What Billy Napier Will Bring As The New Head Coach Of The Florida Gators

Charlie Neibergall/AP

What Billy Napier Will Bring As The New Head Coach Of The Florida Gators

Football

What Billy Napier Will Bring As The New Head Coach Of The Florida Gators

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Charlie Neibergall/AP

After four seasons with the Florida Gators, Dan Mullen was fired after a 24-23 overtime loss to Missouri on November 20. He would finish his time in Gainesville with a 34-15 record but has gone 2-9 against Power Five opponents beginning with the last three games of the 2020 season. This, along with questionable on-field decisions leading to performance issues and struggles with recruiting, led the team to decide it was time to move on from Mullen. So who would the Gators try to get to replace Mullen? Well, that question was answered on November 28 when they hired Billy Napier.

Since December 15, 2017, Billy Napier has been the head coach for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. Prior to Napier’s hire, the Ragin’ Cajuns had three straight losing seasons and never had a 10+ win season. In his first season there he led the team to a 7-7 year, won the Western Sun Belt Conference division, and made it to the Cure Bowl. In 2019 he would lead the team to an impressive 11-3 record. Even a pandemic couldn’t stop his success as he still led his team to a winning season of 10-1, their defense would rank 33rd in total defense, and the offense would rank 29th nationally. All of these years the team would finish first in the West division and would make a bowl game. While he lost the first bowl game in 2018, he would go on to win the next two. 

This year his success has continued, as he led the team to an 11-1 record while being 8-0 against conference opponents. This successful season has led to them being ranked at No. 20 in the AP Poll. The offense is currently ranked 63rd in the nation with 4,879 total yards and 49 touchdowns. 2,578 yards have come over 341 passing attempts. This ranks them above schools like Penn State, LSU, and Texas A&M. To put this in comparison, Florida does have more passing yards with 3,133 but they also have had 379 passing attempts. The Ragin’ Cajuns have also continued to have a successful defense with them being ranked 41, allowing 4,196 yards, and have the 13 best scoring defense with 18.50. Their defense is ranked above the Gators who have allowed 4,346 yards. They will get ready to face off against Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference Championship on Saturday, December 4 to finish off Napier’s last season with the team. 

Napier led the Ragin’ Cajuns to numerous accolades. The school would break records that included the most points in a season with 531, and total offense in a single season with 6,918. Napier became the first coach to win the Sun Belt Coach of the Year in 2019. Napier has also shown to be great at developing quarterbacks, the Cajuns quarterback Levi Lewis is the example of this. Under Napier, Lewis is the first-ever 3,000-yard passer in school history. 

Before his first head coaching job at Louisiana, he had experience under Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney as he was Clemson’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2009-2010. He also learned under Nick Saban as Alabama’s wide receiver and quarterbacks coach from 2013-2016. With being under Saban, Napier has modeled his offense based on Saban’s format and will implement that at Florida. 

The signing by the Gators makes sense for many aspects. The first is recruiting. In 2014 while Napier was with the Crimson Tide he was ranked No. 5 in the nation as one of the best recruiters. He helped recruit Jerry Judy, Calvin Ridley, and Trevon Diggs. Over the last three years as well the Ragin’ Cajuns have had a top recruiting class. While under Mullen the Gators had the 12th best class for 2021, and 9th best in 2020 they have failed to recruit in-state players. That being said, Napier should be able to continue his recruiting success with the Gators and be able to attract more of the in-state talent the Gators hope to have committed. In addition to his recruiting skills he has also shown the ability to develop players, he doesn’t just focus on getting them drafted but also helping them build on themselves. At Louisiana, he has developed NFL-bound players like guards Robert Hunt and Kevin Dotson, along with running backs Raymond Calais, and most recently Elijah Mitchell. With already having ties in the south, Napier should be able to put together a strong recruiting class off the bat and possibly swing some talent into staying in-state. 

The next is his leadership, it is actually the trait that caught the Gators’ athletic director, Scott Stricklin’s attention. In his statement about Napier’s hiring, he said “We felt confident he would be an excellent leader for the Gators, which is why he was the only candidate I met with about the job.” Stricklin’s hope is that with Napier’s leadership abilities he will be able to rejuvenate the strong culture for the Gators both on and off the field. 

His success at coaching quarterbacks and understanding the position by playing quarterback could also be a factor. The Gators currently have Emory Jones who could stay for his senior season and Anthony Richardson who will be a sophomore next year. This year, between the two quarterbacks combined, they threw 18 interceptions. Lewis, under Napier’s offensive system, threw 18 interceptions but over the course of five seasons. Napier prides his offensive design on limiting turnovers, and if that continues this Gator’s offense should be more efficient in 2022. 

With a Power Five team and a school with larger resources at their disposal, it is only a wonder at what Napier is going to be able to do for the Gators. Who Napier announces as his coaching staff will be the next thing to watch. It will be interesting to see what Louisiana does now with his departure.  

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