Why Billy Napier and Lane Kiffin face tall (but different) orders this preseason

Blake Toppmeyer John Adams

Billy Napier drew the ire of worrywart Florida fans before coaching his first game in the Swamp. All because UF's summer recruiting ranking wasn't high enough to please some Gator faithful.

Welcome to the SEC, coach.

Florida's recruiting ranking on Flag Day should not (and is not) a pressing concern for Napier, but he does face several challenges entering his debut season. Napier did not inherit a fully stocked cupboard, so don't expect his rebuild to be complete by the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Napier is far from the only coach facing a laundry list of objectives that need his attention.

At Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin is the constant, but the Rebels are adjusting to new coordinators, haven't decided on starting quarterback and will feature a lineup marked by an abundance of transfers. Building team chemistry is among Kiffin's chief priorities.

On this edition of "SEC Football Unfiltered," a podcast from the USA TODAY Network, hosts Blake Toppmeyer and John Adams discuss which SEC coach features the toughest preseason chore.

Adams logs a vote for Kiffin, the "Portal King" who must be a unifying force for his transfer-laden lineup.

"I think on paper (adding so many quality transfers) is good," Kiffin said earlier this offseason, "but I think there’s a reality of locker room and culture that probably isn’t thought about very much by people that have portal rankings.”

Plus, Matt Corral is now a Carolina Panther, and few players meant as much to their team's success as Corral did for Ole Miss last season. If the spring game is any indication, Ole Miss' starting quarterback competition is far from settled.

MORE ON LANE KIFFIN:Can Ole Miss football be his mecca? The idea intrigues him | Toppmeyer

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The same can be said for Texas A&M, LSU, Missouri and Auburn, where quarterback competitions will headline August practice.

At Auburn, embattled coach Bryan Harsin must reload a defense that was the driving force for the 2021 Tigers, while fostering an improved culture after a tumultuous offseason. 

Florida's Billy Napier, left, and Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin

Still, Toppmeyer points to Napier as facing the stiffest preseason challenge.

The Gators do not boast their usual bounty of skill-position talent, and depth is a concern. Also, despite the hype for quarterback Anthony Richardson, he proved inconsistent in a limited sample size last season. Napier must show his quarterback development chops as Richardson transitions into the starter.

Along the way, Napier must tackle the usual new-coach tasks, like building recruiting relationships, crafting a culture, and implementing new schemes.

At least Napier quieted some of the recruiting concerns. An impressive July commitment haul catapulted Florida to No. 12 in the 247Sports Composite rankings. The Gators' class includes commitments from 14 four-star recruits.

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Now, Napier must develop his quarterback while trying to unearth some diamonds in the rough of the supporting cast.

Later in the episode

  • Alabama is the favorite in the SEC West. Georgia is the favorite in the SEC East. Clean-cut. No real debate. But what if the SEC's plan to ditch divisions by 2025 had been implemented this year? Alabama still would be favored to reach the SEC Championship, but would Georgia also remain a favorite? It's an interesting debate, but Adams and Toppmeyer say yes. Divisions or no divisions, the Bulldogs are among the SEC's two-best teams.
  • In light of Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz's quips about Casey Pruitt's involvement in Tennessee's malfeasance under coach Jeremy Pruitt, Adams considers the top attributes for a coach's spouse.

Where to listen to SEC Football Unfiltered





Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. John Adams is a senior columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel. You can subscribe to their podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered.