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Report: Two D.C. Candidates Emerge for Florida Gators, Billy Napier

Florida Gators HC Billy Napier will work hard at locking down his coaching staff in the coming days.

Photo: Doug Belk; Credit: UHCougars.com

Reports have surfaced indicating that two candidates have emerged to fill the role of defensive coordinator on new Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier's staff.

According to Carl Reed of 247Sports, Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk stand atop Napier's choices to fill the Gators' vacancy at the same position.

Knowles, 56, has extensive experience as a defensive signal-caller within the collegiate ranks. He also brings head coach thing experience as the head coach at Cornell for six years from 2004-09. Since then, Knowles has been the defensive coordinator at both Duke (2010-2017) and most recently Oklahoma State (2018-present).

This year with the Cowboys, Knowles had the team incredibly efficient on defense, allowing just 2.8 yards per attempt on the ground, and an average of just 276.3 yards per game in total. They've consistently ranked in the top 10 in all of college football defensively this season.  

The only time the team allowed more than 24 points on the year was against Oklahoma yesterday during the team's thriller victory, 37-33.

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Belk, the defensive coordinator, associate head coach and safeties coach at Houston has also had plenty of success as a defensive play-caller, though he recently shed the "co" title this season, holding it at Houston for two years prior in 2019-20 along with the team's safety coach.

Unlike Knowles, Belk has some obvious ties to Napier as the former served as a graduate assistant at Alabama (2014-16) while Napier was the program's wide receivers coach (2013-16).

At Houston, Belk has had the Houston defense playing quite well, allowing just 307.5 yards per game, good for seventh in the country, according to teamrankings.com. He's also led them to 21.6 points per game allowed, good for No. 27 in the country.

On third down conversions allowed, Houston is No. 4 in the country, allowing just 29.53% of third downs to be converted.

Both candidates bring plenty to the table as far as experience and pedigree, though Knowles is obviously the more veteran of the two. Depending on who Napier feels more comfortable with, he might not be able to go wrong with either candidate.

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