FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Defensive lineman officially visiting, but he's not coming alone
- Florida commit Nolton won't sign early (Updated: Decommits)
- Lineman speaks with Napier today, locks in Florida official visit
- The Inside Scoop: Notes from Napier's first team meeting
- Coaching search consultant Landry goes in-depth on Mullen and Napier
- Head Coach Hot Board Profile: Napier
- Ranking the current commitments from least to most likely to sign with Florida
- Florida's Great Eight Targets
On Sunday, during his introductory press conference, Billy Napier warned the Gator Nation that his intent was to take a very conservative, measured approach to Early Signing Day.
He openly stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if Florida didn’t sign many prospects at all.
And then when we do have our entire staff and organization put together, position ourselves for some really strong weekends in January, and then try to close strong in February.
Though they were forewarned, many in the fanbase were taken aback when prospect after prospect fell off the commitment list over the first three days of this week.
Speaking with three people who are intricately familiar with how Napier recruits, it’s clear that what is taking place this week is by design.
Part of a recruiting process he learned under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.
Clyde Andrews, who runs Edge Assassins, a defensive line and linebacker coaching program, has witnessed firsthand what sets Napier apart as a recruiter.
“As a recruiter, he’s recruited Louisiana at a higher level than anybody that I can remember in recent history,” says Andrews.
That higher level that Andrew mentioned refers to how Napier has out recruited other programs for the top players in his state.
“The recruiting classes that, you know, Coach Napier has been able to put together in the last couple of years, he’s actually gotten a lot of top players out of Louisiana.”
How does he do it? He relies on his own eyes.
“A lot of times larger schools, they recruit on a national stage,” Andrews says, “So a lot of times instead of them [college coaches] doing individual evaluations initially, they kind of depend upon third-party recruiting services, rankings, and stars.”
One of the players Andrews works with was targeted by Napier.
Kailep Edwards, a three-star linebacker from Edgard (La.) West St. John High School, committed to Louisiana Layfette over offers from Power 5 programs such as Mississippi State, Michigan State, and Penn State
Edwards said that Napier kept it primarily business but that something else set him apart as a coach.
“He treated me like family.”
Much of the recruiting process is conducted over the phone, but when Edwards met with Napier on campus, he saw the intent and personability of the coach.
“As soon as I pull up, he introduced me to his wife and his kids,” said Edwards, “I never experienced that with a head coach.”
That personal approach made all the difference when Edwards decided to make his pledge to ULL.
In fact, all Edwards has to do is call, and Napier answers.
“That type of connection as a head coach with a recruiter or football player is something I think most of us recruits look for,” added Edwards.
Clyde Andrews added that Napier's drive to do his own evaluations and make his own determination as to whether or not a prospect fits in with what he wants to do only adds to his effectiveness as a recruiter.
“Coach Napier, being able to see that in him [Edwards], you know he pulled the trigger on Kailep, and they made Kailep a top priority versus a lot of other schools.”
Once Napier focuses in on a kid, he elevates them. Andrews discussed how Napier morphs kids that weren’t as highly ranked into top athletes.
“A lot of the players that he got, you know, coming out of high school, these kids weren’t that highly ranked kids,” Andrews said, “They ended up being better than and performing better than kids that actually that went to bigger universities like LSU”
Take for example, Montrell Johnson, a true freshman running back that Napier wasted no time in getting him on the field. Andrews added that after week three or four is when Johnson began starting. Napier not only evaluates players himself but is able to turn his signees into starters right away.
“The schools that actually take their time and do their own due diligence on a player, those are not only the teams that win at a high level, but they have productive players year in and year out,” Andrews said.
There is one more element that separates Napier as a recruiter—his staff.
Alred Luke, who coaches at New Orleans (La.) Warren Easton, highlighted that though Napier wasn't from what would become his primary recruiting area, on top of Napier’s eye for talent, he surrounds himself with coaches who are just as crucial to his recruiting success.
“He has a strong staff,” Luke said, “Coach Jabbar Juluke is awesome. He was a state champion in the city of one of the rival teams I coach against.”
Luke has some personal experience dealing with Napier. In fact, his son was recruited by the head coach.
As a father, Luke experienced a more personal recruitment.
“The hospitality he showed to the recruits and everybody that came in was just phenomenal,” Luke added, “He had a very welcoming environment.”
Luke added that once Napier gets a staff in place, it is that approach that Florida can expect. A guy who recruits on a personal level with the intent of making his players feel like a member of his family.