What is Billy Napier looking for in UF fall camp? He wants to develop 'tough-minded team'

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports
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Competition and team-building were the two buzzwords for first-year Florida football coach Billy Napier during his address Tuesday before Wednesday's start of fall practice.

"We want to develop a tough-minded team," Napier said. "I think we all understand what we're getting ready to take on from a challenge standpoint. We want to have a tough-minded team that can handle adversity and overcome obstacles. I think that's one of the things that's critical is that we galvanize the team and we prepare to play through and prepare through and practice through the gauntlets in front of us."

Florida is coming off a 6-7 season, its worst since 2017, which led to Napier taking over for Dan Mullen as head coach. Through the spring and into the summer, Napier has promoted unity and discipline, down to requiring players to wear correct socks to practice. Napier wants that attention to detail to rub off on the field, as UF struggled in disciplined areas of the game such as turnovers and penalties last season.

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Gators head football coach Billy Napier gestures as he talks to the press during Florida Media Day held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Aug. 2, 2022. The Gators are starting practice Aug. 3.

Gators' camp expected to be 'highly competitive'

"Gray area is the enemy," Napier said.

With a new coach and a new staff, camp will present a number of opportunities for position battles, specifically at running back, on the offensive line and in the secondary. 

 "Training camp it's almost as if you've got to stay present," Napier said. "You've got to treat each opportunity is a very competitive event.

 "Our team is very much a work in progress. We have a lot of roles to be determined. It's going to be highly competitive. Not only within the starters at some positions but even within those twos and threes, we've got a big chunk of our roster that really has very little experience here."

Napier said there will be a balance in camp of playing physical and avoiding injury.

"We want to work really hard, but we want to work smart," he said. "How we execute the plan is the most important part ... This training camp is going to be difficult. It's going to challenge the intangibles of not only the players but the staff as well."

More highlights from Tuesday's session with Napier.

Anthony Richardson's role

Napier said camp will be important for projected starting quarterback Anthony Richardson to continue to grow and develop as a leader.

"The importance and value of his example to the other players. I think quarterback in particular, there's a certain level of responsibility that comes with that," he said. "Anthony is focused on the work, and there's certainly a lot of work to do. Improving as a leader, growing and maturing as a person, very much a young person ... increasing his football intelligence, developing his skill. There's just so much more out there for the young man. Anthony has lots of work to do here. I think he is fully aware that, understands that, comprehends those things, and has worked extremely hard. I think his focus is on the work, and that's exactly where it should be."

Napier phrase of the day: Propinquity 

Napier said he intends to re-arrange the locker room a couple of times a year in order to promote player bonding. "We did it in the beginning here," he said. "I just think interaction -— there's a term called propinquity. I challenge you in the next press conference we have, you can give me the definition of that. I'll work on my hometowns. You work on propinquity.

"I just believe in that part of the game. It's one of the things that you really — when the game is over and you are sitting around here down the road, that's what you are going to remember. You are going to remember your teammates. You are going to remember the things that the game taught you."

Roster depth

On the depth of the roster, Napier said: "We've got a core group that has some experience, and then I think there's a big chunk of the roster that has minimal experience. Maybe that's just on special teams. Maybe there's little experience at all. Then you have a group of rookies that just showed up. I think we kind of have three categories of players. I think that's what we're getting ready to find out. That's what we're getting ready to try to coach and develop and try to get players in position."

Student season tickets sell out

Napier began his address by thanking the students for selling out their allotment of season tickets at The Swamp.

"Without question, I think if you talk to opponents, our student section is a factor, and they can impact the game," Napier said. "We're certainly excited about what they're going to bring, the energy, and how they can influence the game to certainly help our team."

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