Five Thoughts: Staff shake-up


by Mark Wheeler

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators


When Billy Napier was first hired by Florida much fanfare was given to the fact that as part of his deal, he was sure to negotiate a big enough assistant coach salary pool that he would be able to put together a so-called ‘dream team’ staff.

For the most part, that didn’t happen.

On paper, if you were to pick out the top five ‘name’ assistants, in no particular order they would have been Jay Bateman (known as a top recruiter), Keary Colbert (produced NFL receivers at USC), Rob Sale (from the NY Giants), Corey Raymond (Mr. DBU), and Sean Spencer (from the NY Giants).

Now, depending on what happens with the two offensive line coaches, at least three, or maybe four, of the ‘name’ coaches off that initial staff will be gone by year three.

The rest of the hires were basically nondescript.

The reset may allow Napier to build out a more traditional staff where he doesn’t have to attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole.

That first staff saw William Peagler, who was an outstanding young running backs coach at Michigan State, hired by Florida to coach tight ends at the DI level for the very first time ever.

How did that pan out? The position group had a nonconsequential year, and recruiting for the position was basically non-existent.

That isn’t necessarily on Peagler.

Again, a square peg in a round hole.

This season, in replacing Patrick Toney, Napier hired Austin Armstrong.

Armstrong may be an up-and-coming young coach, but after a subpar 2022 season, Florida was in no position to take a chance on a Defensive Coordinator candidate who had no prior DC experience at the P5 level. The argument for some that he was good enough to be on Nick Saban‘s staff at Alabama doesn’t hold water because Saban hired him to be a position coach, not run his defense.

Then, after the Armstrong hire basically left Florida with three coaches who were primarily linebackers coaches (Mike Peterson being the third), Napier had to make it work. Instead of moving Bateman, who had coached safeties on the P5 level in the past, to fill that spot, he put Armstrong, who had never coached safeties, back there with an assist from support staff member CJ Wofford.

Again, a square peg in a round hole.

Most traditional staffs have an Offensive Coordinator (normally also an offensive position assistant), a Special Teams Coordinator, and one of the 10 assistant coaches on staff coach each of the positions.

Last year Florida had no Offensive Coordinator, two offensive line coaches, no Special Teams Coordinator, and a safeties coach who had never coached the position before on the college level.

Make it make sense.

If there are a couple of more assistants let go, it will allow Napier to perhaps reset the structure of his staff.


Back when Florida ‘stole’ Corey Raymond from LSU, on the surface it appeared to be a huge coup for Napier and the Gators. Speaking with an LSU beat writer at that time for some background on Raymond, he said that it wasn’t considered much of a loss on the Tigers’ end because the feeling was that Raymond had been treading water for a few years and coasting on his reputation.

He shared that Raymond was unhappy that (and I am going by memory here, I didn’t take notes) either Frank Wilson or Brad Davis were going to be paid more than him and felt like Brian Kelly didn’t value him.

I took that as a bit of sour grapes, as a way to justify how UF could come in and take a coveted assistant.

Setting aside his name value, and looking at the results on the field, perhaps he was shooting me straight. Raymond’s cornerbacks have helped contribute to four straight subpar seasons, two at LSU and two at Florida.


While pass rush absolutely plays into the equation, Raymond hasn’t had a defense rank in the top half of the NCAA in either of the two major pass-defense categories in the last four seasons.


Though when Patrick Toney left in the offseason Raymond was elevated to the coach of the entire secondary, don’t take that to mean that he actually was solely responsible for the entire defensive back room.

In the open portions of practice that the media was allowed to attend, while Raymond worked with the cornerbacks, as mentioned above, it was Austin Armstrong and CJ Wofford who coached the safeties.

For all we know Armstrong may be God’s gift to defense and Wofford may be a superstar coach in the making, but obviously, the safety position was the weakest link on the team.

Yes, they were young, but as a group, they regressed throughout the season – not improved.

I don’t want to put that on a support staff member, because, well, they are a support staff member, not an assistant making millions. Plus, Napier did Wofford no favors, and maybe even a disservice, by pairing him with a coach who had no experience coaching the position.

As part of his reshuffling of the staff, on top of what to do at OC, STC, and CB, Napier might also need to look at a full-time S coach as well.


Forget great, yes, the case can be made that the Florida defensive line hasn’t been good this year, but there were signs of a positive future ahead at the position.

That makes the dismissal of Sean Spencer a bit more surprising.

If there is a position where you have to pull in top talent cycle after cycle to make a difference in the SEC it is along the defensive line.

Florida had mostly failed in that area for years before landing a pretty good class last year.

Depending on what happens with LJ McCray, and while waiting for the eventual decommitment of Amaris Williams, they’ve had mixed results this cycle.

However, I thought Spencer did well enough for what he had and if Florida is able to add a pass rusher in the Transfer Portal (I know, a big IF), better days are ahead.


Anytime a significant event takes place, we all rush to get reaction quotes to get an initial feel for how things are going to play out. I asked several Florida players and prospects for their reactions and posted several tweets from Gators players, commits, and targets.

However, while getting that rapid reaction is somewhat important, what we’ll be following over the next several weeks are actions more so than words. How many of these players will be entering the Transfer Portal and how many prospects, commits in particular, will visit other programs over these next three weeks before Signing Day is the question.

We’ll be paying particular attention to LJ McCray (who took visits to FSU and Miami after committing to Florida, even while Spencer was still on staff), Zavier Mincey (every single time I spoke with him, he raved about Raymond), Jameer Grimsley (depending on who UF hires, pulling him away from Alabama just got harder) and Xavier Filsiame (he visited USC and Texas before the coaching shakeup).

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  1. Good article. Napier is neither a good OC/Play caller, nor as your article proves a successful CEO. The old saying, when you point a finger at others (those fired) you also have 3 pointing back at you. Let’s hope he did some introspective analysis of himself and discovers/admits he made some bone head coaching decisions this year. He should not have an entire 3rd year to prove himself, if staring 2-2 or worse next year, he needs to be let go and have a leg up on other schools when hiring the next coach. My opinion is we need to have Spurrier heavily involved in the process if we have to hire again after next year, possibly even as the Interim HC should Napier starts poorly.

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