June 16, 2024

Billy Napier, the Florida coach in his third year, has not yet seen results on the pitch. However, as he leaves spring practice, things are more tranquil than they have been since he took Dan Mullen’s post after the 2021 campaign.

As part of the Pate State Speaker Series, Napier told Josh Pate of 247Sports, “We’re two years in, and this is the first offseason where we feel like we’re not solving a major problem or building out a system, and it’s been great.” “I think we’ve been able to focus on our time on the things that really matter.”

The Gators now feel at home in their $85 million Heavener Football Training Center, their NIL program has been streamlined, and Napier has tweaked his staff following an 11-14 start to his tenure. Externally, though, major questions remain. A five-game losing streak to cap the 2023 season sent Napier’s stock spiraling, and now he now enters a critical campaign marked by one of the nation’s toughest schedules.

But Napier described the 2024 Gators as the “best group of players we’ve had.”

“We’ve completely rebuilt the player experience at the University of Florida,” he said.Graham Mertz, a transfer from Wisconsin, was acquired by Florida in the offseason, but there was reason to be sceptical. During the course of the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the seasoned quarterback threw 21 interceptions as the Badgers were unable to produce many successful passing plays. Still, he proved to be a perfect match in Napier’s offence, throwing for 2,903 yards in 2023 with 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

He is returning now to play his sixth and final season of eligibility, and he should be among the best passers in the SEC.

“It’s the No. 1 thing when you talk about Florida football … Graham Mertz coming back to play another year of football,” Napier said. “We get a player who I think has a renewed confidence. He starts this offseason as the leader of the team. Completely different place than he was in when he arrived here last year.”

Napier has come under fire for clinging to his role as Florida’s offensive play-caller, and heagain in 2024. In an era when many head coaches with coordinator backgrounds have relinquished those duties to focus more on a CEO role, Napier is bullish that he is well-equipped to remain as a play-caller, especially now that other elements of the Florida program are falling into place entering his third season.

“I don’t think the place is under construction,” Napier said. “I think it’s built, and I think this is going to allow me an opportunity to focus a little bit more on the things that matter, and play-calling is a part of that.”

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