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5 things Florida fans should know about Billy Napier

Napier has worked under one former Gators coach and was briefly an assistant at FSU. Oh, and he can recruit.
Florida is expected to hire Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier to lead the Gators.
Florida is expected to hire Louisiana Lafayette coach Billy Napier to lead the Gators. [ MATTHEW HINTON | AP ]
Published Nov. 28, 2021
Updated Nov. 29, 2021

The Florida Gators hired Billy Napier away from Louisiana to be their next head coach.

Here are five things to know about the 42-year-old who grew up in Georgia:

1. He excelled in his first head coaching job.

Billy Napier is 32-5 in his last three seasons at Louisiana.
Billy Napier is 32-5 in his last three seasons at Louisiana. [ MATTHEW HINTON | Associated Press ]

If his time with the Ragin’ Cajuns was a test of whether Nick Saban’s Process could work at a Group of Five program, the answer is a resounding yes. Napier went 7-7 in his first year and took his team to the Sun Belt Conference title game. Since then, he has gone 11-3, 10-1 and 11-1, advancing to the league championship in 2019 and sharing the conference title last year. The Ragin’ Cajuns host Appalachian State on Saturday in the conference championship.

Napier’s resume also includes last year’s 31-14 upset of an Iowa State team that went on to win the Fiesta Bowl.

Related: Florida Gators beat FSU, showing the good and bad of what the new coach inherits

2. He’s an excellent recruiter.

Billy Napier helped elevate Clemson's talent level as an assistant there.
Billy Napier helped elevate Clemson's talent level as an assistant there. [ PATRICK COLLARD | Associated Press (2009) ]

His Ragin’ Cajuns have had the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt each of the past three years. More importantly, Napier showed success recruiting top players as an assistant at Clemson and Alabama. He spent three years as the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator and was the nation’s No. 5 recruiter at Alabama in 2014, according to 247Sports. No. 3 that year? Current Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. Napier helped sign three top-90 recruits in that class alone, including offensive lineman Cam Robinson, the No. 4 overall prospect. For comparison, UF signed 14 such prospect during Dan Mullen’s four classes.

Among the notable recruits Napier helped sign, according to 247Sports: former Clemson star quarterback Tajh Boyd, former Alabama standout receivers Jerry Jeudy and Calvin Ridley, current Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (who leads the NFL with eight interceptions) and Vic Beasley, the ACC defensive player of the year at Clemson and a 2016 Pro Bowler.

3. He takes chances.

“Scared money don’t make money” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot to describe his willingness to take chances. Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns have attempted 33 fourth-down conversions. That’s 12th nationally. Their conversion rate (63.6 percent) ranks 31st. Louisiana was 11th in fourth-down attempts last year, too.

4. Napier has notable state ties.

The Bucs drafted Raymond Calais from Louisiana in 2020.
The Bucs drafted Raymond Calais from Louisiana in 2020. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2020) ]

At Clemson, Napier was on staff with then-assistant Jeff Scott, who is now the head coach at USF. Napier’s lost his job there after the Bulls beat Clemson 31-26 in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Napier was an assistant at Colorado State in 2012 under Jim McElwain, who later left the Rams to take over UF. He was a part of Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State for less than a month. Instead of staying for the Seminoles’ 2013 national title run, he left to rejoin Alabama.

The Bucs drafted one of his Louisiana running backs, Raymond Calais, in the seventh round last year.

5. He has already accomplished a lot.

Napier became the youngest offensive coordinator in the country at age 29 at Clemson, which helps explain why he’s already taking over a premier program. He was also an accomplished quarterback at Furman; he helped his team win two Southern Conference titles and advance to the 2001 Division I-AA national title game. He was also a finalist for the Walter Payton Award as the nation’s top I-AA offensive player.

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