Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier got off to a bad start in Gainesville last winter when he immediately tried to lower expectations for his first recruiting class as UF’s head coach.

“I think the important part is that we don’t get consumed with the stars…I think it’s going to be more about evaluation,” said Napier at his introductory press conference this past December.

Not what Florida fans wanted to hear after the Dan Mullen recruiting debacle last season.

Six months after that quote and the concern among Florida fans appears to be at an all-time high.

The Gators have missed on a few key recruits recently — including four-star quarterback Jalen Rashada, who spurned Florida for Miami. As a result, the Gators currently have just the No. 34 ranked recruiting class in the nation.

And Florida fans aren’t taking it well.

UF fans, in fact, are making so much noise that Napier felt it was necessary to write an open letter to the fan base to ease their worries.


That’s an unprecedented move from a new coach who hasn’t even coached a game yet in Gainesville. This should still be the honeymoon period for Napier, yet he’s already facing some pushback.

A couple of Gators fans recently wrote to The Athletic to ask if it’s time to panic over Napier’s recruiting abilities.

“Is this a major red flag and cause for concern or just noise with a new coach who is still playing catch up from his predecessor?” wrote one fan.

“How much of this is Gator fans overreacting, and how much does this bespeak real trouble for Napier’s tenure?” asked another fan.

The Athletic’s Ari Wasserman attempted to quell any concerns with his response, though he noted there could be real reasons for concern if Florida’s recruiting efforts don’t improve in the next few months.

There are still six months before signing day and perception can change in a hurry. But if Napier finishes his first full cycle as Florida’s head coach with a Mullen-like class — regardless of where you’d put the blame — I’d be worried about Florida’s long-term viability as a powerhouse recruiting outfit.

Those fans who wrote to The Athletic aren’t the only ones expressing some concern over Napier.

Florida alum and college football writer Richard Johnson also tried to soothe the worries of Gators fans recently.

That sounds like a discussion centered around a third-year head coach trying to prove he’s the right man for the job. These aren’t discussions that usually take place about a new head coach who is supposed to reenergize the football program.

I think Florida made a massive mistake by moving on from a good coach in Mullen and hiring a coach in Napier who has never been a Power-5 head coach before. And I think we’re seeing that mistake play out in real-time.

Maybe Napier will right the ship and turn out to be Florida’s savior. It’s certainly possible. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 10 years of covering college football, it’s that when red flags pop up, it’s best to not ignore them. They’re usually a sign that more problems are on the way.

Featured image via Matt Pendleton / USA TODAY NETWORK