Florida's lackluster start to Year 2 under coach Billy Napier, particularly on offense, has failed to quell questions about his role as the team's play-caller and quarterbacks coach. Through five games, the Gators rank ninth among SEC teams in total yardage and dead last in scoring at 25 points per game. A 33-14 loss at Kentucky in Week 5, which dropped the Gators at 3-2 entering October, might end up being a turning point for Napier as he evaluates the state of the program. As of Monday, however, Napier says he intends to remain the team's offensive play-caller heading into a Week 6 game vs. Vanderbilt.
"I spoke about it briefly in the preseason that everything we do is always being evaluated," Napier said. "I think one of the things that is challenging as a leader when you have a core responsibility [is] if things can be done better in that area, then you've got to be able to tell yourself the truth, if that makes sense. I would tell you that I am a lot more critical of myself than anybody on the outside."
Florida fell behind 23-0 against the Wildcats before finally getting on the board before halftime -- a 4-yard touchdown from quarterback Graham Mertz to tight end Hayden Hansen. It was too little, too late. Florida lost its third consecutive game to Kentucky, the longest such streak in the series since dropping four in a row from 1948-51.
The path forward doesn't get easier, either. Four ranked opponents are left on the schedule, including top-ranked Georgia and No. 5 Florida State, both rivalries. No. 21 Missouri and No. 23 LSU are also on the docket. The Gators did beat a ranked Tennessee team at home in Week 3, but what sits ahead only adds to the urgency for Napier to right the ship.
"There is no sugarcoating this thing," Napier added. "We have no excuse. We can coach better and we can play better. Hopefully, we will do that."
Florida is 9-9 overall under Napier, who went 6-7 in 2022. Napier was previously 40-12 in four seasons at Louisiana and guided the Ragin' Cajuns to three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2019-21 with AP Top 25 finishes in both in the latter two years.
The situation can be compared to Texas A&M, where coach Jimbo Fisher faced intense scrutiny for his role in the offense amid a 5-7 campaign in 2022. Fisher hired Bobby Petrino as offensive coordinator in the offseason. The results have been immediate: The Aggies are now averaging 36.8 points through five games after breaking the 30-point threshold just twice in 2022 -- despite an injury to quarterback Conner Weigman.