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3 takeaways on Florida Gators coach Billy Napier’s SEC meetings news conference

The first-year SEC coach didn’t act like a first-year SEC coach during his Tuesday news conference.
Florida Gators coach Billy Napier addresses reporters before the 2022 SEC spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin.
Florida Gators coach Billy Napier addresses reporters before the 2022 SEC spring meetings at the Hilton Sandestin. [ MATT BAKER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published May 31

DESTIN — Florida Gators coach Billy Napier made his trip to the SEC spring meetings this week for the first time as a head coach. Here are three takeaways from his news conference with reporters at the Hilton Sandestin:

1. Year 1 at UF isn’t much different than Year 1 at Louisiana …

Napier said the work and recruiting push this offseason in Gainesville were about the same as his first offseason with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Related: Eliah Drinkwitz: No beef with former Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen

“I will tell you that everything that we intended to put together at the University of Florida from a football operations standpoint is in place,” Napier said.

The one notable exception — the Gators’ $85 million training center — is set to open this summer.

2. … except for one obvious change

Napier, like every other coach at these meetings, is still trying to navigate the new landscape of name, image and likeness (NIL).

“There’s a ton of gray area relative to what you can do and what you can’t do,” Napier said. “There’s no manual. There’s no parameters and no guidelines.”

Related: Florida has a new top college football team for 2022 in these rankings

Though so much of NIL is changing and unclear, Napier said he believes it will be a strength at UF because of the school’s resources, network and “passion, the history and tradition” at the program.

3. Napier is a shrewd rookie

Unless you’re an established coach with a clear agenda, it’s hard to make positive headlines at these events. Napier seems to know that; he didn’t wade into specifics about policy questions, like whether he prefers future conference schedules to have eight games or nine.

Napier also chose not to get into the bickering between Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and their former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, about whether the Aggies bought their No. 1 recruiting class and whether Saban built his dynasty without breaking rules.

“I’m not foolish enough to be caught commenting about that situation,” Napier said. “We’ll let those two gentlemen handle that …”

Saban said Tuesday that he “didn’t say anybody did anything wrong” with his previous comments and that he has “no problem with Jimbo at all.” Fisher didn’t formally address reporters before Tuesday’s meetings began.

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