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Florida's Billy Napier explains how cutting down penalties is like leading a business

Napier & the Gators' staff have given Florida players penalty charts

Florida’s 2021 team was undone by myriad factors; the Gators’ atrocious, penalty-prone miscues were perhaps among the most glaring.

First-year Gators head man Billy Napier, whose oftentimes less-talented Louisiana squads could ill-afford any such self-inflicted wounds, has wasted no time in his efforts to change Florida’s laundry problems – a year after the Gators were the second-worst penalty team in the Southeastern Conference and among the bottom 10 nationally.

Napier, whose final Cajuns’ squad ranked among the Sun Belt’s least-penalized teams and was top-50 nationally, had penalty charts delivered to his players in fall camp in order to illustrate the negative consequences of those miscues.

Tuesday, Napier shed some insight on his philosophy.

“Well you know more games are lost than won, right?,” Napier said in his Tuesday press conference as the Gators worked toward their first intrasquad scrimmage later this week. “I think one of the things you’ve got to do as a staff is teach your players what winning football looks like.

“We’ve always taken tremendous pride in not giving the other team anything. I think undisciplined penalties are things that you can eliminate. You start there, start with undisciplined penalties, start with turnovers, start with mental errors, lack of effort plays, fundamental and technique flaws. We want to eliminate the chinks in the armor; make the other team beat you. We’ve always taken great pride in that. I think incrementally each year at the previous stop, we’ve gotten better in those areas.”

Twice in the past four years, Dan Mullen’s Florida teams ranked 118th or worse in penalties among Football Bowls Subdivision teams. Napier said the intent to troubleshoot transcended athletics.

“When you’re taking over a team or a business or any form of leadership, I think the first thing you do is quality control,” Napier said. “What are the things that have nothing to do with the competition or opponent to try to address those things? This is an exercise we do each year. We’re going to have some penalties each game. Our goal is one every 30 plays and for those to be technical plays and not undisciplined penalties. We’re making progress there. I think it’s part of the growth and education of this team.”

Asked if he knew the Gators’ penalty history under previous regimes, Napier pointed to the Florida program’s national championship history – and its drought therein – while he also praised his players’ buy-in.

“We’re learning every day. You think about 13 years, we’ve had 13 years since we won the national championship here and in those 13 years Florida’s won the Eastern Division three times,” Napier said. So there’s obviously things that can improve. I think that was part of the assessment of the job. What is it going to require to get Florida back in position where they can be a consistent contender? We’re just evaluating the things form this previous year, much like we would every year going forward. Just happens to be we weren’t here last year. …

“If the players are talking about it, that means the point got across.”