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The no scared money scheme? Breaking down Billy Napier’s play-calling and performance

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Florida is getting a coach who has preferred to pound the rock in his career.

NCAA Football: Sun Belt Conference Championship Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

Florida has hired its new coach — and with that comes some new schemes.

Billy Napier is coming to Gainesville after a historically successful stint at the University of Louisiana. Following Napier’s hire, many have lauded his recruiting prowess, organizational skills, and ability to run a program.

However, not many people have talked about how his teams play. I wanted to take a close look at what Napier likes to do on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

According to the rumor mill, it would appear that he will be hiring many coaches from outside his current staff to fill positions at Florida. This may include the defensive coordinator position. His DC from Louisiana, Patrick Toney, is reportedly coming with him, but hasn’t been officially hired as of time of this writing. Due to this, I didn’t focus too much on what schemes he runs defensively, because those may change.

I believe whoever he chooses will run a physical, aggressive defense. Yeah, I know: That’s what you hear about every new defensive coordinator hire. But throw on the Louisiana tape against Iowa State last year. Louisiana was physical, aggressive and not afraid to play right up in the faces of the heavily favored Cyclones — and ultimately won. I think whoever Napier chooses to call defense, whether it’s Toney or someone else, will play an enjoyable brand of defensive football. Whenever that hire is made, I will have a closer look at the play caller on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, Napier confirmed in his introductory press conference that he will be calling plays — especially handy as his offensive coordinator sticks around in Lafayette. Napier also has prior experience calling plays at Arizona State (2017) and Clemson (2009-2010).

So what kind of play caller is he? Let’s take a look at the numbers. (Note: Unlike the NFL, the NCAA counts sacks as rushes. To get a true look at the play-calling split, I have categorized sacks — including the negative yardage — as pass attempts.)

Billy Napier: Play-Calling and Performance

Year School Points Points Per Game Total Plays Plays Per Game Total Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass Completion %
Year School Points Points Per Game Total Plays Plays Per Game Total Yards Yards Per Play Total Rushes Run % Rushing Yards Yards Per Rush Total Passes Pass % Passing Yards Yards Per Pass Completion %
2021 Louisiana 399 31 886 68 5277 6 490 55.30% 2653 5.41 396 44.70% 2624 6.63 60.80%
2020 Louisiana 370 34 739 67 4637 6.3 420 56.83% 2412 5.74 319 43.17% 2225 6.97 58.10%
2019 Louisiana 531 38 987 71 6918 7 559 56.64% 3735 6.68 428 43.36% 3183 7.44 64.90%
2018 Louisiana 447 32 901 64 5940 6.6 526 58.38% 3223 6.13 375 41.62% 2717 7.25 63.20%
2017 AZ State 414 32 981 75 5605 5.7 524 53.41% 2521 4.81 457 46.59% 3084 6.75 63.50%
2010 Clemson 312 24 865 67 4349 5 437 50.52% 1924 4.4 428 49.48% 2425 5.67 56.20%
2009 Clemson 436 31 886 63 5073 5.7 478 53.95% 2521 5.27 408 46.05% 2552 6.25 56.40%
Career N/A 2909 32 6245 68 37799 6.1 3434 54.99% 18989 5.53 2811 45.01% 18810 6.69 60.44%

Napier would definitely be considered a run-first coach. For his career, Napier calls runs on 55% of plays and passes on 45% of plays.

His offenses have averaged 32 points per game and over six yards per play — very good numbers, if not record-smashing ones. But if you remove his two initial seasons at Clemson, the numbers improve considerably.

Napier was fired from Clemson and has said that experience humbled him. It also led him to Alabama, where I would assume he learned a different way to do some things.

Post-Alabama, Napier’s offenses have averaged 33 points per game and 6.3 yards per play. The run-pass split has been only a tick more run-oriented — 56% run and 44% pass — but nearly every per-something average improved his second time around as a play caller. Post-Bama, his offenses average 5.77 yards per rush and 7.05 yards per pass attempt. When sacks are removed from pass attempts (as they are in NCAA stats), the yards per attempt rises to 7.44.

The average game from a Billy Napier-coached offense in the five seasons since his stint at Clemson would look something like this:

The Average Billy Napier Game

Category Average
Category Average
Points 33
Plays 69
Yards 437
Rushes 39
Rush Yards 224
Pass Attempts 30
Completions 19
Pass Yards 213

Napier’s offenses have been fairly balanced in terms of output.

When watching Louisiana play, stylistically, the Ragin’ Cajuns under Napier remind me a little bit of some of Steve Sarkisian’s offenses at Alabama. I don’t believe they use the RPO as much as Sark did, but Napier likes to use a lot of pre-snap shifting and motion to gather information for the quarterback.

His Louisiana teams are almost always in the shotgun or the pistol. In the games I watched, his run game uses a mix of wide zone, duo, counter and some jet sweep. The run is used to set up big opportunities in the passing game, as Napier’s teams have connected on some big play-action shots. They love to flood zones in the passing game and the offense seems quarterback-friendly.

There is nothing mind-blowing or revolutionary here. The concepts build off one another and show a good eye for planning; the schemes are just sound and well-connected. And good players executing them has made them successful.

I take a closer look at Napier’s schemes below.