Florida coach Billy Napier watches his quarterbacks, including Anthony Richardson (15), during the NCAA college football team's practice Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Patrick Toney Holds High Hopes for Gators Defense

As the Florida Gators enter the Billy Napier era, high hopes for success have risen among the fans, players and coaching staff. With a new head coach, the team receives a do-over, a restart and a chance of redemption. But Napier isn’t riding solo on the team’s journey.

Patrick Toney, co-defensive coordinator/ safeties coach for the Florida Gators, envisions a strategic plan of action for the team’s defense as they begin spring practice.

“This profession is all about who you’re around,” Toney said. “You’re a product of your experiences.”

Florida head coach Billy Napier hired Toney to serve as co-defense coordinator/ safeties coach Dec. 6, 2021. Toney served under Napier’s wing for Louisiana from 2018 to 2021, aiding the Ragin’ Cajuns to two Sun Belt Championships.

Shortly into his Florida career, Toney has juggled early signing day, last-minute recruiting for the 2022 class, recruiting for the 2023 class, collecting the staff for the 2022 football season and preparing for spring football, he said.

“It’s been nonstop,” Toney said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Defense On the Mind

The coaching staff wants to eliminate gray areas and make plays black and white, he said.

“Defense is not as much about what you do, it’s about how you do it.”

Toney will hone down the technique of the plays to build a stronger defense. He wants the defense to pose as a threat to the quarterback post-snap, Toney said.

“From a defensive standpoint, I always say we want to make the same things look different and different things look the same,” he said. “The person you got to make the game hard on is the trigger man.”

He’s grinding down on blocks, tackles, takeaways and solutions to very strategic plays by the offense.  “Football is a game that’s made a lot more difficult than it needs to be,” he said.

Recruitment

Toney also stresses the importance of recruiting and will focus on the class of 2022 and class of 2023 prospects as he builds a future with the Gators.  “As competitive as game day is, recruiting is just as much competitive,” he said.

The Players’ Take

Trey Dean III, a fifth-year safety, holds confidence in Toney’s coaching on the defense, as he described it as breathtaking.

“In the fall, it’s going to be a show,” Dean says. “We just know that our coaches got our backs and we’ve got their backs.”

Fifth-year linebacker Amari Burney also goes into spring practice with his head up high under the new coaching staff.  “Coach Patrick is always going to adjust to the offense,” he said.

What’s Next For The Team

The Gators will play in the annual Orange and Blue game April 17 at 7:30 p.m

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