GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Billy Napier began a much-needed defensive makeover by firing two assistants on Monday.
Napier parted with cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond and defensive line coach Sean Spencer two days after a season-ending, 24-15 loss to rival and then-No. 5 Florida State, according to a person familiar with the decision. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the coach nor the assistants had made the moves public.
The Gators (5-7) lost five consecutive games to end the season and missed a bowl for just the third time since 1990. Defense was the biggest issue down the stretch, with Florida allowing 41.75 points a game in the first four of those losses.
The unit was better in the finale against the Seminoles, who were playing without star quarterback Jordan Travis, but it was too little, too late to save the assistants.
Defensive line, secondary and offensive line were Florida’s worst positions by far in 2023, and Napier made it clear that he planned to make moves in hopes of turning around a program that took a step back in his second season.
The Gators fell to 11-14 under Napier, who surely will enter 2024 on the hot seat in Gainesville.
Napier hired Raymond and Spencer before his first season. The addition of Raymond was a ballyhooed move considering he had been one of the country’s top secondary coaches at LSU since 2012.
But Florida’s pass defense ranked 11th in the Southeastern Conference in 2022 and ninth in 2023. The Gators managed just three interceptions this past season, four fewer than any other team in the league.
Spencer, known as “Coach Chaos,” arrived after two seasons with the New York Giants and following a six-year stint at Penn State. But with Spencer in charge, Florida’s run defense ranked 12th in the SEC in 2022 and 11th in 2023.
By MARK LONG