Billy Napier works to bring UF discipline and accountability back to the Uniform Socks | David Wheatley


After the first few rehearsals, you can look around and see that Florida football is about to become a team that won’t make fans throw bricks at their televisions.

If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry. The important thing is that players understand the message.

Kinship means to be close to someone or something. I wouldn’t have used it, but Billy Napier became the first coach in NCAA history to turn it down during a press conference a few days ago.

“There is a term called kinship,” he said. “I challenge you at our next press conference, you can give me a definition for that.”

Napier was not trying to appear as a linguist. He was emphasizing one of the ways to fix the program.

I’ve heard a lot about Napier’s focus on detail, discipline, structure, accountability, etc. We are now beginning to see these concepts in action.

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Fix the little things to fix a big problem

It’s the little things,” said attacking goalkeeper Okeros Torrens.

How little is it?

“We’re all outside wearing white socks,” said Jervon DeCoster. “You won’t see a blue sock outside.”

Pre-Napier was more than just fashion. In the vacuum, sock compliance is not a big deal. Georgia was going to beat Florida last year wearing mismatched pencil socks.

But the trivialities are important. They constitute the football version of the broken windows theory of law enforcement.

She believes that chaos breeds serious crimes. You shorten that by tackling minor crimes, such as vandalism, loitering, and general intoxication. Not everyone buys the theory, but New York City gave it a try 30 years ago and the crime rate has gone down.

In the football version, tolerating minor infractions leads to chaos that results in 15 penalties against Kentucky, including eight foul starts. Leads to a backslash in a two-point decisive effort against Alabama.

It leads to Toss Heard’ worldwide shoe. He averages 8.1 penalty kicks per match and ranks 120 out of 130 FBS teams in penalty kicks per match.

All of this leads to going 3-9 in the past 12 games against Power 5 teams, and a fan base up to throwing bricks.

“That was a problem we had — just discipline,” Dexter said. “I think that was the most important thing to change.”

There is only one way to inculcate discipline – the old-fashioned way. Napier uses the term “Designed Difficulty,” which is appropriate for the term “Welcome to Navy Training Camp.”

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Every team has a hard workout and likes to believe that more guys vomit in trash cans than other camps. Follow Torrence and back to Montrell Johnson, Napier to Gainesville from Louisiana. They’ve heard their new teammates talk about pushing the physical boundaries.

“Montrell and I were laughing before we even started,” Torrence said. “These guys thought they knew what was coming, but they really didn’t. You can see the recognition when the guys were falling to their knees.”

Building a team concept

The key isn’t how many players end up on their knees. It makes them join the struggle and see the greater goal. They’re not just doing this to help their NFL stockpile. They do this to help the man on his knees by his side.

This is where proximity begins again. When the new training facility opens in two weeks, Napier plans to adjust the treasury assignments twice a year so that players have to mingle with different faces.

He does the same in the pre-season camp, where there is a room for players unfamiliar with each other. He wants every player to know every other player’s name and town.

“There is something to be said about developing loyalty and motivating the team,” Napier said.

It’s too early to tell if it’s working. Players say it is, but that’s to be expected. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer remembers with pride how Justus Boone got his hands on a teammate at the end of spring training.

“That’s not what we’re doing,” Boone told him. “We expect more.”

“When you start to get that, you start getting them to talk that way, man, it can be special,” Spencer said.

For a special season, the UF can also use a few other things. Like the midfielder, the playmakers and the depth of the SEC caliber.

After the first few practices, you look around and you’re not sure what you see with these things. But you also look around and don’t see any blue socks or broken windows.

Consider this a good start.

David Wheatley is a sports columnist for The Gainesville Sun. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley.

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