Boots on the Ground: Napier's Army
When Billy Napier was formally announced on November 28th he told us he was going to be bringing an army to Gainesville to get Florida Football back where it needed to be. 37 hires later (and that count will probably be outdated by the time of this article being published) he is doing exactly what he said. Most of these faces and names are new to many Gator fans, so I want to look into each of the on-field coaches that have been hired to this point.
On-Field Coaching Staff:
Head Coach Billy Napier (@coach_bnapier):
Coach Napier has come off of four successful seasons at ULL, capping it off with a Sun Belt Conference Title, but before that he had some other successful stops as well. Before ULL he spent a season at Arizona State, leading the 14th ranked offense in the country as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Preceding that was multiple stints at Alabama, first as an analyst (2011) and then coming back as the receivers coach from 2013-2017. Mixed in there was a year with our old friend Jim McElwain at Colorado State. Prior to this he had multiple stints at Clemson as well, helping to initiate the run that they went on. In his final two years there he served as offensive coordinator at only 29 years old making him the youngest coordinator in America. The thing that most people love about him though is his attention to detail. It has been reported multiple times how detail oriented he is, and how nothing is going to slip through the cracks with him. His eight phases of a football program are a detail not seen recently in Gainesville. Reportedly, he plans out every single day of the year in a notebook and does not deviate from his plan. So far, the plan has been hire, hire, and hire some more (and then go snag a five-star from IMG on two weeks notice). I know I speak for all of Gator nation when I say we are pleased with the start, and eager to see the product on the field this fall from CBN.
Offensive Line/OC Rob Sale (@CoachRobSale):
Coach Sale is officially taking the title of Offensive Line and Offensive Coordinator. Sale has had stints at Alabama, Georgia, ULL, and the NFL to name a few. He may have some say in game planning, but OC is going to me more of a title than a responsibility in this scenario. Billy has said he would be the one calling the plays and coaching the quarterbacks. Rob Sale is another coach on Napier's staff that has inroads in Louisiana. Sale, an alum of LSU, played in 35 games and started in 13 his senior year for the Tigers. His offensive lines throughout his coaching career have been solid. In each of his stops ranging from McNeese State to Georgia to Arizona State and finally at ULL before heading to the NFL, his teams averaged at a minimum 180 YPG on the ground. While at ULL with Coach Napier, Sale's offensive line was able to produce great results and help lead the Cajuns to a top 10 ranked scoring offense in 2019. Also in 2019, Sale coached then freshmen O'Cyrus Torrence (newest transfer commit) to the Freshman All-American team. He also was the primary developer in the unit that was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award this year. This was another one of those deals that has been long expected, and is now official.
Assistant Offensive Line Darnell Stapleton (@darnellru53):
Stapleton was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2007 to 2010 and was a member of the team that won Super Bowl XLIII. He started 18 of 26 games on the offensive line during his time in Pittsburgh, including the Super Bowl. During his time at ULL with Coach Napier his offensive line was phenomenal. On the ground, Louisiana's offensive line helped the Ragin' Cajuns to 31 rushing touchdowns and 2,496 rushing yards, ranking 14th and 24th respectively in the nation, which was good enough for second and third in the Sun Belt Conference. Coach Stapleton's experience in the league as a player, combined with his success as a coach should enable him to be a significant upgrade from a coach who hits on players moms during visits.
Associate HC/Running Backs Jabaar Juluke (@CoachJuluke):
Juluke, like many others on the staff has strong ties to Louisiana. Spending time at three schools in Louisiana should help him reel in more kids from an area that is typically a tall task, as it is very hard to convince kids to leave the boot. He was the PFF Running Backs Coach of the Year in 2019, while also coaching some big names during his time at LSU in 2016. Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice are two exceptional running backs that Juluke had the chance to coach and improve during his stint there. We have already seen him equal Greg Knox's (sigh) total of RBs committed with the commitment of Trevor Etienne at the Army All-American Game on January 8th. The Gators are in the running for another running back from Louisiana in TreVonte' Citizen as well. With Coach Napier's offense typically rolling multiple backs, look for at least two if not three of the running backs on the roster to get some serious playing time this fall.
Wide Receivers Keary Colbert (@kearycolbert):
USC alum, Coach Colbert, once held records for receptions (207) during his playing days at Southern California. He was also a part of their 2003 National Championship team. He began his coaching career back there in 2010 as a graduate assistant working with tight ends. He spent one season with Coach Napier as an analyst at Alabama in 2014-2015. His last six years have been spent back at his alma mater coaching up multiple big names in the NFL today. Sam Darnold, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Michael Pittman Jr. are just a few of the names he coached while at USC. Look for Coach Colbert to be the coach on staff who has the ties out west when needed. I certainly don't want to see a "California approach" like we witnessed with the last staff, but at the same time it can't hurt to have that person on staff when the occasional stud from the other side of the country is interested in coming to Gainesville.
Tight Ends William Peagler (@PeaglerWilliam):
Peagler is joining Florida's staff after recently being recognized as PFF's Running Back's Coach of the Year during his time at Michigan State. Even though he is taking on a new role at Florida, coaching the tight ends, the fact remains the same: the guy can coach. He has had various stops throughout his career including stops at some prominent schools. He started out as a student assistant at Clemson in 2010, moved to Louisiana in 2011-2013, Minnesota in 2016, Georgia in 2017-2018, Colorado in 2019, and Michigan State in 2020 and 2021. While he hasn't remained anywhere for a real length of time, you can argue that this job and his last at Michigan State have been the best two yet, and therefore a little bit more continuity should be expected in his tenure as tight ends coach at the University of Florida.
Co-DC/Safeties Patrick Toney (@ptoney):
Patrick Toney got his coaching start at Southeastern Louisiana serving as a defensive assistant for the first two years before coaching safeties and special teams his final year. His next stop was at Sam Houston State where his defense helped propel them to a deep run to the semifinals in the FCS playoffs. After this he went to UTSA where he helped them win their first ever bowl game. His last stop before Gainesville was at ULL with Coach Napier. Toney consistently produced great defenses at ULL with the 2021 season ultimately being the best coming in at ninth overall in the nation in scoring defense at 18.3 PPG. Toney has been regarded as one of the top up and coming coordinators of the game with a relentless effort to recruit. Stories of him playing Warzone until 2:00 am with now Gators signee Shemar James are the types of stories Gator fans are eager to see more of in regards to a full steam ahead approach to recruiting. Look for Coach Toney to quietly be one of Coach Napier's best hires in my opinion.
Defensive Line Sean Spencer (@SpenceChaos):
To clarify, as of Monday morning this hasn't been officially announced by Coach Napier and the University of Florida, but has been reported by Pete Thamel. Spencer was reportedly set to join Duke's staff as Defensive Coordinator as recently as January 11th. It was never formally announced though, and it appears he has decided to join Coach Napier's army at UF instead. Spencer coached for six seasons at Penn State helping to reel in prospects like Micah Parsons and Saquon Barkley. Former Penn State transfer Antonio Valentino tweeted his approval of this potential hire as well. His defensive lines led the Big 10 in sacks, consistently produced top-tier defenses, and reeked Coach Spencer's nickname: Chaos. If true, this is yet another example of Coach Napier consistently proving that regardless of who is on staff at least two things will remain true: You better be able to recruit, and your unit better produce on field results.
Outside Linebackers Mike Peterson (@CoachMPeterson):
Coach Peterson was a member of the 1996 National Championship team, he played linebacker for Steve Spurrier from 1995-98. During his senior year, he was a team captain and earned First-Team All-SEC and All-America honors. Peterson became a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. Peterson was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 and played 14 years in the NFL with three teams: the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons. Not only is he a Gator at heart, but he is a Gainesville rooted Coach as well as he graduated from Santa Fe High School in near by Alachua. He has spent his last six seasons coaching outside linebackers/defensive ends at the University of South Carolina under Will Muschamp and Shane Beamer. Gator coaching Gators >>>>>> Bulldog coaching Gators. Enough said.
Assistant HC of Defense/Cornerbacks Corey Raymond (@UF_CoachRaymond):
Does more really need to be said? Corey Raymond is THE best CB coach in all of college football and an elite recruiter as well. His name has often been mentioned by other programs, but the belief was that it would be virtually impossible to take him out of Baton Rouge. Not for a head coach with a proven track record and a check book to back it up apparently. Coach Napier announced the Corey Raymond hire during the turmoil of decommits to help stop the bleeding and boy did it ever. Already in barely a month on the job we have seen him help reel in a five-star from IMG, be THICK in it for another safety out of Louisiana, and have all three of the top CBs in the 2023 class schedule a visit for the good guys. Raymond's name and results speak for themselves, but don't worry, he is a dog on the trail as well. DBU should be back in Gainesville very shortly.
With almost all of the staff hired now this looking like it will be one of the best coaching staff in Florida football history. The only position left to fill is inside linebackers coach and I am looking forward to seeing who Billy brings in.