Scouting Florida’s 2020 Opponents: Ranking the special teams

Kentucky punter Max Duffy was selected to The Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference team. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

 For only the second time since 2013, a Townsend will not be flipping field position for the Florida Gators with booming punts this football season.

 The Townsend brothers — Johnny and Tommy — and their strong and reliable kicking legs are gone, leaving the Gators to find a new punter in 2020. Whoever that punter turns out to be, he’ll have a lot to live up to.

 The Townsends set quite a standard at UF. In their six combined seasons, the brothers combined to average 44.7 yards a punt.

 Johnny, who punted in 2013 and 2015-17, averaged more than 47 yards a punt his last two seasons. Tommy averaged 44.6 yards a punt over the past two seasons.

 The leading candidate to step in is a true freshman who is from a world away — Australian Jeremy Crawshaw, who is a highly rated prospect.

 The other phase of UF’s kicking game figures to be a team strength this season. Junior place-kicker Evan McPherson has been remarkable in his first two seasons, converting 34-of-38 field goal attempts.

 In the return game, the Gators need to replace the reliable, and sometimes explosive, Freddie Swain, the punt returner the past two seasons.

 As for UF’s opponents, here’s a look at the top 10 special teams players the Gators will face in 2020:

  1. Max Duffy, P, Kentucky — No one flips field position better than this guy. He won the Ray Guy Award last season after averaging 48.12 yards a punt.
  2. Jerrion Ealy, KOR, Ole Miss — This elite athlete has a chance to become one of the most dangerous return men in college football. He had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and averaged 24.38 yards a return as a true freshman last season.
  3. Keyshawn Helton, KOR, Florida State — He was the top kickoff returner in the nation before sustaining a season-ending injury after six games. Before he went down, he averaged 28.5 yards a return.
  4. Jake Camarda, P, Georgia — Among punters in the SEC, he’s very close to Duffy’s level. He averaged 46.84 yards a punt in 2019.
  5. Derek Stingley, Jr., PR, LSU — Yes, the best cornerback in the country also is a dangerous threat on special teams. He averaged 9.59 yards a punt return in 2019 and seems primed to break out on special teams this season.
  6. Zach Johnson, KOR, Kentucky — This fast and fluid wide receiver averaged 27.33 yards a kickoff return last season, giving UK favorable field position.
  7. Brent Cimaglia, PK, Tennessee — One of the nation’s most consistent kickers, he converted 23 of 27 field goal attempts last season and was two-for-two from 50 yards or longer.
  8. Trey Palmer, KOR, LSU — Like his teammate Stingley, Palmer is a home-run threat in the return game. He returned one kickoff for a touchdown and averaged 21.67 yards a kickoff return last season.
  9. Mac Brown, P, Ole Miss — Another flipper of field position, Brown averaged 44.27 yards a punt last season.
  10. Elijah Moore, PR, Ole Miss — He’s a big-play threat as a wide receiver and a punt returner. He had one punt return of 55 yards and averaged 7.09 yards a return last season.