New Florida Gators DC Austin Armstrong drawing rave reviews this spring

On3 imageby:Zach Abolverdi04/10/23


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Aggressiveness. Energy. Fire. Those are the words that have been used to describe Austin Armstrong and what he’s brought to the Florida Gators defense.

He took over as defensive coordinator in late February and hit the ground running for spring camp. Through 13 practices and two scrimmages, Armstrong has made a strong impression.

“Coach Armstrong’s a great coach,” UF linebacker Scooby Williams said. “The fans, they know he’s aggressive, and the fans like that stuff. The D-line loves it; we love it. More sacks, more plays.

“But he’s a great person, and he puts the team before everything. He’s so dedicated to his players, and we’re dedicated to him. It’s a great feeling knowing the DC cares about each and every player.”

Florida has put out a couple clips of Armstrong from camp where his energy is evident. The first was after the team returned from spring break, and the Gators just released a second video of Armstrong mic’d up in practice.

“Energy. That’s how I can describe him, energy,” UF linebacker Shemar James said of Armstrong. “He’s a player’s coach. You probably seen it on a couple of clips in practice. He’s blowing his whistle. He’s hype. I will say, he’s a hands-on coach.”

“He’s a very knowledgeable coach as well. We have walkthroughs almost every day, so we know what’s going on. … And just, his energy. His energy. You can tell, like, soon as he walks in the building we have unit meetings, everybody is just pumped and ready to go.”

Austin Armstrong pedigree

James added that he “definitely” likes playing for a younger coach in Armstrong, who’s 29 years old, and can relate to him on a lot of things.

Armstrong was the youngest DC in the FBS during his first season at Southern Miss in 2021. He coordinated two top-50 defenses that ranked in the top 10 nationally in multiple categories.

Armstrong came to Florida from Alabama, where he had been recently hired as Nick Saban’s linebackers coach. He also spent 2019 working under Georgia’s Kirby Smart as a quality control coach.

“I think one of the cool things is he’s a lot younger. He brings fire and energy to the team, to the defense especially,” UF linebacker Derek Wingo said of Armstrong. “Being able to kind of just get after guys. I feel like in this program that’s something we need. We need somebody to get after us. Everyone is going to mess up and make mistakes. It shows he cares a lot when he’s on you.

“I really, really like him. You know, his aggressiveness, his attention to detail and the way he kind of just, he gets after guys. So I’d say he brings a lot of energy to the room, and a lot of the defense likes that. So it’s really good to see him getting after guys, running up and down the sidelines. That kind of fires us up to be able to go out there and play well.”

Florida coach Billy Napier hired Armstrong to replace former Gators defensive coordinator Patrick Toney, who is now the Arizona Cardinals defensive backs coach. Armstrong coached alongside Toney when was in the DC role at Louisiana in 2020.

Armstrong coached UL’s inside linebackers and Toney worked with the outside linebackers. Armstrong also served as a grad assistant with Napier and Toney in 2018, so he knows their verbiage and defensive system, making a smooth transition for UF’s players this spring.

“Austin has done a great job. I really enjoy being around him. He’s worked really, really hard to maintain as much as he can the same terminology and the same system. So, it’s been really user-friendly for our kids,” Florida linebackers coach Jay Bateman said. “His energy and the way he coaches, the way he plays our kids have responded to.

“I like coaching with him. He’ll bounce things off of me, I try to give him advice. I told him, ‘Look, when I was a coordinator, the best assistants were the guys that kept giving me advice, even when I didn’t take any of it.’ So, I’m still waiting but eventually he’s going to take one or two things. But he’s really bright. He’s going to do a great job.”

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