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Florida hires Armstrong as DC to replace NFL-bound Toney

Syndication: The Clarion-Ledger

A pylon with Gator head logo sits on the field before the game between the Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun] Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs South Carolina Gamecocks Syndication Gator Sports

Matt Pendleton / USA TODAY NETWORK

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida has hired Austin Armstrong as its defensive coordinator, poaching a member of Nick Saban’s Alabama staff after less than two months on the job.

The 29-year-old Armstrong replaces Patrick Toney, who left Gainesville after one subpar season to become a defensive assistant with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Gators coach Billy Napier turned to Armstrong to fill the position, making him the youngest defensive coordinator in Power Five football. Armstrong, who spent the last two seasons as Southern Mississippi’s defensive coordinator, was Napier’s inside linebackers coach at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2020.

Armstrong will be asked to help fix a unit that ranked 97th in the country in total defense in 2022.

Southern Miss’s defense, known as the “Nasty Bunch” during Armstrong’s tenure, ranked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference and 45th nationally in scoring defense (23.5 points a game). The Golden Eagles were third nationally in tackles for loss (8.3), fifth in sacks (3.38) and seventh in interceptions (17).

Toney is one of three on-field assistants to bail on Napier and bolt for the NFL in recent weeks. Receivers coach Keary Colbert left to take the same position with the Denver Broncos, and tight ends coach William Peagler has reportedly taken a job with the Cardinals.