Football: 'A perfect fit for Cajun nation' - Billy Napier introduced as new UL football coach
James Bewers, The Daily Advertiser, Dec. 18, 2017
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Director of Athletics Dr. Bryan Maggard welcomes Billy Napier as the 26th Head Coach in Louisiana football history. Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.(Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE / USATODAY Network)
Billy Napier’s approach at the podium as he addressed UL fans and media members at the Cajundome Monday afternoon is fitting of a man who, at one point, was the youngest offensive coordinator in major college football.
It’s also fitting of a man who has served under the two coaches who won the last two national championships – Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
Napier, the 38-year-old who was hired as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ new football coach Friday and introduced Monday, was calm and measured. In his north Georgia drawl, the former Arizona State offensive coordinator chose his words carefully. He emphasized his personal values and celebrated his young family – all three of his children are under 6 years old – as much as he talked about his plans for the UL football program.
“Family is important to me, and that was one of the things unique about this job,” Napier said during his opening statement. “Having recruited this state for the last 4-5 years, you know that it’s about family. I think in this school in particular and this culture, it’s important.”
“It’s important that you know our goal is to play a brand of football that creates a great sense of pride,” he continued, “not only for the institution but the people in this great community and Ragin’ Cajun fans everywhere.”
Originally, Napier wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a high school football coach. Instead, he started his career at Clemson as a graduate assistant in 2003 after playing quarterback at Furman from 1999-2002.
Fifteen years later, he agreed to a five-year deal to take on his first college head coaching job, replacing Mark Hudspeth at UL. He will be paid $756,960 guaranteed in his first year, with the base salary of $250,000 increasing by $25,000 each year of his deal. If all incentives on his contract are met, Napier could make $1,466,960.
The tone from Ragin’ Cajuns director of athletic Bryan Maggard aligned with Napier’s comments. Maggard admits he may not know the nuances of coaching football, but he could easily see Napier for an intelligent, detailed-oriented coach who meant what he said. Feedback Maggard received on Napier was consistent, and the words most frequently used to describe the coach were “genuine and caring.”
“What equally drew us to Billy Napier was the person,” Maggard said. “He’s a man of great integrity and a hard worker – a devoted husband and father who is extremely genuine and relational. These attributes in my opinion made him a perfect fit for Cajun nation.”
“We had a handful of finalists, I’ll say that," Maggard later added. "In a process like this, I’ll never ever talk about the candidates involved. But we had a tremendous amount of interest for this job, I’ll tell you that – sitting head coaches, coordinators, you name it. I was overwhelmed, to be honest with you. I knew it would be a popular position, but really overwhelmed by the amount of interest for this position."
But Napier’s experience recruiting and developing top-level talent, including from the state of Louisiana, are noteworthy. As Clemson’s recruiting coordinator in 2008, Napier helped produce a signing class that ranked second nationally, according to ESPN. A year later, he played a role in Clemson signing former five-star quarterback Tajh Boyd.
As the wide receivers coach at Alabama, he aided Alabama’s efforts in signing five-star prospects like Cam Robinson, Calvin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy and four-star recruits like Hootie Jones and Cam Sims. Robinson, Jones and Sims are all from Monroe.
In his five total seasons with the Crimson Tide, he coached in three national championship games, including two victories.
“As we start this journey toward building the best football team and the best football program in the Sun Belt Conference, we must have a championship approach in everything that we do – every choice, every decision, every habit,” Napier said. “The term I like to use is, ‘We begin with an ending in mind,’ and that is to be a champion.”
And his only season with the Sun Devils, Napier directed an offense that jumped up 40 places in total offense nationally and 76 spots in passing offense from the previous year. ASU’s success in the red zone, scoring on 46 of its 48 trips, was tied for nation’s lead. The Sun Devils gave the ball away on only 11 occasions, good enough for 12th nationally.
He plans to call plays at UL, citing his love for the strategy of play calling and direct contact with players. He plans to design the offense around his personnel, he said, but wants to be physical and use varying tempos. He also said he will make “deliberate attempt to be involved with the defense.”
“We are going to start everything that we do totally about what we control,” Napier said. “We’re going to be physical in our approach. We’re going to be in great condition. We’re going to be known for how hard we play. We’ll be disciplined in our approach. We’re going to eliminate careless play. We’re going to eliminate turnovers. We’re going to eliminate penalties. We’re going to eliminate mental errors.
“We’re going to be sound, but we’re going to attack in all three phases. We’re going to be attack by scheme, but we’re also going to attack with relentless mindset. We want to be unique. We want to be fun to watch. We want you to come to that stadium and not know what you’re going to get every week. ‘What is he going to pull out of his backpocket next?’”