Notebook: New starting punter at UF
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.
Throughout the 2013 season, Florida junior punter Kyle Christy has been unable to come close to replicating his sophomore success.
No. 22 Florida (4-2) at No. 14 Missouri (6-0), 12:21 p.m.
On Monday, Christy's season-long struggles cost him his starting job. Florida coach Will Muschamp announced true freshman John Townsend will start at punter Saturday at Missouri.
“We need to make a change there,” Muschamp said. “We've been very inconsistent punting the ball throughout the season.”
Christy was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award (given to the nation's top punter) last season and set a school record by averaging 45.8 yards per punt. For whatever reason, Christy has endured a dramatic drop-off in performance. He came into this week 12th in the SEC in punting, averaging 39.6 yards per punt with seven downed inside the 20-yard line. On Saturday against LSU, Christy twice failed to pin the ball inside the 20-yard line in critical spots.
Muschamp said the Gator coaching staff has tried to get Christy back to his 2012 form.
“We've tried to make some corrections as far as his drop is concerned, as far as the placement is concerned, as far as the swing is concerned,” Muschamp said. “And you know, it comes to a point where we've got to see some production, and right now, we're just not getting it. I think Kyle's going to be fine. We just need to work through this.”
Townsend, a Kissimmee native, averaged 44.6 yards per punt at Boone High last season. He was named a U.S. Army All-American and won the Nick Saban punting competition in 2012.
Running back Matt Jones (torn meniscus, out for season) wasn't the only casualty Florida suffered in its loss at LSU. Muschamp said junior defensive end Ronald Powell suffered an ankle injury and will miss practice Monday and Tuesday.
“We hope to get him back for Wednesday,” Muschamp said. “I hope to know more in the next 72 hours and see how the swelling goes and to see if he can get it out of his ankle and see where that goes.”
Other than that, Muschamp said the Gators should be healthy heading into the Missouri game.
Proud of Velez
Muschamp reiterated he was proud of redshirt junior kicker Francisco Velez. A walk-on junior from Ocala Trinity Catholic, Velez connected on field goal attempts of 44 and 27 yards during UF's 17-6 loss to LSU.
Before Velez' 44-yarder, UF's longest field goal of the season was from 33 yards by redshirt freshman Austin Hardin.
“We kind of opened the competition the last two weeks and the numbers speak for themselves,” Muschamp said. “The previous week Austin had kicked the best. And he came out there, and hit the low one against Arkansas and we felt like we needed to make a change there and gave Brad (Phillips) an opportunity. Then this past week Frankie's numbers were the best and so we gave him the opportunity. I told him on game day, 'We're going to kick you today, let's go and do a good job.' And he did.”
Florida's loss at LSU dropped the Gators to 1-2 on the road this season. Last season, the Gators were 4-0 on the road with impressive wins at Texas A&M, Tennessee and Florida State.
“We've been a good road team, so I don't want to ever have a crutch for anything,” Muschamp said. “We expect our guys to play well. We prepare them for crowd noise and playing in a different situation. Those are some things that we expect to play well.”
Coming from behind
Another issue that has impacted the Gators this season — coming from behind. Last season, the Gators overcame halftime deficits against Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU to post wins.
But this season, the Gators are 0-2 when trailing at the half. Including the 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators have lost their last three when behind at halftime.
“We're not very good at playing behind,” Florida senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said.