The Billy Napier era of Florida football is set to officially begin on Dec. 5.
Unfortunately for him, he can’t afford to soak in the surreal moment of his introduction. Instead, he will be immediately thrown into the fire, trying to place a bandage on the recruiting wounds made by the previous regime.
Attempting to formulate a serviceable transition class in a short period, Napier will have his work cut out for him with only 12 spots currently filled.
If his discussion with quarterback commit Nick Evers while simultaneously gearing up his ULL Ragin’ Cajuns for their conference championship game on Saturday is any indication of his dedication, he’s up for the challenge.
Where does the new man in charge start on the trial? As usual, AllGators’ has you covered. Here are five non-Gators commits and some honorable mention recruits that Napier and his staff should prioritize upon their arrival.
DL Quency Wiggins (uncommitted)
The biggest weakness for the Florida Gators heading into the 2022 season will, once again, be their trenches on both sides of the ball.
However, the lack of depth on the interior defensive line needs to be where Napier and his staff look first upon arrival into Gainesville.
That search for talented defensive lineman starts and stops with Madison Prep Academy’s Quency Wiggins.
Hailing from Baton Rouge, La., Wiggins rests in the heart of Tiger Country, a hard place to pluck talent from historically.
However, that is also Napier’s familiarity zone.
Building in-state connections with high school during his time at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Napier’s best bet for landing high-tier prospects at positions of need to fill out the Gators class in 2022 is to maintain his presence in the Bayou.
Wiggins – who announced a final three of LSU and Alabama alongside Florida on Nov. 15 – would be a valuable depth piece for the Gators’ thin defensive line unit.
Providing versatility in the trenches, he presents the power and size at 6-foot-6, 274 pounds win reps versus interior offensive lineman. Meanwhile, his skillset as a strong-side defensive end slates him to be able to bounce outside with ease, operating similarly to how Zachary Carter has throughout his Florida career.
The Gators are in dire need of depth across their front. Wiggins is a talented piece that would be employed almost immediately when he arrives on campus.
He would join Chris McClellan and Jamari Lyons on the Gators iDL, making the biggest spot of need arguably the best position group in the class.
As a result, he’s priority number one.
OL Qae’Shon Sapp (committed to FSU)
“Scared money don’t make money,” and let me tell you, Napier won’t be scared to push for talent like Qae’Shon Sapp.
The FSU commit expressed what seemed to be considerable interest in the Florida Gators’ new head coach immediately after the announcement was made Sunday afternoon.
However, previously expected to put pen to paper with a school Feb. 2, Sapp readjusted his plans to sign the dotted line on Early Signing Day, Dec. 15.
That makes things difficult for Florida, who were hoping to make a late push for any offensive lineman down the stretch of the 2022 class, especially one as talented as the Leesburg (Ga.) native.
However, his decision to speed up his process shouldn’t deter Florida from sending all they have after him in the closing stages of his recruitment.
Given the lack of success landing linemen in any capacity in recent memory, Florida — similarly to the defensive side of the ball — will be searching for solid depth pieces and future starters on the offensive line.
Sapp, ranked as SI All-American’s No. 5 iOL prospect, would provide the Gators a foundational piece to their class. He would serve as a viable bridge for the new staff to work with as they set out to make up the lost ground for linemen on the trail moving forward.
Sapp was expected to visit the Gators in January, but it will no longer come to fruition, given his adjusted timeline.
Napier is expected to arrive on Florida’s campus Sunday for his introductory press conference, giving him ten days to make an impressive pitch to Sapp in hopes of flipping him from UF’s in-state rival.
His recruitment has seemingly been shut down. The Gators need to open it back up.
LB Shemar James (uncommitted)
At one time, a staple of the Florida class, linebacker Shemar James is too talented to be left on the open market with a strong push to get him back in the class.
Serving as an all-around linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed, instincts to plug rushing holes and near-elite coverage skills, James is labeled to be a game-changing entity at the next level, an assertion I tend to agree with.
His impressive skill set has him ranked as the No. 2 linebacker in the 2022 class by SIAA.
The buzz behind his recruitment has consisted of Alabama and Georgia since his Oct. 20 decommitment from the Gators. However, securing his talents for the second time would be a legitimate win over UF’s two biggest competitors in the early portion of the Napier era.
Trying to pluck talent from the Bulldogs and Tide hasn't been a strategy that has boded in Florida's favor in recent years.
With the turnover of the coaching staff, James has seemingly continued to be intrigued by the Gators, visiting on Saturday for Florida versus Florida State. He attended the Sunshine State Showdown over the Iron Bowl.
When Napier and Co. arrive, James needs to be treated as a priority as he would serve as a cornerstone in the 2022 class.
For now, the current staff continues to treat him as such. He was visited in-home by current linebackers coach and interim defensive coordinator Christian Robinson on Monday.
Safety Kamari Wilson (uncommitted)
Given the departure of Trey Dean III following the 2021 season, the Gators will be searching for a talented piece to stand alongside Rashad Torrence II in the backend of the secondary.
While it’ll likely come from a veteran on the current roster, there is no clear-cut No. 2 to be Torrence’s partner in crime, a direct result of a thin safety unit.
Who’s to say a high-caliber player wouldn’t step into that role on day one, now that the days of awarding seniority are seemingly in the rearview mirror?
By targeting Wilson, Florida isn’t just in the sweepstakes to gain a player that will play sparingly in case of injury or relief of starters. They’re also getting a physical safety prospect, with a knack for delivering punishing hits on receivers and ball carriers, that has the intangibles to make an immediate impact.
As the No. 1 safety prospect in the class, Wilson can provide Florida with the ability to run in single-high looks if they choose, a luxury they haven’t had in quite some time.
Flashing speed and range for IMG the past two seasons, Wilson plays with much-desired energy and swagger.
The Gators will attempt to return to their DBU ways heading forward. The first step is to secure their Major Wright, a hard-hitting tone-setter, to complement their Ahmad Black, ball-hawking do-it-all safety.
Wilson is that guy.
The Gators will have to compete with Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida State and others for his services.
Safety Devin Moore (uncommitted)
The hectic coaching carousel to close to the 2021 regular season has left no stone unturned when it comes to appointing new faces in new places.
Lincoln Riley was called out to the west coast, leaving the stability of Oklahoma for the luxurious opportunity of USC.
Long-standing Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is the latest to depart his school, leaving the Fighting Irish high and dry despite being in the mix for another playoff run. He moves south in an attempt to return LSU to prominence.
As a result, commits have had to reevaluate their standing with those teams, asking themselves if it’s a spot they want to remain given the turnover.
One of which is now former Notre Dame safety commit Devin Moore, as he reopened his recruitment earlier today.
Standing at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Moore is a lengthy, quick and instinctual player on the backend of the Naples defense, a valuable piece to filling the Gators puzzle in the 2022 class. He also shows upside on special teams, another area where Florida will need to improve drastically under the new regime.
Moore unofficially visited the Gators in September for their matchup against Alabama on The Swamp. At one time, Florida was a legitimate significant option in his recruitment.
Given the turnover at Notre Dame, Florida circle back around to him given the uncertainty of his current future school, selling the Naples (Fla.) prospect on staying home to help rebuild the UF program under Napier.
Like Wilson, he would fall in the mix to provide adequate depth to the safety unit in 2022.
WR Evan Stewart (committed to Texas A&M), WR Isaiah Bond (uncommitted), DB Azareyeh Thomas (uncommitted), DB Deyon Bouie (committed to Texas A&M), DB Sam McCall (committed to FSU) RB Trevor Etienne (uncommitted), DB Austin Ausberry (uncommitted), OL Julian Armella (uncommitted)
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