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Florida football: Billy Napier will prioritize recruiting, staffing as new Gators coach

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
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Billy Napier grew up wanting to be a coach like his father, the late Bill Napier, a Georgia high school football legend. 

After being hired as a head coach, his dad changed the team’s uniforms.

“Our uniform was exactly like the Florida Gators,” Napier said. 

Napier followed in the footsteps of his father, and now he’s coaching the Florida Gators. Napier was introduced Sunday as the 28th head coach in program history. 

He arrived in Gainesville less than 12 hours after winning the Sun Belt title in his final game at Louisiana.

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“To see them finish the job, I mean, it was an incredible journey,” Napier said of his Ragin’ Cajuns’ 24-16 win over App State. “It’s one thing to get on a plane and fly to Florida after a championship game. It’s another to get on the plane as a champion.”

Now his job will be to deliver the first championship at UF since 2008. He was on Nick Saban’s staff for two title teams at Alabama (2011, 2015) and took that blueprint with him to Louisiana, where he went 40-12 with three straight double-digit win seasons. 

New Florida Gators head football coach Billy Napier shakes hands with fans Sunday as he and his family arrive at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

“I was able to observe all the different areas of that organization and how they worked,” Napier said of his time under Saban. “The most impactful thing was going to the University of Louisiana and trying to do that on a little bit of a smaller scale with less resources and putting your name on it, your spin on it, your brand on it. 

“And I would say this, I think we’ve refined that process. Each year we’ve gotten a little bit better at it. So, I’m excited about applying those things we learned here.” 

Napier, 42, met with the team for 30 minutes prior to his introductory news conference and will hit the road recruiting Monday. His priorities this week will be putting together his staff and assessing the state of Florida’s 2022 recruiting class. 

“We’re going to have a very specific plan in recruiting and evaluating. And that will start with a major emphasis in this state. This is a talent-acquisition business. We're going to work tirelessly in this area,” Napier said. “Our first task will be hiring a quality coaching and support staff. I firmly believe that hiring talented people with integrity in an organization decides how far we go.

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“The second order of business is going to be working and finalizing our recruiting class over the next 60 days. Lastly, our players will return in early January and we will begin execution of our plan. I’m extremely excited to get to work.”

Billy Napier's contract with Florida

UF signed Napier to a seven-year, $51.8M contract that makes him the fifth-highest-paid coach in the SEC. Napier will make $7.1M in 2022 and his salary increases by $100K each year.

Napier will have a $7.5 million dollar assistant coach salary pool, which won’t include an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach. Napier, a former OC at Clemson and Arizona State, will call plays for the Gators. 

“I think it gives us an advantage, in my opinion,” Napier said. “We’ll have an offensive line coach and an assistant offensive line coach. We will construct our staff on both sides of the ball and put a premium on the line of scrimmage — the offensive line, the defensive line. The edge players will be very important. 

“And certainly when you’re coaching the offensive line, you’ve got to coach five players. Nobody’s got one coach coaching five DBs. I don’t know why you wouldn’t have two guys coaching the offensive line. I’ll coach the quarterbacks with the help from an offensive analyst and call the plays. And we’ll have the advantage of having two offensive line coaches.” 

Napier also plans to hire an army of recruiters that will be “unprecedented.” He said Florida’s willingness to invest more money and recruiting resources into the program was “absolutely the most important part” in regard to him accepting the job. 

“We’re the University of Florida. We've got a lot to sell here,” Napier said. “And I think that our proximity to players is a direct advantage, and our ability to get these young men and their families on our campus. And then we do our job. If we can't sign 25 good players at the University of Florida, then you’ll be looking for a new coach. So we’ve got a plan and we're going to go execute our plan.

“We’re going to increase the manpower. We’re going to create very specific plans in personnel, recruiting, development, nutrition, strength and conditioning, sports science, the training room, name imagine and likeness, our journey program, which we’re going to create from the ground up. Their willingness to create those resources and put the finances that need to be in place to do that, combined with the salary pool, they were willing to do what we wanted to do. Can’t compliment them enough for that.” 

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, left, and new Gators head football coach Billy Napier pose for a photo during Sunday's introductory news conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Investing in Napier’s plan was a no-brainer for UF athletic director Scott Stricklin after sitting down with him during their interview. 

“When someone comes to you and asks you to invest in a company, you’re willing to do it when there’s a really good plan, a really good business model. And Billy has a vision for what that needs to look like,” Stricklin said. “It’s something that gets you excited to help it come about. I was excited about his plan. 

“It wasn’t just, throw resources at it. It was a detailed explanation of what those resources were going to do and what the personnel involved in those resources — what their roles were going to be, what the accountability piece would be, what the functions would be. It wasn’t just, ‘We need people.’ It was, ‘This is why we need these people doing these things.’ And it fit into an overall model that made a lot of sense.”

And to quote Napier, scared money don’t make money.

“I’m never gonna live that down, by the way,” Napier joked, referring to his half-time interview when he said that phrase. “(My dad) probably would have got on to me about that scared money don’t make money.”

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