Florida football is preparing for the second season of the Billy Napier era, which kicks off next Thursday in Salt Lake City against the Utah Utes. The Gators fell short of their goals in 2022 despite the big opening win over UU in the Swamp last year, which was unfortunately the highwater mark for the Orange and Blue.
This fall represents a true test for the former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns coach now that he has cleared the cupboard of troublesome players left over from the Dan Mullen regime while instituting a new culture inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. While he is not quite on the hot seat just yet, the Gator Nation will be quick to stoke those flames if he falls short of a winning season — which would mean sub-.500 finishes in each of the last three seasons.
The Athletic’s Chris Vannini and Bruce Feldman published their college football coaching tiers for the 2023 campaign after the two spoke with coaches, agents and industry experts to rank 116 FBS coaches into tiers. Napier landed in the fourth out of eight-ish tiers, with the following explanation from Vannini.
Billy Napier enters his second season at Florida with pressure after a 6-7 debut and low expectations for this season. But he went 40-12 at Louisiana with two Sun Belt titles and saw a big jump there in Year 2. Florida currently has the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, and people in the industry believe Napier will see the same jump at Florida soon.
“Billy is so consumed with getting the infrastructure right because he knows if you get that right, everything else becomes easier,” said a third agent. “People are down on him. but they’re going to be more successful than people think. … Two years from today, I bet Florida fans are really glad Billy Napier is their coach.”
Ole Miss Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin was also included as the other Southeastern Conference representative in that tier.
Florida opens its 2023 schedule on the road against Utah on Thursday, Aug. 31, with a kickoff time of 8 p.m. EDT.