When Billy Napier was hired on to be the man to lead Florida football, rivals trolls with nothing meaningful to add gave Napier the moniker “Sunbelt Billy” as a reference to his time as a head coach in the Sunbelt Conference.
It’s a funny thing though how monikers work, and while the Gators might not close out 2023 as serious national contenders, this weekend was a reminder of what Napier is trying to build moving forward.
Florida Football: Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me
Florida earned the commitment of LJ McCray over the weekend, allowing Napier to do the impossible and pick up a victory during the bye week. McCray is rated as a top ten player in the country by On3 and 247, while Rivals somehow has him stuck down in the 200s.
McCray becomes the first top ten player the Gators have signed since Gervon Dexter in 2020, and just the second top ten player for the Gators since 2015 when Florida signed both Martez Ivey and CeCe Jefferson.
In fact, since 2015, Jason Marshall is the only other five-star recruit that Florida has signed.
So add in DJ Lagway and Xavier Filsaime, Napier has signed more five-star prospects for the class of 2024 than Florida had from 2016 to 2023 combined.
And that’s coming off a 6-7 season and sitting at 5-2 this season.
Yes, there are still some game management critiques, and we can squabble over whether Napier’s offense is sustainable or not. Still, everything that is happening in Gainesville right now with recruiting is happening at a level we haven’t seen in over a decade with the Gators.
Part of why a team like Georgia has been able to get rolling at the level it has is that it elevated its recruiting from hovering around 10th every year to being the undisputed tog dog year in and year out.
Florida football isn’t there yet, but it’s getting close. And if Napier is able to get his machine built and operational, brighter days might be on the horizon in Gainesville.