Highlights from Billy Napier’s press conference on national signing day

National signing day concluded on Wednesday afternoon, and Florida football coach Billy Napier took time to address the media and any burning questions for the offseason.

The Gators made several changes following the 24-15 loss to Florida State, including coaching replacements and interacting with the dreaded transfer portal which seems to take more, rather than give.

Napier didn’t hesitate to answer the dire questions regarding all the above and even broke down how the team wants to utilize name, image, and likeness laws in Florida’s favor.

Members of the media were also curious about the new executive head coach title for staff newcomer Ron Roberts and what his role will be on the sidelines.

Check out all the highlights from Wednesday’s press conference on national signing day with Florida head coach Billy Napier.

Opening statement

Doug Engle/Gainesville <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sun;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sun</a>
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

It’s good to be back. We have quite a few things to talk about and I know (the media) has quite a few questions here. I do think we’ve added some really good players to our team since the last time we were in front of (the media) and certainly a lot of staff changes and new hires to discuss here.

Good group. Nobody to report in terms of signing today but I know you all have questions about a couple high school players and a handful of transfers. Off to a good start. Almost close to being done with phase one and staff will be off Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and we’ll kind of turn the page to phase two on Monday. A lot of questions here so let’s get straight to it.

Defensive staff changes

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

I think part of the evaluation was just that we need to play better on that side of the ball. We go through a process to evaluate what we need to do better. Sometimes that’s new leadership, a new voice, a new teacher, a different approach in recruiting, whatever the case may be. And I think we were able to answer some of those things.

And then Jay got a chance to be a coordinator again, so we went and we were able to get one of the better defensive coaches in the country back on our staff. I think we’ve done well; so far, so good.

We went through a very extensive process to land where we landed with Will Harris and Gerald Chapman, both of which I think have proven to be what we thought they were — really good teachers. I think they’ve got character. I do think they have a passion for people, they care for the player independent of the game.

Great families and pedigree. They’ve been around good coaching; they know what it looks like. They’ve coached at the highest level and coached at the Power Five level. I think they’ve done a good job connected with the staff and the players so far.

How the Ron Roberts and Austin Armstrong dynamic is expected to operate

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

“It’s phenomenal.”

You think about Ron Roberts and what he brings to the table: veteran coach, been a head coach, been a coordinator and a play-caller. Austin and him, there’s a mentor-type relationship there. And a ton of respect, mutual respect on both sides, so I think we get the wisdom.

This system, there’s a number of coaches. You guys obviously will write the story at some point. But this guy’s mentored a million defensive coaches in his career, some of which are coordinator/play-callers in the NFL and college football. So I think it’s a positive because I think the system that we run, Ron started that system at Louisiana. The first two years we were there, kind of got it up and running. It’s evolved and the guys that have been running it worked for him in the past.

So I think whether that was Patrick Toney, who took over who’s now at the National Football League, or Austin, Jay Bateman’s in that tree of coaches. They call him the OG, the Godfather, whatever you want to call him. We get him back in the building and he’s going to make us better and he’ll make the players better. His guys have always been productive, the guys that he coaches and the units that he coaches.

So there’s a track record of really good defense and we’re fortunate to have him.

On 'executive defensive head coach' title, specific duties

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Yeah, head coach of the defense. You know, basically, a guy who oversees that side of the ball to some degree. Austin obviously is the coordinator, calls the plays and runs the unit meetings, but we’re getting a guy who can coach the coaches, who can improve the installation, the gameplans, really get the best on that side of the ball essentially.

He’s the head coach of the defense to some degree, so, and I think the coordinator-relationship there is one that’s, you know, those guys are, they’re loving life right now, so they’re both ball guys, and let me say, we’ve got Mike Peterson in that room, Will Harris in that room, Gerald Chatman in that room, you know, we’ve promoted Kali James, he’s a graduate assistant, he’s kind of the assistant defensive line coach and is going to help us with the hybrid players.

It’s a good room, and I think they’re in a good place, they’re excited to work together.

On how to compete in the Name, Image, and Likeness era

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The amount of time and effort and energy that’s been put into creating the system that we have in place now, I think probably took us about 18 months to get a pulse on the landscape and what it would require to be competitive but, more importantly, what our approach is going to be relative to who we want to be, the caliber of player that we need to compete, and more importantly the type of people that you want to attract to your program.

I think to some degree the way we’ve structured this thing, we’re built to be sustainable, repeatable. Can’t compliment Florida Victorious enough for the leadership and then the collaboration. There have been a lot of people who have invested a ton of time and resources so we have great resources here and that’s no secret.

We have an incredible alumni network and we continue to produce quality alumni. This place has never been hurting for resources. I think, more importantly, it’s the strategy behind it and how it’s constructed and what you’re using NIL for. I think I’m proud of the service-oriented work that we do and I’m proud of the financial literacy piece that’s required as a result of the NIL opportunities that our players have.

Really, all 21 sports at the University of Florida, I think we have a vehicle to execute in that space that’s going to benefit all sports, not just football.

Foresee any major changes offensively?

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Again, all that is to be determined is what I would say. You know, I think we’ve got time to figure those things out. But I mean, I don’t see any major overhauls outside of just how we organize that group and now we operate in-house.

Tweaks on offense that have been made already, play-calling and more potential changes

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

Yeah, you know, we’re in the process of defining those roles is what I would say, and I think we’re working our way through that.

“I do think that we will, there’ll be different responsibilities to some degree, you know, I think you’ll see, we’ll probably talk more specific about that in the future, but I do think, much like we made a hire in the NIL space, the chief of staff, front-office space with Mark Robinson, we made a hire in special teams, which I assume you’re going to ask.

Really an effort to put the right things in place, so that you know the time is allocated for me in the right places, you know, I think it’s been a heckuva two years in terms of all the new things that come with the job. So offensively, I think that we will, we may have different titles and responsibilities within that group of people.

There could be an addition or two, we’ve shuffled the deck a little bit in terms of those things, but ultimately we’ll keep the same system and keep moving forward in that regard.

Read more

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