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Florida Gators announce new defensive coordinator

Austin Armstrong, 29, was the youngest defensive coordinator in the nation at Southern Miss.
 
The Florida Gators have hired the youngest defensive coordinator in the nation.
The Florida Gators have hired the youngest defensive coordinator in the nation. [ Times ]
Published Feb. 27, 2023|Updated Feb. 27, 2023

The Florida Gators announced the hiring of Austin Armstrong as their new defensive coordinator Monday, replacing one up-and-comer with another.

Armstrong, 29, was the youngest defensive coordinator in major college football when he took that job at Southern Miss in 2021. He did, however, come with a sterling resume. He was a grad assistant under Billy Napier at Louisiana, spent a year at Georgia and was Napier’s inside linebackers coach in 2020.

At Southern Miss, Armstrong led a top-50 scoring defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in tackles for loss per game (8.3), sacks per game (3.38), total interceptions (17) and fourth-down conversions allowed (23.1%). The Gators hired him away from Alabama, where he was to be the Crimson Tide’s inside linebackers coach for this fall.

Related: FSU fires warning shot to ACC: ‘Something has to change’

Armstrong replaces Patrick Toney, who is reportedly taking a job with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals; he has not yet been added to the team’s coaching staff. Toney, too, was an up-and-comer who was 31 when UF hired him.

His only season in Gainesville did not go well. UF ranked No. 88 nationally in scoring defense and was tied for 103rd in yards per play allowed. The Gators allowed opponents to convert on third down 49.71% of the time; that was third-to-last in the country and, by far, Florida’s worst mark since at least 1981.

Sean Spencer retains his UF title as co-defensive coordinator/defensive line.

UF’s staff is expected to have other holes to fill, too. Receivers coach Keary Colbert has taken the same job with the Denver Broncos, and tight ends coach William Peagler is also reportedly joining the Cardinals.

The turnover comes at a pivotal time for Napier’s tenure. His 6-7 first season was a disappointment, and his first full recruiting class yielded mixed results. The biggest story of his offseason was the loss of Jaden Rashada, a blue-chip signee at the center of a $13 million name, image and likeness dispute. Rashada has since signed with Arizona State.

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