Read & Watch: Napier – “We understand expectations”

Mar 4, 2023 | 1 comment

Spring camp for now-second-year head coach Billy Napier and his Florida Gators football team began Saturday. Post-practice, he — along with Associate Head Coach Mark Hocke, cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. and offensive lineman Austin Barber — addressed the media for the first time since National Signing Day to discuss the team and their expectations going forward.

Here are the highlights:

  • Billy Napier

    • Napier spoke about what being in year two means to him. “I think the big thing for us going into year two is we… I think we understand expectations. But now that we’ve turned the page to football, it’s about kind of establishing how we practice, right? Reality is, you’ve heard your entire life that practice makes perfect. But the reality is practice makes permanent.”
    • When asked if any players have stood out to him so far, he named Austin Barber, Kingsley Eguakun, Montrell Johnson, Trevor Etienne, Ricky Pearsall, Justus Boone, Derek Wingo, Jason Marshall Jr. and Jeremy Crawshaw. Says that they’ve all been taking to leadership roles within the team.
    • Asked about the challenge of losing three coaches three weeks before spring, he said he’s “not just going to flip a coin and hire a guy” and that they’re “going to be very thorough.” He added that they’re “making progress in that area” of finding replacements and “should have some news here shortly.”
    • On his quarterback room, he said Jack Miller’s been “benefiting from being in his second year,” but that he’s been impressed with Graham Mertz’s work ethic — said Mertz has “a really good grasp of the system.”
    • On new defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong, Napier said that hire was “a little simpler than the others” because he “is well respected out there … his reputation is good” and “he knows the verbiage … understands the system.”
    • When asked where he hopes or expects to see the biggest jump in year two, Napier said “you start in a different place from a knowledge standpoint, a communication standpoint, a set of fundamentals at every position … It’s all ultimately from a system standpoint: offensive, defense, game-changers. It’s like you moved to a new country and learned a new language last year. Now you’ve been living in the country for a while, so you’re a little more fluid.”
    • On the offensive line, he said it’s one of the things he’s most excited about — line of scrimmage players particularly.
  • Mark Hocke

    • Asked who’s really stood out to him who’s transformed his body since last year, Hocke named Shemar James. “He has a better understanding of the offseason program and season expectations, and he’s got a chance to flash.”
    • On if the fourth quarter rallies from last year helps them build going forward, he said it’s “a mindset … an attitude of belief.”
    • Said that Napier’s six core values are “integrity, together, discipline, effort, tough, believe.”
    • On Desmond Watson, he said while it’s “no secret” how big he is, “what’s impressive about Desmond is how nimble and how quick he is for what size he is.”
    • On their three new offensive lineman transfers — Kiyaunta Goodwin, Micah Mazzccua and Damieon George — Hocke said the following:
      • Goodwin: “… this guy is a machine. He shows up. He works — very disciplined. He’s athletic for being as big as he is.”
      • Mazzccua: “… he’s a bare-knuckle brawler. He’s got somethin’ in his neck. He’s tough. He’s physical — plays the game the right way, got a little nasty to him.”
      • George: “… it’s crazy how big, strong, powerful he is. You know, obviously, meeting and talking with him, he wasn’t overly happy with the results he’s had with two years in college. And I think he’s hungry as he’s ever been.”
    • When asked about Chris McCellan, Hocke has high praise — said he’s just a naturally gifted, naturally talented “freak” and that he’s trying to step into a leadership role.
  • Jason Marshall Jr.

    • On his impressions of Austin Armstrong, Marshall called him “a dog.” Said he came in really excited and that he’s urgent to see what the defense does this year under him. Added that him coming in knowing the language the defense speaks — as supposed to a new DC from somewhere else coming in — is “actually very important.”
    • Said that without Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney and guys like that there anymore, he’s taking it upon himself to be more vocal and to learn the entire defense — like Ventrell used to talk all the time about doing when he was here.
    • Said that with Hill, Kimber and Moore back, he feels they can really be the No. 1 DB room in the nation.
    • Said that having Corey Raymond working with the entire secondary helps because he can spread his knowledge to everybody. “You know, we’re all going to be on the field together. So why not have one coach to put in the knowledge and we can all learn from him?
  • Austin Barber

    • On his role on the field, he said he’s taking first team reps at left tackle right now — which he also said is the best position on the line because you get to protect the QB’s blind-side.
    • On Graham Mertz, Barber said he’s in the facility every single day. “I never see him leave.” Adds that they’ve been hanging out outside football lately and that Mertz is a “cool guy, great person.” Says he’s excited for him.
    • On last season: “It was terrible. I just think that there’s a lot of games we could have won, but I’m not going to harp on that. It’s a new season. Spring ball is around the corner.”

    More of what Billy Napier, Mark Hocke, Jason Marshall Jr., and Austin Barber had to say today can be seen HERE.

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