It’s that time again (unfortunately) to welcome a new head football coach to Gainesville. Florida hopes that it finally has hit upon a long-term and successful hire with Billy Napier, after the mostly disastrous past 11 seasons under Won’t Misschump, The Swamp Donkey, and Dancin’ Danny.
Napier comes to Florida with a solid background as both an analyst, assistant coach, and head coach. He spent a few years at both Clemson and Alabama coaching wide receivers and also as Offensive Coordinator at Clemson, watching what those programs did to build – and sustain – their current runs as elite programs. He is also the son of a legendary high school football coach in Georgia, and has a ton of contacts in that state which should serve him well in recruiting. His first head coaching job came at Louisiana, where he built a conference champion over 4 consistently-improving seasons.
Napier has a set way of building a program that includes both the infrastructure (assistant coaches plus staff) and the system to set them in motion and sustain them. He is calm and methodical in explaining them, which I believe is how he was able to quickly gain the trust of the Athletic Dept. and University administration that hired him. The success at those three schools obviously carried weight in the interview process, but it speaks to his ability to communicate his vision of success that he was hired so quickly and without a long search process.
The staff he has put together is likely the most professional, hardest working, and best recruiting group since Urban Meyer built a mini-dynasty in Gainesville. He has hired coaches from both the college and NFL ranks that have an established record of success, and also are already exhibiting desperately-needed hard work and energy on the recruiting trail. He smartly negotiated a large bump in the salary pool for both his assistants and the support staff to rival the handful of recent winning programs. Results are already being seen in recruiting – the list of players interested in Florida now comes close to the level of players that Meyer signed. Now, we need to see if they can close on them and develop them (and the program) to where the Gators should be – among the nation’s elite.
Napier has instituted his “8-Phase” approach to the program. These 8 Phases obviously lead up to the regular season, and it will be fascinating to watch the level of detail take hold in the process. He is now up to Phase 3 – Spring Practice. It will be refreshing to see open competition for every position and player, not the previous staff’s way of heavily favoring seniority over talent and productivity. So many simple and basic points of coaching and the way you treat young men were warped by the Mullen Mafia it was professional malfeasance. Part of the beauty of the massive army of employees he’s hired is in how no one person is overworked, and can apply 100% focus and energy on their specific responsibilities – including the players themselves. And if they don’t? They will be released from their duties……as it should be.
Ultimately, the final result – wins and losses – carry the most weight. It’s hard to say what we will see this fall, as there are so many moving pieces – coaches, players, and new schemes. It could be a bumpy ride during the season, but I believe the Athletic Dept. and the University have bought into Napier’s plan and vision, and will be patient with him to build the Florida program to his standard. We will all be witness to his “process” and how it develops over the coming seasons. Gator Nation is ready to celebrate returning to the conversation of being among the elite programs in the country and winning more SEC championships – it’s almost criminal that the last was all the way back in 2008.
Best of luck to Coach Napier and his “Army”. Something tells me they won’t need too much luck with all of the hard work – and smart work – they put into the task.