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- American-football player (1979-)
There wasn’t one moment, one lightning bolt, but after listening to Billy Napier and Scott Stricklin talk at Napier’s introductory press conference, it was a pretty quick romance.
Maybe it was when Stricklin started to talk about Florida’s new facility that is under construction and Napier interrupted him with, “I’ve researched your facility. We don’t need to talk about it.” Or when Napier was detailing his plans and Stricklin kept thinking to himself, “That’s what I was thinking we need to do.”
Clearly, the way the two gushed about each other, the coach and athletic director are on the same page and Florida has gone all-in on this hire from the billboard welcoming him on board in Atlanta to the banners that hung around the stadium to the elite level of money Florida is planning to spend, this is the guy Stricklin believes is worth investing in.
On Sunday after he and his family flew in with a championship swagger, Napier addressed the media from the podium and also off to the side afterward.
Here are the 10 most important things he said (yay, the lists are back!):
“We're going to build the best football team in the SEC conference. We're going to build the best football program in the SEC conference. We must have a championship approach in everything that we do to accomplish this goal.”
There are two teams that played in Atlanta Saturday night that would chuckle at your statement, Mr. Napier. And they would be at the top of a long list.
But you have to admire the confidence in Napier. He’s coached in this league. He’s not naïve. He knows what it takes and how high the mountain is. But this is Florida and the goal of every Florida fan is to win another national title. It’s nice to hear that is his goal as well.
“It's important that everybody take ownership in their role, whatever that may be. You may be the equipment manager. You might be a cheerleader. You may run a local business. You might just be a Florida Gator fan in the barber shop. But I think it's critical that we rally together, support each other as we work to establish a really high standard of excellence for this program both on and off the field.”
Well, maybe a little naïve. Just kidding, but he has worked in Tuscaloosa so he knows how passionate a fan base can be or, as his old boss Nick Saban said, “Self-absorbed fans.” It’s a tough nut in that this is a fan base that knows what Florida can do and expects it all the time.
But, I like that he said that. Basically, he’s inviting everyone under the tent, but he has a bouncer ready for the malcontents. In the end, it would be nice around Gainesville to calm the nattering nabobs of negativity (Spiro Agnew quote), but the only real way to do that is to win. A lot. By a lot.
On recruiting: “Reality is you're getting in the game and there's like three minutes left in the fourth quarter. And I think the last thing we need to do here is make some mistakes. So we'll probably -- I wouldn't be surprised if we don't sign many at all, to be honest with you. But there may be a few out there that are willing to jump in here in the last minute. We're going to be very patient and I think we'll position ourselves for after this signing day's over, we'll go see what's left out there and do the very best job we can do.”
No, no, no. That’s not it. Gator fans want to hear how you are going to swoop in and steal all of these 5-stars who have been getting away. You’re supposed to save this class.
Obviously, Napier is preaching patience to people who are not patient. Really, is anybody patient anymore? But it seemed clear that Napier knows that there is only so much he can do with this class and is counting on the transfer portal for help. He will have to show off his recruiting chops next year.
“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.”
Napier is hoping that a lot of the better recruits are going to wait because of all the coaching changes and he may be able to strike during the February signing period. But Florida needs to get back to dominating this state if the Gators are going to return to glory.
I was looking at the rosters for the four teams in the College Football Playoffs. There are 46 players on the rosters of the four best teams in America who are from the state of Florida. That’s enough to have two full teams on both sides of the ball.
On the saying, “Scared Money Don’t Make Money,”— “It’s going to justify when I go for it on fourth down and don’t make it.”
No, it won’t. Look, Gator fans raised on Steve Spurrier saw him go for it on fourth down from his own 1-yards line one time. The Gators have themselves a coach who is willing to take some risks only if he believes the players will carry out the plan.
That said, he went four it on fourth down in the championship game and didn’t get it, but it worked out.
“I'll be calling the plays here. I think it gives us an advantage, in my opinion. We're one of the only teams in the entire country to have two offensive line coaches. We'll have an offensive line coach and an assistant offensive line coach.”
Really? That’s an interesting concept. But I’ve wondered that for a long time, who no other position coach has five starters he has to deal with. Florida actually has two offensive line coaches during Urban Meyer’s time when it was Steve Addazio and John Hevesy.
"The negotiations were simple. They didn’t blink.”
Napier talked about it several times, how Florida was committed financially to his plan. That included jumping the salary pool for assistants to $7.5 million from $6.185 and Napier told us he has is going to hire the biggest recruiting staff in the country.
It is pretty clear that Florida is willing to spend whatever it takes to get back to where it once belonged and talking to Stricklin afterward, it was obvious that Napier’s plan is not the same as Dan Mullen’s was. Is that a nice enough way to put it?
“Simply put, we want to be the other team that the other team dreads to play.”
We know that can happen. We’ve seen it before. If it happens again, Napier may get a statue.
“The history, the tradition of the iconic coaches and players that have been a part of this program are unmatched. This is truly one of those special places in college football.”
He gets it. His dad was a big Spurrier fan and even changed the high school team’s uniforms to match the Gators back in the day.
More than anything, I think he gets what Florida should be. Not what it can be. What it should be.
“It's the right place at the right time, with the right people and the right leadership.”
This was pretty much the theme of the day. Others have called but it wasn’t time. When Florida called, it was a perfect match for Stricklin and Napier.
At one point during their meeting the Tuesday before Napier’s Sun Belt Championship Game, Stricklin told Napier, “We need to have some more conversations. But at the end of those conversations, I want you to be the next Florida football coach.” To which Napier stood up and in his north Georgia accent, “Awwright. Let’s go.”