Photo: Billy Napier and the Florida Gators; Credit: Alex Pastor
How important would it be for the Florida Gators (5-4, 2-4 SEC) to play a bowl game to conclude Billy Napier’s first season in charge?
The feat would be significant, to be sure, but not for the potential bragging rights or the pride that would come with it.
Last Monday, Napier evaluated the benefits that would come with bowl eligibility. Not only did he take note of the additional practices and meetings that Florida could hold that would be worth entering the second year of his tenure, but also the opportunities for players to “increase their career value” and celebrate the positives that emerged during the season. Season.
Asked again after Florida’s 41-24 win over Texas A&M on Saturday – leading the team to an eligibility game – Napier sang a slightly different tune, looking at the topic from a broader perspective.
“You know, I think it is — at the University of Florida, of course, it’s great to go to a bowl,” suggested Napier. “We have bigger aspirations than that.”
His players, in a way, agree. Side Jaydon’s Hill consider doing a “standard” bowling game for Florida; guard O’Cyrus Torrence noted that players “automatically assume they’re going to have a championship and a bowl game”.
But typically, UF is expected to fight beyond the bowling games with sponsors you’ve never heard of. SEC Championship and College Football Playoff hopes are often on the mind.
That won’t happen in 2022. Whether Florida fans expected this reality in the first year of Napier’s rebuild or not, the show isn’t quite ready to make that leap yet.
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Napier understands that and doesn’t see a potential 13th game this season as a significant sign of progress. He’s seen the evolution he wants to see during the regular season, in practice and behind closed doors when it comes to personal development.
“I think the main thing that probably makes me the most excited is the progress we’ve made with these people,” Napier explained on Saturday. “I mean, I could care less about anything except continuing this progress, this momentum, this sisterhood, these relationships. Because if you get it right, football comes with it.”
Napier has consistently recognized his goal of building a program at UF that emphasizes growing and maturing off the field. He has scored similar points throughout the year – progressing in this regard will lead to success on the field. He specifically credited this “human element” in the Gators’ triumph over the Aggies.
If that element leads to another victory for Florida in 2022, the Gators will return to postseason play for the fifth year in a row.
Ultimately, while bowl eligibility comes with that, the Gators’ goal isn’t to secure one additional game this year — it’s to beat the rest on the calendar.
“We know Coach Napier keeps saying we’re trying to win these last five,” said defensive end Princess Umanmielen on Monday. “Coach Napier tells us, he says the initial objective sometimes changes. Now we start the season trying to get somewhere, we still have an objective to win.”
Beating the Aggies on the road was a good and necessary start to achieving this new goal.
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