Sturgis gets kick out of comeback


Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis gets set to try to kick a field goal, but misses, in the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 1, 2010. Sturgis said Monday his back is feeling better and he will be back on the field for the Gators.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, March 28, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.

Looking back on the five-loss season a year ago, the signs of trouble started popping up early for the Florida Gators.

There were the bad shotgun snaps and offensive ineptitude in the opener. Ineffective quarterback play and the struggle to sustain drives and score points in the three games that followed.

But maybe the most foreboding sign of all rocked Gator Nation just a few hours before the showdown with No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa — the late-breaking news that starting place-kicker Caleb Sturgis was out with a serious back injury and might be lost for the season.




That night, the Gators were blown out by the Tide, and it started a three-game SEC losing streak that put Florida's season in a tailspin.

One of the first promising signs this spring that things might be better in 2011 occurred Monday — when Sturgis showed up at interviews and announced his back is feeling good and he will be full-go this season.

“I'm getting close (to 100 percent),” he said. “I haven't done kickoffs or anything like that yet. But I'm feeling real good. Field goals. … I'm 100 percent on those.”

Losing a place-kicker may not seem all that devastating, but it was to the Gators. Not only was Sturgis their experienced field goal guy, he handled kickoffs as well. For an offense that was in such dire need of points, the Gators lost one of their best weapons with his departure.

“Not being able to play, that was obviously really rough,” Sturgis said. “I've never in my life had an injury that held me out. It was something new for me, especially being a kicker and not really expecting it would happen to me.

“That was definitely rough.”

Sturgis said he injured his back last summer through a combination of things, including lifting weights. He had an MRI before the season and kicked in pain in the first four games.

But the week of the Alabama game, the painful spasms in his back came so often that he could not sleep and another MRI was done and he was ruled out. Sturgis had a ruptured disk and a stress fracture.

“It was pretty bad,” he said.

It was bad for Sturgis — and bad for the Gators, who were relegated to making punter Chas Henry the field goal kicker.

Henry made chip-shot field goals in the loss to Alabama.

But he missed his only attempt (from 29 yards) in the loss to LSU, then went 0-for-2 against Mississippi State, including a 42-yarder with nine seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime.

“It definitely (changes your perspective when you're injured),” Sturgis said. “You don't know how much you miss it til it's taken away from you.

“Last season was tough to be on the sideline for. Chas did well and that was kind of fun to see. He's probably my best friend.

“Obviously, (the missed FG against MSU) was kind of a low of lows, and the Georgia game (in which Henry's field goal in overtime gave the Gators a win in Jacksonville) was the high of highs.”

Henry is headed to the NFL (as a punter, if the lockout ends), Sturgis' back is back in pretty good shape, and he's ready to step back in as the Gators' kicker.

Sturgis said he's going to do everything he can to keep his back healthy.

“I'm just real careful,” he said. “I don't do too much in the weight room anymore. I always stretch out a lot and really limit how many kicks I do in a day.

“I try to stay flexible and ride the bike a lot. I never liked weightlifting that much anyway.”

Sturgis wasn't the only prominent injured player from last season who showed up for interviews Monday. So did cornerback Moses Jenkins, who said he has recovered from the serious elbow injury that sidelined him for most of 2010.

Jenkins recently received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA that allows him to have a second senior season.

“I'm good now,” Jenkins said. “I always wanted to be a Florida Gator. When my opportunity finally came (I got hurt in the first game last season). This is like a blessing for me.”

Jenkins is battling for the starting cornerback spot opposite senior Janoris Jenkins.

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