New Florida coach Billy Napier addresses reporters at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during his first day as Gators head coach. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Florida coach Billy Napier in scramble mode amid recruiting struggles, pens open letter

ATHENS — Billy Napier may have been hired by Florida because of the lessons he learned from Alabama coach Nick Saban in the five seasons he spent with him, but the new Gators’ head coach has some tricks of his own.

Napier penned an open letter to Florida fans, providing encouragement and complimenting the fanbase on its resiliency and passion.

The Gators’ fan “passion” has sounded a lot like anger and unrest after Georgia coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs grabbed a commitment from elite cornerback AJ Harris last week after many thought Florida was the leader.

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Making matters more challenging for Napier, former 5-star Florida tailback recruit Demarkcus Bowman entered the transfer portal on Friday.

The recruiting issues, however, are what is bringing great concern to Gainesville.

The Gators rank 40th in the nation per the 247Sports composite in the 2023 team recruiting rankings, fifth among SEC teams behind Georgia (No. 5 overall), Arkansas (No. 10), Tennessee (No. 15) and Alabama (No. 38).

It only makes sense Napier’s letter would include a reference to the NIL, which figures to be key for all major schools moving forward as elite players factor financial advantages into their consideration when choosing a school.

RELATED: Kirby Smart shares when recruits should bring up NIL money

Some have suggested Napier brought up the NIL and the size of the Florida alumni base to suggest the Gators should be in a position to capitalize on the rule.

Here’s the passage:

“As we enter a new era of college football with Name, Image and Likeness, we are fortunate to be at a place that is not only rich in history and tradition on the football field, but is also a top 5 public institution with more than 470,000 living alumni and incredible resources. We believe that NIL will be a strength at the University of Florida.”

Napier recently addressed NIL dealings in Pensacola according to a Florida Gators Online report:

“Napier was asked to share his thoughts on NIL. The fan had read that every scholarship offensive lineman at Texas was receiving $50,000. Napier corrected him.

“100 (thousand),” he interjected.”

Napier, according to the article, also called out some other schools who are active in NIL and said there are ways Florida can be more competitive in that area within the rules.

“You’re seeing kind of every school right now is coming up with their strategy on how they’re going to try and be competitive in this arena,” Napier said. “You saw a few teams last year, they jumped out and took full advantage of it. You just talked about Texas and Texas A&M, so now everybody is playing that game. Tennessee is playing that game. Miami is playing that game. And I think we have some avenues at the University of Florida where we can do this with some integrity and do it the right way.

“I’ve said this publicly, at the University of Florida, NIL should be a strength with the alumni network and passion that we have. We’ve come up with some avenues where it’s 501(c)(3), non-profit related. It’s a tax write-off. Everybody is well aware of the Gator Collective and the Gator Guard.”

It’s easy to understand why Napier is being so proactive in NIL discussions as Florida looks to rebuild coming off a 6-7 season that saw former coach Dan Mullen fired during the team’s 2-6 SEC campaign.

Here’s Napier’s letter to Florida fans, in its entirety:

Gator Nation,

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