Billy Napier is taking the helm of the Florida Gators football program with a big picture focus. Heading into his second year, Napier is set to lead the team through a rebuild, with a vision that extends beyond just the upcoming season. With his sights set on long-term success, Napier is poised to make a significant impact on the program and bring the Gators back to heights not seen in some time.
Napier was asked at a recent media gathering, “Along the lines of rebuilding, fans aren’t known for patience, and they’ve seen the rebuilds that have been quick over at LSU, TCU, places like that. What would you tell them about the rebuild and what would be a fair gauge of success this year?”
The question is right in the regard that Florida fans haven’t been the best at showing patience when it comes to losses mounting up. At the same time, the general feel this time around it that it will take some time for this particular rebuild.
Undoubtedly, the rebuilds at TCU and LSU last season were impressive. TCU made it all the way to the CFP Championship Game in Sonny Dykes’ first season leading the Horned Frogs. Meanwhile, Bryan Kelly took over at LSU and remarkably led the team to the SEC West crown, finally achieving a victory over Alabama – something he couldn’t do during his time at Notre Dame.
“Yeah, I’m not into comparisons on rebuilds, Napier says. “I think that we have been tasked with not just being competitive here. We want to accomplish significant success big picture. We know what this place is capable of.”
Instant success at TCU and LSU has raised expectations about the future of those programs. However, Florida fans know that achieving immediate success in year one does not necessarily equate to a successful rebuild. After going 6-7 in his first year, Napier has a lot of work ahead of him. A few more year one wins would not guarantee success.
The two previous Florida coaches, Jim McElwain and Dan Mullen, both had great first seasons as head coach of the Gators. They both won 10 games in their first year but were unable to build towards the big picture in Gainesville. Napier’s approach will be more deliberate, intending to set the Gators up for success in the years to come. He knows that helping players on and off the field is crucial for Florida to achieve the record and titles that fans have come to expect.
“I think what we try to do is get consumed with the impact that we can have on the player, as a person, as a student, as a football player. We want to teach a set of values. We want to develop the player as a person relative to what he can accomplish when the game is over. We’re going to prioritize education for the player, and then we’re going to teach football at a high level and develop football players that make up our team. Then we’re going to be process oriented, system oriented, and we’re going to get really good at those processes and systems. Those things ultimately will affect the end result.”
There’s a number of things that affect result, right, and we all want to talk about results and what results matter, but ultimately for us, it goes back to what I just said. We plan our work each day. We work our plan. We get consumed with the details that we know will affect the result, and ultimately we’re in the middle of that process.
This is evaluation. It’s recruitment. It’s development. It’s building a team. It’s leadership. It’s accountability. It’s fundamentals and techniques. It’s communication. It’s how we practice.
I could go on and on about all the things that affect whether we win or lose, but ultimately, I think you’ve got to get consumed with each day and what that entails. That’s what we’re in the middle of doing.”
There are numerous ways to build a successful college football program, and Billy Napier’s approach has certainly impacted the culture in Gainesville. Throughout fall camp, players have mentioned the strong sense of brotherhood in the locker room and how much they care for each other. If the program continues to prioritize these aspects, success in the win column will likely follow, and it won’t be a one-time fluke. Billy Napier is laying the foundation for a successful future at Florida.
Photo credit: Ashley Ray, UAA Communications