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5 reasons why Billy Napier can save his Florida Gators job

The conventional wisdom is that Florida Gators coach Billy Napier’s job is in jeopardy.

He’s a fixture of hot seat lists thanks to an 11-14 record, the nation’s hardest schedule and win total odds around 4½. If Napier’s tenure begins with a third consecutive losing season, it’s hard to envision him getting a fourth.

But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong? How can Napier spring a couple upsets, beat a rival or two and show enough progress to have fans excited about the program’s direction a year from now?

With more experience, a veteran quarterback, a few luckier bounces, a successful offseason overhaul and (finally) stability.

This analysis isn’t intended as a prediction either way. Rather, it’s a good-faith attempt to challenge the prevailing predictions by reverse-engineering a turnaround. If Napier rebounds in Year 3, these five reasons will be key.

Immediately after losing to Florida State, Napier tried to find optimism through the growing pains of inexperience.

“Look at the teams across the country that are having success,” Napier said then. “They have veteran football teams, right?”

Right. The teams that had the most returning production last year (Kansas and Missouri) were two of the most improved in the nation. Nos. 3 and 4 (FSU and Michigan) went 28-1.

Florida was 115th, according to ESPN. The Gators led the country with seven true freshmen who played in every game. Their 37 starts by true/redshirt freshmen ranked fifth among power programs.

All that 2023 experience means 2024 Florida is a veteran team. The Gators are up to 24th in returning production, with 204 more career starts and 10,000-plus more career snaps than a year ago. Considering Napier’s emphasis on development, those stats are encouraging.

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