Updates from Florida coach Billy Napier: Gators continue focus on special teams

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida coach Billy Napier appeared on the SEC football coaches teleconference on Wednesday.

Here's some of what Napier had to say heading into UF's debut on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN) against Utah, ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the USA Today coaches poll.

Gators' special teams

Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier looks on during week 3 of football practice at Sanders Outdoor Practice Fields in Gainesville, FL on Friday, August 19, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Napier was asked about his philosophy on special teams and Florida football's emphasis on it during the spring and fall camp.

"We call our special teams game-changers and we really believe that’s a big part of the culture that you are trying to create," Napier said. "The intangibles that show up in the kicking game I think is an opportunity for offensive and defensive players to work together it’s an opportunity for young players, some of your rookies and potentially some of your walk on players to earn a spot and it may be the first time to run between the lines and represent your team so it’s important. I think we spend a little more time than most on it, in terms of planning, meetings, walk through practice times."

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Position battle continues at kicker

Napier said Wednesday that position battles at kicker and in the return game remain to be determined. Sophomore Jeremy Crawshaw returns as UF's starting punter, a player Napier said on his radio show had "unique leadership qualities" for his position because players gravitate to him.

"Field position is very valuable," Napier said. "I think if you are going to have a good football team you gotta cover kicks, you’ve got to perhaps make a game-changing play in the return game. We’ve got a good group of specialists, I think you start there."

Depth chart released

Florida will released its depth chart Wednesday evening. But Napier made clear earlier Wednesday that the starters won't be set in stone for the remainder of the season.  

"We have a lot of players who have worked hard and earned our trust to where they are going to get an opportunity," Napier said. "I think that our team, in particular this year, the number of snaps these players play each week will be based off how they did the previous week and also what we observe from a discipline standpoint, from an urgency standpoint and how they perform in practice, meetings, walkthroughs..."

Napier said off-the-field factors will come into play when determining depth chart decisions as well.

"Once a guy earns our trust, it’s a big deal, it’s a privilege," Napier said. "You have to earn the right to walk between the lines and earn the right to be one of the 11 that represents this current team, but also this place, this community and all the people that came before you.”