Florida loses Patrick Toney but eyes a new DC. 3 things to know about Austin Armstrong

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

Florida Gators defensive coordinator Patrick Toney is leaving for an NFL job as a defensive assistant with the Arizona Cardinals, according to multiple sources.

Florida coach Billy Napier hasn't wasted time targeting a successor. The Gators are zeroing in on former Southern Mississippi defensive coordinator and current Alabama inside linebackers coach Austin Armstrong to replace Toney.

Toney, 32, secured an NFL job despite struggling in his lone year as defensive coordinator with the Gators. Under Toney, Florida ranked 12th in the SEC in total defense (411.0 ypg allowed), 10th in scoring defense (28.8 ppg) and last in the SEC in third-down conversion rate (49.7 percent).

Napier brought Toney with him to Louisiana, where he had a reputation as an innovative defensive coordinator.

"We would like to congratulate Patrick Toney on his new challenge and opportunity in the National Football League," Napier said. "PT has been a pivotal part of our success over the last five years. He has set a great example and has been a relentless worker and learner."

Florida Gators co-defensive coordinator Patrick Toney walks during Gator Walk at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Saturday, October 29, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Outspending rivals:Gators outspent Georgia, FSU, Tennessee and LSU in support staff in 2021-22

SEC media days:Billy Napier to speak in Nashville on July 19

Anthony Richardson's draft stock:Some NFL Draft experts think he will go Top 5

Here are three things to know about Armstrong:

Austin Armstrong was nation's youngest defensive coordinator at Southern Miss

Armstrong, 29, was the youngest defensive coordinator in FBS when he was hired as Southern Mississippi's defensive coordinator in 2020 at 27 years old. His unit, nicknamed the "The Nasty Bunch," showed growth from 2021-22.

In Armstrong's second year piloting the Southern Mississippi defense, the Eagles ranked 45th nationally in scoring defense (23.5 ppg allowed), third nationally in tackles for loss per game (8.3), fifth in sacks (3.38) and seventh in interceptions (17).

In addition, Armstrong's defense at Southern Miss was stout on money downs, ranking third nationally in third- and fourth-down conversion defense (23.1 percent).

Austin Anderson worked under Billy Napier at Louisiana

Armstrong worked under Napier, first as a graduate assistant in 2017 and 2018, then as an inside linebackers coach at Louisiana in 2020.

In 2020, Armstrong contributed to a Louisiana defense that ranked second in the country in passes intercepted (15), third in the country in defensive passing efficiency (96.27), fourth in passing yards allowed per game (166.9) and 31st in total defense (347.8).

Austin Armstrong worked as a quality control coach under Kirby Smart at Georgia

Armstrong worked as a quality control assistant at Georgia under Kirby Smart in 2019, learning from a defensive mind that helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles in 2021 and 2022.

Georgia's defense climbed as high as third in the country nationally in 2019 as the Bulldogs finished the season 12-2 with a win in the Sugar Bowl.