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Building Billy Napier’s Florida staff: Tracking Gators assistants coming and going

Napier’s first staff has many former co-workers, one of college football’s most respected assistants, and a Gators legend. And it’s not done yet.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Louisiana v Mississippi State Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier is going to have a slew of tasks to tackle — as much as a coach physically tackles anything, anyway — over the course of his first offseason in Gainesville.

First and maybe most important among those is staff construction. Napier is set to largely, if not entirely, overhaul the staff that Dan Mullen put together in Gainesville, swapping out the assistants who were largely long-time colleagues of Mullen for what could be a list of names that pulls from both Napier’s staff at Louisiana and his contacts made over a coaching career that has included stops at Clemson, Alabama, and Arizona State.

Napier is also likely to have most or all of his 2022 staff in place while the remainder of Florida’s 2021 staff, now working under interim head coach Greg Knox instead of Mullen, prepares Florida to play in the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl against UCF.

This post will serve to track the reporting on and official announcements of staffing under Napier, with updates as new reports or announcements occur. A more comprehensive discussion post on these coaches will exist in parallel with this one when I get the chance to write it.

2022 Florida Gators Football Coaching Staff

Position Coach Announcement Date
Position Coach Announcement Date
Head Coach (Offensive Play-Caller) Billy Napier November 28, 2021
Offensive Coordinator / Offensive Line Coach Rob Sale January 11, 2022
Running Backs Coach / Associate Head Coach - Offense Jabbar Juluke December 6, 2021
Wide Receivers Coach Keary Colbert December 15, 2021
Assistant Offensive Line Coach Darnell Stapleton December 10, 2021
Co-Defensive Coordinator / Safeties Patrick Toney December 6, 2021
Defensive Line Coach
Inside Linebackers Coach Jay Bateman January 18, 2022
Outside Linebackers Coach / Alumni Liaison Mike Peterson January 6, 2022
Cornerbacks Coach / Assistant Head Coach - Defense Corey Raymond December 9, 2021
Associate Head Coach / Director of Football Strength and Conditioning Mark Hocke December 6, 2021

All titles in table are taken from Florida’s official announcements. Structure of staff is based on Napier’s press conference, in which he stated the aim of hiring two offensive line coaches.

Monday, December 6th, 2021: Florida announced the hirings of Mark Hocke as associate head coach and director of strength and conditioning for football, Patrick Toney as co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, and Jabbar Juluke as running backs coach and assistant head coach for offense. All three were with Napier for the duration of his tenure at Louisiana, and only Toney — who shifts from coaching linebackers back to coaching safeties — is changing responsibilities from his 2021 position.

Hocke’s hiring is the only one that guarantees a departure from Florida’s 2021 staff, as he replaces Nick Savage in the role of strength coach. Toney, who called plays for Louisiana’s defense, is likely to step into that role for Florida, while Juluke should replace Greg Knox as running backs coach, but enough flux exists that, for example, Toney’s hiring could theoretically only mean role changes for interim defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Christian Robinson or safeties coach Wesley McGriff.

Thursday, December 9th: Florida announced the hiring of Corey Raymond as cornerbacks coach and assistant head coach for defense. Raymond comes to Florida from LSU, where he spent the last 10 years as the coach most integral to LSU building its case to be referred to as DBU — the title that Florida and LSU have vied for over the last decade.

Raymond’s resume is extensive and gaudy, and includes essentially every significant LSU defensive back of note in the last 15 years; as our friends at And The Valley Shook wrote, “To put it bluntly, Corey Raymond is DBU.” Napier extracting him from LSU and his native Louisiana — after many, many whisper campaigns about the possibility of Florida hiring Raymond from LSU over the last decade that spanned multiple coaching staffs — is, quite simply, the sort of coup that will be expected to be an extremely positive development for both Florida’s defensive back play and its recruiting of the secondary.

Reporting and announcements over the course of the week have also reconfirmed the idea that few — if any — staffers will return from Dan Mullen’s 2021 staff to work at Florida under Napier. Tight ends coach Tim Brewster announced his departure on Monday; Gators Online reported that quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee, cornerbacks coach Jules Montinar, and safeties coach Wesley McGriff were all not expected to return.

Of that quartet, Brewster is the only coach without his likely successor already on board at Florida. Montinar’s role will be filled by Raymond, co-defensive coordinator Patrick Toney will replace McGriff as safeties coach, and Napier has indicated that he will not have an on-field quarterbacks coach apart from himself, with analyst Ryan O’Hara — announced as part of Florida’s staff on Monday — helping him coach them during the week and from the booth.

Tuesday, January 11th, 2022: Huh. Been a while since the last update here. Maybe Georgia didn’t make the national champio ... aw, fiddlesticks.

Anyway, Napier has continued piecing together his Florida staff since the early flurry of hires after the end of the 2021 regular season, importing Louisana offensive line coach Darnell Stapleton and luring USC wide receivers coach Keary Colbert in mid-December and bringing in Gators legend Mike Peterson and former Louisiana assistant Rob Sale in January.

Arguably, none of those four hires has the wattage of Corey Raymond — but that would be hard to match with any non-coordinator assistant coach, given Raymond’s fantastic reputation. And Peterson, who grew up in the city of Alachua, starred for the Gators under Steve Spurrier, and had a lengthy NFL career even before building a reputation as an excellent assistant coach at South Carolina, isn’t that far off from Raymond, though his strengths are generally considered to be slightly weighted to teaching over recruiting.

And in all four hires since that initial wave of Ragin’ Cajuns coming with Napier, Florida’s head coach has seemed to prioritize teaching over showy recruiting.

Sale and Stapleton shaped some strong Louisiana lines without perceived blue-chip prospects; Colbert is perceived to have been less effective on the recruiting trail than predecessor Tee Martin was at USC, but receivers that Martin may have had more of a hand in getting to Los Angeles still flourished under Colbert, with Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Drake London all developing into superb players for the Trojans in recent years.

And while Skai Moore, T.J. Brunson, and Ernest Jones are probably the names better remembered for being reliable performers for the Gamecocks at linebacker, and all are inside linebackers, Peterson likely shares some credit for their development, and gets fuller credit for D.J. Wonnum and Kingsley Enagbare, both strong edge players.

The bulk of Napier’s on-field assistants so far are also coaches he has worked with before. Four of them — Jabbar Juluke, Patrick Toney, Sale, and Stapleton — were Louisiana assistants, obviously, while Colbert and Napier intersected while both were at Alabama. Peterson and Raymond, on the other hand, have no work history with Napier.

Napier still has two spots to fill on his staff, and appears set to allocate them to a defensive line coach and an outside linebackers and defensive ends coach, with plenty of speculation linking Los Angeles Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson, perhaps the single coach most associated with the career of all-timer Aaron Donald, to the former position, and a similar amount suggesting Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Karl Scott could come to Florida as a safeties coach who would bump Toney’s responsibilities to inside linebackers.

Former Florida assistant Chris Rumph’s name has also been mentioned as a possibility at defensive line coach; now that the Chicago Bears, his current employer, are done with their season, he could be on the move, as could Scott, who would seem unlikely to return to the Vikings after head coach Mike Zimmer was fired on Monday.

And Sale’s own long-reported move to Florida only becoming official after the moribund New York Giants officially finished their season speaks to what seems to be a desire on Napier and/or Florida’s part to mostly wait out the completion of other seasons before announcing hires. Napier remained at Louisiana to coach the Cajuns to victory in the Sun Belt Championship Game in early December, with Juluke, Stapleton, Toney, and strength coach Mark Hocke all following him to Gainesville in the week after that contest, and USC failing to make a bowl allowed Colbert to come east before bowl season had actually begun. Peterson coached for South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ Mayo Bowl win.

The exception to this is, of course, Raymond, who came to Florida despite LSU making the Alamo Bowl. But only a scant few members of the Tigers’ 2021 coaching staff or roster were around for that game, in which Kansas State waxed LSU — and Raymond’s swift hiring probably had something to do with his tremendous work as a recruiter, which surely played some role in Florida securing commitments from defensive backs Devin Moore and Kamari Wilson leading up to and at the opening of the Early Signing Period.

With Napier and Florida working to rebuild a 2022 recruiting class that disintegrated after Dan Mullen’s firing, having a full staff in place as National Signing Day looms in February would seem to be of significant value. But Florida sacrificing a bit of short-term security by waiting things out could pay off long-term if it leads to a hire like Henderson, or a coach or two of equal stature, for its final open spots.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022: Minnesota Vikings defensive backs coach Karl Scott will not be joining Florida’s staff, according to a report from Matt Zenitz of On3Sports.

Scott had been repeatedly linked to Florida, with Billy Napier reportedly targeting him to fill an assistant coach role and possibly co-defensive coordinator duties. Recent reporting and rumors have linked Scott to Alabama, however.

For Florida, missing on Scott would be a rare early miss for Napier, who has mostly appeared to assemble the staff he wanted, but it is not the only such dashing of Plan A. Former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was also linked to Florida prior to departing for Ohio State, while Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi — a renowned recruiter at multiple collegiate stops — was linked to Florida but has since joined Dan Lanning’s first staff at Oregon.

Failing to hire coaches coveted and then hired by Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon is, of course, losing out to some of the most respected programs in college football, and no great shame as a result. But it’s also a reminder that Napier, like every football coach in history, will not have every result go his way — and that his Plan B execution will sometimes be more important than his Plan A ideation.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2022: Jay Bateman joining Napier’s staff as inside linebackers coach is Florida’s first announcement in the week after the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs — and with Florida’s reported hiring of former New York Giants and Penn State assistant Sean Spencer as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach still not made, it’s arguably the most underwhelming coaching hire Napier has made.

Bateman comes to Florida after being fired as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator following a 2021 season in which the Tar Heels ranked No. 95 nationally in total defense and No. 105 nationally in yards per play allowed, with every FBS team UNC played except for Virginia Tech and Duke — both programs that changed coaches after the season — tuning the Heels up for 30 or more points.

Prior to his stint at North Carolina, Bateman fared far better during five years as Army’s defensive coordinator, including a No. 4 finish in total defense — a spot ahead of No. 5 Florida — in 2016. Bateman was also suspended for two games in 2017 for receiving information from a former Wake Forest radio broadcast employee in a saga humorously dubbed “Wakeyleaks.” (Whether any stench lingers from that affair is highly doubtful: Shane Beamer, another coach who received information from the same source, is now South Carolina’s head coach, after all.)

But working as Army’s defensive coordinator makes Bateman’s performance as a recruiter difficult to assess given the restrictions service academies face in recruitment, and his time at UNC requires some fudging of the truth to brag about. Florida’s own release mentions that the Heels were much improved upon Bateman’s arrival in 2019; it does not address UNC giving back most of those gains over the last two years. Bateman was seemingly integral to North Carolina landing five-star defensive lineman Keeshawn Silver, but Silver making one tackle in 2021 — for a defense that got Bateman fired, mind — suggests that he was either always a developmental prospect or was somewhat overrated as a recruit, with Bateman himself suggesting nagging injuries were possibly what kept him off the field.

It is also possible that beating up on Bateman’s performance as a defensive coordinator — or as a recruiter while serving as a defensive coordinator — may be missing the point. As just a linebackers coach, he should have more ability to work with and teach players individually, and he’ll certainly have more time to recruit.

But Bateman, who has never worked with Napier in any capacity, is the one coach announced or tabbed for Napier’s staff that does not seem on paper to be either an exciting hire or one that makes sense because of previous ties. As such, his hiring will probably be received as a head-scratcher until his proficiency as a recruiter or his players’ on-field performance reveals it to be otherwise.

For reference, below are Napier’s 2021 Louisiana staff and Florida’s 2021 coaching staff in its three iterations, the latter two necessitated by the firings of Todd Grantham and John Hevesy and then Mullen himself.

2021 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Football Coaching Staff

Position Coach
Position Coach
Head Coach (Play-Caller) Billy Napier
Offensive Coordinator / Tight Ends Coach Michael Desormeaux
Offensive Coordinator / Recruiting Coordinator / Wide Receivers Coach Tim Leger
Running Backs Coach Jabbar Juluke
Offensive Line Coach Jeff Norrid
Assistant Offensive Line Coach Darnell Stapleton
Defensive Coordinator / Outside Linebackers Coach Patrick Toney
Defensive Line Coach Rory Segrest
Inside Linebackers Coach Galen Scott
Cornerbacks Coach Jeff Burris
Safeties Coach Wes Neighbors
Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Hocke

2021 Florida Gators Football Coaching Staff

Position Opening Day Coach Post-Grantham/Hevesy Post-Mullen
Position Opening Day Coach Post-Grantham/Hevesy Post-Mullen
Head Coach (Offensive Play-Caller) Dan Mullen Dan Mullen Greg Knox
Quarterbacks Coach Garrick McGee Garrick McGee Garrick McGee (Play-Caller)
Running Backs Coach / Special Teams Coordinator Greg Knox Greg Knox Greg Knox
Passing Game Coordinator / Wide Receivers Coach Billy Gonzales Billy Gonzales Billy Gonzales
Running Game Coordinator / Offensive Line Coach John Hevesy Michael Sollenne Michael Sollenne
Assistant Head Coach / Tight Ends Coach Tim Brewster Tim Brewster Tim Brewster
Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham Christian Robinson Christian Robinson
Defensive Line Coach David Turner David Turner David Turner
Linebackers Coach Christian Robinson Christian Robinson Christian Robinson
Cornerbacks Coach / Recruiting Coordinator Jules Montinar Jules Montinar Jules Montinar
Secondary Coach (Safeties) Wesley McGriff Wesley McGriff Wesley McGriff
Director of Football Strength and Conditioning Nick Savage Nick Savage Nick Savage
On-Field Coach (Defense) N/A Paul Pasqualoni Paul Pasqualoni