Billy Napier: Florida Gators Head Coach

Florida head coach Billy Napier
Photo from Gators Football official twitter account

Billy Napier

The Florida Gators have hired former University of Louisiana head coach Billy Napier to replace Dan Mullen at the helm of their football program.

Napier fits the Gators needs. His recruiting prowess is a massive change for a program going from Dan Mullen, whose biggest weakness was recruiting. This is not an unexpected hire, but it is still a good one. Napier has shown that not only does he recruit well, but he also builds the staff to be able to recruit. Napier will be looking to fix a floundering recruiting class, and has a lot of work to do. However, if there is someone who will be able to do it, Napier appears to be that guy.

New Gators Head Coach Billy Napier
Photo by Scott Wachter, USA Today Sports

Napier’s Resume

Napier has been a head coach for the past four years, but before that was an assistant at a lot of the nation’s best programs. After playing quarterback at Furman, with two seasons as the starter, Billy Napier spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Clemson.

He spent a year as the quarterbacks coach at South Carolina State before returning to Clemson as the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator for the Tigers where he spent the next three years. Head coach Tommy Bowden was fired and Napier was promoted to quarterbacks coach under interim head coach Dabo Swinney.

Swinney was named full time head coach, with Billy Napier as his quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. After a record setting season in his first year, Clemson’s offense struggled in his second season. Napier was then fired as offensive coordinator.

Billy Napier spent a year as an offensive analyst at Alabama. Billy Napier became the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State the following season. Napier followed Alabama assistant and future (now past) Florida head coach Jim McElwain.

Napier accepted a job as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator at Florida State. However, he only stayed for a month before accepting the position of wide receiver’s coach at Alabama. Napier spent four seasons at Alabama. He was then hired as the offensive coordinator at Arizona State.

Following a season there, Napier became the head coach at the University of Louisiana. In 4 seasons at Louisiana, Napier led the program to a 39-12 record. This includes one conference championship as well as participating in two more, including one this season.

What to Expect Moving Forward

According to reports, Napier expects to coach in the Ragin Cajun’s Sun Belt Championship game before coming to Florida. Billy Napier’s first task as head coach is to build his staff. He potentially has a few key guys in place if he chooses to keep them.

Nick Savage is beloved as a strength and conditioning coach. Florida also has some young position coaches that he could look to retain. He will almost certainly go elsewhere for coordinators and recruiting staff.

Napier has a lot of work to do in terms of recruiting. The current recruiting class is ranked 31st by 247sports and 39th by Rivals. He will have a lot of work to do to turn the class around in a short amount of time. The early period for national signing day is December 15-17. The regular national signing day is February 2.

With how Napier wants to play, he will need an influx of offensive line talent. He will also need to add more to a defense that is losing a lot of talent. There were a lot of players who decommitted under Mullen, and he could possibly flip them back. The transfer portal will also need to be used due to the lack of time to recruit normally.

Florida Gators Head Coach Candidates

The Florida Gators head coach position is once again up for grabs. There are a few different types of head coach candidates the Florida Gators could go with. They could go with a power five head coach from a lower-end or mid-level school, a strong group of five head coach, a coordinator from a high-end power five school, a NFL assistant, or a retired head coach.

The rumor mill for this coaching hire has a variety of coaches, some of which should never be considered, while others should only be worst-case scenario hires, and some won’t even be interested.

Power Five Head Coaches

Good Hires

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Dave Aranda
Photo by Orlin Wagner, Associated Press

Dave Aranda: Baylor, 2nd Season, 11-9 career, 9-2 season

Dave Aranda has done really well in his second season at Baylor. His first season they won just two games, but this year they have only lost twice, including beating Oklahoma.

Aranda has SEC experience, as he was the defensive coordinator at LSU for four years, including their National Championship season. Baylor’s recruiting class is ranked just five spots lower than Florida according to 247sports and eight spots higher according to Rivals.

Lane Kiffin: Ole Miss, 2nd Season, 10th overall season, 75-41 career, 14-7 @ Ole Miss, 9-2 season, 2 years in NFL, 5-15 record

Lane Kiffin has had a lot of success at four different stops in his career. He has shown the ability to succeed in the SEC, with a 7-6 year at Tennessee and also going 14-7 thus far at Ole Miss, including 9-2 this year. Kiffin currently has the 38th ranked recruiting class according to 247sports, after having the 17th ranked recruiting class the previous year.

Both of these are slightly below Florida’s rankings. While that does invite concern, the better quality of program could allow Kiffin to do better than he is at a mid-tier SEC program currently.

Mark Stoops: Kentucky, 9th Season, 57-53 career, 8-3 season

Under Mark Stoops, this Kentucky program has steadily climbed, and is currently sitting at 8-3 and 2nd place in the SEC East. They currently have 247sports 16th ranked recruiting class. Mark Stoops has been able to recruit at a consistent top 35 ranking for the past few years despite a relative lack of resources as compared to Florida.

Stoops has also proven himself to be a quality defensive mind, and could be the answer to fix that side of the ball that has struggled under Mullen except for 2019. Stoops is not a top choice, but should be on the long list.

Unlikely to Be Interested

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Mario Cristobal
Photo by Gaelen Morse, Getty Images

Mario Cristobal: Oregon, 4th season, 10th overall season, 61-59 career, 34-12 @ Oregon, 9-2 season

Mario Cristobal would bring a lot of what the Florida program needs: offensive line competence and a great recruiter. Cristobal’s worst recruiting season was his first, where he finished 13th in the country.

For comparison, Mullen’s best seasons recruiting were 2019 and 2020, where he finished 9th both years. If they were able to get him, it would be a very good hire, but it would take a lot to pull him away from a good job with great facilities and a much easier path to the College Football Playoff. However, Cristobal does have a lot of roots in the south, and particularly Florida.

Cristobal played in college at Miami, was a graduate assistant there, and later a tight end and offensive line coach. He spent six seasons as FIU’s head coach, and before he went to be an assistant at Oregon, spent four years as an assistant head coach for Alabama.

Matt Campbell: Iowa State, 5th season, 9th overall season, 76-48 career, 41-33 @ Iowa State, 6-5 season

Iowa State has been a solid program under Campbell. However, he hasn’t had as much success as a lot of the other coaches in terms of recruiting, and that is a must for whoever Florida hires. He turned around a very bad program, but he just is not the best option for Florida.

James Franklin: Penn State, 8th season, 11th overall season, 91-47 career, 67-32 @ Penn State, 7-4 season

James Franklin has had a successful tenure at Penn State after having relative success at Vanderbilt. However, it looks like Franklin has peaked and can’t get over the hump that is Ohio State. He is a good recruiter, but just is not a very good game day manager. It’s hard not to feel that if he were to come to Florida, he wouldn’t face similar issues with Georgia as he does currently with Ohio State.

Worst-Case Scenario

Jeff Hafley: Boston College, 2nd season, 12-10 career, 6-5 season

Jeff Hafley has had moderate success given his circumstances, and was a quality assistant coach. However, he just does not have the experience or the track record to justify Florida hiring him.

Dave Clawson: Wake Forest, 8th season, 22nd overall season, 139-126 career, 49-47 @ Wake Forest, 9-2 season

Dave Clawson has been .500 or better at all four schools he has coached at. However, he has just barely hit that mark. While his teams have improved year-over-year and eventually hit their peak as a program, he just hasn’t shown the ability to recruit at a higher level. The best path to a high-end job would be to take a minor step up (say a Virginia Tech or Miami) and then prove himself there once again.

Group of Five Head Coaches

Potential Florida Gators Head Coach Billy Napier
Photo by Scott Wachter, USA Today Sports

Good Hire

Luke Fickell: Cincinnati, 5th season, 6th overall season 52-21 career, 46-14 @ Cincinnati, 11-0 season

Luke Fickell struggled in his one year as interim head coach at Ohio State, but after spending six additional seasons as the defensive coordinator there, he has turned around a Cincinnati program that was struggling to replace Brian Kelly. After going 4-8 his first season, they have won double digit games every year except for the COVID-shortened 2020 season where they only lost one game.

On top of that, they are currently undefeated and look to be in playoff contention. While he doesn’t have experience in this part of the country, he would still be a good hire.

Billy Napier: Louisiana, 4th season, 38-12 career, 10-1 season

Billy Napier looks to be the favorite in the clubhouse as the end of the season nears. Napier has been a very successful coach in his four years at Louisiana. He has had the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt the past three years. Prior to Louisiana, he spent a year as Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and before that was Alabama’s wide receivers coach for four years.

Not only has he been a great recruiter, but he has had offensive success at multiple schools. On top of this, he was able to change the way the program was built at Louisiana to help with recruiting due to a larger staff. He would be a great hire if they chose him.

Worst-Case Scenario

Jamey Chadwell: Coastal Carolina, 4th season (1 interim), 12th overall season, 88-54 career, 28-19 @ Coastal Carolina, 9-2 season

Chadwell has had mixed success over the years at multiple stops. As of late, Coastal Carolina has been successful and Chadwell has recruited well, including being projected to have the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt. However, inconsistencies and a lack of experience at a high level make it a very risky hire for anyone at a large program.

Power Five Assistants

The assistants will probably be discussed and possibly given a look, but it is very unlikely that Florida goes this route unless they miss out on several of their top options.

  • Mike Elko: 4th season as Texas A&M defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Bill O’Brien: 1st season as Alabama offensive coordinator, two seasons at Penn State, 15-9 career, seven seasons w/ Houston Texans, 52-48 career
  • Todd Monken: 2nd season as Georgia offensive coordinator, three seasons at Southern Miss, 13-25 career
  • Pete Golding: 3rd season as Alabama defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Dan Lanning: 3rd season as Georgia defensive coordinator, no head coaching experience
  • Holmon Wiggins: 3rd season as Alabama WR coach (1st as assistant head coach), no head coaching experience

NFL Assistants

Both NFL assistants with a background at Florida, it is unlikely that either of them wish to make a return to the college ranks. If one were to do it, Brian Johnson would be more likely, but probably not at Florida.

  • Dan Quinn: 1st season as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, six seasons as Atlanta Falcons head coach, 43-42 record
  • Brian Johnson: 1st season as Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, no head coaching experience

Retired Coaches

  • Bob Stoops: 18 years as head coach at Oklahoma, 190-48 career record

Head Coach Hire Tiers

Tier One: Home Run Hires

Mario Cristobal: Head Coach, Oregon

Billy Napier: Head Coach, Louisiana

Luke Fickell: Head Coach, Cincinnati

Tier Two: Good Hires

Dave Aranda: Head Coach, Baylor

Lane Kiffin: Head Coach, Ole Miss

Tier Three: Decent Hires

Mark Stoops: Head Coach, Kentucky

Bob Stoops: Retired, Former Head Coach, Oklahoma

Tier Four: Shaky Hires

James Franklin: Head Coach, Penn State

Jamey Chadwell: Head Coach, Coastal Carolina

Dave Clawson: Head Coach, Wake Forest

Bill O’Brien: Offensive Coordinator, Alabama

Matt Campbell: Head Coach, Iowa State

Tier Five: Bad Hires

Jeff Hafley: Head Coach, Boston College

Dan Quinn: Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Mike Elko: Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Todd Monken: Offensive Coordinator, Georgia

Pete Golding: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

Dan Lanning: Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

Brian Johnson: Quarterbacks Coach, Philadelphia Eagles

Holmon Wiggins: Wide Receivers Coach, Alabama

Florida Gators vs South Carolina Gamecocks: Week 10 Preview

  • Date: November 6, 2021
  • Time: 7:30pm EST
  • Venue: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina
  • TV: SEC Network
  • Record: Gators (4-4) Gamecocks (4-4)
Gators vs Gamecocks
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 9 Recap

Last week, Florida lost to Georgia 34-7. The Gators lack of offense was not a major surprise given the Bulldog’s elite defense. Anthony Richardson got the start, but left the game with an injury. He finished the day 12/20 for 82 yards and added 26 yards on the ground. Emory Jones finished the game, and completed 10 of 14 passes for 112 yards and added 22 yards on the ground. The running game was stifled as compared to normal weeks, averaging just 4.1 yards per carry. They still gained 161 yards rushing, but this was due to 39 carries as a team. Dameon Pierce was by far the best running back last week, gaining 69 yards on just 9 carries.

The defense played well all things considered. They gave up 161 yards through the air on 19 attempts and had two interceptions, both by Rashad Torrence II. They gave up 193 yards on the ground, which is another poor performance against the run, after a similar result against LSU. Trey Dean III led the team in both tackles and tackles for loss, with 8 tackles and the only tackle for loss, which was a sack.

What to Watch

Florida’s Front 7 Against the Run

Florida has struggled as of late stopping the run. The Gators linebacker core has been without Ventrell Miller for the entire season, but that has been the only major injury in the front seven. The defensive line is full of solid players that at times have each shined, yet recently this group has struggled to stop the run. South Carolina on the other hand, has struggled to run the ball, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. This is a classic case of a stoppable force meeting a movable object.

Gators Receivers

The Gators have yet to really have any singular receiver pop to fill the voids of Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts. The leading receiver is Jacob Copeland, who has 25 catches for 450 yards. The yardage by him is solid, but nothing exceptional. Justin Shorter is second with 23 catches for 279 yards. No one else has over 200 yards.

Keys to Success

Quarterback Play

Quarterback play has been a big concern as of late. Anthony Richardson struggled in his limited action against Georgia. Emory Jones had been struggling in his last couple starts, and was mediocre against Georgia. Jones may start against the Gamecocks with Anthony Richardson recovering from a concussion. Jones on the year is 129/190 for 1417 yards and 10 touchdowns with 9 interceptions, and has added 517 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. South Carolina is not a good defense, so Jones has to have a great performance to prove he deserves to play the rest of the year. The Gators need to find consistent play out of one of them, and this may be Emory Jones’s last chance.

Turnover Margin

On the season, Florida is -7 in terms of turnover margin. This is 123rd in the country. They have forced 9 turnovers, 3 fumbles and 6 interceptions. They have turned the ball over 16 times. The Gators have only fumbled twice but have 14 interceptions. It is very difficult to win games when you are turning the ball over almost twice as much as opponents are. The interceptions have also often resulted in opponents’ touchdowns and have frequently occurred in clutch situations. The Gators desperately need to cut down on turnovers.

Pass Rush

Last week against Georgia, the Gators had just one sack and it was by a safety. The defensive front was unable to affect the game at all in any aspect. Florida should go out to an early lead, and to keep that lead an effective pass rush is a necessity. Brenton Cox Jr was extremely ineffective last week and has yet to have a big game this season. Zach Carter has been up and down, and those downs have occurred in the last few games. On the interior, Gervon Dexter has been solid but has not added a ton as a pass rusher. Daquan Newkirk and the rest of the defensive tackle group aren’t freak athletes or skilled pass rushers, so the burden falls on Dexter and the defensive ends.

Florida vs South Carolina Score Prediction

Gators 42 – Commodores 21

Prize Picks

PrizePicks operates in EVERY US state and Canada EXCEPT for the following: AZ CO DE HI ID IN IA LA MD ME MS MO MT NV NH NJ OH PA TN VA WA.

  • Use promo code “ATB” to receive a 100% instant deposit match up to $100
  • PrizePicks is the simplest fantasy game on the market.
  • You pick 2-5 players and can win up 10x on any entry.
  • PrizePicks has no sharks, optimizers, or mass-multi entry (It’s just you vs. the projection).
  • Allows mixed-sport entries (You can take the OVER on Lebron parlayed with the UNDER on Mahomes).
  • PrizePicks has a slick easy to use mobile app, both on the App Store and Google Play

Week 4 Florida Gators vs Tennessee Volunteers Preview

  • Date: Saturday, September 25
  • Time: 7:00 ET
  • Venue: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
  • TV: ESPN
  • Record: Gators (2-1) Volunteers (2-1)

Week 3 Recap

The Gators had a close loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 31 to 29. Florida missed an extra point, and then subsequently had to go for two. If they had simply made both extra points, they would have been tied. Obviously, other factors led to the loss. Most notably, giving up 21 points in the first quarter. After that, the defense really tightened up significantly. Alabama finished the game averaging just 6.9 yards per pass attempt and 3.3 yards per carry. Florida’s offense also ran for 245 yards on 43 carries for an average of 5.7 yards per carry, which is extremely impressive against Alabama. However, they threw for just 195 yards. That is not a recipe for winning, especially when you go down big early. The absence of Anthony Richardson, who looks to be back for this game, was a big factor in their struggles. Richardson provides a much higher level downfield passing game than Emory Jones.

What to Watch

Florida’s Quarterback Rotation

With Anthony Richardson expected to be fully available for this game, it will be very interesting to see how often Dan Mullen uses him. Throughout the first two games of the season, Richardson looked like the better quarterback. Emory Jones played well against the Crimson Tide, but struggles with ball placement leave concerns about whether or not he is the answer at quarterback. Richardson gives an added dynamic as a passer while also being a superior running threat. Richardson has the skill to eventually overtake Jones if Mullen sees fit, and a game against an inferior opponent is the perfect opportunity to test it out.

Florida’s Run Defense

Florida has yet to give up more than the 3.3 yards per carry average in a game that they gave up to Alabama. The Gators will looks to continue this trend in this game. Tennessee’s top two running backs from last year transferred out, and they haven’t had the same level of talent come in to replace them. The Gator defense is still without linebacker Ventrell Miler, but played well despite not having him last week. The defensive line is very deep, and has three studs along it in Zach Carter, Brenton Cox Jr, and Gervon Dexter. They are a threat to any offensive line. The Gator’s will look to have to stop a running quarterback as well this week.

Keys to Success

Limit Turnovers

Emory Jones has thrown at least one interception in every game so far this year. That has to stop, or he simply cannot play anymore. If the Gators can not turn the ball over, they are a superior team in terms of talent, and can rely on that to easily win this game. Turnovers in small numbers could be overcome in this one, but is something they really need to focus on going forward.

Corner Two Play

Again, if this is one of their few issues, they can still probably win this game. However, to be totally effective as a defense both in this game and going forward, they must get solid play out of whoever is corner two. My favorite for the position is Jason Marshall, who as a freshman has flashed his skill and athleticism, but lacks much consistency in his play. If he can prove to be a consistent player in this one, he can win the job going forward. If they do get good play out of corner two, they can shut down any and all hopes of offense from the Volunteers.

Run Game

The Gators have dominated everyone they have faced on the ground offensively. They have a large stable of talented running backs, and a powerfully built offensive line that is best going forward. The quarterbacks both are tremendous runners. Anthony Richardson being back adds explosion in the running game. Jones, is a consistent runner who is good on read options. Having a backfield made up of Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nayquan Wright, and Demarkus Bowman is just downright unnecessary. If they can continue their previous performances, they will be able to control time of possession and dominate both field position and on the scoreboard.

Score Prediction

Gators 45 – Volunteers 24

Prize Picks

PrizePicks operates in EVERY US state and Canada EXCEPT for the following: AZ CO DE HI ID IN IA LA MD ME MS MO MT NV NH NJ OH PA TN VA WA.

  • Use promo code “ATB” to receive a 100% instant deposit match up to $100
  • PrizePicks is the simplest fantasy game on the market.
  • You pick 2-5 players and can win up 10x on any entry.
  • PrizePicks has no sharks, optimizers, or mass-multi entry (It’s just you vs. the projection).
  • Allows mixed-sport entries (You can take the OVER on Lebron parlayed with the UNDER on Mahomes).
  • PrizePicks has a slick easy to use mobile app, both on the App Store and Google Play

How to use PrizePicks: