The Cajuns have a new football coach. Here's what you need to know about him
Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier has agreed to become UL's new head coach.
“We are absolutely thrilled to identify a head football coach with the experience and success that Billy Napier brings to the University of Louisiana,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.
“Coach Napier is highly respected within the coaching profession and brings tremendous experience from nationally-ranked programs. He is widely considered to be one of America’s top recruiters and offensive minds and will instill the values of a championship program into Ragin’ Cajuns Football.”
Said Napier in a statement issued by the Cajuns: “My family and I are excited and humbled for the opportunity to serve Cajun Nation and our Louisiana football program. We will make it a priority to bring in the best talent from the state of Louisiana and the nation.”
New Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards said, "he wishes Napier 'nothing but the best' in his new job, according to The Arizona Republic and azcentral.
Napier will be introduced to Lafayette during a news conference scheduled for noon Monday.
So who is Billy Napier?
For starters, the Chatsworth, Georgia, native is just 38 years old.
Throughout the 2017 season, his first at the school, Napier – hailed for his prior prowess as a top-notching receiver – was Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
His Sun Devils offense is currently ranked 40th nationally at 427.6 yards per game and 40th in scoring at 31.9 points per game.
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After head coach Todd Graham was fired and replaced earlier this month by Edwards, Napier – according to multiple accounts – received a pay raise to stay and the added title of associate head coach.
Prior to going to Arizona State, which is 7-5 this season and headed to the Dec. 29 Sun Bowl to play North Carolina State, the former college quarterback was receivers coach under Nick Saban at Alabama.
According to azcentral, "Napier will stay on with ASU through" the bowl game.
Napier also spent time as offensive coordinator at Clemson, and when he first got the job with the Pac-12’s Sun Devils both current Tigers coach Dabo Swinney and former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden were among those heaping praise on the rising star in college coaching circles.
Swinney, who once fired Napier, weighed in on this hire as well.
"He is one of bright young coaches in the business," the Clemson coach said, according to the Cajuns. "His tremendous work ethic and experience will be a great asset for Louisiana. Very happy for him and proud of him."
Napier was Clemson’s offensive coordinator from 2009-10, at the time making him, at age 29, the youngest offensive coordinator in all of FBS football during that first season.
“We won our first Atlantic Division title that year and set records for offensive production,” Swinney said, according to Arizona State’s website at the time of Napier’s hiring there. “What we accomplished (when Clemson won the 2016 season’s national championship) got its start with that team in 2009 and I am indebted to Billy for the work he put in for our program.
“Billy has always been a terrific recruiter and a tireless worker. He grew up around the game. He was our recruiting coordinator when I became head coach and many of the players we brought in during that time set a standard for this program.”
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Napier played quarterback at Furman, an FCS program in South Carolina, from 1999-2002.
The married family man got his coaching career started as a graduate assistant at Clemson from 2003-04, was quarterbacks coach South Carolina in 2005, returned to Clemson as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 2006-08 under Bowden before being elevated to offensive coordinator.
Clemson’s 2008 recruiting class was ranked No. 2 nationally by ESPN.com.
During that first full season with Napier as its OC, Clemson – according to South Carolina’s Greenville News – averaged 362.4 yards and 31.1 points per game during a 9-5 year in which the Tigers set a school record most points scored.
But production dropped – by 30 yards and seven points, according to the Greenville newspaper – that next year and Swinney fired Napier after the 2010 season, when the Tigers lost to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and finished 6-7.
“This was a difficult decision, one that was not made hastily,” Swinney said in a statement at the time. “But, we must make significant improvement on the offensive side of the ball.”
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Reports around the time surfaced suggesting that on occasion Swinney and Napier at times were at odds over play-calling and scheme philosophy.
Said Napier of the firing later, according to the Greenville News: “It was a blessing in disguise for me.”
“Having time to reflect,” he also later told The Arizona Republic, “maybe I wasn’t quite ready for that role. … We didn’t play the type of football I’m proud of in the second year.
“I’m grateful for Dabo giving me that opportunity. But ultimately when you get the rug pulled out from underneath you, you hit the reset button and go back to square one. It humbles you. But at the same time, it opened a door.”
Napier regrouped professionally, going first to Alabama for a formative year as an offensive analyst during the Crimson Tide’s 2011 national-championship season, then to Colorado State for one season in 2012 as assistant head coach and QBs coach, then back to Alabama in 2013 for the start of a four-year run as receivers coach that included another national title in 2015.
“I hired Billy as a graduate assistant and when I got the chance to hire him again I brought him right back,” Bowden said when the Sun Devils hired Napier, according to the Arizona State site. “He played quarterback so he got to know everything about the position. He’s just got that mentality. His dad was a football coach so he grew up around the game.”
Napier’s father Bill, a longtime high school football coach in Georgia, lost his battle with ALS and died late last September, according to The Arizona Republic.
“As a recruiter he doesn’t let go,” Bowden said earlier this year. “He’s got all of the intangibles. He’s a marketable guy and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s advanced through this profession.”
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