GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Here are the special teams grades for No. 15 Florida at the midway point of the season.
Eddy Pineiro has been a major upgrade for the Gators. He’s No. 1 in the SEC and third nationally in kickoffs. Pineiro ranks No. 5 in the SEC in field-goal percentage, converting 9 of his 12 attempts. He’s made both kicks of more than 50 yards, but missed a 32-yarder against Missouri. However, he followed that up with a 53-yard field goal. Pineiro also missed from 42 yards against Kentucky before making his season long of 54. The best quality he’s shown is the confidence to bounce back from misses and make the next one, something former kicker Austin Hardin could not do.
Johnny Townsend will be in contention for the Ray Guy Award this season. He leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in punting. Townsend had a punt travel longer than 50 yards in each of the first five games, including a 62-yarder at Vanderbilt. He had five punts of more than 50 yards in that game and five downed inside the 20. All four of his punts against Missouri were also downed inside the 20. Townsend also has done a great job as the holder for Pineiro, and their celebrations after made field goals never disappoint.
Return game: D
The Gators have defended returners very well, especially on kickoffs. They haven’t allowed any touchdowns or big returns, which is what keeps this grade from being an F. Antonio Callaway has been a disaster on punt returns. In 2015, he became the first in program history with 600-plus receiving yards and 400-plus punt return yards in a season. His 2 punt return touchdowns tied the school record for most in a season, and his 435 yards rank second all-time at UF. This year, Callaway ranks last in the league and 74th nationally out of 78 punt returners. His decline is baffling, and Florida hasn’t gotten anything out of kick returns, either.
Florida has found a kicker in Pineiro and now boasts two of the best specialists in the country. The offense really could benefit from having some help in the return game, even if it’s just getting good field position. The Gators also haven’t blocked a field goal or punt since 2013.