The 2022 SEC coaching carousel didn't spin as fast as previous years, but two Clydesdales have entered the league. Brian Kelly moved south to join the LSU family after a successful 12-year stint at Notre Dame. Florida chose to go the younger route with Billy Napier, who has long been considered one of the top young coaches in the country after bringing Louisiana back to being recognized as one of the top programs at the Group of Five level.
Both newbies are charged with bringing their respective schools back to national prominence, and in the long term, both should be fine.
Kelly's track record of success at Notre Dame, which included two College Football Playoff appearances and a berth in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game, is impossible to ignore. His 92-39 record at one of the most prestigious and pressure-packed programs in the country has firmly entrenched Kelly as one of the top coaches in the nation.
Napier, meanwhile, led the Ragin' Cajuns to three straight double-digit win seasons and back-to-back outright/shared Sun Belt championships. His pedigree under Alabama coach Nick Saban has only added to his rise into the top of the coaching ranks.
So yes, both will likely be fine in the long term, but today we're here to decide which first-year SEC coach has the best shot at instant success. So let's examine the situations for each to help us decide.
Billy Napier, Florida
Napier landed in one of the most desirable spots in the country — certainly from an offensive perspective. Multidimensional quarterback Anthony Richardson showed flashes of brilliance last season under former coach Dan Mullen. The redshirt sophomore threw for 474 yards, rushed for 374 yards and eight touchdowns in six games as Emory Jones' backup. Despite his relative inexperience, the Gainesville native has landed in the first round of many 2023 NFL mock drafts, including CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso's most recent edition.
The running back room runs four-deep with Nay'Quan Wright likely leading the way at the start of fall camp. Lorenzo Lingard and Demarkcus Bowman are highly regarded within the system and got plenty of reps in Wright's absence this spring, and Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson is well-versed on what Napier demands from his running backs after rushing for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Ragin' Cajuns last year. All four excel in a variety of different areas, which should allow Napier to get ultra-creative with how he gets them involved in the game plan each week.