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It hasn’t been easy for Florida fans to watch numerous players de-commit from the program over the last few days. I imagine some folks are sitting back and wondering what Billy Napier is doing at the moment, unaware that this was always going to happen when he took the reins.
We can look back on his first job at Louisiana for proof of this. Back then, Napier, who took the job at Louisiana five days prior to the early signing period, chose not to sign a single player before the December 2017 period. Things didn’t look great from a publicity standpoint, as he finished with the fifth best class in the Sun Belt during that recruiting period. Napier has been down this road before.
So, that brings us back to the Gators, who have lost four recruits this week, including four-star quarterback Nick Evers, four-star receivers Jayden Gibson and Chandler Smith, and DL Francois Nolton. That’s not an easy thing to see on the recruiting board, but it’s still part of the process. In his first comments as Florida’s coach, Napier made it clear that they are pretty late in the game when it comes to recruiting the early signing period.
“But reality is you’re getting in the game and there’s like three minutes left in the fourth quarter. And I think the last thing we need to do here is make some mistakes. So we’ll probably — I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t sign many at all, to be honest with you. But there may be a few out there that are willing to jump in here in the last minute.
“But let me say this about (recruiting),” Napier started. “I think that for me, I think it’s important in recruiting that both sides understand each other and have had time to build relationships, to have conversations, to know who is going to coach you, to fully understand what the plan is.”
The coaching staff now has only seven commits, currently rank 77th in the country and will likely miss out on a few players. But if you trust what Napier is doing, then things might not feel as bad as they look right now.
It’s hard to fully establish any kind of relationship in just over ten days, so there’s logic to what Napier is trying to do. When college programs try to muster together a recruiting class just for the hell of it, such players often don’t last. It’s not because they aren’t good enough to play, but they may not have had enough time to build a relationship with the position coach. Then all of a sudden, the two parties don’t think it will work out and the player leaves.
There’s no reason to put themselves in that spot, even if the college football world makes fun of them at the moment. Billy Napier knows what they have to sell at Florida, as do most people who cover recruiting.
“So we’re the University of Florida. We’ve got a lot to sell here. And I think the timing is right. I think that the administration’s willingness to invest in our vision and this organization that we’re going to create, if you combine that with the resources that they’re providing to hire an exceptional staff, I think that the new facility is going to give us an advantage that maybe we haven’t had before here.”
If you want an example, take a look at the 2018 class that Jimbo Fisher signed at Texas A&M. Of the 23 that were signed from that class, only nine players remain. Now, this includes players going to the NFL or having to retire from the game, but you can look at the numbers. If you thought that was bad, take a look a the first class Willie Taggart signed at Florida State. The Seminoles have lost 12 signees from the 2018 class, a class of just 21 players. So, it’s not always bad to be patient, even though that word stings.
I thought Napier summed up the process perfectly:
“I think it’s an injustice to them, and it’s an injustice to us to all of a sudden just hurry up and elope right here at the last second.”
Remember that first class for Billy Napier at Louisiana, the one we were just discussing? He ended up signing 18 players after that early signing period. He pieced together a class that he thought would fit the culture he was building at the time.
But the way, Napier might’ve recruited his biggest fish of them all this week. LSU’s Corey Raymond has officially been hired at Florida as the CB coach and assistant head coach. Raymond has been a monster on the recruiting trail for the Tigers over the past ten seasons. He was most recently the recruiting coordinator as well as the cornerbacks coach. Raymond coached seven first team All-Americans during his time at LSU, and 14 of his position players were picked in the NFL Draft.
Napier told Florida fans that he was going to build a staff and also work towards the future. Well, the new Gators head coach most likely pulled in his biggest recruit so far, but this one comes from the coaching ranks.
His favorite catchphrase seems to line up perfectly with the new coaching hire:
“Scared money don’t make money”