Intensity rises for Florida Football as Orange and Blue Game approaches

The Gators had a scrimmage on Saturday

Florida Gators wide receiver Eugene Wilson III (3) hauls in a pass.
Florida Gators wide receiver Eugene Wilson III (3) hauls in a pass. / Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY

The Florida Gators football team took a significant step toward their preparation for the upcoming season as they held their first intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon. With the highly anticipated Orange and Blue Game just two weeks away, head coach Billy Napier emphasized in his press conference afterward the importance of maintaining focus and addressing areas in need of improvement.

"The big takeaway with the players walking off the field was we're halfway, and it's important that we have a great focus over the next two weeks, so critical two weeks to come. We've got to get really specific about the areas where we need to improve."

Billy Napier

As the Gators establish a more veteran group with 13 returning starters, they face a challenging schedule that kicks off with a highly anticipated showdown against state-rival Miami on August 31st at The Swamp. Napier expressed his satisfaction with the progress made thus far, crediting the veteran players for setting the tone and the young talent for their continued development.

"We've got a group of veteran players that are doing a good job kind of setting the tone and being a really good example, and then I see the young players, some of which were here last year, and some of which we just got here, are continuing to make progress. So I do think that I've been pleased with what I see.""

One of the standout performers during Saturday's scrimmage was freshman quarterback D.J. Lagway, the prized five-star recruit from Willis, Texas. Napier praised Lagway's ability to quickly retain information and his physical talents, acknowledging that the next step for the young signal-caller is game management.

"Every day is a new learning experience for him, but he's a quick learner, and he did a lot of good today. I think he made some plays with his feet, played with the twos most of the day. I think that's where he's at. I think he's got physical talent; he's picked it up quickly"

While Napier acknowledged that the defense got the better of the offense during the scrimmage, he highlighted bright spots on both sides of the ball. Sophomore linebacker Grayson "Pup" Howard, a transfer from South Carolina, was singled out for his impressive performance, taking advantage of increased reps due to injuries to Shemar James and Derek Wingo.

"When we look back at his stats, there was a lot of production for him today. He's a good communicator. He's got an edge to him, he's big, he's long."

The offensive line, a crucial component of any successful offense, continues to show growth and establish chemistry. Despite injuries to tackles Austin Barber and Kam Waites, the unit has benefited from the addition of transfer tackles Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson and Devon Manuel, as well as the development of redshirt freshman Caden Jones and true freshman Fletcher Westphal.

Napier praised the rapport between new offensive line coach John Decoster and co-offensive coordinator Rob Sale, noting the positive impact Decoster has had on the group in a short amount of time.

"We've added some quality players. And I think John, just in a short amount of time, Coach Decoster's helped our group improve."

As the Florida Gators inch closer to their Orange and Blue Game and the start of the 2024 season, the intensity and focus within the program continue to rise. With a blend of veteran leadership, promising young talent, and a coaching staff dedicated to maximizing the team's potential, the stage is set for an exciting and competitive campaign ahead.