Why Florida’s Billy Napier beats LSU’s Brian Kelly for instant success on SEC’s first season

The training cycle at the 2022 SEC didn’t run as fast as in previous years, but two Clydesdales entered the league. Brian Kelly moved south to join the LSU family after 12 years at 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 Louisiana to recognition as one of the top Group E-level programs.

Both freshmen are tasked with getting their schools back into national prominence, and in the long run, both should be fine.

It’s impossible to ignore Kelly’s record of success at Notre Dame, which included a two-time college football playoff appearance and a berth in the 2013 BCS National Championship game. Kelly scored 92-39 on one of the country’s most prestigious and stressful programs, establishing Kelly as one of the The best coaches in the country.

Meanwhile, Napier led the Ragin’ Cajuns to win three consecutive double-digit seasons and the Sun Belt Direct/International Championships. His pedigree under Alabama coach Nick Saban only added to his rise to the top of the coaching ranks.

So yes, both will likely be fine in the long run, but today we’re here to decide which first-year SEC coach has the best chance of instant success. So let’s examine the situations for each to help us decide.

Billy Napier, Florida

Napier landed in one of the most sought-after locations in the country – certainly from an offensive perspective. Multidimensional midfielder Anthony Richardson showed flashes of brilliance last season under former coach Dan Mullen. The Redshirt’s sophomore threw for 474 yards, rushed for 374 yards and eight touchdowns in six games as Emory Jones’ backup. Despite his relative inexperience, the Gainesville native has landed in the first round of several fictitious NFL Drafts of 2023, including CBS Sports Project Analyst Chris Trapsow. Latest version.

The running back room stretches to four depths, and Nay’Quan Wright will likely lead the way at the start of fall camp. Lorenzo Lingard and DeMarcus Bowman are highly regarded within the system and had plenty of reps in Wright’s absence this spring, and Louisiana transfer Montreal Johnson is well aware of what Napier is asking for his appearance after dashing for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns for Rajin’ Cajuns last year. All four excel in the A variety of different areas, which would allow Napier to get very creative in how they get them involved in the game plan each week.

Defensive linebacker Tyreak Sapp seemed like a potential star of the spring game, Ventrell Miller is back to lead a very diverse support team, and perhaps most importantly, former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is no longer with the program.

The department in which Napier will coach also plays a big role in this debate. It’s pretty much “Georgia and everyone else” in the East SEC. Sure, Tennessee offense is on the rise and Kentucky is always tough, but it’s not like the second tier of the East is close to the West. Kelly will have to deal with what will be Texas A&M’s top 10, offensive line juggernaut Kevin Ole Mays and a top-20 preseason team in Arkansas as part of the toughest grind in the nation.

Brian Kelly, LSU

The good news for Kelly is that he’s having a very healthy quarterback battle taking place in Baton Rouge. Jaden Daniels, the three-year Arizona State player, moved to the bayou this off-season, former star Miles Brennan is back from the transfer window to compete for his previous job, and Garrett Nosmeyer may have the upside of the trio.

The running game is strong with the return of John Emery Jr. after a year’s sabbatical and the incoming Noah Kane from Pennsylvania. But the offensive line replaces four starters and finished penultimate in the SEC in sacks allowed per game last year with 2.92. Bottom line: Hard drives will be hard to assemble unless the new faces assemble at the front in a hurry.

The defensive front should be a force for the 2022 Tigers, but the secondary has gone through massive overhauls since the end of last season. This is not a great sign at SEC West that I became happy to pass at the top.

Kelly mentioned on the Texas Bowl broadcast that LSU’s roster needs to be strengthened from a quantity perspective. Graduation and attrition affected the roster, and although the Transfer Gate facilitated restocking, it is almost impossible to expect the massive influx of new faces to suddenly complete in the West.

Now, the good news for LSU. Kelly would win a national title at some point with the Tigers. I repeat, Kelly will raise the CFP trophy in purple with gold – just as his three predecessors did. He’s had double-digit winning seasons in six of his last seven seasons at South Bend despite recruiting challenges not found at nearly every other school in the country. He will likely remain there once Saban retires. In addition, as the leading program in a talent-rich country, all it has to do is open the door to the pool and the five-star players must enter directly.

Why Napier has the advantage

While Kelly is likely to have long-term success, Napier is in a better position to see immediate success this season. He has a more stable foundation and at least an easier path to return the Gators to his relevance at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If Richardson emerges as a superstar as the off-season momentum indicates, he should be the catalyst for Florida to dictate the style and tempo of most games. Napier has been very successful with Louisiana’s moving quarterbacks, including last season with Johnson and double threat weapon Levi Lewis. In addition, the table is prepared relatively well. Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri—which make up the fleshy middle of the East—will all travel to The Swamp. On the other hand, LSU has to go to Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M.

Fortunately, there will be a head-to-head competition and some transitive property opportunities to compare the two. Kelly will meet Napier at The Swamp, and the Tigers and Gators will fight with Florida State and Tennessee in 2022. Both also travel to Texas A&M. But SEC West is stacked, which will make it difficult for the Tigers to make a good bowl game this year.

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