Florida’s Billy Napier Announces Who Will Call Plays On Defense, Discusses Off-Season Identity For Gators

Billy Napier has hit the ground running in Gainesville, already putting together a huge staff to handle each position and department. One of the main points of emphasis regarding the 2022 team is the defense, which Napier discussed this past weekend.

When it comes to play calling duties, Napier has decided to stick with what he knows. After spending the last few seasons as the defensive coordinator at Louisiana, Patrick Toney will continue calling the defense for Napier at Florida. Toney spent his first two seasons in Lafayette as the safeties coach, then defensive coordinator starting in 2020. He will be coaching the safeties and serve as the co-defensive coordinator with former New York Giants D-line coach Sean Spencer.

“Patrick Toney will call the defense. Sean obviously is a veteran coach that has a tremendous input and background at multiple stops, but Patrick will do the play-calling,” Napier said.

When Toney was named defensive coordinator at Louisiana in 2020, Napier called him one of the brightest young coaches in college football.

“Patrick Toney is a difference maker, and one the brightest young coaches in our profession. He had a lot to do with our defensive improvement in 2019,” Napier said at the time. “He has also built great relationships with staff and student-athletes, and he helped establish our culture.

“He is an exceptional teacher and leads by example with his work ethic and attention to detail,” Napier added in 2020. “This promotion is well deserved, and I am excited about his continued impact.”

During the 2021 season, Louisiana was 1st in scoring defense in the Sun Belt conference and tied 9th nationally. His unit finished 4th in the conference for passing defense.

The Florida football program has moved into Phase 2 of off-season work, and Napier likes to call this the “identity” phase.

“It’s 25 days total. It’s 23 days prior to spring break and then two days once we get back. And I think we’re trying to, really want the players to have 100 percent focus and attack the work, right? We kind of define this for the players. Identity is the qualities and beliefs that make a group different than other people.

“I think every team around the country does an offseason program. We would like to think that ours is an advantage, that we do it better and that we have a very specific plan in this area,” Napier added. “So the key here is that the players make a commitment to the prescribed work the right way, really believe in the power of routine, structure, discipline.”

Really, this part of his plan is finding out who the leaders will be for the Gators football team, who will grind it out every day in the weight room or inside the facility, working to establish a new culture in Gainesville. But to do that, Napier will need a group of guys to take control of this team, even if it’s early in the process.

“I think that we have an opportunity to develop some leadership on our team. I think that they get in positions where they’ve got to choose what they’re going to say, and ultimately it gives our staff, the coaches an opportunity to model what we would expect from the players from a leadership standpoint.

“It’s really our first opportunity with the core of our team that’s here to work with the staff, right? You have attrition, so it’s a new group. New roles,” Napier said about getting to know each other. “Although we’re Year 1, there’s a lot more newness with each year, in Year 2, 3, 4. It’s a chance to really establish expectations and get started at developing the identity of your team.”

After a year of Florida taking hits on and off the field, Napier is looking to find the right guys who can lead this football team over the next seven months, as they prepare for the 2022 season. Right now, Napier is still trying to figure out what he actually has in the building from a talent standpoint. But as we get closer to Spring practice, he will find the guys that have already bought into his philosophy, or at least, have tried their hardest to do so.

It won’t be easy. It never is. But Napier is changing the culture at Florida, one workout at a time.

 

Written by Trey Wallace

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