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Florida Football

Patient, genuine, with a detailed approach

December 19, 2021
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Billy Napier’s detail-oriented nature was perhaps his most-highlighted positive trait when Florida hired him for the job. University of Louisiana center Shane Vallot (2017-2021) and former left tackle Rico Robinson (2015-2019) witnessed that almost near-obsession firsthand.

“He's probably the most detail-oriented guy I've ever met in my entire life,” Vallot said. “He has a plan for everything.”

There was a reason behind every plan too. There was a method to whatever madness he cooked up, whether it be a workout regimen or a game plan.

At one point, Robinson said Mark Hocke, the former strength and conditioning coach for the Cajuns, who followed Napier to Florida, had the team doing yoga to focus on stretching. Napier also brought in a nutritionist and created a training table for the athletes. He even started tracking the players’ body fat composition.

“I think that's a big part of college football…because a lot of people will just wing stuff. But that's not like Coach Napier, man. He’s a guy who has everything detailed down, he has a blueprint and he has the end goal in mind.”
- Shane Vallot

Vallot described how Napier creates a calendar laid out for the entire year, beginning in January and ending in December. Every single day had something for the team to do whether it was an off day or not. Yes, the original plan could be deviated from slightly or even changed, but even in those rare cases, Napier had a backup plan in place.

Napier gave out binders before the beginning of fall camp or summer camp and he’d go through every rule, goal, and policy for the team. The previous year's stats and what the Ragin Cajuns needed to improve upon.

“I think that's a big part of college football…because a lot of people will just wing stuff,” Vallot said. “But that's not like Coach Napier, man. He’s a guy who has everything detailed down, he has a blueprint and he has the end goal in mind.”

Robinson brought up how his former head coach ran offensive meetings when Robinson was there. He’d print out sheets detailing the opposing team’s depth chart and its rotations for film breakdowns. When on the practice field, they’d work through downs and distances starting at midfield then to what Napier called the “gold zone” (the area just before the red zone) and ending in the red zone.

Vallot detailed how the game week played out. If the Ragin Cajuns had a Saturday game, they had a film breakdown on Sunday with a possible walkthrough. Monday would be a day off for recovery. Tuesday and Wednesday they hit the field with full pads. Thursdays were a little more settled down in shoulder pads, helmets, and shorts with scout teams where units would go fast like it’s a game situation. Finally, Friday they walked over every play that could be called in the game.

Robinson said Napier switched up alternate play calls too. Whether the name of the play call changed or the play itself changed altogether. The Ragin Cajuns were always adjusting week-to-week.

“You have to stay engaged all the time. He forced us all to be engaged. He had us do tests on travel days. So, every coach would hand out tests for us to take and go through meetings on that Friday night. And then we'll have another film session.”
- Rico Robinson

“You have to stay engaged all the time,” Robinson said. “He forced us all to be engaged. He had us do tests on travel days. So, every coach would hand out tests for us to take and go through meetings on that Friday night. And then we'll have another film session.”

All that mattered to him was executing on the field. It didn't matter what level of seniority a player had, what he put on film was what would get him in the game on Saturdays. 

He's already shown an even-keeled and measured manner in his handful of media appearances as the Gators' new head honcho.

Napier exhibited that same demeanor as Vallot and Robinson’s coach on game day.

According to the two linemen, Napier isn’t a guy to get all riled up or show outward excitement.

Napier liked to read the level of the team and reflect on how they felt. He gives the players their space before the game. The only time he’ll get emotional is during the pregame speech.

“Seeing him be like that makes you want to be like that,” Vallot said. “And I can say it changed my perspective on games. By seeing him being calm and collected (it) made me be calm and collected and feel confident by myself.”

Robinson had just finished his redshirt sophomore year and Vallot his freshman campaign when Louisiana hired Napier. They lived through what it was like to transition to Napier and then be coached by him for multiple years.

One of the first things Napier did when he took over in Lafayette was sit down with every single one of the players. It’s something he’ll begin doing with the Gators roster in Gainesville on Sunday.

According to Vallot, Napier sat down with everyone from the scholarship players to walk-ons such as himself. He asked why things were the way they were and sought the opinions of the players he inherited about how he could make it better.

Rico Robinson remembered his one-on-one with Napier too. At that point, Robinson hadn’t played more than whatever special teams snaps he received. Napier said to Robinson he was told to give up on him.

“He said ‘I don’t believe that at all,’” according to Robinson. “‘I see a player that’s very talented. That needs the right guidance. That needs to buy into my program.’ He basically looked me in my eyes and said, ‘Rico, if you buy into my program, I promise you’ll be a starter, I promise you’ll be a great player.’ And he was right.”

Robinson remembered Napier telling him he didn’t have to be like his brother, former Ragin Cajun and NFL tight end, Ladarius Green. He can just be himself and not feel pressured to live up to his older sibling.

What won Vallot over were the lofty goals Napier set for his new team: win the Sun Belt and make it into the Top 25. UL never saw an AP ranking and hadn’t won an outright title since it claimed the Gulf States Conference Championship in 1970 under Russ Faulkinberry.

In just Napier’s second year, Louisiana recorded its first-ever double-digit win season and set a program wins record with 11. In his third, the team won 10 games and earned a share of the Sun Belt crown. Year four? A record 12 wins (later 13 after the bowl game) and an outright Sun Belt title.

Not to mention, UL spent 10 weeks inside the AP Top 25 during Napier’s final two years as coach.

Both Vallot and Robinson stressed how much of a loving and personable coach he was. He talked with players, cracked jokes with them. He was friendly and personal with players' family members any time he saw them.

In fact, he brought in Vallot’s family, including his high school coach, when he awarded Vallot his scholarship in the summer of 2019. Napier bragged about how hard Vallot worked to earn his way up to the second-string center job. Not to mention dropping 55 pounds thanks to Hocke.

It fulfilled a declaration that every walk-on would have the opportunity to earn a scholarship. And even if someone wasn't on scholarship they'd be treated no different.

“It was the best day of my life,” Vallot said.

Napier built a program and established a legacy in just four years in Lafayette at UL. He set big goals and lived up to them. He formed relationships with all of his players and made a real impact on them.

“I can tell you, he's a good guy, man. And I'm glad that I had a chance to play for him the last four seasons. I can say he changed my perspective...”
- Shane Vallot

“I can tell you, he's a good guy, man,” Vallot said. “And I'm glad that I had a chance to play for him the last four seasons. I can say he changed my perspective — because I want to be a coach one day — he changed my perspective on life and as a coach, and I'm honestly just grateful for that opportunity to play for him. Because I've learned so much more that I did not know before.”

Robinson has a journal filled with just about everything Napier said. That's how much he valued what his coach had to say. He will demand the absolute best from his players.

Napier turned down multiple job offers before he decided to become the head coach for the Florida Gators. A former assistant coach for both Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, Napier bided his time during his four years at the University of Louisiana until the right situation came along. Now, he’s in Gainesville and looking to re-establish Florida Gators football. Something the likes of Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and even Dan Mullen couldn’t do.  

His patient, genuine and detailed approach worked in southern Louisiana. Now he’ll see if it works in Gainesville.

Patient, genuine, with a detailed approach

8,604 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by Mark Wheeler
Fun & Gun
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That's my coach.
Titletown
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There's a picture of him on twitter where they are putting up the new football building with a notebook in his hand.

Are there any comparison's out there of other head coaches who take a lot of notes and have a plan all laid out for everything?
Bd489
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Nice write up. We've been lacking that level of being detail oriented. Can't wait for the future!
Steve L
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Tremendously different from Dandy Dan. Mullen was the epitome of entitlement. Like every one else I don't know how this will turn out but God knows I feel better about Napier than I ever did about Mullen. He was lazy in recruiting and damn sure no developer of players.
Termigator
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Great comments all. I've been a Gator most of my years (68) and I am more excited than anytime other than when Spurrier was here.
Verobeachgator
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I'd like to see how things are done so I read these but I don't pay attention to the glowing comments because because it happens with every new coach.

All of them walk on water until they don't.
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
Verobeachgator said:

I'd like to see how things are done so I read these but I don't pay attention to the glowing comments because because it happens with every new coach.

All of them walk on water until they don't.
That isn't true. At least not for us. We didn't and don't go searching for a predetermined outcome. We ask them about their experience - good, great, or bad - and only hope that they give us their truthful feelings and that it be interesting.

As for Mullen, the very first update I did upon his being hired, I included that he was known as an average at best recruiter and he would have to surround himself with a top-notch recruiting staff. He didn't do that.


Look at what we did when Jules Monitar was hired. Though he got a glowing report from his former players - in our recruiting update, things weren't quite as rosy when multiple Tampa area coaches said they didn't know him, which was troubling considering he coached at USF.
UFgator52-20
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Termigator said:

Great comments all. I've been a Gator most of my years (68) and I am more excited than anytime other than when Spurrier was here.
It's good to see some other long time fans on here. I swear Gator message boards and twitter is full of fans who just started following the team since Meyer was here.
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
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