The Back Nine comes at you after my first in-person press conference in three months, which was cathartic in a way. It was a lot of fun to see so many people there for the new coach.
- So, what is my first impression of Billy Napier? He was much more the guy everyone is talking about when we broke out than he was on the podium. He talked about playing poker and building an army of people in the football offices. On the podium, he was interesting, but it was more about what he said than the tone which he said it. That was a bit subdued. Like, nobody wanted to run through a wall for him in that presser. But it isn’t the media that he needs to get ready to play. And I do think there are players on this team that are going to get a wake-up call. They can jump on board or step into the shiny transfer portal.
- Most of the afternoon was spent talking about how Florida is going all in. Certainly, we saw that in how they treated a coach like nobody has ever treated an incoming coach at UF, with the banners and the Atlanta billboard and the crowd waiting for him when he got to the stadium. Scott Stricklin knows that this is the hire that has to work not only for the Gators, but for him personally. He is all in at a place that has rarely gone all in on a football coach. The $7.5 million for assistant coaches’ salaries to the number of people they want to hire. Stricklin made it clear to us that all of the pieces that Napier wants are parts of a puzzle that will end up in a good place. “(Florida) will invest in our vision,” Napier said. “The negotiations were easy. They didn’t flinch.”
- But it was also obvious that Napier doesn’t see this as a quick fix. He probably didn’t endear himself to many fans when he said Florida wouldn’t sign many players in the early signing period and that fans shouldn’t get caught up in the four-stars and five-stars. Man, that’s what recruitniks live for. He is asking the Gator Nation for patience and there is not a lot of that on the shelves. But I did like this quote from his first day on the job and his meeting with the players. “You can’t win over the team in a 30-minute meeting. You’re going to have to do it with consistency. You’ve got to be fair. You’re going to earn their trust and respect over time. And that’s what we plan on doing.”
- So, we’ll see what happens. He is not walking into a situation that is devoid of talent, but the first order of business is to find out who loves football and who loves to just be a football player. There is so much to do because he wants everything done a certain way and that takes time. And he’s asking the Gator Nation to be positive in everything they do. That would be refreshing.
- Meanwhile, the coaching carousel continues to be a bizarre world where a coach can still have a job but it’s been offered to somebody else. It’s like that old Bobcat Goldthwait joke. “I didn’t lose my job. But when I go there someone else is doing it.” The way Miami treated Manny Diaz is a testament to how great it is to have an athletic director who makes the decisions. Miami has embarrassed itself, but that is not the first time I have written those words.
- Sunday morning was kind of cool because I sent off my Heisman ballot. To be honest, when I woke up Saturday morning, there were about 10 names that could have made their way onto my ballot. I probably put too much emphasis on the championship games, but where I come from conference titles are important. Not only that, but you had a lot of guys playing knowing they were playing for their seasons. I can’t tell you who I voted for because I want to keep my vote, but you can probably guess.
- Last week on The Picks, Dr. Football went 3-2 (45-39-3 for the season) and learned a valuable lesson – don’t pick against Billy Napier. I’ll be honest, his team’s performance wasn’t overwhelming and his decision to not punt at the end of the game and go for it instead was bold and not real smart. But the stat that matters was that he won and celebrated an 11-1 season. Anyway, on to this week:
* Only one college game and I will take Army giving 7.5 points to Navy.
And that’s it for today. Next week, we will get back in gear with the bowl games.
- It will be a tough task Thursday for Mary Wise’s crew to go to Louisville and beat the No. 1 team in the country. The Cardinals are 30-0 this season and have only lost 11 sets all year. And one of Florida’s best players opted out before the tourney. As the kidnapper says in Taken “Good luck.”
- I am going to keep these greatest hits Playlists going with my third favorite group, R.E.M. That may be a surprise to some of you that the Athens band is No. 3 behind The Beatles and The Heartbreakers, but I am as God made me. Here we go with my Fab Four:
* “Losing My Religion.”
* “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”
* ”Everybody Hurts.”
Best. Video. Ever.