Florida’s Head Coach Billy Napier made three coaching hires on the defensive side of the ball during the offseason, including Auburn’s defensive coordinator Ron Roberts, who will serve as Executive Head Coach, Co-Defensive Coordinator, and Inside Linebackers coach for Gators in 2024.
“I think part of the evaluation was that we need to play better on that side of the ball,” Napier said during Wednesday’s press conference. “I think we go through a process to evaluate what we need to do better, sometimes that’s new leadership, a new voice, a new teacher, a different approach to recruiting.”
The hiring of Roberts came following Jay Bateman’s departure to Texas A&M, where he will serve as the defensive coordinator for the Aggies.
“Jay [Bateman] got a chance to be a coordinator again so we went and we were able to get one of the better defensive coaches in the country back on our staff,” Napier said on Ron Roberts.
Executive Head Coach is not a title that is seen very often in college football. Napier provided some detail on what that role entails during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Head coach for the defense,” Napier said on Roberts’ role with the Gators. “Basically a guy who oversees that side of the ball to some degree.”
“Austin [Armstrong] is obviously the coordinator, calls the plays, runs the unit meetings, but we are getting a guy who can coach the coaches, who can improve the installation of the game plan, that really can get the best of that side of the ball,” Napier said on Roberts.
Roberts was the defensive coordinator under Billy Napier at Louisiana from 2018-19. Austin Armstrong was on Louisiana’s staff in 2018 as well, serving as a graduate assistant.
“It’s phenomenal,” Napier said on Roberts and Armstrong’s relationship. “I mean you think about Ron Roberts and what he brings to the table. Veteran coach, been a head coach, been a coordinator, play caller. Austin and him, there’s a mentor type relationship there, and a ton of respect, mutual respect.”
Roberts is the ‘OG’ or the ‘godfather’ as Napier described, of the defense Florida has tried to install over the last two seasons.
“He’s going to make us better; he’ll make the players better,” Napier said on Roberts. “His guys have always been productive, the guys that he coaches and the units that he coaches. There’s a track record of playing really good defense and we are fortunate to have him.”
In Roberts’ most recent stint as defensive coordinator for Auburn, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded the Tigers a top-25 team in pass coverage (17th), total defense (18th), rushing defense (19th) and tackling (24th).