ATLANTA — If Florida fans were looking for long-term signs of optimism for first-year Gators coach Billy Napier, they found one in an unlikely place Wednesday.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Before Bennett was a national championship-winning quarterback for one of the Gators’ biggest rivals, he was a junior-college passer looking for a bigger opportunity after the 2018 season. One of the few programs to offer him a scholarship: Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns.
Bennett committed to Louisiana before flipping to his home-state program, where he passed his way into Georgia history.
“It’s pretty awesome to turn the TV on and see that guy playing quarterback for the Dawgs,” Napier said from the SEC media days stage. “He’s committed to University of Louisiana. Got a chance to go back and play. Had the confidence. You think about his character, his confidence and his abilities. Fantastic player and a great leader. Certainly I can see why Georgia took him.”
Florida fans won’t be excited about seeing the quarterback Georgia coach Kirby Smart called one of the “least respected good players” in the country, but his emergence validates Napier’s recruiting and scouting ability. That’s an encouraging sign for the future as Napier tries to build a roster that can challenge the Bulldogs for SEC East supremacy.
Two names to know
Receiver Ricky Pearsall and defensive lineman Princely Umanmielen are two players in store for potential breakout seasons. Pearsall led Arizona State with 580 receiving yards and four touchdown catches last season and has impressed quarterback Anthony Richardson since transferring to UF.
“He’s shifty, smooth,” Richardson said. “He’s efficient. He’s smart, too. … He’s a dude.”
That was evident when the Gators gave Pearsall the No. 1 jersey.
Umanmielen earned social-media buzz Wednesday when a video surfaced of him squatting 700 pounds.
Napier said he admires the way the third-year player changed his body in the offseason.
“Princely is primed to have an exceptional year,” Napier said. “He’s one of those players that doesn’t have tremendous experience but we think has ability and will have an opportunity to impact our team.”
Honor for Gouraige
Offensive linemen typically don’t get much attention, so an invitation to SEC media days was a honor for Cambridge Christian alumnus Richard Gouraige.
“I’m still shaking,” Gouraige said. “It’s truly a blessing. Just hearing from the guys that they call me as a leader on this team, because I work my tail off. And there’s no better feeling than the guys awarding you and telling you, ‘This guy is a leader and this guy does everything right.’”
“I love a challenge, and this is a challenge. I think we can get caught up in all that or we can see an unbelievable opportunity, and that’s exactly what I see.” — Napier, on taking over the Gators
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