Top Ten Off-Field Staffers in Napier's Army:
A few weeks ago I published a piece on the ten on-field coaches that Billy Napier has put together in his short two months in Gainesville. That equals about 20% of the hires that he has made thus far. Coach Napier has been strategic on releasing the new hires seemingly almost everyday there for a bit. This has helped keep the Gators in the news and all over social media to the point of even our own fans beginning to say "How many people is this dude gonna hire?" Well, to date he has hired 52 people according to https://floridagators.com/sports/football/coaches/. Let's breakdown in my opinion, who are the top ten (in no particular order) that he has hired.
Defensive Analyst ILB/OLB Jamar Chaney (@Jamar51Chaney):
It didn't take long for Chaney's presence to be felt as he was HUGE in getting Kamari Wilson not only back on campus but also ultimately in him signing with the Gators. Chaney spent the the 2019 season on staff under Dan Mullen as the assistant director of player personnel before leaving for a senior defensive analyst job at Mississippi State, where he played from 2005-2009. Chaney is a highly regarded coach and it would not surprise me to see him somewhere (hopefully in orange and blue) as an on-field coach in the near future. His ability to connect to recruits, their families, and the fact that he is a Florida native are just a few of the factors that make him an excellent addition to the off-field staff for Coach Billy Napier.
Assistant AD of Recruiting Strategy Katie Turner (@katieturner0087):
Katie Turner's official title is "Assistant AD of Recruiting Strategy" for the Gators and she has the results to back up the anticipation that fans have for her in Orange and Blue. She served for the past two seasons as Director of Recruiting Operations for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs brought in Top Five classes in each of her two years there. Before her stop in Athens, she served as the Director of On-Campus Recruiting for Louisiana under Coach Napier. Each of her years there the Ragin' Cajuns reeled in the number one class in the Sun Belt Conference. She also has spent some time in the NFL working for the Buffalo Bills. She got her career started at the University of Alabama from 2013-2016 obtaining the top class in the country in each of her four years there.
Director of On-Campus Recruiting and Football Events Bri Wade (@briazjawade):
Bri Wade spent the last two seasons at ULL under Coach Napier helping to reel in the top class in the Sun Belt Conference in 2020 and 2021. Wade is a graduate of Mississippi State University where she served on the Student Recruiting team from 2014-2018. Wade was very quickly anticipated to be joining Coach Napier in Gainesville once his hire was made official, and while it took a little bit longer than expected to be formally announced, Coach Napier knew who he wanted from the very start after seeing the work she has done in Lafayette, and made sure to bring her to Gainesville with him. Her and Katie Turner paired together for the Orange and Blue gives fans reason to be excited for the uptick that should be coming in recruiting.
Joshua Thompson Director of Football Operations (@jthompsonFB):
Joshua Thompson is arriving to Gainesville after being at Auburn in 2021 with the same title. He had a one year stint prior to that at Arkansas as director of recruiting and player personnel, and before that his longest tenure has been at Texas A&M from 2010-2017 working in recruiting, personnel and operations. Thompson will be overseeing the program and having his hand in many different behind the scenes details for the Gators. He is known by many as one of the best in the country at what he does. Look for this to be yet another piece of Napier's army that allows player development, experience, and overall life to be improved. Another "CEO" type that will make sure ever T is crossed and I is dotted when it comes to Gator football.
Chris Couch GAMECHANGER Coordinator (@Coach_Couch56):
While technically an off-field position, Couch will be in charge of special teams, or officially titled, "Gamechanger" coordinator. The fact is certainly true that special teams have the ability to change the game and in a hurry. Think back to 2020 LSU game or more recently the 2021 Alabama game. Coach Couch spent the 2021 season as the special teams coordinator under Coach Napier at Louisiana as well. His special teams unit ranked 15th nationally in punting average last year, and fourth in the Sun Belt in return average. With Coach Napier not shying away from the importance he places on special teams, I mean, look at the official title again, I would expect to see an emphasis and improvement on special teams, I mean "gamechangers" this season.
Marcus Castro-Walker Director of Player Engagement and NIL (@MCastroWalker):
"Scared money don't make money."-Billy Napier
Castro-Walker is arriving in Gainesville after stops at places such as Nebraska, Arizona State, and UCF. He is the one tasked with NIL and everything that this entails for the Gator athletes. With the ever evolving game of college football and what is legal, what is not, and what can you get away with being the way it is, a man like Castro-Walker is essential. To have a designated person that isn't juggling position work, film breakdown, or anything else to just focus on this is huge. As we all saw on signing day "NIL" (legal or not) is here, and it matters. Just look at Jimbo and his rant (he's a liar and we all know it). With Coach Napier officially endorsing The Gator Collective, one would expect that Castro-Walker will be hearing that name mentioned often, as well as other companies who are interested in doing deals with the players. I think this could sneakily be one of the most important hires that will always remain under the radar, yet the return on investment should be elite.
Bird Sherrill Director of College Personnel (@bird_sherrill):
This was another staff member that Napier took off of the hands of the NFL. Sherrill was on staff with the Detroit Lions for six seasons from 2016-2021. He's been a scouting assistant and a scout for them, so fittingly he is going to be working on scouting some talent to join the Gators. Sherrill will be in charge of evaluating the JUCO and transfer portal players. Again, like NIL, the transfer portal is also a relatively young thing in college football. We saw the previous staff benefit from the portal several times adding the likes of Van Jefferson, Tre' Grimes, Demarkcus Bowman, Lorenzo Lingard, Brenton Cox Jr., Jon Greenard, and many others. The portal is something that should always remain secondary to high school recruiting, but can provide some instant improvement to a roster. The Gators have already added some guys this offseason. Most notably, O'Cyrus Torrence from Louisiana who will be competing for a starting spot on the line this fall. Sherrill has some gaps in the roster to fill, and hopefully will be able to do just that following spring practice during the summer transfer period.
Kelsee Gomes Director of Sports Nutrition-Football (@Kelsee_Gomes):
Yo, Diabate, you left too early bro.
Seriously though, Gomes is one of the best, and has already served one stint in Gainesville from 2012-2015 when she was the coordinator of Sports Nutrition. Gomes is credentialed as a Registered Dietitian (RD), a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), a certified LEAP Therapist (CLT) specializing in food sensitivities and is also certified in adult weight management by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. An active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Gomes received the 2014 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year award from the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (FAND). She is also active in the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA). Long story short, she will be the one making sure our players are no longer getting "Jamaican bacon". Nutrition isn't a sexy part of the game, but anyone that has ever played a sport or attempted to become a healthier person can attest to the fact that what you are fueling your body with matters. Lifting is great, running is great too, but if you're still eating a cheeseburger and girl scout cookies, you aren't maximizing your results. With Gomes on board, look for the Gators to not only show progress pictures on social media, but also progress on the field late in games this fall.
Chase Clark Assistant for College Personnel/On-Campus Recruiting (@chaseclarkuf):
Having a dad who played for the Gators and was even a captain his senior year, Brian Clark, Clark's blood was orange and blue from the start. He took off for Tuscaloosa for his college years and got his start under Coach Saban from 2012-2016 in player personnel. Although his title has changed entering the 2022 season, Clark is going into his fourth year with the Gators. Prior to this year, assistant director of player personnel was his title and he was involved with evaluations and recruiting. The decision to retain Clark by CBN cannot be understated. Tons of players have been vocal about Clark on their visits to Gainesville throughout the years including signee Shemar James. Keeping him and partnering him up with Katie Turner, Bri Wade, and the rest of the recruiting staff is going to undoubtedly pay dividends well into the future for the Gators.
Ty Darlington Quality Control-Tight Ends (@TyDarlingtonUF):
This was another hire that was highway robbery as Napier was able to steal Darlington away from his alma mater (Oklahoma) after he has spent five years there. During his time with the Sooners, Darlington was an offensive analyst as well as an offensive GA, and even got to perform as interim quarterbacks coach for true freshman Caleb Williams. Another Florida guy at heart though being born in Apopka, FL. He played center for the Sooners during his playing days and in 37 games had 26 career starts. In 2016 he signed with the Titans briefly before returning back to Oklahoma to get his career started. He is one that most people probably assumed would follow Lincoln Riley to USC amid his hasty departure, so Coach Napier snatching him up was no small task.
One thing can be said about a lot of these off-field staffers that are working with quality control, analyst positions, etc. Most of the guys currently in these positions are primed to be position coaches in two to three years. It's almost like Napier is working one step ahead with these hires, and planning for the inevitable of on-field assistants ideally getting head coaching jobs, maybe moving on to be a coordinator, or simply not performing at the expected level. When any of the before mentioned takes place, most of the off-field staff should by that time have the experience that if needed, can step into a role, even if its just an interim one, and perform just fine.