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Florida head coach Billy Napier named Austin Armstrong the Gators’ new defensive coordinator in February 2023. Before Florida, Armstrong spent his last two seasons as the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at Southern Miss. 

The Gators’ defense last season was one of their greatest flaws as they gave up an average of 28.5 points per game due to their struggle. This season, the goal is to add more depth to the defense, and through the coaching of Armstrong, if Mertz and the offensive side get the ball to where it needs to be, focusing on the run first operation. If the offense can have a longer time of possession, the defense will have more time on the sidelines to rest. 

However, Florida’s defense this season will have to fill the missing hole of Gervon Dexter, Sr. Dexter, who was undoubtedly the Gators’ best defensive tackle last season, finished his final season at UF and recorded 55 tackles, two sacks, four quarterback pressures and one interception. As an interior defensive player for Florida last year, he was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft with the No. 53 pick overall by the Chicago Bears. 

With that being said, talk of this year’s defense: Cam Jackson, a transfer from Memphis, is the nose for the Gators, and we expect him to play a pivotal role in Florida’s defense. It is hard to replace prominent players from past seasons, but Jackson has shown similar depth to Dexter in comparison to both of their previous seasons. 

Jackson at Memphis recorded 41 tackles (2.5 for loss), four quarterback pressures and a one-pass breakup. Similar to the loss of Dexter, Florida was also tasked with replacing Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney, an unbreakable linebacker duo for the Gators. 

Napier and the Gators have a prominent defense, with most of the starters being juniors and seniors who have already played under Napier for one year and behind Anthony Richardson, in which they were able to learn how to play against highly skilled players. Alongside many veteran players starting, such as Princely Umanmielen and Jason Marshall Jr. Napier recruited many high-rated prospect recruits, and a majority of them, as freshmen, came in as early entries to start working for Florida early in the spring. 

Florida has put in the work over the summer and in fall camp, and this Thursday, their game against the Utah Utes will be a tough test of how their chemistry is playing together as a team.

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