Florida co-defensive coordinator Patrick Toney is leaving for the Arizona Cardinals after just one season and being replaced by recently hired Alabama assistant Austin Armstrong, sources told ESPN.
Toney, who called the Gators’ defensive plays last season, accepted a defensive secondary coaching position with the Cardinals. Toney, 32, came to Florida with Billy Napier from Louisiana, where they worked together for four seasons. Toney also coached safeties at both Florida and Louisiana and coached outside linebackers for one season at Louisiana.
Toney isn’t the only assistant leaving Florida. Sources told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that tight ends coach William Peagler is also joining the Cardinals’ staff in a defensive role.
Napier is turning to a familiar face to replace Toney. Armstrong worked under Napier two different times at Louisiana. Armstrong was the Ragin’ Cajuns’ inside linebackers coach in 2020 when they finished 10-1. He served as a defensive graduate assistant under Napier in 2018. Armstrong also worked on Kirby Smart’s 2019 Georgia staff as a defensive quality control coach and worked closely with current Oregon coach Dan Lanning.
Armstrong, 29, joined Alabama’s staff last month as inside linebackers coach and wasn’t officially announced as a member of the Crimson Tide staff until Feb. 13. He was previously the defensive coordinator at Southern Miss for two seasons in 2021-22 and was the youngest FBS defensive coordinator at the time. Southern Miss tied for fourth nationally last season with 44 sacks.
The Gators finished 6-7 in Napier’s first season. They ranked 11th in the SEC in scoring defense (28.8 points per game) and 12th in total defense (411 yards per game). Florida allowed 30 or more points in six of its seven losses.
Southern Miss’ first defense under Armstrong in 2021 was one of the most improved units in college football. The Eagles finished second nationally in first downs allowed (197) and sixth in red-zone defense (70.2%).