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USA Today Sports Media Group
James Morgan

What Florida coach Billy Napier said ahead of the Georgia game

Head coach Billy Napier and the Florida Gators enter the Georgia game as significant underdogs against the defending back-to-back national champion Bulldogs.

Florida is 5-2 to start the year and is getting solid production out of starting quarterback Graham Mertz, a Wisconsin transfer. The Gators have had highs (a comeback road win at South Carolina) and lows (Kentucky bullied the Gators with its rushing attack) to start the season.

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Napier and Florida are recruiting at a very high level in the class of 2024. The future is looking up for Florida’s program for the time being. However, we know Florida hates losing to Georgia.

What did Bill Napier say ahead of the Georgia game?

Napier on quarterback Graham Mertz

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Napier needs a big day out of quarterback Graham Mertz if the Gators are going to knock of the Bulldogs.

I think playing well at quarterback is certainly a big part of the puzzle, right, if you’re going to put this thing together. I think the key is going to be that we play well around the quarterback.

It takes a team effort to beat a great team like Georgia.

Napier on facing Georgia's No. 1 third-down defense

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia football is allowing opponents to convert on 23.6% of third-down attempts, which is No. 1 in the nation. Georgia’s opponents are 21 of 89 on third down.

I think ultimately it’s the category of third down that you’re playing in. I think you want to be good on third down defense, make ’em play third and long. I think they’ve done a good job on the early downs creating those passing downs. Obviously those are much more difficult to convert.

Florida wants to stay away from third and long.

On where Florida has been trying to improve defensively

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Napier notes that Florida has been practicing to get more takeaways and to improve its run defense. Florida has forced only four turnovers this season. However, the Gators have awful luck on fumbles. They have forced 11 fumbles, but have only recovered two.

Takeaways is an area where we need to do better. I think ultimately we’d like to take the ball away a little bit more. Tackling at times has been an issue on our team. I think just overall gap integrity relative to fundamentals. Line of scrimmage, edges

Napier on Georgia being without Brock Bowers

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Billy Napier acknowledges that Brock Bowers, who he considers to be an all-time great player, missing the Florida game is a big loss for the Bulldogs. He notes that Georgia has excellent talent at the skill positions.

Obviously this is not only one of the best players in America this year, last year, I mean, this is one of the best players of all time, if that makes sense. I mean, this guy is a really, really unique matchup relative to his ability to run routes and get open, his ability to run after the catch. They’re handing the guy sweeps. They were handing the guy the ball. He’s a terrific blocker. He’s tough.

Napier has a lot of respect for Georgia

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Napier makes it known that he respects Georgia. He mentions Florida is excited to have an opportunity to play against the Bulldogs.

Certainly we have a ton of respect for Georgia relative to the caliber of football they’ve been playing, the personnel that they have, the coaching staff, and the brand of football in general. Obviously been ranked No. 1 for a number of weeks in a row here, won several in a row. Ton of respect for Georgia. It’s going to require our best. I know our players are excited about getting to work today.

Georgia is going to get the opposing team’s best shot several times over the next few weeks. It starts with the Florida game.

Napier raves about the Georgia defense

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia has the best defensive efficiency in the SEC to start the 2023 college football season. The Bulldogs have had a great defense for several consecutive years under Kirby Smart.

I think the personnel is really good. Height, length, really good players at every level of the defense. Going to have to earn everything.

Georgia returned a lot of talent from the 2022 national championship team on the defensive side of the football.

There’s good continuity in terms of the veteran players have a good comprehension of the system. Overall it’s about the fundamentals, it’s the execution and the personnel.

On Florida's procedural penalties

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s offense made critical mistakes at Utah in Week 1. The Gators have cleaned some things up, but procedural penalties remain a concern for Florida. The Gators have 47 total penalties through seven games this year.

I think one of the things the open date exposed is we’ve had issues everywhere we’ve played, truth be known. The margin of error is small.

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