Billy Napier's staff building momentum, player-coach familiarity for start of Gators spring practice

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Florida coach Billy Napier outlined the "Phase Two" — the identity phase — of his eight-phase offseason program for the Gators Friday and it starts now.

He said the month-long buildup to spring practice March 15 will provide UF players their first experience of being coached by the newly hired staff.

“We're trying to build the momentum toward spring practice. We start position meetings today,” Napier said. “It’s really our first opportunity with the core of our team that’s here to work with the staff. You have attrition, so it’s a new group, new roles.”

The objective of Phase Two is to build familiarity between players and the coaching staff, said Napier. Florida’s end-of-spring scrimmage, the Orange & Blue Debut game, will be held April 16 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“Each one of these 15 days we'll have a position meeting, and we'll start implementing some football into what we do,” Napier said. “It’s kind of part of that transition into spring practice, which will start March the 15th.”

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Florida Gators head football coach Billy Napier smiles after a question from a reporter during a press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Feb. 11, 2022.

Florida may not have been finished by National Signing Day when it came to adding prospects, but, barring anything unforeseen, there won’t be any additional arrivals in Gainesville before spring practice.

Who is in Gainesville and on campus already is who will compete for repetitions in four weeks, hence Napier’s focus on establishing an identity amongst the available players. 

While some facets have been altered, it’s largely similar to the development program Napier ran at Louisiana Lafayette. As a result, he’s confident of what will unfold before March 15.

“I think every team around the country does an offseason program. We would like to think that ours is an advantage, that we do it better and that we have a very specific plan in this area. So the key here is that the players make a commitment to the prescribed work the right way, really believe in the power of routine, structure, discipline,” Napier said. “And certainly this workload will challenge self-discipline for the players ... we need to work hard to create the identity of our team. And that starts inside-out. It starts with the players as people. We all know that significant change is always made from the inside out. So, we’ll start this process today.”

Napier talks about after-Signing Day addition of Arlis Boardingham

Knowing what awaited the program, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Florida’s coaching staff take some rest and relaxation in the week between National Signing Day and the commencement of Phase Two. 

The Gators weren’t done recruiting, however.

Napier also addressed Florida’s latest signing, Van Nuys (Calif.) athlete Arlis Boardingham, who will start at tight end when he arrives in Gainesville over the summer.

“Arlis is a unique athlete. If you watch the tape closely, he’s really playing receiver, playing inside ‘backer and outside ‘backer,” Napier said. “He was 6-foot-3-and-a-quarter, 235 (pounds) on the visit, and really has some growth potential.”

Florida’s head coach referenced Boardingham’s dual-sport background, saying he could be a potential “mismatch” in the open field with his combination of size and speed.

“This is a track athlete. He ran an 11.4 100 meters last year as a junior at that size and could run even better than that this spring. He can go run the full route tree as a receiver if you watch the tape. He has some play strength and physicality on defense, so my experience would say those equate to a mismatch-type of player that we’ll be able to use him a lot of different ways on offense,” Napier continued. “He’s a very intelligent kid. His mom and dad are impressive people. His dad’s a track coach and his mom’s very accomplished in her profession, so we’re very fortunate to add Arlis to our team.”