Spring review: Position-by-position breakdown of UF’s special teams

Spring review: Position-by-position breakdown of UF’s special teams

Now that Florida’s Orange & Blue Debut is in the books, it’s time to reflect on the 15 days of spring and project where the Gators might find themselves heading into the fall.

Here’s a position-by-position look at the special teams:

The kickers

Getting it done: It was a workmanlike spring for punter Johnny Townsend and place-kicker Eddy Pineiro. The two consistently did their job, just like they did throughout last season. They form probably the best kicking combination in the SEC, and maybe the nation. Townsend averaged 47.9 yards a punt last season and consistently flipped field position and made opposing offenses go long distances to reach the red zone, while Pineiro was clutch throughout his first season, making 24 of 28 field goal attempts and, like Townsend, producing favorable field position with his kickoffs. The two will carry a great deal of confidence with them into the offseason following a positive spring that saw both improve.

Still needs work: In the kicking phase of special teams, the main thing is for all involved to continue working on timing, something that has been going on between long-snapper Ryan Farr and the two kickers. This is an area that has steadily improved over the last year, but can always be a little bit more efficient. The Gators also need to start building depth at punter and place-kicker.

Spring star: Pineiro was the star of last year’s spring game, but the overall special teams star for this spring goes to Townsend, whose booming punts and ability to pin teams inside their own 15-yard line make him one of UF’s best and most consistent weapons. He punted only once in the spring game, and, no surprise, it sailed 57 yards with no chance of a return.

Spring surprise: Maybe the biggest surprise came late in the fourth quarter of the spring game, when the usually reliable Pineiro clanged a 49-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. It was a letdown for a crowd that was expecting a make and ready to explode with its “Eddy, Eddy, Eddy” chant.

Projected starters: Townsend (P) and Pineiro (PK).

The skill players

Getting it done: Despite having many skilled athletes and playmakers on the roster, the Gators produced little in the return game last season, and improving in that area was a spring priority. UF tweaked its schemes and took a look at many options in the return game. During one practice nine different players returned kickoffs and punts, so it’s clear the coaches are determined to find a combination that will result in more explosive plays in 2017. Dre Massey, who was limited to non-contact work, is back returning kickoffs, something he did in the spring game. He has the speed and elusiveness to be a home-run hitter in the return game. Antonio Callaway, who missed last spring and went on to struggle in the punt-return game last season, worked hard this spring to regain his 2015 form, when he returned two punts for […]