Florida Gators

Billy Napier Can’t Fix Florida’s Defensive Problems This Season

todayOctober 16, 2022


By Hays Carlyon

GAINESVILLE – Imagine not getting playing time on this Florida defense.

Might be time to hit the portal.

If you’re not good enough to get on the field with this defense, you’re not an SEC player.

Good grief. Florida’s defense is atrocious. Just atrocious.

It’s Ventrell Miller at inside linebacker and nothing else of consequence. Nothing that meets the standard of a Gators defender.

LSU scored a touchdown on its first six possessions in draining the Swamp again 45-35 Saturday on Tom Petty Day. This was “Free Fallin’” of the worst kind.

I’m not going to regurgitate the details.

Let’s look for answers. Unfortunately, there aren’t any to help in the present. You are going to have to watch this defense (if you choose) five more times, Gators fans.

Florida only has three seniors on its defensive depth chart: Miller, linebacker Amari Burney and safety Trey Dean.

Napier is going to have to do something coaches don’t like to do, but he has no choice. He’s going to have to run some defenders off this offseason and encourage them to transfer.

The first wave of help comes in the current recruiting class. The Gators have the nation’s eighth-ranked class currently, according to 247Sports’ composite, with 22 commitments. Thirteen of those players play defense, including five defensive linemen and six defensive backs. Of those 11, five will need to have a significant role next season.

The Gators will probably add five more players to this class, so even more help might be coming.

Napier also needs to utilize the transfer portal. He needs to bring in a few veteran players. I would try to snap a veteran defensive tackle, middle linebacker and defensive end.

Maybe some of these young defenders on the roster will develop but it’s hard to see a lot of upside in any of them. The defense didn’t quit, because it played its best football in the fourth quarter. It’s just a soft defense.

Napier also needs to figure out if defensive coordinator Patrick Toney is the right man for this job. Napier brought Toney with him from Louisiana but it’s hard to blame all of these failures on the players.

There isn’t much talent here. The recruiting failures of former coach Dan Mullen are magnified when you see this unit on the field. There are tweeners everywhere. It just isn’t a defense constructed in sound recruiting principles. Mullen took chances because frankly he didn’t try hard enough to get quality prospects.

Still, shouldn’t Toney create at least some stops?

Napier should consider bringing in a veteran SEC defensive coordinator. Former Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins was a quality coordinator at Florida in 2015-16 under Jim McElwain before taking the head job at Temple. Collins also served as Mullen’s defensive coordinator at Mississippi State from 2013-14.

LSU has now scored 42, 37, 49 and 42 points in its last four games against the Gators. Joe Burrow played in one of those games. It’s inexcusable.

Napier isn’t going to get four years to fix the defense. Massive improvement will be expected next season. He needs to have some very uncomfortable decisions with current players and coaches.

Napier needs to sign five true freshmen that can be quality players immediately, acquire a few veterans in the portal that can be reliable and hope he and his staff can develop another 10 quality defenders from the mass that returns.

He also needs to figure out if he has the right people coaching his defense at this level.

This defense isn’t Napier’s fault. But next year’s will be.

Imagining Florida’s defense turning into a good product next season seems like the ultimate “Running Down a Dream.”

(You can email Hays at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon).

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