Florida Gators special teams gets revamped

With the Orange and Blue Debut in the rear view, the Florida Gators football team enters the doldrums of the off-season. The team will workout together through the off season with the strength and conditioning staff but Jim McElwain and his coaching staff are solely focused on recruiting with the spring evaluation period beginning.

With that in mind Gator Country will go over where the current roster stands, what the depth chart looks like, and how the 13 incoming freshmen will fit in at their positions when they arrive on campus in June.

So far we’ve covered quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive ends, defensive tackles, linebackers, tight ends, cornerbacks, offensive linemen and safeties. Today we wrap up the series with the specialists.

The Players
Senior — Neil MacInnes
RS Sophomore — Jorge Powell
RS Sophomore Eddy Pineiro

RS Junior — Johnny Townsend
RS Freshman — Jon Gould


Questions heading into spring

The Gators welcome back punter Ray Guy finalist Johnny Townsend, who is a known commodity with his career 44.5 yard per punt average. The real issue with Florida’s special teams the past three years has been placekicking. Austin Hardin — who converted on just 44% (16-36) of his career kicks — is gone, in his place is the YouTube/Internet sensation Eddy Pineiro. How would Pineiro adjust to kicking at Florida and can he finally give Florida what they need most on special teams — stability?

What we learned
Pineiro’s recruitment has to be the most scrutinized and closely followed recruitment of a kicker in the history of college football. Pineiro’s recruitment blew up thanks to his powerful kicking leg and an Internet connection. Pineiro, an Alabama commit at the time, started posting some mind-bendingly long kicks, like this 77-yard monster.

Pineiro had committed to Alabama but Jim McElwain couldn’t sit idly by watching his kicker combine to go 7-17 in 2015. The Gators made a huge push for Pinero and ultimately landed him. The biggest unknown surrounding Pineiro was how he would react under a brighter spotlight and under more pressure. A 77-yard kick on an 11-second video is impressive, but when there are 21 other people on the field, 11 of them trying to make sure you miss that kick, and 90,000 fans in the stands, how do you react?

Pineiro trotted out on the filed in the Orange and Blue Debut and his first PAT sailed into the club seats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The crowd of more than 40,000 erupted louder for Pinero’s PAT than they did for the precursor touchdown. His next attempt was more daunting — 52 yards. The ball shot high off Pineiro’s foot, through the uprights and cleared the 52 yards with room to spare and you would have thought Florida had just won on a last second kick of Florida State with a capacity crowd. The kick-starved fans in Gainesville were drunk on the prospect of having a new kicker and Pineiro soaked it in.

Pineiro converted kicks of 52,46 and 56 yards in the spring game, while missing from 53 and 52. He was perfect on is PATs.


Moving forward

Redshirt freshman Jon Gould looked good punting this spring. He had one attempt for 40-yards in the spring game and could have a career at Florida down the line. Make no mistake about it though, this is Townsend’s job and the redshirt junior should contend for a Ray Guy Award in 2016.

Florida also has three kickers. Jorge Powell and Neil MacInnes both were sidelined with injuries this spring and Pineiro really distanced himself during camp. Pineiro will continue to hold down the starting job, as well as handle kickoffs

Previous articleFlorida Gators hard-pressed to replace Keanu Neal
Next articleMinor receives a Florida offer: Florida Gators recruiting
Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC