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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Early on in the Heupel era; the Tennessee Volunteers have been beating themselves more than being out-manned in their two losses so far in the season. Coach Heupel has spoke to this problem with zero excuses. Heupel has stated many times that the team has to execute better, plain and simple. Whether that be the fault of the players or the coaching staff, it’s clear to see that the Vols need to win this game in Columbia for many reasons. Recruiting and continuing to win over this fan base will prove crucial for Heupel, and these are games you have to win to do so. So, what do the Vols need to do to split the road trip? It’s quite simple really.
Stop the running game.
The Missouri Tigers have been able to generate yards and points consistently throughout in the young season. The tigers have rushed for 634 yards this season, 417 of these yards come from RB Tyler Badie. Badie is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and has scored 5 TD on the ground this season. Heupel has stressed this in his press conferences leading up to this game. When asked about Badie, coach Heupel stated,
“For them, offensively, everything kind of goes through that running back. Whether that’s the run game or him being heavily involved in the pass game, the guys (Badie) been dynamic, near top in the country in total yards and productivity, really good football player….”
Head Coach Josh Heupel on Missouri running back Tyler Badie
It’s clear to see that limited the Tigers’ run game will be crucial to a Tennessee win.
Take advantage of a struggling defense.
Whether or not Hendon Hooker is good to go for the Volunteers after suffering an apparent upper-body injury last week vs Florida, Tennessee’s offense should have a big day. Missouri’s defense has been abysmal so far through four games this season. The Tigers defense is allowing north of 450 yards per game and has not held an opponent under 20 points all season. Missouri has allowed 268 yards of rushing per game to opponents. This benefits the Vols heavily, especially if Hooker is a no-go. Joe Milton lll has struggled to throw the ball deep all season, and the Vols will need to lean on running backs Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small to carry the offensive load for Tennessee. The Vols are in great position for a big road win, which at this point in a season, where the scheduling gets worse before it gets better. It is crucial for Heupel to win games like this if he looks to be bowl eligible in year one.
It’s clear to see that the stars are aligning for the Vols to secure their first SEC win of the season against a lack-luster Missouri team. If the Vols defense can limit the running game and the offense can win the ground game, the Vols should walk out of Columbia with a comfortable win.
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
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.
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.
Gators 45 – Volunteers 24
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Florida Gators vs USF Bulls, UF -28.5, 1:00PM EST on ABC
Previous Game Results
Florida Gators 35 – Florida Atlantic Owls 14
The Florida Gators employed a two-quarterback system in the first game of the season. Emory Jones played the majority of the time, getting 59 snaps. He went 17/27 for 113 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He averaged 4.2 yards per attempt. Jones also rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him as a 43.1 (out of 100) for the game. Anthony Richardson played 26 snaps for the Gators. He was only 3 for 8 passing for 40 yards, with one of the completions going for 36 yards. Richardson was much more effective on the ground, however. He rushed for 160 yards on 7 carries, a 22.9 average. He also scored a touchdown on a 76 yard run. PFF graded him as a 83.9 on the day, heavily carried by his rushing ability.
Malik Davis was the leading rusher for the Gators in terms of running backs, with 104 yards on 14 carries, a 7.4 yard average. He also had a touchdown. PFF graded Davis at 84.1 for the game. Dameon Pierce only carried the ball 6 times for 31 yards, a 5.2 average, but also had 5 catches for 25 yards. Demarkus Bowman had 4 carries for 20 yards, a 5 yard average. Nayquan Wright had 3 carries for 5 yards and 1 catch for 4 yards, and Lorenzo Lingard had 2 carries for 6 yards.
The Gators didn’t have a ton of passing production, with only 20 completed passes. Ja’Markus Weston led the way with 3 catches for 44 yards, a majority of those yards coming on a chunk play from Richardson. Rick Wells had 5 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Trent Whittemore had 1 catch for 18 yards. Jacob Copeland had 1 catch for 15 yards, and Justin Shorter had 4 catches for 11 yards.
Zach Carter was the most impressive player on the defense. He racked up 4 tackles with 3 sacks, and earned a 91.9 PFF grade.
USF Bulls 0 – NC State 45
The Bulls also played two quarterbacks. Cade Fortin went 7 for 20 for 41 yards, just 2.1 yards per attempt, and also threw an interception. He added 23 yards on the ground on 5 yards for a 4.6 yard per carry average. Timmy McClain, a freshman, went 7 for 13 for 126 yards, a 9.7 yard per attempt average, but also threw 2 interceptions. He added 16 yards on the ground on 4 carries.
USF did not have any single player get more than 8 carries. They ran the ball 32 times for 104 yards, just 3.3 yards per carry.
Xavier Weaver was the best receiver for the Bulls against the Wolfpack. His explosion was beneficial to the offense, catching just two balls but getting 73 yards out of it. One of the catches was for 44 yards and the other was for 29.
Linebacker Andrew Mims was the team’s leading tackler with 14 tackles. They gave up 232 passing yards on 26 attempts, a 8.9 yards per attempt average, and also 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Wolfpack also ran the ball 40 times for 293 yards, and average of 7.3 yards per carry, and scored 4 touchdowns on the ground.
What to Watch For
1. Passing Game Improvement
The passing game for the Gators last week was just abysmal. The offense looked out of sorts most of the time and just couldn’t get much going. They lack the playmakers to be able to create after the catch as effectively as last year, and will need to be able to get the ball down the field to create explosive plays rather than try to let the receivers create themselves at or behind the line of scrimmage. The tight ends also did not catch a single pass last week.
2. Corner Two
The Gators have yet to have anyone step up and for sure take the corner two spot. While some have played better than others and should be favored at the moment, no one has separated themselves enough to have any decision be final. This game can be valuable to perhaps the two most talented corners on the roster after Kaiir Elam, Elijah Blades and Jason Marshall Jr. Blades getting experience in the Gators system after transferring in late in the year will be a valuable. Marshall, as a true freshman, has shown signs of the talent that made him a five-star prospect, but simply is young and makes mistakes common among inexperienced players. Getting him reps now can help him potentially be able to earn more playing time both next year and even later this year. Marshall and Blades’ talent is enough to keep them in the competition and gives them probably the highest upsides of any of the corners.
3. Interior Defensive Line
Florida has had an influx of talent on the interior of their defensive line through the transfer portal. With the additions of Daquan Newkirk and Tyrone Truesdell from Auburn, Antonio Valentino from Penn State, and also a true freshman in Desmond Watson, the Gators can make up for what they lost from last year and then some to play next to a budding star in Gervon Dexter.
4. The Two QB Systems
With both teams employing two quarterbacks in their first game of the year, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out in game to. For USF, McClain looks like the clear choice, with much better efficiency in the passing game as well as being a much younger player. For the Gators, it is a bit more complicated of an issue. Anthony Richardson has more long-term potential for sure, but may not be as good of a quarterback at the moment. However, he also played better than Emory Jones last game, and if that trend continues, Dan Mullen will have no chance to ignore it. Richardson had accuracy struggles, but as a redshirt freshman, it is not the biggest concern. Accuracy can improve a bit for young players, and the ball leaving his hands is just a thing of beauty. His elite running ability at the quarterback position also helps tremendously. For Emory Jones, the way to shut down any controversy is quite simple: become an effective and efficient passer. If he can show the ability to hit both intermediate and deep throws as well as properly read the defense, the job is his without a doubt (at least for this season). However, if he continues to struggle in that area, a quarterback controversy could be at hand. With how poor the Bulls’ defense was last game, I expect much better performances out of both quarterbacks.
Keys to the Game
1. Run The Ball Down Their Throats
This one is quite simple. They could not stop NC State at all on the ground. Florida has a better and deeper running back room, as well as a better offensive line, and both quarterbacks that they play are major running threats. There is no reason the Gators should not eclipse 300 yards rushing while still trying to get a significant amount of reps in the passing game.
2. Don’t Turn The Ball Over
The Gators had two interceptions in the previous game, and that is two too many against a significantly inferior opponent, and there will be an even more stark skill gap in this game. If they don’t turn the ball over, they should easily run away with this game.
3. Put Their Quarterbacks in Chaos
This is Todd Grantham’s dream game. A very bad quarterback who will probably be replaced very early on in the game for an inexperienced, freshman quarterback who lacks high end skills and tools. Blitzing him early and often can be very beneficial, as well as disguising coverages in the pre-snap.