Confirming reports that spread like wildfire Thursday, Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced Friday that Coleman Hutzler, who has spent the previous two seasons as outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at the University of New Mexico, is joining the Florida staff as special teams coordinator. Hutzler replaces Jeff Choate, who has resigned and is expected to be named to Chris Peterson’s coaching staff at Washington.
Hutzler served as a defensive/special teams assistant at the University of Florida in 2010 and 2011. He came to Florida with now defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin in 2010 after serving as a recruiting assistant at Stanford in 2007 under former UF director of player personnel Jon Haskins, then as a quality control assistant in 2008-09. Durkin was Stanford’s defensive ends coach.
“Coleman is a young coach with a very bright future,” Will Muschamp said. “He has a great work ethic and obviously is very familiar with our special teams’ schemes. It will be a seamless transition for our players.”
Hutzler will take over a special teams unit that was problematic with placekicking and punting in 2013. The plackicker position was a revolving door of three players: senior Brad Phillips, freshman Austin Hardin and junior Francisco Velez. They combined to go 12-22 on field goal attempts and only Velez made a kick longer than 40 yards. It was a far cry from the automatic Caleb Sturgis who graduated in 2012.
The situation at punter for the Gators wasn’t much better. 2012 Ray Guy award finalist Kyle Christy underperformed with 39.6 yard per punt average in 2013 through six games played — six yards under his average in 2012. That led to his benching in favor of freshman Johnny Townsend. Townsend averaged 42 yards per punt and never relinquished the job once he earned it.
At New Mexico, Hutzler coached punter Ben Skaer, who was a first-team All-Mountain West selection in 2013. Skaer led the conference and ranked seventh nationally with a 45.8 yard average, a single-season record at UNM.
UNM’s kickoff return unit ranked 16th in the nation in 2013, averaging 24.0 yards per return. Sophomore Carlos Wiggins was named the 2013 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year after leading the nation with 1,303 total kick return yards and ranking fifth nationally with a 29.6 kickoff return average. He was the only player in the country to return three kickoffs for touchdowns in 2013, which also tied the Mountain West single-season record.
In a release from the university, Hutzler expressed his excitement to return to Gainesville and for the opportunity.
“I’m excited to be returning to Gainesville and be a part of the Gator family again,” said Hutzler. “I enjoyed my time there and have the utmost respect for Coach Muschamp and the administrative team in place at Florida. I understand the value placed on special teams under Coach Muschamp, and look forward to getting to work.”
Hutzler will also coach an outside linebacking corps stocked with talent with the likes of Neiron Ball, and Ronald Powell, although the latter may be headed to the NFL draft.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre contributed to this report.