Florida football: Billy Napier maintains faith in defensive coordinator Patrick Toney

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports
Florida Gators defense coordinator Patrick Toney makes a call during the second half against the Utah Utes at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, September 3, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Florida football coach Billy Napier defended his team's defensive coordinator during the SEC football coaches teleconference on Wednesday.

Napier maintained his faith in defensive coordinator Patrick Toney and his scheme, despite Florida entering its bye week 12th the SEC in total defense (429.3 ypg), 12th in rushing defense (185 ypg allowed) and last in the nation and SEC in third down defense (52.58 percent).

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The noise in the system increased regarding Toney and his scheme after LSU converted 8 of its 9 third-down attempts Saturday during a 45-35 win over the Gators at The Swamp. Florida didn't force a punt until the 13:12 mark of the fourth quarter.

"We’re all disappointed," Napier said. "I think there’s this perception out there, like no one cares more than we do. No one cares more than our players do, no one cares more than our staff does, and certainly no one cares more than Patrick."

The 31-year-old Toney came with Napier from Louisiana, where in 2020 he led the team's defense to fourth in the Sun Belt Conference and 33rd nationally in total defense (355.4 ypg). In 2021, Toney's defense at Louisiana finished first in the conference in scoring defense (18.3 ppg) and tied-for-ninth nationally in passing defense (192 ypg).

"Patrick I’ve been around a number of years and absolutely one of the best coaches I’ve ever been on staff with, and I’ve been around some of the elite coaches," Napier said. "He had a lot to do with our defensive turnaround at our previous stop.

"So he’s doing what he does. He’s extremely bright and he’s evaluating things objectively, technically and making the necessary adjustments. We’ve got good people in the building. No one is taking more pride than our players and our staff and Patrick Toney in trying to improve in some of these areas.”

Napier said third down defense will remain a point of emphasis during the bye week and throughout the rest of the season.

"We're learning that it's very fixable, and I've said this multiple times, and I think that it's not one specific area," Napier said. "You know it’s not like you can say ‘Hey let’s go watch all the third downs and just pick one thing that we can, you know, there’s no magic pill or secret potion here. I think there’s a lot of contributing factors, and we’re in the middle of trying to make some adjustments there.” 

OL O'Cyrus Torrence returns to practice

Napier said preseason All-America offensive lineman O'Cyrus Torrence returned to practice on a limited basis on Tuesday. Torrence, who started UF's first six games at right guard, sat out the LSU game with an undisclosed injury.

"He’s making great progress," Napier said. 

RB Lorenzo Lingard takes advantage of opportunity

Running back Lorenzo Lingard replaced Nay'Quan Wright as the third running back in UF's three-back rotation against LSU and took advantage of his playing time, rushing three times for 16 yards with one catch for seven yards.

“Lorenzo’s worked extremely hard, in particular as of late," Napier said of the Miami transfer. "He’s had phenomenal practices. He’s been much more intentional in the meetings and the walk-throughs. Just overall earned that opportunity through what we observed in practice."

Napier said Wright, who has 44 carries for 175 yards and 2 TDs, was healthy for the LSU game.

"He was not on the injury report," Napier said.

Bye week plan

Napier had the team practice Tuesday and will practice Wednesday before giving players Thursday off. On Friday, Florida will hold a practice focused on fundamentals and improvement for each of its position groups. 

"Players will off Saturday, and then we’ll run, life them on Sunday and kind of turn the page going forward," Napier said. "It’s been good. We’ve used similar formats in the past. I think each year’s a little bit different but certainly pleased with some of the things we did (Tuesday), and we’ll be back after it."