Losing starting spot led to better practice habits and two breakout performances

Oct 10, 2022 | 1 comment

(Photo courtesy Florida Sports Information)

Florida head coach Billy Napier as well as Ethan White and Princely Umanmielen addressed the media on Monday to recap the win over Missouri and as a lead-up to this weekend’s contest against LSU.

Here are the highlights:

Billy Napier

To the dismay of many Florida fans, Missouri was able to make the game closer than it should have been thanks to several third and long conversions. Napier feels as though the Gators’ third-down defense can be fixed.

“I think it’s all very correctible. Some of it’s missed tackling. Some of it is pass rush lane integrity. Some of it is leveraging coverage. And then some we’re just not — maybe we’re not in a great call here or there.

“Any time it’s third and long, if you know the numbers, you’re anticipating you’ve got a good percentage chance to win. But I also know that it comes down to execution, right? Missouri had well-designed stuff at times. Their players made plays at times.”

Much like with South Florida and Tennessee, in LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Florida is again facing a quarterback who has the ability to make plays with his legs. How will the Gators contain him?

“It’s one of the very specific things about this game when you talk about the dilemma that you have relative to the amount of skill players that they have. I mean, at receiver they’ve got some dynamic players both inside and outside.

“So you pair that with the ability for the quarterback to break the pocket and scramble — you know, you think about statistically when you look at their team, this quarterback has made a significant impact on the game with his feet. So they’re certainly going to be a big part of our planning and the dilemma that you have on defense.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to play good at all three levels. So there’s a number of ways to go about this.”

After playing in each of the first five games of the season, true freshman cornerback Devin Moore wasn’t dressed out on Saturday.

“[He] Got a little banged up late in practice on Wednesday. Nothing major there. He’ll be kind of a work in progress this week, but re-aggravated an injury from the past and one that made him unavailable for the game.”

When Ed Orgeron was fired by LSU, there was talk that the Tigers would go after Napier while he was still at Louisiana. He, of course, ended up in Gainesville. On Monday Napier passed on the possibility of addressing the subject.

“I don’t know if that’s something you talk publicly about. I think we’re all well aware of chaotic times in college football when you get to November, December, January.

“I’ll tell you one thing. I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given here. For the administration here, for Scott and all the people that contributed to that decision to have faith and confidence, do their homework on me, give me an opportunity to lead here.

“I can’t imagine being at a much better place. So we were very patient the last few years. This path was right. That’s what I would say. There’s not a day that I woke up and said am I at the right place or not? I’ve got conviction about that.”

Ethan White

Richie Leonard has seen time at both left guard and center while Austin Barber has stepped in as the starting right tackle in place of Michael Tarquin and those two along with Joshua Braun have provided UF with a solid eight-man rotation along the line.

“Austin and Richie made leaps and bounds as players individually and kind of fitting into the unit better. I think Richie, he’s just versatile. He can play all three inside. As well as Austin, he can play both tackles.”

Florida running backs Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne are among the conference leaders in yards per rush. White gave them, and Nay’Quan Wright, credit – stressing that they didn’t need to be given huge holes to run thru.

“All three of our backs are elite, in my opinion. Especially with Anthony back there, you have to worry about the quarterback running. As an offensive line, you try to cover things up and let the backs do their thing. Give them a crease, and they’ll be out of there.”

Florida has lost two in a row to LSU and now, according to White, the Gators are on the clock to turn the tide in the series.

“For sure. You want to win all your games obviously, but especially in a big rivalry, 0-2 is not something that’s acceptable to University of Florida.”

Princely Umanmielen

Just two weeks ago Umanmielen was benched in favor of Justus Boone. It sounds like it was a wake-up call. In turn, he has been named one of Florida’s Defensive Players of the Week in the last two games.

“I feel like just making my practice habits better because practice habits equals game time performance. So like I would just take practice throughout the week more seriously and make sure, try to attack every rep and make it work out.

When he was demoted, he wasn’t left to wonder why. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer came to him and told him what was behind it.

“My coach, he talked to me. He pulled me aside and obviously talked to me. It’s not like he just did it. It was for a reason.

“After that week and beyond, I changed my practice habits and came to practice ready to work and on my A game, and that has shown throughout the past two weeks in the game.”

After responding with his first sack of the season against Eastern Washington, Umanmielen added another sack Saturday against Missouri, and tacked on three tackles for loss for good measure.

“He [Spencer} was telling me, he said, I told you what happens when you practice better. Like sometimes I would just go to practice and just be — not — like now I practice like I’m playing the game. Like it’s not practice, you’ve got to — you’re practicing for the game, so I practice like I’m playing the game.

“He was just telling me, I told you that’s what happens. He feels like, if I keep doing that, I can keep progressing.”

At 4-2, Florida is realistically a play or two away from being 6-0 on the season. Umanmielen said that it serves to motivate the players.

“We talk about it amongst like teammates and things. It’s like a hard pill to swallow, but we realize how small mistakes can be big differences, and we just realize that, whenever we — like upcoming games, we just have to be better and stop making so many mistakes because the two games that we did lose, it wasn’t just like — I feel like we beat ourselves more than the other team beat us.”

As was stated above, Florida’s defense had issues getting Missouri off the field on third and long. Umanmielen talked about the frustration level when the Tigers converted on third down.

“It’s very high. That’s an area that I feel like we’ve got to emphasize getting better on this week because last week we had too many instances where we had them in third and ten or longer and they converted.

“That’s a big thing that help helps you win a lot of games. You’ve got to get off the field on third down. This week we’ve got to really focus on getting better on that.”


WCC: More of what Billy Napier, Ethan White, and Princely Umanmielen had to say can be seen HERE.

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