Early Entry Review: Former five-star starting over as a true freshman

Jun 19, 2022 | 1 comment

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In less than a month on the Florida job, Billy Napier made his first big splash: landing safety Kamari Wilson‍.

Wilson became the first five-star enrollee in the Napier era and the first-ever prospect from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida to sign with the Gators.

Roscoe Barber, who coached Wilson at Fort Pierce Westwood High School prior to Wilson’s transfer to IMG Academy, said the two have a close relationship and have remained in constant contact as Wilson begins his college career at Florida.

“I’ve known his family basically all my life, but I didn’t really know Kamari. I met Kamari his freshman year of high school…,” Barber said. “He calls me every night after he leaves a film session or a study session with Coach (Patrick) Toney.”

According to Barber, Wilson has had high praise for the staff throughout his first few months in Gainesville saying the detail, structure, and genuineness of the program and staff stand out the most.

“He loves the new coaching staff. They really care about the players,” he said. “They’re very detailed. It’s a lot of structure there. A lot of what the players said they didn’t have before. It’s more like a family than just a team.”

This structure and detail start at the top with the head coach, who emphasized the need of these components for the program from his introductory press conference. So far, Wilson said Napier has been a man of his word when it comes to his vision for the program’s organization.

“With Coach Napier, (Wilson) just says that he’s a man of his word. He’s genuine,” Barber said. “He’s not one of those coaches that just try to get you in through the recruitment process, and once you get in, it’s a totally different story. Pretty much everything Coach Napier says he’s going to do, he made sure it gets done.”

That passion and genuineness from Napier was evident on Wilson’s official visit in December of 2021.

According to Barber, Napier pulled Wilson away from a team and recruit dinner and had a conversation in the stands that lasted over an hour.

“That was really big for Kamari. Most coaches don’t give you that individual time,” Barber explained. “You might meet one-on-one with the family towards the end of the visit. Like, right before you leave you might have that one-on-one, but Coach Napier pretty much stopped everything he was doing with the dinner, pulled Kamari out and just chopped it up with him. Got personal with him. Let him know what his vision was for the program.”

Another large influence into Wilson’s decision to sign with Florida was Napier hiring Jamar Chaney as the linebacker analyst. Barber said that Wilson’s relationship with Chaney goes back to his early recruitment days.

“Kamari actually played against Chaney’s team in high school,” Barber said, “and then Chaney gave him his first offer.”

In 2018, Chaney was the head football coach at St. Lucie West Centennial high school in Fort Pierce, Florida, his alma mater. Chaney was a defensive analyst under Dan Mullen in 2019 before moving to Mississippi State for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

“He’s a man of his word. Great developer of men. Great developer on the field as well,” Barber explained. “Once they made that move to go get Chaney, that was really huge because he has been a big influence in Kamari’s life.”

After a late push from the staff and a successful official visit, Wilson signed with Florida on Dec. 15, the Early Signing Day, and enrolled on campus in January. However, his on-field contributions would have to wait due to an injury.

Barber said Wilson was battling some hamstring discomfort, which led the coaches to sit him out of precaution. As a result, Wilson spent the majority of the spring practices taking mental reps and learning the playbook.

“With Kamari, he’ll be feeling good, and he’ll go to pushing it,” Barber said. “Then, he’ll be feeling it. So, they were just taking a precaution because they didn’t want anything serious to happen, but when he has a chance to compete, that’s all he wants to do.”

Barber added that Wilson has recovered and is now full-go at the summer workouts.

“He took care of it,” he said. “He’s learning more about the recovery process at the next level versus at the high school level. He’s been taking good care of his hamstring. It’s a non-issue.”

However, this time nursing the injury gave Wilson more opportunities to take mental reps and learn the playbook, which is the advice Barber gave him before he enrolled.

“The main thing with enrolling early for me, I told him, ‘Learn the playbook. You’ve been playing football all your life, so that’s natural. You know what to do once you’re on the field, but the main thing is to learn the playbook so that when the season gets here, you can focus on more of how you’re going to attack the offense or how the offense is going to attack you versus trying to figure out what you’re doing on the field,’” Barber said.

Additionally, this time allowed Wilson to observe the older guys in the room and learn from their successes and mistakes. Mainly, he watched fifth-year senior Trey Dean III and junior Rashad Torrence II, who are expected to start at the safety spots.

“He would go to them and ask them different questions when he was having issues with the playbook or adjusting at the next level. They have a tight bond,” Barber said. “He has a great relationship with the safeties and the older guys that are there right now. They really took him under their wing.”

Now that Wilson is recovered and the team is in the middle of summer workouts, Barber said the goal is to continue learning the playbook and learn as many positions as possible. According to Barber, Wilson has been learning free safety the most while studying the other safety spot and STAR position as backup options.

“He just wants to come in and contribute to helping the team win in any way possible. That’s the main thing I tell him is to learn that playbook,” Barber said. “He’s just been working and staying after with the coaches, learning the playbook. So, he hopes to get a lot of playing time and see the field a lot. So, hopefully, he gets a couple of starts under his belt early. That’s what the goal is.”

Throughout his high school career and recruiting process Wilson made headlines. However, according to Barber, despite the notoriety and headlines that come with those accolades, Wilson began as an under-the-radar recruit.

“Since the beginning, Kamari has been pretty much under the radar his freshman year. He used to always tell himself and tell the guys in the area that he’s going to be the best safety in the nation,” Barber explained. “A lot of guys would laugh because the school he went to wasn’t a big-time program, but he just put in the work. That kind of stayed on his mind throughout his years in high school and even going into college.”

Now, as the highest-rated enrollee in the class and many calling him the future of the defense, expectations are already high for Wilson. Barber believes Wilson is ready and understands that his recruiting stats are irrelevant now. It’s time for big-time college football.

“Being a five-star, that was good for high school, but you’re at the next level now, so you’re starting at the bottom. You still have people out there doubting you. His adjustment has been smooth. He gets with (the older guys) and gets with the coaching staff and just learns all that he can about playing at the next level and performing at a high level.”


If you would like to support Kamari Wilson please visit his Gator Collective page in order to donate to him specifically or buy his gear.


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