When Billy Napier put together his initial staff for Florida football, one of the hires that felt like a home run was getting then LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond to make a move to Gainesville. During his time at LSU, Raymond had 14 players under his wing get drafted, along with seven first-team All-Americans.
Yet, despite inheriting a unit that was in better shape than some others upon the departure of Dan Mullen, Raymond just never seemed to live up to his billing during his two seasons in Gainesville.
Florida Football: That’s just the way it is
It was announced last night and first reported by Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel that Raymond and defensive line coach Sean Spencer was being let go by Napier.
Spencer’s dismissal feels a little harsh, considering the injuries the defensive line dealt with, along with their overall metrics, were not as bad as some may think. Their sack percentage of 6.04%, AKA the Gators sacked QBs on one out of every 16 passing attempts, was 70th in the country. Not elite, but not a trainwreck when compared to the metrics of Raymond’s unit.
Because Florida football was 126th out of 133 teams this season at opponents’ yards per pass attempt. Not counting the McNeese State game, the Gators gave up a woeful 8.5 yards per passing attempt.
The Gators were next to last in the SEC on explosive passing plays, surrendering 1.85 points per “successful” pass. Opposing QBs had a passer rating in 2023 of 149.2, which put the Gators’ defense at 113th.
Florida also ended the season with just three interceptions, tied for the lowest amount in the country.
If people got to finish dead last in a defensive category that is directly tied to the unit they coach and still keep their job, then everyone would do it.
What else could he do?
The hope this season was that the Florida secondary would improve since Raymond had full control. Last year Patrick Toney was in charge of the safeties while Raymond had the cornerbacks. Once Toney left for the NFL, Raymond had both units.
The biggest reason why Raymond was ultimately let go is because no one felt like they got better. Jason Marshall was a potential first-round draft pick heading into the season, and while there were flashes of his potential, too often he seemed to fear contact and had too many moments where he was the one liable for the explosive play.
Jalen Kimber was a top 100 prospect coming out of high school when he committed to Georgia. He transferred to Florida in 2022. Like Marshall, Kimber would have some solid plays and then allow a big one. He finished the season having allowed an average of 19.1 yards per catch, 11th worst among corners with at least 250 snaps.
Jordan Castell looked promising to start the season, and even though he was a physical player in high school, he seemingly regressed as the season progressed and never flashed his physicality.
Combined with the defection of Jadarrius Perkins and the season-long mystery of what happened to Kamari Wilson, the only thing left to save Raymond was his recruiting.
And while Raymond did help recruit Xavier Filsaime for the 2024 class, 247 Sports lists Austin Armstrong as the primary recruiter. Tawaski Abrams is the only other four-star player in the 2024 class to whom 247 Sports gives a supporting recruiting credit.
College football can be a cruel world, and there are real-life ramifications for Raymond, who will have to uproot again and find a new home. But the reality with Florida football is that if you aren’t the guy, the Gators will go out and keep trying until they get the guy.
That runs true for Raymond, and ultimately will run true for Napier if the next secondary coach can’t turn it around.