Florida Coach Billy Napier Hoping Gators Don’t ‘Splinter’ In First Season

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The Florida Gators were a train wreck last season.

They imploded down the stretch, finished 6-7, won just two SEC games and Dan Mullen was fired after an embarrassing loss to Missouri.

The school hired Billy Napier in December, and the former Louisiana coach has since been tasked with turning the program around (yet again) after the debacle that was last season.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, Napier doesn’t get to open against some FCS cupcake, either.

Nope. The unranked Gators host No. 7 Utah to open the season Sept. 3. For those counting at home, that’s less than two weeks away.

Cutting it awful close, says Napier.

Billy Napier
Head Coach Billy Napier and the Gators open the season again Utah. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“The number of variables out there is really high right now,” he said during a Sunday press conference. “I think we definitely have improved but I do think that we’re gonna have a lot of players on our team that make significant strides throughout the season.

“This is the first time we’ve done everything with a new group of players in a new place with a new staff.”

Napier, Gators face brutal early schedule

Napier went 40-12 the last four years at Louisiana, but the expectations in Gainesville are higher – despite the bar being set low after last season.

The Gators appear to be set at quarterback with Anthony Richardson fully taking the reins, but there are several questions elsewhere.

Can Anthony Richardson lead the Gators in 2022? (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Combine that with a brutal schedule that includes the Utes followed by No. 20 Kentucky two weeks later – not to mention Georgia and Texas A&M at the end of October – and it could be a pressure-cooker season in The Swamp.

Perhaps that’s how it needs to be, though.

“I think football is a game of momentum. It’s a game of emotion, but it’s important we know how that is going to affect our team,” Napier added. “Are we going to splinter? Are we going to stick together? Is it going to galvanize our team?

“I think one of the things we’ve taken great pride of in the past is we were a group that was together and I’m hopeful we can have that type of team here too.”

Written by Zach Dean

Zach grew up in Florida, lives in Florida, and will never leave Florida ... for obvious reasons. He's a reigning fantasy football league champion, knows everything there is to know about NASCAR, and once passed out (briefly!) during a lap around Daytona. He swears they were going 200 mph even though they clearly were not.

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