Why Billy Napier of Florida has an advantage over Brian Kelly of LSU for instant success in the SEC debut season

The 2022 SEC coaching carousel didn’t spin as fast as previous years, but two Clydesdales entered the league. Brian Kelly moved south to join the LSU family after a successful 12-year stay in Notre Dame. Florida chose to go the younger route with Billy Napier, who has long been considered one of the best young coaches in the country after returning to Louisiana to be recognized as one of the best programs at the Group of Five level.

Both newcomers are in charge of bringing their schools back to national importance, and in the long run both should be fine.

Kelly’s success in Notre Dame, which includes two appearances in the College Football Playoff and an appearance in the 2013 BCS National Championship game, is impossible to ignore. His 92-39 record in one of the most prestigious and demanding programs in the country has firmly established Kelly as one of the best coaches in the country.

Meanwhile, Napier led Ragin ‘Cajuns to three consecutive double-digit wins and consecutive direct / shared Sun Belt Championship titles. His pedigree under Alabama coach Nick Saban only contributed to his rise to the top of the coaching ranks.

So, yes, both are likely to be good in the long run, but today we are here to decide which SEC first-year coach has the best score for instant success. So let’s examine the situations for each to help us make a decision.

Billy Napier, Florida

Napier has landed in one of the most desirable places in the country – certainly from an offensive perspective. Multidimensional quarterback Anthony Richardson showed off his brilliance last season under former coach Dan Mullen. The second-year Red Shirt player threw 474 yards, chased 374 yards and eight touchdowns in six games as Emory Jones ’reserve. Despite his relative inexperience, the native Gainesville made it to the first round of many simulated 2023 NFL drafts, including CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapass latest edition.

The running room has four depths, and Nay’Quan Wright probably leads at the start of fall camp. Lorenzo Lingard and Demarkcus Bowman are highly regarded in the system and have received plenty of repetitions in Wright’s absence this spring, and the transfer from Louisiana Montrell Johnson is well aware of what Napier is demanding from his defenders after chasing 838 yards and 12 touchdowns for Ragin ‘ Cajuns last year. All four excel in a variety of areas, which should allow Napier to become ultra-creative with the way he incorporates them into the game plan each week.

Defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp looked like a potential star in the spring game, Ventrell Miller is back to lead an ultra-versatile support line and, perhaps most importantly, former defense coordinator Todd Grantham is no longer on the program.

The division in which Napier will train also plays a big factor in this debate. It’s pretty “Georgia and everyone else” in the SEC East. Admittedly, Tennessee’s attack is on the rise, and Kentucky is always tough, but it’s not like the second level of the East is anywhere near that of the West. Kelly will have to deal with what will be the top 10 Texas A&M teams, Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss of Offensive Juggernaut and arguably the pre-season top 20 team in Arkansas as part of the toughest fight in the state.

Brian Kelly, LSU

The good news for Kelly is that there is a very healthy quarterback battle going on in Baton Rouge. Three-year Arizona starter Jayden Daniels has moved to Gulf this offseason, former starter Myles Brennan has reappeared from the transfer portal to compete for his former job, and Garrett Nussmeier could have the most advantage in the trio.

Running is solid with John Emery Jr. who returned after a year break and Noah Cain coming from Penn State. But the offensive line replaces four starters and finished penultimate in the SEC in bags allowed per game last year with 2.92. Conclusion: It will be difficult to assemble permanent drives unless new faces in the front come together in a hurry.

The defensive front should be the strength of the Tigers from 2022, but the secondary has undergone a huge revision since the end of last season. It’s not a great sign in the SEC West that has become happy with the passage at the top.

Kelly mentioned on the Texas Bowl show that LSU’s list needs to be strengthened from a quantity perspective. Graduation and dropouts have taken a toll on the list, and although the transfer portal has made it easier to replenish, it is almost impossible to expect a mass influx of fresh faces to end abruptly in the West.

Now, good news for LSU. Kelly will win the national title with the Tigers at some point. I repeat, Kelly will pick up the CFP trophy in purple gold – just like his three predecessors did. He has had double-digit wins in six of his last seven seasons at South Bend despite recruiting challenges that don’t exist in almost every other school in the country. He will probably still be there when Shaban retires. In addition, as a leading program in a talent-rich country, all it needs to do is open the doors of the complex and five-star players should enter immediately.

Why Napier has the advantage

While Kelly is more likely to have long-term success, Napier is in a better position to see current success this season. He has a more stable foundation and an easier way to at least bring Gator back to relevance in the SEC.

If Richardson does emerge as a true superstar as the off-season momentum shows, he should be the catalyst for Florida that will dictate the style and pace of most games. Napier has been extremely successful with mobile quarterbacks in Louisiana, including last season with Johnson and double-threat weapon Levi Lewis. In addition, the schedule is relatively well set. Kentucky, South Carolina and Missouri – which make up a strong central East – will all travel to the Swamp. LSU, on the other hand, has to go to Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M.

Fortunately, there will be direct competition and some passing opportunities to compare properties. Kelly will clash with Napier in the Swamp, and both the Tigers and Gatori will fight the state of Florida and Tennessee in 2022. Both are also traveling to Texas A&M. But the SEC West is piled up, which will be a challenge for the Tigers to make a decent game on the balls this year.

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