The Florida Gators have their new defensive coordinator for the 2023 college football season. 29-year-old Austin Armstrong was named as the new defensive coordinator Monday afternoon by head coach Billy Napier. Armstrong worked with Napier at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2018 and 2020. In 2018, Armstrong was a graduate assistant, and in 2020, he was the inside linebackers coach on Napier’s staff.
This promotion to the SEC makes Armstrong the youngest defensive coordinator at a Power 5 school ever.
Armstrong spent the last two seasons in the same position at Southern Mississippi. He replaces the former defensive coordinator Patrick Toney, who left to take a safeties coach position with the Arizona Cardinals. Before being hired as the defensive coordinator for the Gators, Armstrong was hired as Alabama’s linebackers coach two weeks prior.
Welcome to The Swamp, @CoachAArmstrong!
➡️: https://t.co/4g6fk9YTBj pic.twitter.com/TmUn5YhMPM
— Florida Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 27, 2023
Armstrong’s success with the Golden Eagles
In 2021, Southern Mississippi hired Armstrong as their defensive coordinator. At the time, he was the youngest defensive coordinator in the FBS at 27-year-old. In his two seasons with the Golden Eagles, Armstrong helped to improve the defense. In Armstrong’s first season, the Golden Eagles finished the season ranked 42 in total defense, which was 18 spots better than the previous season.
The Golden Eagles in 2022 were much better defensively, despite moving from Conference USA to the Sun Belt Conference in the offseason. Southern Mississippi’s defense allowed 23.5 points per game, which was 4.4 points lower than their average in 2021. In addition, Armstrong’s defense was strong with their play up front, ranking third in the country in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks.
In his 24 total games at Southern Mississippi, the Golden Eagles held their opponents to below 100 yards rushing 7 times. Armstrong’s success with coaching the Golden Eagles defense led to seven defenders earning All-Sun Belt recognition in 2022.
How Austin Armstrong can help the Gators Defense
Armstrong will have to fix Florida’s defense, which ranked 97th in total defense and gave up 28.9 points per game. A big part of Armstrong’s success with the Golden Eagles came from his run defense. In 2022, the Gators gave up 175.2 yards per game on the ground and 4.5 yards per carry. In comparison, Southern Mississippi allowed 137.9 rushing yards per game and just 3.7 yards per carry.
The Gators in 2022 struggled with third and fourth down defense. Opponents converted 49.71% of their third downs and 43.48% of their fourth downs against Florida. In 2022, Southern Mississippi held their opponents to a 36.36% third down conversion rate. Their fourth down conversion defense was even better, ranking third in the country with a 23.08% rate.
Armstrong will be joining the Gators in time for the annual Orange and Blue game, and will have the entire offseason to make his mark on the defense.