Who is Billy Napier? 5 things to know about Florida’s new football coach

As the new University of Florida football coach, Billy Napier will try to turn around a program that struggled to a 6-6 record in 2021. The 42-year-old Georgia native went 39-12 in four years at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, including three consecutive 10-win seasons, four straight Sun Belt Conference West Division titles and a conference title in 2020.

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The Ragin’ Cajuns went 11-1 during the 2021 season. Napier will coach the team against Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Saturday.

Napier was the Sun Belt Conference coach of the year in 2019. He replaces Dan Mullen, who was fired on Nov. 21 after the Gators’ 24-23 overtime loss to Missouri. Mullen was fired after compiling a 34-15 record in nearly four full seasons. Florida ended its regular season with a 24-21 victory against in-state rival Florida State.

Here are some things to know about Billy Napier.

>> Florida Gators hire Billy Napier as head football coach

Personal background

Napier grew up in Chatsworth, Georgia, and graduated from Murray County High School in 1998.

He is married to the former Ali Gunn and the couple has a daughter, Annie, and sons, Sammy Nelson and Charlie. He earned his bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science from Furman University in 2002.

Football background

Napier was a four-year letterman and two-time All-Southern Conference selection as the starting quarterback at Furman University, according to the University of Louisiana media guide. He led the Paladins to a pair of Southern Conference titles. As a junior in 2001, Furman advanced to the Division I-AA national championship game, losing to Montana.

Napier completed 64.8% of his career passes, which was a school record. As the team captain during his senior season, Napier threw for a school-record 2,475 yards and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is given annually to the nation’s most outstanding FCS offensive player.

Coaching background

Napier has been an assistant for Alabama’s Nick Saban two times, first as an analyst in 2011 and then as wide receivers coach from 2013 to 2016, according to The Athletic. Napier told Sports Illustrated in a 2018 interview that 85% of his program is modeled after what Saban does at Alabama.

Napier also was an assistant to Dabo Sweeney at Clemson in 2009-10. Before coming to Louisiana, Napier spent a year as Arizona’s offensive coordinator in 2017.

Napier began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant at Clemson in 2003-04. He moved to South Carolina State, where he was the quarterbacks coach and play-caller in 2005. The Bulldogs went 9-2 that year.

Florida ties

Napier has plenty of ties to the state of Florida. He was an assistant at Colorado State for Jim McElwain in 2012. McElwain later left the university to coach at Florida. For one month in 2013, he was part of Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State before leaving to join Saban’s staff at Alabama,

When Napier was at Clemson, he was on the staff with then-assistant Jeff Scott, who is now the head coach at the University of South Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Napier lost his job after USF defeated Clemson in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Skilled recruiter

Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns have had the top recruiting class in the Sun Belt over the past three years. He was also an effective recruiter while an assistant at Clemson and Alabama, the Times reported. According to 24/7 Sports, Napier was ranked the nation’s No. 5 college recruiter in 2014 when he was with the Crimson Tide.