Kicking jobs open at UF


Florida punter Kyle Christy boots the ball during the first half Saturday against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.

Florida coach Will Muschamp is so disappointed in the production of his starting kickers — punter Kyle Christy and place-kicker Austin Hardin — that he's put both on notice that they are going to have to compete to keep their starting jobs this week.

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Florida punter Kyle Christy boots the ball during the first half Saturday against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

Christy, an All-America selection and finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season, dropped a snap and averaged only 37.0 yards a punt in the victory over Tennessee. He has been largely ineffective in flipping field position, something he excelled at a year ago.

Hardin has missed two of his five field goal attempts, with a long make of only 33 yards.

“Our specialists need to get better,” Muschamp said. “We're not very productive at the punter position right now or at place-kicker. We didn't really affect the game as far as special teams are concerned like we have in our previous time.

“We need to get better on special teams as far as affecting the game. We have not done that as much. Certainly last Saturday, we didn't have any effect."

Christy will be competing this week with true freshman Johnny Townsend, a player whom the coaches are now willing to take a redshirt off this season if necessary.

Hardin, a redshirt freshman, will be competing with senior walk-on Brad Phillips. The two were pretty much in a dead heat for the starting role in the preseason before Hardin pulled away late in camp.

“I'm going to open it up with Kyle,” Muschamp said. “Johnny Townsend's been a guy that's probably been as consistent a punter as we've had in camp. We'll pull the redshirt off Johnny if we need to. We need to get more production at the punter position, and that's what we'll do.

“Austin, I think, same situation. I'm going to give Brad some live looks this week in practice and see how he responds.

“Jeff Choate, and D.J. (Durkin) are two of the best special teams coaches I've ever been around. They're in no better hands. You know, we didn't forget how to coach Kyle from last year.”

Driskel surgery Wednesday

Quarterback Jeff Driskel, who broke his lower right leg in the first quarter of last Saturday's game, will have surgery Wednesday, Muschamp said.

“It's a four-to-six month recovery from the surgery,” Muschamp said. “He'll have a plate inserted in his fibula, which is the non-weight-bearing bone in the lower leg.

“So, again, very disappointed for Jeff. That's part of the game, but it's very difficult to deal with. I really hurt for him and his family and for us as a football team.”

Injury update

Muschamp said he expects his five injured starters — cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), offensive guard Jon Halapio (eye), defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder), cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy (thigh contusion) and offensive tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) — to return to practice at some point this week and be available for Saturday's game at Kentucky.

“We expect (Orr) to be back Tuesday or Wednesday for practice. He will miss practice today getting treatment,” Muschamp said. “Marcus Roberson ran well yesterday. We're going to rehab him again and let him run in the pit for us and then probably get him back on the practice field Tuesday, expect him to play.

“Jon Halapio should be fine. Loucheiz Purifoy is fine. He ran extremely well yesterday coming off a pretty good hit on the kickoff coverage there when he was returning the ball. But he ran extremely well yesterday and is going to practice today. Tyler Moore should be fine. He'll practice (today). We'll hold him (Monday).”

Tailback Valdez Showers (ankle) is doubtful for Saturday's game, while redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson is expected to miss possibly two weeks with a stress fracture in his foot.

“I'm disappointed for Colin,” Muschamp said. “He was really starting to progress and do well for us. He's had some issues with his foot. This is a different issue with his foot, something that hasn't happened before.”

Muschamp said Halapio, the starting right guard, has three stitches in his right eye after getting it poked in Saturday's game. Halapio was playing for the first time since partially tearing a pectoral muscle this summer.

“I wish we had more (like Halapio),” Muschamp said. “He's a typical throwback. You know, his pec is mended, he's playing through a lot of pain, probably. He won't tell me, but I know he is. When he got hurt I thought it was his pec I went on the field and I looked up and he was bleeding out of his eye. So he's one tough customer, I can tell you that.”

Poole to sit out first half

Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole has been suspended from the first half of Saturday's game at Kentucky, his penalty for being ejected from the UT game in the second half for targeting.

“Yes, he'll definitely miss the first half,” Muschamp confirmed.

Fowler SEC's top defender

True sophomore defensive end/linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. was named the SEC's defensive player of the week for his performance against the Vols. He caused two fumbles, recovering one, and recorded a sack and three tackles for losses.

“It feels good. Just a blessing being able to be named SEC player of the week,” Fowler said. “There's a lot of great players in the SEC, especially defensive players, so being able to stand out and come out on top and be SEC player of the week is an honor.”

Fowler said he was so focused on playing hard and fast against the Vols that he didn't even realize UT made a quarterback change late in the first half.

“I couldn't really tell the difference,” he said. “I really don't care, when the quarterback is in the game I just want to hit him.”

Muschamp has a response to Fowler's QB comment.

“I'd like him to know who the quarterback is,” Muschamp said. “But they do look alike.”

With six TOs you get. ... candy?

Fowler and the defense produced six turnovers in the victory Saturday — two fumbles and four interceptions.

“Turnovers are like points,” Fowler said. “Six turnovers in a game is a lot. I wouldn't be surprised if we get candy or something like that.”

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