Billy Napier
Florida head coach Billy Napier speaks during NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days, Wednesday, July 19, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Billy Napier Speaks at SEC Media Days

Wednesday, Florida Gators head football coach Billy Napier spoke to reporters on Day 3 of SEC Media Days. He discussed multiple topics, including his first season with the Gators and the expectations he has for his team with the first game of the 2023 season approaching quickly.

Reflection on First Year

Coming from the Louisiana, Napier had been out of coaching in the SEC for five years before coming to Gainesville. He said his first year helped him realize what the program needs to do in order to return to “where the Gators are a consistent championship contender.”

Additionally, Napier said the pace of recruiting was one of the biggest differences between coaching at the Group of Five and the SEC. Even though it’s one of the main challenges he’s had to face, he said the program has been able to retain his players and has led to the results he’s wanted. Tuesday night, four-star wide receiver TJ Abrams flipped his commitment from Florida State to the Gators.

Also, Florida currently has the No. 3 ranked 2024 recruiting class in the country. The Gators currently sit behind Georgia and Ohio State, according to 247Sports.

 

Excited for Texas and Oklahoma

The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are set to join the SEC in 2024. Napier said the conference will benefit from the two schools joining because it will increase the strength of schedule. Moreover, he said players will be able to play in the most historic venues in college football, and both of these additions will allow the University of Florida to be better.

Napier on Florida/Georgia

Napier was asked if he sees the Florida and Georgia matchup transitioning to a home-and-home series due to future renovations at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Although Napier reminded reporters the game will be played in Jacksonville for the next three seasons, he said there will be an opportunity for the game to be at The Swamp and in Athens.

 

Player Shoutouts

Linebacker Shemar James was one of the players Napier raved about on the podium. Last season as a freshman, James started in four games and played in all 13. He recorded 47 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble and recovery. Napier said he’s excited for the leadership and character James brings to the team.

“He’s a future star for the Gators,” he said.

Expectations

Napier said recent success is a battle the program has. Florida hasn’t won a National Championship or SEC Championship since 2008. The last time the Gators made it to the SEC Title Game was in 2020, and they also appeared in 2016, 2015 and 2009. Though, they haven’t broken through since ’08.

However, Napier respects Gator Nation for caring about the state of the team and he said the program doesn’t lack in any area compared to other SEC schools.

The Gators will open their season on Aug. 31 against the Utah Utes at 8 p.m. Napier will open his second season as head coach on the road in Salt Lake City.

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