What you can expect from the Gators’ defense under Austin Armstrong

On February 27th, just 14 days after accepting a job to coach linebackers at Alabama, Austin Armstrong officially joined forces with Billy Napier as the Gators’ defensive coordinator.

Last Saturday, Armstrong spoke to the media following Florida’s fourth spring practice, giving us a little more insight on how the Gators’ defense will look in 2023.

“Mainly our deal is gonna be multiple four down front team that plays split safety, man match meal for close coverage,” Armstrong said. “We’re gonna pressure, you know, more creeper gets thrown around right, which is, you know, four-man pressure versus the pass and five-man pressure against the run. So it’s a mixture of fire zone and cover three cup concepts.”

Florida’s defense is going to give you a variety of fronts under Armstrong.

“We’re very very multiple you know, we are basically a 3-3-5 per se but really a 4-2 because that’s what modern football is,” Armstrong said. ” “We don’t have a toolbox. We like to say we have a tool shed of scheme.”

Armstrong believes the versatility within his system will help the Gators scheme against their opponents.

“At the end of the day, you know, not many people are like us that are multiple in the backend and multiple the front end, they are kind of one or the other, right? We’re both,” Armstrong said. “I mean, we’re gonna be able to take whatever tools we need every week to play in this league because each team is different. Vanderbilt’s different than Georgia. Georgia is different than Tennessee. You know what I’m saying? Like you’ve got to have a scheme that is flexible to what you’re seeing all the time, but also what your players can do.”

Schematically, Florida’s defense isn’t going to look much different under Armstrong than it did with former defensive coordinator Patrick Toney calling plays.

“The thing I did when we got here is I wanted to change for them, not them change for me,” Armstrong said. “So our scheme is very, very similar, you know what I’m saying? And, you know, Patrick is one of my best friends and we talk all the time, and I was picking him, I mean, ‘why did you change this?’ And he’s like, well, ‘why did you change that?’ You know, so we picked each other with that, but I came in in the very first meeting, I want them to know, because there was a lot of anxiety. You know, this would be their third coordinator in three years, right, and I see guys I’ll change for you. It’s a word, a word, but the concepts are very, very similar and the tools are very similar. So we’ve done everything we can do for our coaches and players to keep that stuff similar, relative with the players. We can remove that anxiety, and we can move forward.”

An Austin Armstrong led Southern Miss defense totaled 44 sacks in 2022, which ranked fifth in division one college football.

“From a pressure standpoint, you know, we are aggressive,” Armstrong said. “I mean, we say we try to negotiate with a hammer, right? Like, we’re going to be aggressive. We’re not going to let them dictate the terms of engagement. We’re gonna be able to run all our stuff against all circumstances of offense. You know, we feel like we have a good run pressure philosophy in relative to the pass game.”

The staple of the Austin Armstrong’s defense is physicality.

“We talk about Florida DNA. We talk about the Gator DNA. We want to be tough,” Armstrong said. “That tough isn’t acting a fool. It’s striking blockers, being mentally tough to handle situational football.”

“We want physicality,” Armstrong said. “When that ball is in the 53 1/3, we’re gonna hunt the ball, and we’re gonna punish the ball carrier.”

“Our objective every week is to change the way the opponent thinks,” Armstrong said. “When that ball is in my hand, I’ve got to really consider people with orange helmets are coming.”

Although the scheme is similar, there’s a new leader inside the locker room for the Florida Gators. With three different defensive coordinators in the past three seasons, the pressure is at an all-time high for the 29-year-old Alabama native.













Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.