Florida Gators preparing for fall camp

As the fall semester begins to roll in for students at the University of Florida, student-athletes of the football program start their work on campus early. However, none of it will be academic.

After four long summer months, football returns to Gainesville as the Gators report for the fall camp Tuesday.

Defensive lineman Gervon Dexter Sr, offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence and punter Jeremy Crashaw spoke to the media to give a preview of fall training camp and to give an update of the program with only a month away from their week one matchup against the Utah Utes.

With first-year head coach Billy Napier going into his first fall camp with the Gators, the media was interested in how the coach’s personality was rubbing off on the players. To Dexter, he feels that Napier’s leadership role has spread upon the team.

“I think coach Billy Napier has rubbed off on the team in mainly just his leadership role and teching each individual how to be a leader in their own way,” Dexter said. “Everybody can be a leader.

However, the sophomore also sees the institution of discipline from Napier as something that was missing from Florida’s program in last year’s season.

“That’s been a huge change for us in my opinion,” Dexter said when talking about the new discipline in the football program. “ That was an issue that we had, just discipline. I think that was one of the biggest things that needed to be changed with him coming in”.

With Napier also comes a new staff behind him, bringing the message across to the players. Emphasizing discipline to things on the field at practice. Dexter experienced this first hand in the off-season, using an example of players’ dress code as a base of understanding that Napier has no space for even the small things this season.

“As far as everything we do, coach Napier said we’re all outside in white socks, you won’t see a blue sock out there,” Dexter said. “Just all the little things as far as jumping offsides or extra activity after the plays and just the big stuff like that. He came in letting us know that’s not going to happen, or consequences”.

Going into his third year with the orange and blue, the Lake Wales, Florida, native has grown into a leader on the defensive line, starting all nine of the 13 games in the regular season last year.

Battling in the trenches, Dexter showcased his best year with the Gators in the 2021 campaign, collecting 19 solo tackles and assisting on 32 tackles for the year. This including a team-high nine tackles in the Gasparilla Bowl against Central Florida on Dec.23.

Despite an impressive season, Dexter still is tuning up his game with new defensive line coach Sean Spencer. With Spencer’s 20 years of coaching experience on both the collegiate and professional level, Dexter is learning to fix on the little things to his technique.

“Just all the small things that I didn’t know, hands, feet, get-off, some of the stuff like that has really helped my game a little more,” Dexter said. “ That’s been the biggest thing, just the small things in the game that I didn’t know”.

With the new season comes a new motive for Dexter. Now, as a father, he plays for another meaning going forward. Motivated to set his son up for a better life.

“It’s not about you anymore, it’s about him now. Everything I do now is trying to set his life up for the better”.

As Napier may be new to the program after leaving the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, he also is joined by multiple transfers from the Cajuns. One of them being Torrence.

Torrence, a native of the pelican state, has adapted to the city of Gainesville pretty well. Finding comfort in the similarity that Lafayette, LA., has with Gainesville.

“I’ve adapted pretty good so far,” Torrence said. “It’s a difference from the area and kind of a culture, but it’s still a college football town…I was able to fit in pretty well pretty fast”.

The one thing he does have an issue adjusting to at UF, the absence of that Louisiana spice from the local food spots around campus.

“I’m just used to the spiciness of Louisiana,” Torrence said. “Nobody out here likes their food hot, so I have to kind of find places that have food or just want to cook my own food. I have to put my Louisiana style to it.

With three years at Louisiana with coach Napier, Torrence talks about his head ball coach as a “players coach”. Someone that will always have your back.

“He’s a player’s coach, and I just respect the way he goes about the work, like you’re going to get the same out of him every day,” Torrence said, describing coach Napier. “I think just the feeling that you get from him, it makes you want to play for him a little harder because you know he’s behind you 100 percent, so he’s just a coach that makes you want to play hard for him”.

Playing only in the Sun Belt Conference so far in his collegiate career, Torrence will experience playing in the Southeastern Conference for the first time ever this season and face multiple Power Five teams. An opportunity that he can’t wait to take advantage of.

“It’s exciting for me,” said Torrence. “I feel it’s much different than what I’m used to because what I’m used to at Louisiana, it was two, three games where we know they were big games..here it’s like every week is a big opportunity…”

As the new guy on campus, the junior realized quickly that the offensive line group is all business on his first day. Approaching the work in practice with no complaints.

“It was a lot for them, but I never heard them complain,” Torrence said about the offensive line working in the spring. “I just always seen them attack the work and the willingness to get better. That’s kind of what I like to see.”

Switching to special teams, Crawshaw took the stand.

Switching his usual hair style from a mullet to a cartoonish-con man style mustache, the Australian grabbed the attention of everyone all over the room. Quickly being questioned about it in a humorous manner.

“Well, you know, the past couple of years I’ve been doing the mullet, so this yearI thought I’d change it up,” Crawshaw said. “I think it’s called maturing”.

Punters and kickers usually operate in their own space, usually staying away from the team during the fall camp. With the culture change of Napier, Crawshaw see’s that won’t be the case this year.

“Billy Napier has come in and done a very good job of bringing us all together since last year,” he said. “We’ve all bought in, become a bigger family, and he definitely emphasized that point.”

A recent addition to this “family” is freshman kicker Trey Smack, who enrolled at UF in the summer. Crawshaw spoke a little on what he has seen from the Severna Park, Maryland, product.

“He’s done a really good job coming in. Obviously it’s normal for guys to come in during this part of the year as high school finishes, but he’s done a good job adjusting, following up with Adam (Mihalek), because Adam was here last year”.

The six-foot-four punter has made improvements in the weight room. Gaining 16 pounds and excelling in the workouts.

“My squat, bench, everything has gone up, so they were talking to me about moving me to tight end,” Crawshaw said, giggling the words out of his mouth.

This growth in strength can be credited by Florida’s Director of Football Strength and Conditioning/ Associated Head Coach Mark Hocke. The sophomore punter believes coach Hocke has been good for the team.

“He’s been really good,” Crawshaw said. “He brings in lots of beliefs, discipline, effort, belief, and he instills it in us. He invests in us every day”.

Under the previous regime, Crawshaw was able to do some trick plays. When he was asked about if coach Napier would show off the punters abilities this season, Crawshaw says that he’s ready for the green light.

“I think he knows what I’ve got going on here, so if he wants to run it, give me the nod and I’ll take off with it”.

Trick plays or not, the Gators will look to focus on preparation for the upcoming season. The first day of fall camp is Wednesday.

Brandon Hernandez
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator, Gator Country and  PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.