5 questions Florida football coach Billy Napier could face at SEC Media Days

Talking season, as Steve Spurrier called it, is nearly over. But Florida football coach Billy Napier will get one more chance to discuss his program entering season two at SEC Football Media Days this week in Nashville, Tenn.
Napier is scheduled to take to the podium at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday (SEC Network) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. In addition, Florida invited three players to the event -- wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. and starting center Kingsley Eguakun.
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The Gators ended Napier's first season 6-7, which resulted in significant roster upheaval. With 34 new faces on the roster (21 freshman signees and 13 transfers) there is hope for more buy in and a better understanding of expectations. UF returns five starters on offense and four starters on defense, which will allow new players to step into bigger roles in 2023.
Here are five questions Napier could face at SEC Media Days:
Who will start at quarterback?
Right now, the battle is between Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz and redshirt sophomore Jack Miller. Florida pursued four-star Pahokee quarterback Austin Simmons in the spring, hoping he would reclassify. Simmons did reclassify but wound up at Ole Miss to play for Lane Kiffin, leaving UF with three scholarship quarterbacks (Mertz, Miller and sophomore Max Brown) to enter the 2023 season.
Mertz completed 18 of 29 passes for 244 yards and 1 TD in UF's spring game, while Miller completed 10 of 20 passes for 144 yards and a TD.
“I’m excited about the body of work of that group," Napier said. "Really excited about Graham, his experience, the things he brings to the team. He has certainly caused the rest of the room to elevate their play. I thought Jack had a really good spring, and Max is a really good young player."
How do you feel about entering the season under the radar?
Per ESPN analytics, Florida was given a 3 percent chance to win the SEC East in the last year of divisions. Incumbent SEC champion and two-time national champion Georgia is at 90 percent.
Closing the competitive gap with Georgia won't be easy, but Napier is recruiting hard. His 2024 class is currently ranked third in the nation, per 247Sports, stacked on top of a 2023 class that ranked 13th nationally.
In the present, Napier is hopeful more familiarity with the system and some potential impact transfers will help the Gators improve after finishing 6-7 in 2022. Florida lost six players to the NFL draft, including starting quarterback Anthony Richardson (4th overall, Indianapolis Colts) and All-American offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence (second round, Buffalo Bills).
Can the defense improve under new coordinator Austin Armstrong?
Florida's defensive struggles were apparent last season under Patrick Toney, who left in the offseason to take a job as safeties coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Under Toney, UF's defense ranked last in the SEC in stopping opponents on third down (49.7 percent third-down conversions against), 12th in total defense (411.0 yards per game against) and 10th in scoring defense (28.8 ppg allowed).
Armstrong, who was hired away from Alabama and Nick Saban after a standout 2022 season as defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi, appears to have impressed defensive players with his high-energy approach. It showed in the spring game, as UF's defensive units combined for eight sacks and held both offenses to 17 points over four quarters.
Defensive improvement would be the first step in Florida making progress in 2023.
Can new playmakers emerge on offense?
Florida returns its top wide receiver from last season (Ricky Pearsall 33 catches, 661 yards, 5 TDs) and two top running backs (Montrell Johnson, 115 carries, 841 yards, 10 TDs) and Travis Etienne (118 carries, 719 yards, 6 TDs).
But more playmakers will need to emerge for UF to have success against opposing SEC defenses.
Tulane transfer Cam Carroll is coming off a strong spring game and showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield in the spring, an element to the offense the Gators lacked last season. In addition, UF desperately needs a receiving threat to emerge at tight end. Redshirt freshman tight end Arlis Boardingham showed flashes of that ability last spring and is the fastest in the position group.
Will any true freshmen contribute in 2023?
At the receiver position, early enrollees Andy Jean and Aidan Mizell both made impressions in the spring. Another freshman receiver, four-star Eugene Wilson, has enrolled this summer and could make an impact with his quickness in the slot.
"Wilson is one of the more dynamic slot, run-after-catch returners. Just a very explosive, instinctive player," Napier said during the Early Signing Period. "He does some really unique things on tape, relative to adjusting to the ball, run after catch. He's dynamic. You can throw an intermediate short pass to this guy, and he's a one-touchdown player."
On defense, cornerback Ja'Keem Jackson and defensive lineman Kelby Collins were early enrollees that flashed during spring drills. In the spring game, freshman edge rusher T.J. Searcy created havoc with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

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