Florida position breakdown: Special teams
Published: Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 10:44 p.m.
This is the last of a seven-part series breaking down the Florida football team.
Perhaps the most encouraging news has been the healthy return of Andre Debose from ACL surgery that sidelined him last season. On a team that could generate little on offense, Debose might have added a spark with his electrifying kickoff return skills. Debose has returned a school-record four kickoffs for touchdowns and is a threat to go the distance on every return. He brings back a dynamic element to the special teams. Almost as encouraging is the fact that punter Kyle Christy, a Ray Guy award finalist in 2012 who fell completely off the college football landscape last season, has worked his way out of his 2013 slump and is back to booming punts like he did two years ago. Christy became so erratic last season that he lost his starting job to true freshman Johnny Townsend. If Christy continues to punt like he has in camp, it will allow the Gators to redshirt Townsend this season and have him for three more years as the probable starter. Seemingly always a strength when it comes to UF special teams, the Gators have a bunch of fast, athletic guys on the return and cover teams who also are threats to block punts and field goals. Also, by all accounts, Austin Hardin and Frankie Velez both performed well in camp and should bring a little more consistency to the field-goal team.
The Gators enter game week for the opener not sure who their starting field-goal kicker is. Hardin and Velez were pretty much even throughout camp and will settle their competition (for now) on the practice field this week. Hardin and Velez had some problems with consistency in camp, but Will Muschamp attributed some of their misses to bad timing with the snaps and the holds, so that's an issue the Gators will continue to have to deal with. The Gators also may need to change things up with their field-goal block team. Last season, opponents were a rather remarkable 22-of-23 in field goal attempts, and eight-of-eight from 40 yards and longer.
Young guy to watch
True freshman tailback Brandon Powell impressed the coaches with his speed, quickness and explosiveness coming out of cuts in camp. He might have a chance to display those same skills in the return game, bringing another threat to go along with Debose.
PROBABLE DEPTH CHART
16-Austin Hardin OR
4-Kyle Christy OR
RANKING SEC SPECIAL TEAMS
1. Texas A&M
10. S. Carolina
12. Miss. St.
13. Ole Miss