After talking to Matt Miguez, host of the Ragin Review Podcast, here is the coaching profile for Louisana Ragin Cajuns head coach Billy Napier.
Strength: Napier has made several noteworthy stops in his coaching career, including stints at Alabama and Clemson that add up to 11 years total. The quick rise of his Louisiana Ragin Cajuns program since he took over in 2018 is special and has garnered job offers from multiple SEC programs. “One thing that he brings to the table is relationships. Another big strength he is the way he can get players to buy into his system.” Miguez said.
Weakness: Many people point to the fact that Florida is a huge step up in expectations and pressure compared to Louisiana, but that did not stop the Florida administration from dipping into the same pool by landing Urban Meyer from Utah. “His play-calling has been inconsistent throughout his time in Lafayette but understand this was his first head coaching job. Playcalling is a skill that most coaches develop in time, and I think it’ll be no different for Napier.” Miguez said.
Why he should: Napier has been wildly successful in Lafayette, going 38-12 in four seasons and leading his squad to three consecutive conference championship games and two bowl wins. Now might be the perfect time to make the jump before his stock could possibly go down with a bad season. “The resume speaks for itself. I think this is the perfect time for Napier to step up and take on a challenge like Florida. I think he’s ready for it, and Gator nation would be getting one hell of a leader.” Miguez said.
Why he shouldn’t: It’s all about timing and there is a chance that Napier may feel the time is not right with two dominant programs – Alabama and Georgia – already firmly established in the SEC. Rumors are that Napier has turned offers from Auburn, South Carolina, Baylor, and Mississippi State because they could or would not commit to the resources Napier felt were needed to contend with the top programs. Florida has the resources, but will they meet Napier in the middle and give him everything he needs to succeed is the question. “Personally, I think Billy turned those jobs down because it wasn’t the right time and place. Auburn is not a school where young coaches go to turn the program around, South Carolina never appeared to be a good fit for Napier because of the lack of resources and job security. Mississippi State and Baylor were two other jobs he didn’t take, and I think those are the jobs that are being looked at as it just wasn’t the right time.” Miguez said.
Offensive Philosophy: The data shows, much like Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Napier has favored the run during his time in Lafayette. However, with the opportunity to bring top-notch athletes to Gainesville, that could change just as Mullen went with a pass-happy approach in 2020. “His offense is a spread formation, out of the pistol. Heavy on the run. He likes to spread it out in the air. Louisiana has been run dominant for a long time though with the recruits that we’ve had, and Billy just continued that with his players.” Miguez said.
Defensive Philosophy: With the ever-changing landscape of the offenses in the SEC, it can be difficult at times for defensive coaches to keep up with the trends, but Napier and defensive coordinator Patrick Toney have multiple routes to go depending on their opponent. The lack of adjustments to different offenses was a major issue under Todd Grantham and if Napier is hired, he will be expected to make in-game adjustments like any other head coach. “Defensively, it’s a hybrid between a 4-3 and a 3-3-5 depending on the opponent,” Miguez said.
Recruiting Chomps: One of the biggest knocks on Mullen, perhaps even the biggest knock, was his inability to land five-star prospects and sign a single top-five class much less string together multiple ones during his time in Gainesville. Napier is a young head coach who has a much more dogged approach to recruiting. When evaluating Sun Belt Conference signing classes, of course, the benchmark isn’t where they stand in the national rankings, but rather within their division. Napier has had the top class in the Sun Belt for the past two years. “Billy is a strong recruiter, and he’d be a strong one in Gainesville as well. He’s from Georgia, has ties to that area, coached at Alabama and Clemson, so he’s recruited that area before.” Miguez said. Another big issue under Mullen in 2021 was the perceived lack of focus and energy with his players, which will be one of the biggest issues to work on if Napier is hired. “He brings in smart, hard-working young men that’ll do well on the field and in the classroom,” Miguez said.
Best Win: Napier’s signature victory was a 31-14 win over No. 23 Iowa State to open the 2020 season. The Ragin Cajuns went on the road to Ames, Iowa and after being down 14-7, scored 24 straight points in order to pull the 31-14 upset over a Cyclones team that finished the season ranked in the top 10 in the nation.
Worst Loss: Amazingly, as part of his 38-12 overall record, there are no terrible losses. Yes, he has suffered some blowouts to SEC squads, but that is expected when you are a Sunbelt program. While Mullen has three or four 'how did that happen' losses in this season alone, that hasn't happened to Napier. He has only one loss to a team that didn't have a winning record, that was dropping a 41-24 game to 6-6 Tulane in the 2018 Cure Bowl. He has gone 31-5 since then.