior Bowl invite. Have you gotten any contact from those games?

JAYDON HILL: No, not yet.

Q. Have you spoken with Ty’Ron Hopper, by chance?

JAYDON HILL: Ty’Ron? That’s my best friend.

Q. Trash talking?

JAYDON HILL: All the time, that’s all we do.

Q. Is he in the lineup?

JAYDON HILL: I believe so. I think his ankle is messed up. He ain’t give me no definite answer yet. I know he was in a boot the other day. He might go. He might not. I’m going to see. I’m going to definitely find out.

Q. Tre’Vez going?

JAYDON HILL: Tre’Vez, yeah, he’s playing this week. I talked to Tre’Vez the other day. I talked to Hopper actually yesterday.

Q. Those guys have an edge?

JAYDON HILL: I know them boys got a chip on their shoulder. They try to make every play. Especially with Tre’Vez being here last year, I know he’s going to be trying to fly around. But I like us.

Q. What do you think of cold weather games? How many have you played in?

JAYDON HILL: I played in like two maybe, two. I’d say my freshman year at Missouri and Vanderbilt last year.

Q. That’s right. Is it kind of a shock to the system?

JAYDON HILL: I mean, at the end of the day, you know, if you want to play the next level, you’re bound to play in the cold. At the end of the day, it’s football. We’ve got to come ready to play regardless of the fact.

Q. Some guys when they have a friend on the other roster, it can kind of give them a little bit of an edge or make them play a little bit harder. Do you feel that at all when you know someone on the other team, that you want to show out?

JAYDON HILL: I do kind of feel that, but at the end of the day, I do this for me. But for sure, that’s always in the back of the mind like yeah, let me — yeah, for sure.

Q. You’ve been here four years. Will you do like Senior Day stuff next week?

JAYDON HILL: Yes, sir.

Q. Have you put any thought into, at the end of your eligibility, coming back or what you’ll do next year?

JAYDON HILL: I haven’t really thought too hard on that yet, but I’ll be doing Senior Day. I don’t know yet as far as my plans.

Q. Do you have emotions about this possibly being your last couple of games? What it’s meant to be a Gator all these years and all that stuff?

JAYDON HILL: I definitely love being a Gator. I take pride in being a Gator. I definitely miss this place when my time is up. I just hope that we’ll become bowl eligible for sure.

Q. How much have you seen Sharif improve throughout the season, just his awareness and work ethic, habits in practice? How much have you seen him improve throughout the year?

JAYDON HILL: Sharif does a good job of coming to practice every day and looking for ways to get better. He’s going to be a really good player in the future.

It sucks like he didn’t get too much time this year, but he’s definitely going to be one of those guys. I just appreciate him showing up every day and going to work. He’s definitely up and coming.


  • Starting left tackle Austin Barber is listed on the Injury Report as questionable with an upper-body injury. Kamryn Waites is listed as his backup, but last week Damieon George Jr. moved over from right tackle and Waites took his place on the right side.
  • Running back Treyaun Webb is listed as switching jersey numbers from 20 to 5.
  • With Devin Moore being listed as out on the Injury Report, Jalen Kimber is the starting cornerback opposite Jason Marshall Jr.

Video courtesy GatorVision | Transcripts courtesy ASAP

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