Austin settling in at Florida

Florida has lost more defensive coordinators over the last four months than football games over the last two years.

Longtime coordinator Charlie Strong was hired as the Louisville head coach in December. He was replaced by George Edwards ... for about a month. But Edwards then bolted for the defensive coordinator's job with the Buffalo Bills.

Next up was Teryl Austin, who's the newest chief of the Gators' defense after coming over from the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. He will oversee Florida's defense along with co-coordinator Chuck Heater.

He inherits a defense that's been one of the best in the country the last two seasons, but most of the marquee players from those defenses are now gone.

"Whenever you lose a lot of quality players like we did, the spring is really important. It’s a building block," said Austin, who coached the Cardinals' defensive backs. "By the end of spring, we should have a pretty good idea who’s going to step in and replace those guys we lost."

With the Gators in the second week of their spring drills, Austin has already seen some guys take big steps toward filling those roles.

One of his most pressing priorities this spring is settling on his middle linebacker. Sophomores Jon Bostic and Brendan Beal are battling it out for the spot vacated by two-time All-SEC performer Brandon Spikes.

"When you lose your mike linebacker, the guy who calls your defense and gets everybody lined up, that’s obviously going to be an area you want to make sure you get addressed," Austin said. "We lost some really good players, but I think it’s especially important that we get that mike linebacker settled."

Jelani Jenkins, another promising sophomore linebacker, is working on the weak side right now, but Austin said Jenkins could also slide into the middle if needed.

Senior A.J. Jones is the only returning starter at linebacker and is lining up on the strong side. Brandon Hicks, who backed up Jones last season, has moved to the weak side.