By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
It’s crazy to think that Florida has not been a national title contender in quite some time.
The last time the Gators won the national championship was 2008. The following year, they finished the regular season undefeated but lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship game. Somehow, their decline coincided with Nick Saban taking over in Tuscaloosa.
After Urban Meyer left in 2010 there has been a revolving door of head coaches. Billy Napier was hired in 2022 and so far, his record is just above .500. He is only in his second season but some fans are wondering if he is the right man for the job.
I actually think he is. I also think it would create a bigger problem for the program if he were fired after this season.
A coach needs some time to establish a winning culture and recruit. Napier coached at Louisiana for four seasons prior to arriving in Gainesville and his record was 40 – 12. He had double-digit wins the last three seasons.
It is tough to watch rival Georgia in the same division win back-to-back national championships while UF is struggling to be bowl eligible.
So far, I think the season has gone well for the Gators. They are 5 – 2 heading into the Georgia game so they are on track to have a good season. They have a chance to upset some teams the last half of the season, starting with UGA.
Coach Napier spoke about some of these things during the bye week. He was asked about how Georgia tight end Brock Bowers’ ankle injury will affect Florida’s preparation:
“Yeah, we’re in the middle of the open date now. We’re working on ourselves. We’re obviously right in the middle of evaluating what we do well and the things we need to do better. We’ll start commenting on Georgia and work on Georgia later in the week.”
Running back Montrell Johnson played for Coach Napier at Louisiana and was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year (2021). He transferred to Florida last season once Napier took the job and he is one of the best players on offense. He leads the team in rushing and he is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Coach Napier spoke about Johnson’s progression:
“Montrell is one of the more impressive young men we have. Obviously he’s physically talented. More importantly, he’s got really good practice habits. He’s tough, he’s durable, he’s smart. He can catch, he can protect. He’s been very productive. The guy’s over 2,000 yards now in his career. He’s been with us, this will be Year 3. I think Montrell wants to please; he wants to have success; he works as hard as anybody; and he’s a selfless guy. So anytime we ask him to block he does a fantastic job. I think one of the things you gotta do is try to get the ball to your players that are explosive and capable. Sometimes that will require the running back to be a blocker and Montrell has done that really well.”
Trevor Etienne is right behind him in rushing and he’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Florida is outmatched against Georgia but I think they will play hard and make it a close game. Their final three games of the season are at #19 LSU, at #20 Mizzou and #4 Florida State. I think they will beat at least one of those teams.