Five storylines as Florida Gators enter first weekend of fall football camp

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida football coach Billy Napier, running back Nay'Quan Wright and safety Rashad Torrence II addressed the media on Friday afternoon before the third fall practice of the 2022 season.

UF will practice in shells Saturday, as the Gators did Friday, before going to full gear on practice five on Sunday.

Napier said he's not concerned about the physicality of the team: "This group ... embraces toughness. They love to compete. You can sense that when you’re on the grass with them. That won’t be a problem here.”

Napier and the players shared some updates and observations after the first two days of fall camp. 

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Anthony Richardson looks sharp again

Napier said that the Gators have made progress in terms of chemistry and togetherness compared with spring practice.

"We’re more familiar with just procedure in general, protocol much better," he said. "I think each part of the organization has kind of ironed out the wrinkles. I thought, in particular, yesterday we practiced at the pace and efficiency we like to practice at."

With the threat of rain, the Gators held their open portion of practice Friday at the indoor practice facility. With players in shells, defensive players did more contact work on sleds and tackling dummies. On offense, quarterback Anthony Richardson again looked sharp, hitting wide receiver Jordan Pouncey downfield in stride on a 30-yard pass play.

Chris Thomas Jr. is back 

The coach spoke about the return of defensive lineman Chris Thomas Jr. He did not appear on the roster earlier this summer. 

Napier referred to the situation as "some internal things there from a logistical standpoint relative to his role on the team and his eligibility and ability to participate with the team. Some of those things have been cleared up. Those things took time.

"Obviously, we’ll keep the details in-house there, but we’re happy that Chris is back with us and certainly continue his development, his growth."

A lot of competition to come for receivers

Florida Gator Ricky Pearsall during the second fall football practice Thursday at the Sanders Football Practice Field in Gainesville.

On the timing between quarterbacks and receivers, Napier said: "We’ve thrown and caught the ball well. We’ve got a good group of players at that position. I think some of the newcomers have impressed but overall, I would say the receiver position, there’s going to be a ton of competition.

"We’ve got a lot of players that are in a similar place in their career and I think that group, they’re going to be competing not only throughout training camp, but I can see that being a weekly competition. Could be a very competitive group much like a lot of the positions on our team. Very pleased there. There’s definitely been a lot of work done in the summer and you can see that.”

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Torrence mentioned Arizona State transfer Ricky Pearsall as a wide receiver who has stood out early in drills.

"The energy he brings and having a new face — most guys come in kind of timid but he came in with the energy that he belongs here, and we've embraced that. So, it's a great feeling," Torrence said. 

Injury update on Jaydon Hill

Napier said redshirt sophomore defensive back Jaydon Hill is still recovering and not practicing. Hill took part in spring drills after coming off a torn ACL in August 2021.

A little bit of that is to be determined based off the recovery and the rehab process," Napier said. "I think we commented on that in Atlanta at SEC Media Day, but Jaydon was injured and we’ll keep you guys up to date as his rehab process continues there. We anticipate getting him back later.”

Nay'Quan Wright 'a blessing to be back'

Running back Nay'Quan Wright (5) during the Gators' third preseason football practice, Aug. 5, 2022 in Gainesville.

Running back Nay'Quan Wright said it feels good to back on the field and fully recovered. Wright suffered a broken ankle last November against rival Florida State in UF's regular-season finale. He broke an ankle on a different leg during his senior year in high school, so he had an understanding of the rehab process.

From the spring:Gators running back Nay’Quan Wright back at practice and going through drills

Wright took part in some pass protection drills during the spring while learning Napier and Rob Sale's new offense.

"It’s been a long process for me," Wright said. "I’ve been through it, but very different for me. One, because like I said before, new coaching staff came in and I just wanted to show those guys what I could do, and I was limited to that. It’s definitely a blessing. I still have ways to go myself. Definitely a blessing to be back, though.”