Quarterback Emory Jones still enrolled at UF and participating in football, Billy Napier says
GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Billy Napier confirmed on Friday that redshirt senior quarterback Emory Jones is not only still enrolled at UF – he’s participating in football activities.
“Emory’s here, in class, he’s participating,” said Napier, speaking to local media for the first time since Early Signing Day in December. “He’s done a fantastic job with all the things we’ve asked him to do.”
The fifth-year quarterback announced his intentions to enter his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal on Dec. 15, but he never formalized the process, instead choosing to return to Florida to finish his degree. Whether he’ll remain in Gainesville past the spring remains anyone’s guess, but Napier implored the Florida fanbase to extend an olive branch to Jones, who led the NCAA in interceptions last season, if he were to stay through the Fall semester and compete at Florida in 2022.
David Whitley:Florida quarterback Emory Jones should be cheered, not jeered
Earlier coverage:Report: UF's Emory Jones hasn't yet entered his name in transfer portal
The Gators added quarterback Jack Miller from Ohio State via the transfer portal, while Anthony Richardson continues to recover from knee surgery, meaning Jones may be Florida’s best option at signal-caller when spring practice gets underway.
“I would hope our fans and all the people out there would understand what a big deal that is. This is a guy who is a class act. It’s been very impressive to me the caliber of person that he is. He’s managed a very difficult situation well,” Napier said of Jones. “And anything that happened in the past, it’s important for not only the players, but all the people that care about the University of Florida, that care about our football program, to kind of separate those things. This staff has given each one of these players a new beginning, kind of a fresh start. I think it’s important our fans do that.
"Emory, I think he cares about this place. It’s important to him to represent this place the right way. And he’d be the first to admit that he’s played really well at times and he’s struggled at times.”
The Bulldog in the room
There’s little doubt Napier’s hit the ground running since taking the job in Gainesville.
From overseeing the hiring process to scouring the landscape for talent, Napier has seemingly worked tirelessly throughout the first six weeks of his UF tenure.
However, with Florida’s rival in the SEC Eastern Division, the Georgia Bulldogs, claiming the program’s first national championship since 1980, it would have been understandable if Napier’s sense of urgency to rebuild the program into a contender may have increased.
Napier first made sure to give UGA its due, considering how long the program had waited for Monday’s outcome.
“First of all, congratulations to University of Georgia, right? Kirby Smart, his staff, his team, an incredible year, right? We certainly recognize that. I know a lot of those people,” he said. “ know a lot of those people in that building, so it's a significant accomplishment.”
But Napier asserted the Bulldogs’ victory doesn’t factor into Florida’s process, saying the Gators have far too much to tend to in their own backyard to worry about what a rival is or isn’t doing.
“I think for us we've got our own grass to mow, right? We’ve got a lot of things that we need to get in order. I think it’s important for us to focus on the things that we can control, but also understanding the question, I think you’ve got to be aware of the competition. Know your competition,” Napier continued. “Certainly we'll get into those things as we get closer to competing, but right now I'm more concerned and working hard on what's going on inside our house, you know, instead of worrying about what the neighbor's house is doing.”
Additional transfers en route
Signing Day is still nearly three weeks away, but, in the NCAA transfer portal era, talent acquisition can occur at any time.
The Gators are no stranger to this as the program received commitments from a pair of transfers from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in running back Montrell Johnson and offensive lineman Kamryn Waites, in addition to adding Miller in time for the spring semester.
“You’ve got the recruiting perspective," he said. "You’ve got a window to get them in now, and then kind of a sprint until February’s Signing Day. And then you have another opportunity to add some players prior to summer school starting. Three windows of time to add players, and certainly we’re working hard in all three of those areas.”
With just 15 players currently counting against Florida’s class of 2022, the Gators have plenty of space remaining.
As the signing period approaches, and as he continues to search the portal for talent, Napier anticipates the program will continue receiving commitments from transfers.
“I think you could see us add a number of players over the next 10 days or so, maybe little less than that, eight to 10 days,” Napier said. “ We’re still in the process of working on that part of our team.”
Standalone not set in stone?
Florida’s in-progress indoor training center, with a budget of $85 million, will likely undergo some alterations before final construction commences. Napier continues to have plenty of influence regarding the building’s layout.
“We had about an hour and 15-minute meeting yesterday with that group of people,” he said. “But I have to compliment the administration, their professionalism, you know, we've hired the absolute best in the entire country.”
He didn’t discuss any changes to the timeline or reveal any areas in need of reassessment, however, instead choosing to praise the administration’s willingness to be flexible. The estimated completion time for the 140,000-square foot facility is still scheduled for spring, though sources have indicated to The Gainesville Sun that the completion timeline may be further delayed.
Ultimately, the goal is to construct the best facility in the country, however long that may take.
“I think the administration did a good job of doing their research," Napier said. "They visited a number of places throughout the country, some of the very best facilities out there. And that's the goal, right – we want to have the, not only the most impressive but the most functional facility in the entire country. I think we're in the process of evaluating that and, you know, there will be a lot of back and forth there. But, you know, the good thing is we've got an opportunity to make ourselves different.”