Can Teryl Austin Build On Charlie Strong's Success At Florida?

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Can Teryl Austin Build On Charlie Strong's Success At Florida?
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While the Florida Gators have many holes to fill this season, the departure of defensive coordinator Charlie Strong to become Louisville's head coach ranks among the most pressing.

To replace Strong, a three-time Frank Broyles Award  finalist, Meyer turned to Teryl Austin, a man who has spent 19 years as a defensive coach in the NFL and college football.

Austin, who has spent the last seven seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Seattle Seahawks (2003-2006) and Arizona Cardinals (2007-2009), has been coaching since 1991.

When Meyer and Steve Addazio hired Austin to replace George Edwards, who left less than a month after coming to Florida to take the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator job, they cited Austin's great recruiting during his time at the collegiate coaching level.

Also, in addition to Super Bowl berths with the Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl XL) and the Arizona Cardinals (Super Bowl XLIII), Austin's 2007 secondary led the NFL in interceptions returned for touchdowns (six).

However, despite his past credentials, Austin still has a lot to live up to in taking over for Strong.

Before becoming Florida's defensive coordinator in 2003, Strong held the same job at South Carolina where he made the Gamecocks one of the nation's toughest defenses.

Strong provided stability for the Gators during the final two seasons of the turbulent Ron Zook era, serving as the interim head coach in a 27-10 loss to the Miami Hurricanes in the 2004 Peach Bowl.

Strong's body of work impressed Meyer when he took over as head coach in 2005 and Strong remained on the coaching staff as co-defensive coordinator as a result—a decision that paid huge dividends for Florida defensively.

During the 2006 and 2008 BCS Championship seasons, Strong's defense (with help from co-coordinator Greg Mattison in 2006) gave up a meager 13.2 points per game in 28 games.

In those two BCS Championship Games, the Florida defense was simply dominant in every aspect of the game.

The 2006 defense yielded only 82 yards of total offense to the Buckeyes and the 2008 defense held the Sooners (51.1 points per game) to just 14 points, effectively shutting down Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Troy Smith and Sam Bradford.

In his final season in Gainesville, Strong's defense ranked fourth nationally in total defense (252.57 yards per game) and yielded only 13.1 points per game.

Considering Strong's track record, Austin has a tremendous task in replacing the man who served as the Gators' defensive coordinator for the past seven seasons.

However, Austin will have help from co-defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, who was very instrumental in Strong's recent success with the Florida defense.

During his time as an assistant coach with the Gators, Heater has coached All-American cornerbacks Reggie Nelson, Ryan Smith, and Joe Haden.

Austin, with the help of Heater and Meyer, seems suited to pick up where Charlie Strong left off with the Gator defense.

Granted, filling Strong's shoes won't be easy, especially with the losses of Haden, Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, and Major Wright to the NFL.

However, with a dangerous secondary composed of Janoris Jenkins, Ahmad Black, Will Hill, and Matt Elam, and experienced linebackers Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones, Austin's unit will have plenty of talent to go around.

"I'm excited to join the Gator coaching staff," Austin told The Gainesville Sun. "I've watched from afar what this program is about—winning championships with dynamic players and doing things the right way."

With Austin and Heater at the helm of the defense, Florida should continue to do just that.

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