Punting problems?

Kyle Christy’s ability to flip the field made him a powerful weapon for the Florida Gators in 2012. As good as the Florida defense was during that 11-1 campaign, it got a significant boost from Christy, who averaged 45.8 yards per punt (No. 1 SEC, No. 5 nationally) and continually forced opponents to start their offensive drives deep in their own territory. In helping the Gators win and control the field position battle, Christy also gave a boost to Florida’s erratic, sometimes anemic offense.

Florida had 167 total offensive drives last season, 66 of which (39.5%) ended with a punt. The Gators averaged 12.9 drives per game and 5.1 punts.

His 2012 campaign was good enough to make him  one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award, saluting the nation’s best punter. That was last year;  2013 is a different story for Christy, who is averaging six fewer yards per punt.

The offseason got off to a strange start for Christy when he got into a scooter accident and sprained his shoulder, sidelining him for the entirety of spring practice. So far during the regular season, Christy is yet to return to form.

It’s a situation concerning enough that Florida coach Will Muschamp verbalized his displeasure when he met the media Monday.

“Our specialists need to get better,” Muschamp said. “We’re not very productive at the punter position right now or at placekicker. We didn’t really affect the game as far as special teams are concerned like we have in our previous time.”

The dropoff in punting production isn’t just something judged by the eye test. The numbers tell the story as well.

Through three games:

Year Total Punt yards Total Punts Punts/game Avg yards/punt Avg yards/game
2012 633 14 4.7 45.2 211
2013 434 11 3.7 39.4 144.7

“The obvious difference is in the production everyone can see. Kyle is a competitor. We know he’s a talented guy. Sometimes you go through those deals. He’ll work through it and be fine. He’s proven he’s very capable and he’s a determined guy. He understands he has to get better, and he will,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. Durkin was Florida’s special teams coordinator in 2011-12, turning over those duties to new hire Jeff Choate in the offseason.

Christy’s slow start is reminiscent of another recent standout Florida punter.

In 2010, Chas Henry was a consensus first team All-American, but he, too, got off to a slow start. Henry punted eight times through the first three games of that season, including only once in the season opener against Miami (Oh.), the punt only traveled 27 yards. His total yardage was 332, averaging 110.7 yards per game and 41.5 yards per punt. That season he finished punting 50 times, with a 45.1 average yards per punt, 12th best in the nation.

Henry, like Christy, also was once a finalist for the Ray Guy  Award. That was 2009. In 2010, the same year he got off to a relatively slow start, he won the award.

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Richard Johnson
Richard lives in Gainesville and prides himself in being a bonafide lifelong Alachua County Resident. He attends the University of Florida and is in his third year studying Telecommunications. He isn’t sure how he started loving football being the son of two immigrants that don’t care about the sport, but he has developed a borderline unhealthy obsession with it. In his free time, Richard watches other sports and is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tampa Bay Rays. He doesn’t like chocolate, knows Moe’s is better than Chipotle and drinks way too many Arnold Palmers. He also took up golf in the summer of 2012. That pursuit isn’t going well. You can listen to him talk about sports during the Cheapseats radio show on ESPN 850-WRUF or online at WRUF.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RagjUF.