Billy Napier has Florida football practicing with purpose: 'We have a lot of work to do'

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
View Comments

Florida football coach Billy Napier isn’t hiding from the truth. 

After a disappointing season in 2021 by UF’s standards, there’s plenty of room for improvement in 2022. 

Gone this week are excuses or unbridled optimism. Napier’s quick — eager almost — to admit the Gators need to take advantage of all 15 spring practice sessions, which he’s labeled “Phase 3” in his eight-phase yearlong plan for success on the football field.

“I think we have a lot of work to do,” Napier said. “We have to maximize each opportunity that we have with the players. I feel like we’ve done that. I feel like the performance group did a really good job with Phase 1 and Phase 2."

Column:Florida fans should be glad Emory Jones wants to rewrite his final chapter at UF | Whitley

Let's talk:The GatorSports Podcast is back! Graham Hall and David Whitley talk Florida Gators football and more

QB back:Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson a full participant as Gators open spring practice

'Now we've got to teach football'

Florida Gators linebacker coach Jay Bateman works with inside linebacker Derek Wingo (15) during Spring practice at the indoor practice facility, in Gainesville Fla. March 15, 2022.

"They were in-condition and ready to go today," he said Tuesday. "Now we’ve got to teach football. We’ve gotta teach our formula, in terms of how we win games. We’ve got to develop the team. Nobody wins or loses in practice — we’re trying to teach football. Certainly a lot of good teaching opportunities today.” 

The Gators are not infallible. The process to learn the methods of Napier and his coaching staff will frequently require mishaps and miscues, sometimes in abundance and often across the board.

Nobody is excluded from erring.

“Everybody out there made some mistakes today. There’s no question. From the managers that work with the quarterbacks all the way up to the head coach,” Napier said. “Nobody was perfect. The key is that we’re committed to trying to do our best.”

It may have had something to do with the practice set-up, which quarterback Anthony Richardson described as purposeful in the aftermath of his first practice under Napier. There was a more positive vibe inside Florida’s indoor practice facility, a product of a nearly four-month effort to make amends in a sense with the student-athletes. 

“The energy is a lot different. There’s more structure, so a lot of people are at a different place at a different time, so you can work with different people at a different time. I feel like it’s a good thing that will help with the team,” Richardson said. “If you don't have the players in it and they don’t want to be here, you’re not going to have a good team.”

Most players are here to improve to a point where the next level is within reach. A month prior to the start of spring practice, Richardson discussed Florida not pushing it to the limit in practice under former coach Dan Mullen, and how it may have affected his health throughout the season. 

Florida Gators linebacker Diwun Black (3) hits a tackling ring during Spring practice at the indoor practice facility, in Gainesville Fla. March 15, 2022.

Tough workouts started in the winter

It doesn’t sound as if that will be a problem under the new regime. 

“As far as training philosophies are concerned, our job is to make the training more difficult than the competition,” UF’s director of strength and conditioning Mark Hocke said. “I think Michael Jordan said that: ‘I want to practice so hard so that the game seems easy.’ So, I feel like that’s our job as a staff, whether it be in the weight room, whether it be on-field training, whether it be practice.”

The Gators getting pushed under Napier’s watch was nothing new Tuesday — it was the third phase, after all.

“Honestly, I'm kind of glad I wasn't a part of some of that stuff. Because, those runs that I seen them do, they did look kind of tough,” Richardson said a bit facetiously of the team’s winter workouts. “It was kind of hard. I feel like it's helped us because you see guys moving around quicker. Guys are stronger. So it's helped us, but I'm glad I wasn't in some of that stuff.”

View Comments