Florida has holes to fill on both sides as it seeks quick return to SEC East prominence under Billy Napier

With basketball coach Mike White headed to Georgia after seven seasons at Florida, first-year Gators football coach Billy Napier won’t be the newest coach on campus much longer. Spring practice begins Tuesday for Florida, which means Napier will finally be on the field with his new team, and that will help us get acquainted with the man who is now tasked with running one of the SEC’s top brands.

Napier is less than four months onto the job, and questions persist about what Florida will look like not only in 2022 but into the future under his direction. There are reasons for optimism that Napier can reinvigorate the Gators after he posted a 33-5 mark over his last three seasons in a four-year stint at Louisiana. 

Though this is his first Power Five head coaching gig, the former assistant at Clemson and Alabama should know how to run a high-level program considering he counted Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban among his former bosses before taking over at Louisiana. Fans will hope that Napier’s program more closely resembles the ones run by Swinney and Saban than the one run by another of his former bosses, Jim McElwain. Napier worked a stint on McElwain’s staff at Colorado State in 2012.

McElwain wound up as Florida’s coach in 2015 but soon became the middle man in a streak of three UF coaches who haven’t made it through four full seasons on the job. In fact, the last Florida coach to last more than six seasons in the role was Steve Spurrier from 1990 to 2001. At just 42 and with a deep background in southern coaching circles, could Napier be the one with staying power at Florida? Time will tell.

For now, let’s take a deeper look at what’s in store as the Gators begin spring practice in advance of the Orange & Blue Game at Ben Hill Griffin…


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