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Gators HC Billy Napier Sheds Light On Florida's First Scrimmage of the Fall

The Florida Gators participated in their first intra-team scrimmage of the fall. How did the session go according to Billy Napier?

Photo: Billy Napier; Credit: Alex Shepherd 

The biggest storylines at the University of Florida may be the positive momentum on the recruiting trail or the opening of the highly anticipated state-of-the-art football training facility, but not for long.

As the college football season rapidly approaches, programs around the nation continue to ramp up their practice sessions to simulate in-game reps to the best of their ability.

Intra-team scrimmages are an integral part of that process. The Gators had their first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday, where the coaches and players got a gauge of what aspects of the game plan are clicking and the shortcomings that will need extra attention in the coming three weeks.

Head coach Billy Napier spoke to the media on Monday about the session, shedding light on what he saw. But, most significantly, he said he believes the team has taken significant strides from a fundamental standpoint from the spring, a primary focus of the new regime as they attempt to rid the self-inflicted wounds present a season ago.

"I thought both sides of the ball were taking steps forward," Napier said Monday. "The film was much cleaner than maybe spring practice. I think, fundamentally, we're a lot farther along. I do think the communication's improving."

However, despite the evident progression this fall, there is still a way to go before they're ready to line up against Utah in The Swamp week one, namely on the offensive side of the football.

"I think the offensive unit — first offensive unit — was the only team that didn't meet the quota, didn't meet the goal for the day. I think those are all very correctable if that makes sense. Procedural-related. Outside of that, I thought it was pretty clean."

While that may appear problematic at first glance, offenses are known to operate behind the curve in the preseason and early regular season as they attempt to gel. The moving pieces going into the offensive game plan — including a new scheme, a new quarterback, a new play caller and more — make it challenging to find that rhythm early on.

That continues even in the era of high-octane offense. As unideal as that may be. Florida is a victim of that reality.

Napier largely credited the defense for a portion of the offensive miscues.

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"I thought the defense did a good job of limiting explosive plays," Napier said. “We threw it to the defense in a couple situations where it happens: third-and-long, two-minute, nothing alarming here. It’s going to happen. The good thing is our defense is creating some of that. 

"We’re playing well, we’re affecting the quarterback, we’re playing well on the back end. Part of our formula here is we’ve got to protect and affect. We’ve got to protect our quarterback and affect the other quarterback. You do that lots of different ways: you push the pocket, you tip balls, you hit the quarterback, you sack the quarterback, the element of disguise."

To make those needed adjustments and grow prepared for the top ten test on September 3, execution at the helm by starting quarterback Anthony Richardson is imperative, especially when the offense is put in a position to put points on the board.

"I think that we didn't score touchdowns in the red area. That was an objective that we didn't meet on offense. Overall, we did turn it over a few times. So, the quarterback efficiency wasn't what we wanted it to be. I think a lot of things contribute to that when you're playing with a mixture of lineups, different positions and different players. It can be better. That's what I would say."

Going forward, Florida is slated to continue building toward game-ready form.

Not only will that consist of further schematic and performance adjustments for players and coaches, but Napier looks to bring in college officials as they did for the first one for their second scrimmage next Saturday.

This allows the coaching staff to further evaluate the unit's glaring issues from discipline or functional errors prior to the year.

"All college officials that had a good set of eyes on everything, told them to call it just like it was a game day," Napier said regarding scrimmage one. "We wanted to know if we'd have issues. We wanted to expose those. Next Saturday, we've got a full SEC crew coming into town for practice Friday and also the scrimmage Saturday. Putting a premium on that. We're heading in the right direction there."

All in all, Florida believes it's making the necessary steps in the right direction, and are using the limited intra-squad competition to expedite the process of getting everyone in sync.

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