Napier speaks on Florida’s 2023 recruiting class – ESPN 98.1 FM
College recruits across the country took the next step in their respective careers by signing with various schools on Wednesday’s National Signing Day. After signing 20 high school recruits on early signing day in December, the Florida Gators football program welcomed another signer to the 2023 recruiting class – four-star offensive lineman Caden Jones.
On Wednesday, head football coach Billy Napier spoke about the updated recruiting class, the 10 transfers who joined the program after Early Signing Day and the Jaden Rashada saga.
Introducing the #D23AMTEAM! 🐊 pic.twitter.com/eNyJzFtO0h
— Florida Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 1, 2023
Overall, Napier describes the Gators class as “unique” due to the volume of early signings and transfers as well as the number of returning players. In total, the Gators currently coach more than 100 players, according to Napier.
https://www.wruf.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Napier-intro-SD.mp3 Four-star OL Caden Jones signs as part of the Class of 2023
After initially committing to Florida in the All-American Bowl, Jones put pen to paper and officially signed his letter of intent to play for the Gators. The New Orleans native chose the Gators over Florida State, LSU and others.
Be like Caden.
Welcome to Gator Nation, @_cjones63! #GoGators | #D23AMTEAM pic.twitter.com/BWmXwTDO1l
— Florida Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 1, 2023
Napier explained how Jones’ length as well as his potential growth stand out to him.
Jones is 6-foot-7.5 and weighs 307 pounds, according to Florida’s 2023 signing class list. Three of the four major recruiting sites have rated Jones as a four-star recruit, with On3 and 24/7 Sports listing him in the top 30 in his position.
Jones became the seventh new offensive lineman in the class with his signing, joining Roderick Kearney, Knijeah Harris and Bryce Lovett as four total high school recruits on the line.
Napier talks attacking additions
Between early signing day Dec. 21 and Wednesday, the Gators welcomed 10 newcomers through the transfer portal. The transfer portal’s winter window closed on January 5, meaning it was the last day for players to enter their names into the portal until May.
While not the flashiest addition, arguably the most crucial is the addition of former Wisconsin starting quarterback Graham Mertz, who becomes the presumptive starter early in the season. Mertz will bring experience to a nearly inexperienced quarterback room, which Napier noted.
In four seasons at Wisconsin, including three as a starter, Mertz threw for 5,405 yards and 38 touchdowns to 26 interceptions. He added eight total rushing touchdowns during his time as a Badger.
Overall, Napier said players and coaches noticed a strong work ethic from Mertz during their strength and conditioning portion of the offseason.
Additionally, one position Napier hit hard in the Portal was the offensive line following the departures of O’Cyrus Torrence and Richard Gouraige to the NFL as well as the transfers of Joshua Braun, Michael Tarquin and Ethan White. Napier said rebuilding the offensive line with the additions of all four high school rookies along with the transfers of Micah Mazzcua, Dameion George Jr. and Kiyaunta Goodwin was some of their best work.
The latest transfer addition on offense is making its way from Tulane. Running back Cameron Carroll joins the Gators after a productive but injury-riddled career with the Mean Green. He will likely be a depth piece behind Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne.
Defensive additions create depth and competition
As much as the staff focused on rebuilding the offensive line, the staff rebuilt the defensive line following the departure of Gervon Dexter Sr. to the NFL and Jalen Lee for the transfer. The Gators welcome two transfers to the defensive line to replace the two starters – Cam’Ron Jackson from Memphis and Caleb Banks from Louisville.
As with the offensive line, size and multiple years of remaining eligibility stand out for Napier.
The Gators also experienced major attrition at center linebacker after the departures of Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney to the NFL. To add depth and competition, the staff brought in Teradja Mitchell from Ohio State, Deuce Spurlock from Michigan and Mannie Nunnery from Houston.
Although he’s only been with Florida for one season, Mitchell’s transfer was significant because of his experience at Ohio State as well as depth from departures and injuries, Napier said.
As for Spurlock, Napier explained that they tried to recruit him while he was in Louisiana and when he became head coach in Florida. He will have four years of eligibility at the start of his Gator career.
Finally, Nunnery stood out from Napier as he was awarded National Special Teams Player of the Year while in Houston. Currently, Napier says Nunnery was one of the sportiest players on Team Florida during the first half of spring camp.
https://www.wruf.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Napier-DL-1.mp3 The Jaden Rashada saga takes another twist
The long whirlwind of recruiting four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada has officially taken another turn. The former Florida signee has announced he will be attending Arizona State next season. Rashada’s move will unite him with new head coach Kenny Dillingham, who signed Rashada when he was Oregon’s offensive coordinator.
Forks up to 4L! 🔱🆙! #Home @KennyDillingham pic.twitter.com/lld1QZc3tJ
— Jaden Rashada 5️⃣ (@jadenrashada) February 1, 2023
Napier commented on the situation saying he can’t go into detail about what happened, but the staff are focused on developing the team they have in place, and he still has the utmost respect for Rashada and his family. Napier added that they don’t expect the NCAA to investigate the situation.
After committing to Miami on June 26, Rashada returned to Florida on November 10 and signed with the program on December 21. However, the four-star quarterback applied for his Letter of Intent before the start of the college’s spring semester. On January 20, the school granted Rashada’s request, and he was free to sign with any other school, eventually landing in Arizona State.
Napier also gave his thoughts on NIL in general, saying he still believes NIL can be a force in Florida.
https://www.wruf.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Napier-NIL-is-a-strenght-at-UF.mp3 ABC – “Always be ‘Cruitin'”
Although National Signing Day usually means the end of recruiting for a class, the transfer portal changes the recruiting dynamic, and the Gators could still add more faces to the class of 2023. The Gators are always open to sign all players who are currently in the transfer portal. Additionally, Napier will be able to add more names to the roster when the spring portal window opens on May 1, which closes on May 15.
Napier said the team plans to take advantage of any opportunities that arise, especially at quarterback to round out the 2023 recruiting class.