GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators have their question marks, and then they have kicker Caleb Sturgis.
“Probably the best kicker in the country,’’ Gators coach Will Muschamp said.
When Sturgis was voted preseason All-SEC first team earlier this summer, Muschamp shared the news with the rest of the team.
“I texted our team, ‘Congratulations to Caleb Sturgis — and the SEC coaches must not think much of the rest of you guys,’ ’’ Muschamp quipped at SEC Media Days. “He’s really good. He’s accurate; he’s got a great leg, very dependable. Just have to keep him healthy.”
A redshirt senior, Sturgis hit 22 of 26 field goals last season, including three from 50 or more yards. Sturgis’ 46 career field goals on 60 attempts are the second-most in school history.
Sturgis was a Lou Groza Award finalist last season and one of only two kickers at FBS schools to kick three field goals of 50-plus yards. The return of Sturgis highlights a Florida special-teams unit that is considered one of the best in the country.
GatorZone.com is taking a look at each position group entering fall camp. Here is a look at Florida’s special teams:
No. 19 Caleb Sturgis (RS Sr., 5-11, 187)
At a glance: Considered one of the top kickers in the country. Sturgis needs 21 field goals to tie former Gators kicker Jeff Chandler’s school record of 67 career field goals.
Others: Junior Brad Phillips has handled kickoff duties in the past and served as the primary placekicker against Georgia, making 2 of 3 attempts … Freshman Austin Hardin also joins the mix, arriving at UF as the nation’s top placekicking prospect by ESPN.com.
No. 4 Andre Debose (RS Jr., 5-11, 186)
At a glance: Debose has a school-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns and has averaged 27.1 yards per return in his career. He was named Gator Bowl MVP last season after his 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown put the Gators up for good against Ohio State.
Others: Running back Mike Gillislee and receiver Solomon Patton have returned kickoffs in their career.
No. 4 Kyle Christy (So., 6-3, 200)
At a glance: Christy took over as the starting punter in the second half of last season as a true freshman, averaging 40.9 yards on 30 punts. He had 10 punts land inside the 20.
Others: Redshirt freshman Todd Fennell is a walk-on who did not appear in a game last season. He was a quarterback/punter at Vero Beach High prior to enrolling at UF.
No. 26 De’Ante “Pop” Saunders (So., 5-8, 186)
At a glance: Saunders is the leading punt returner back from a season ago when he returned six punts for 25 yards (4.2 yards per return). All of Saunders’ returns came in final four games of season.
Others: This is an area the Gators are looking at several players during fall camp. “We need to settle on one,’’ Muschamp said. Debose, Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy, Quinton Dunbar, Trey Burton and Tyler Murphy are some of the players in the mix. “We needed to settle on a guy back there that can be dependable for us in those situations. Last year punt return yardage was the one thing we need to take a step forward with.”
No. 46 Drew Ferris (RS So., 6-1, 214)
At a glance: Served as long snapper on punts and field goals in all 13 games a season ago.
Others: Redshirt freshman Kyle Crofoot is team’s other long snapper.
No. 47 John Crofoot (RS Jr., 5-11, 150)
At a glance: The former kicker served as UF’s primary holder in 2011, helping the Gators make 24 of 29 field goals and 33 of 33 extra-points.