Florida came into the season with one preseason All-American in punter Kyle Christy. As a sophomore, Christy averaged 45.8 yards-per-punt and was a critical contributor to Florida’s 11-2 record and BCS berth.
Christy struggled early and was replaced by freshman Johnny Townsend. Townsend took over the punting job for the remainder of the season and the two look ready to duke it out this offseason for the starting job in 2014.
With just two scholarship players at this position we won’t have our typical four categories as both Townsend and Christy appear to be heading towards a battle for the starting job and will be on equal footing in the offseason.
Holding Steady: Johnny Townsend, Kyle Christy
2013 Stats: 21 punts, 832 yards, 39.62 average per kick
Kyle Christy’s season was as much an enigma as the rash of injuries and Florida’s seven-game losing streak. There’s no telling why Christy’s productivity dropped off so much in 2013. Christy was one of the most consistent players on the team in 2012 and was being counted on to replicate that production and success in 2013.
There didn’t appear to be anything wrong mechanically or an injury that affected him but Christy’s early struggled likely affected him mentally. One bad kick turns into two and then three and before you know it you’re pressing with a freshman waiting in the wings to take your job.
Strengths: Christy has a huge leg. His almost 46 yard-per-kick average in 2012 proves that. He is also an accurate punter who has been able to kill punts deep inside the 20.
Weaknesses: Christy’s confidence has to be shaken. He came into the season with a lot of accolades but just watched a freshman that didn’t join the recruiting class until after signing day take his job and kick in the last six games. He needs to forget the 2013 season and start fresh this spring.
2013 Stats: 29 punts, 1,217 yards, 41.97 average per kick
Johnny Townsend would have been the first person to tell you that he was planning on and expecting to redshirt. In fact, when we spoke to him shortly after signing day that’s exactly what he told us. Townsend knew he was coming into a situation where the player in front of him had just had an incredible season and he was ready to sit and wait his turn.
What Townsend didn’t know is that he stepped into the express checkout line and his wait only lasted five games. He performed better than anyone could have expected given the circumstances and appears to be a solid player that Florida can count on moving forward.
Strengths: Townsend has a good leg and gets great hang time on his punts. He gets rid of the ball quickly and appeared to build confidence throughout the season. He’s an accurate punter who was able to start dropping punts inside the 20 as he gained more experience and confidence towards the end of the season.
Weaknesses: Townsend was asked at times to do a semi-rugby punt where he would receive the snap and punt while walking to his right. It’s not something that he looked very comfortable with in the beginning and I would argue that he would be better suited just taking the snap and using his bog leg to send punts high and deep from a normal stance.
This is going to be one of many position battles this offseason but it’s an important one. Looking at how critical Christy was to the success of the 2012 team shows even the casual fan just how important the position is.