Gators Spring
FILE - Florida head coach Billy Napier, right, watches players warm up before an NCAA college football game against Eastern Washington, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. A person familiar with the situation says Florida quarterback recruit Jaden Rashada requested a release from his national letter of intent Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 after a $13 million name, imagine and likeness deal fell through.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Billy Napier Talks Gators Football at First Spring Practice

Florida Gators football began its spring practice slate Saturday.

Head coach Billy Napier addressed his expectations heading into his second year leading the program after recording a 6-7 record in his first season.

Coaching Staff Shift

Florida saw three coaches depart the program in the last few weeks.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Toney left for a position with the Arizona Cardinals. He will be replaced by Alabama linebackers coach and former Southern Miss defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong, who is one of the youngest coordinators in the Power 5 at age 29.

Tight ends coach William Peagler also left the Gators for a job with Arizona.

Wide receivers coach Keary Colbert now has the same position with the Denver Broncos.

“More than anything, I think its a complement to the staff,” Napier said, “But there are challenges that come with it. I’m not just going to flip a coin and hire a guy.”

The Quarterback Room

Graham Mertz is projected to be Florida’s QB1 come the fall after transferring from Wisconsin on Dec. 21.

Las Vegas Bowl starter and former Ohio State transfer Jack Miller III is expected to return in a backup role.

Redshirt freshman Max Brown is continuing his development while also being a part of the Florida baseball team. Napier discussed his quarterbacks’ work ethic and gave some general observations from the first day of spring practice.

“A group that wants to please,” Napier said, “I see a group that’s working really hard.”

Addressing the Defense

Armstrong will have much work to do to improve a Florida defense that allowed 28.8 points per game in 2022.

Napier said that he is confident in Toney’s replacement, crediting his past roles and reputation. Armstrong and Napier were on the coaching staff at Alabama together before Armstrong moved on to Southern Miss.

“I think Austin [Armstrong] is well respected out there,” Napier said, “The opportunities he had this offseason are a reflection of that.”

Part of Napier’s ongoing efforts to address the Gators’ defense involves wide receiver Jamarkis Weston moving to the safety position.

Napier spoke about Weston’s skillset and position change.

“I think it’s a position that is probably a little thin,” he said.

Evolving Philosophy

Napier offered a colorful analogy to put his second year of the Swamp in perspective. He said his first year in the Swamp was like moving to a new country and learning a new language.

Orange and Blue Game

Florida kicks off their spring competition on Thursday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m.

The annual game drew 45,000 fans to the Swamp last season and serves to give fans a taste of a Gators game day.

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