Florida Football: Lack of talent can't be excuse for Billy Napier in 2024

Dan Mullen's final recruiting classes didn't leave behind a treasure trove of talent for 2023, but Billy Napier can't hang onto that for 2024
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun / USA

The NFL Draft has come and gone and Florida Football had just one player, Ricky Pearsall, drafted. It is the first time since 1980 that the Gators had just one player have their name called to play on Sundays.

Part of it is due to Dan Mullen leaving the cupboard bare. Part of it is due to Billy Napier not hitting the transfer portal harder. All of it adds up to Florida not being able to blame the previous coach for future failures once toe hits leather on August 31 against Miami.

Florida Football: Cooking With Scraps

Earlier in the week, we highlighted the fact that in Napier's debut season in Gainesville, 2022, he had enough NFL talent on the roster that the results should have been better. It is also fair to state that one of the reasons why the Gators only had one player drafted from the 2023 squad is because Florida played numerous young players who weren't draft-eligible this season.

Part of why the roster was so young in 2023 is because of Napier's insistence to overhaul the roster and send away a vast number of Mullen hold overs. But if one thinks Napier made a mistake in sending away a large part of the roster he inherited, Zach Abolverdi of Gators Online pointed out that Ty'Ron Hopper is the only member to have transferred from Florida and go on to be drafted in 2024.

Whether one thinks Napier was left with anything to work with for the 2022 and 2023 seasons is a debate for a different piece. What isn't debatable is that heading into the 2024 season, Napier can't use a lack of talent as an excuse.

Napier's 2022 recruiting class, which he had minimal time to assemble, was ranked 17th in the 247 Composite. In 2023, it was 12th. This past class of 2024 also finished 12th. This isn't a talent level good enough to compete with Georgia, but it is still higher than Kentucky, Ole Miss, and FSU.

But what those schools have all hit harder than Napier is the transfer portal and in the current 247 Transfer Rankings for 2024, all of those schools rank higher than the haul the Gators have brought in.

That's a choice Napier has made, and there is a methodology as to why his vision could work out in the long run and why a squad wants more of its own players in the long run vs. a group of mercenaries who are prone to bail at the first sign of adversity.

Napier has tried it his way for two seasons and is 11-14. For the most part, he is trying it again his way in 2024 with the gamble that his long-term vision is going to come to fruition.

If his gamble to build a roster primarily with players he recruited and trained pays off in 2024, Florida will have the foundation to reclaim their spot among the SEC elite in due time.

If Florida goes 6-6 or worse in 2024, Napier will have no one else but himself to blame as Dan Mullen walked out that door a long time ago.