UL football coach Billy Napier did a 10-minute interview with longtime national radio host Jim Rome late Tuesday morning.
Some of what the discussion may be older impressions for Acadiana area Ragin’ Cajuns fans that follow the program, but there were several new areas addressed as well.
When speaking on the immediate future of college football, Napier revealed that he had a teleconference earlier Tuesday with Sun Belt football coaches and commissioner Keith Gill. That group heard from an oversight committee and “different people across the country” regarding the time needed to get a team ready for competition.
It’s pretty unusual to issue a verbal commitment to a football program without even visiting the campus.
“I think the consensus there is mostly presented a six-week return to play protocol,” Napier said. “I think we may need a little bit more time than that and I think we’re going to get it. I think you’re going to see maybe teams get back at it, that would be standardized sometimes in July.
“But I don’t know that it’s going to be uniform. I think you’re going to see people working at different paces, but eventually we’ll get football back and certainly the positives that come from that.”
In the meantime, Napier addressed some of the ways his coaching staff is trying to prepare the 2020 Cajuns for the upcoming season without the benefit of a spring season and trying to observe governmental social distancing commands.
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“We try to create some consistency in their routine,” Napier explained. “We’re going to benefit from having been with this group of players for the most part for two years. I think we’ve established pretty good trust and really good communication.
“We’ve operated virtually. We’ve got a specific schedule relative to how we want them to work out and certainly the material that we would have covered in spring practice.”
Napier also revealed some of the unique aspects of the virtual world because of Zoom technology.
“Then you start running out of stuff to do and that’s where we’ve gotten creative,” Napier said. “We’ve had lots of people spend time with our players. With the quarterbacks, in particular, we’ve had Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Bruce Carpenter – a number of guys out there that maybe have significant experience jump on a Zoom call with our guys and we’ve done that across the board.
“We’re fortunate to have a staff that has really good connections and we’ve been able to get some great experiences put together for our players.”
The UL Ragin’ Cajuns’ first verbal commitment for the 2021 recruiting class was Logansport cornerback Key’Savalyn Barnes last month.
Napier referred to this being his third season in Lafayette as a possible solution to overcoming the chaotic offseason and as an avenue to maintain the momentum from last year’s record-breaking, 11-win campaign without a spring season.
“The rhythm of the offseason, that’s been one of the unfortunate things,” Napier suggested. “That process that we did the first two years, we won’t quite get to execute that process in Year 3, but I think we’ll reap the benefits of some of the things that come with it.
He’s also hoping the short list of things achieved prior to the shutdown go a long way.
“I think our players have been really dialed in and focused since back in January when they came back,” Napier said. “We executed the first and second parts of our offseason. We got three practices into spring break before COVID-19 hit and I think we made the most of the opportunities that we had.
“We got adjusted pretty quickly. If anything, I think our players will be itching to get back at it, and hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later.”
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Diehard UL fans who missed the interview would certainly have appreciated Rome introducing Napier as “Louisiana’s head football coach.”
And naturally, Rome brought up two major coaching influences in his Napier’s career — Nick Saban and his father and longtime Georgia high school football coach Bill Napier, who died of ALS in 2017.
Napier said about 70% of his system currently at UL comes from Alabama’s blueprint.
“But I think along the way, whether it’s playing for my dad or coaches that I played for in college or some of these other assistants — Tommy Bowden, Dabo Swinney, Jim McElwain, Todd Graham, Buddy Pugh,” Napier said. “They all contribute to who you are as a person and how you operate your football team.”
Of course, his biggest reason for becoming a football coach was his father.
“I chose the profession of coaching because I observed him growing up, and I think the impact he made on young people as a coach,” Napier said.
“Dad was a great human being and certainly as a coach, watching him battle ALS gave me great perspective and really changed who I am as a coach and a person. Dad was a difference-maker and that’s what we want our program to do is make a difference.”