Florida Football: Billy Napier needs more than just better talent in 2024

Sep 30, 2023; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier during a timeout in the second quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2023; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier during a timeout in the second quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports /

We here at Hail Florida Hail have sung Billy Napier’s praises and had faith in the direction he is taking Florida football. He has preached foundation building and the importance of recruiting, two pillars that crumbled in the 2021 season under Dan Mullen.

Two full seasons are in the books, and while Napier is working hard at beefing up the talent pool in Gainesville, some of the problems that have plagued Florida on the field have gone far beyond just acquiring better players.

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In an alternate universe, the Florida Gators make their field goal against Arkansas, stop Missouri on 4th and 17, don’t call a trick play following a safety, and play a cupcake to open the season instead of Utah.

Do those four things, and there is a real pathway the Gators had to go 9-3 rather than 5-7 to miss a bowl for the first time since 2017.

The problem is that Florida didn’t do those things, and no number of five-star recruits are going to fix that.

Napier and company had every opportunity in the world to pull off the upset inside The Swamp on Saturday, but as was the case all November, the Gators couldn’t stay out of their way to seal the deal.

Following a safety and a kickoff return into FSU territory, Napier dialed up a long developing trick play despite the fact Florida’s offensive line hadn’t demonstrated all season long it could hold up for such a play. Rather than engineer a drive that could have been the kill shot, Florida punted.

No amount of talent will remedy the choice to make that play call.

Jamari Lyons opted to spit on a guy, getting kicked out and granting FSU a free 15-yards it would use for its first touchdown drive.

No amount of talent will matter if they don’t have the discipline to not spit on a guy.

Ricky Pearsall came into the game just needing 52 yards receiving to reach 1,000 for the season. Napier seemed to forget he existed. One might say the offensive line would never allow Max Brown the time to find Pearsall, and that is fair. So, how does one explain the lack of touches for Tre Wilson, the exact perfect safety valve for an inexperienced QB?

No amount of talent will matter if Napier continues to go through stretches where he forgets that talent exists.

And with a chance to get off the field for one final drive to win the game, Florida opted to decapitate FSU QB Tate Rodemaker rather than let him slide.

No amount of talent will matter if Florida football can’t keep getting out of its own way.

Help is on the way

Yes, better talent will help. DJ Lagway is on the way, and despite some flips, the Gators do have other notable players arriving on campus in 2024 to bolster the depleted defense.

But the reason Florida went 0-4 in November wasn’t because of inferior talent. Talent isn’t why Florida had no idea when to run on the field to attempt a game-winning field goal. Talent isn’t why the Gators allowed LSU QB Jayden Daniels to become the first player ever in the history of FBS college football to pass for 350 yards and run for another 200 yards in a single game. Talent isn’t why a backup linebacker was matched up with Missouri wide receiver Luther Burden on 4th and 17.

And the concerning part for Florida football fans is that every time Napier is pressed on why two players wearing the same number were on the field for a punt return, why Florida would only send ten players out for punt returns, why Florida wasn’t running a “sticks” defense on 4th down, and why Florida kept taking backbreaking personal fouls against FSU, he tries to deflect reporters and bury his head in the sand.

Billy Napier is going to be the head coach of the Florida Gators in 2024. He will have a more talented roster to work with in 2024.

But the question that is going to linger all offseason is whether or not better talent is going to fix what ailed Florida all November. Because if it doesn’t, it might be time to start thinking about Napier’s obituary.

Next. Florida runs out of steam. dark