Sturgis wants to make a difference

With the 2012 football season right around the corner, a few Florida players are earning preseason recognition. One player being mentioned in all of the preseason talk is Florida's redshirt senior kicker, Caleb Sturgis. Throughout his time at Florida, Sturgis has witnessed a lot. His experiences have given him wisdom and maturity that will help him to make a bigger impact in the upcoming season.

When Caleb Sturgis first arrived in Gainesville, the Gator Nation was still celebrating their most recent national championship. The young kicker was optimistic about the future of the program. Not knowing what trials lay ahead of him, he anticipated a career full of victories. Unfortunately, there turned out to be more heart-breaking moments than he had hoped.

"I think the senior class has been pretty strong. It's been hard. We went 15 and 11 for the last two years. Our class came in and started out so strong and we really weren't that involved in those [earlier] years so we feel like we have a lot to prove [this season]," Sturgis said.

Since it has been four years since Florida's last national championship and three years since their unforgettable appearance in the Sugar Bowl, Sturgis thinks that the Gators have to do whatever it takes to regain their national prominence.

"Last year and the year before were hard. We're not used to getting beat like that and I think this year we feel that we need to go out there, play a lot better, and prove ourselves. We can't say that we were just national champions or that we were just in the Sugar Bowl. That was a long time ago. We need to go prove ourselves again," he said.

So far in his career, Sturgis has been an important component of Florida's special teams. The talented kicker has been exceptionally accurate and has nailed five field goals of 50-yards or more. His success has not gone unnoticed. The Gator kicker has gained recognition multiple times in his career. Most recently, Sturgis was added to the Lou Groza Award watch list.

"It's an honor to be mentioned," Sturgis said of the preseason recognition.

In previous seasons, Sturgis has had some difficulties with injuries. Going into camp, Sturgis plans to focus on staying healthy.

"The big thing for me is that I always just want to be healthy. Obviously, the past two years I haven't been as healthy as I ought to be so this year I'm really working with [Florida strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman] and all of the different strength and conditioning coaches and trainers to be as healthy as I can so I can help the team every game," Sturgis said.

The added time with the strength and conditioning staff has given Sturgis some insight into the changes that Will Muchamp and Jeff Dillman have made to the conditioning program.

"The strength program is almost completely different. I feel like they have very different mindsets [from former Strength and Conditioning coach Mickey Mariotti]. Also, we're running a different offense then we used to so guys have to have different body types and all of that. I think that Coach Dillman is a good person to bring in to do that," he said.

Since he has already proven that he has a strong leg, Sturgis is confident in his ability to make long field goals.

"It depends on the situation but I think anywhere inside the sixty I'm not going to miss it short," he said.

"Coach Muschamp proved last year that he'll let me try some [long field goals] and I really appreciate that. I'll prove during this camp that I'll be good from those ranges again," Sturgis added.

Across the country, special teams coordinators and players are evaluating the impact of the new kickoff rule.

"I like [the new kickoff rule]. I think it's going to add a lot. There are a lot of coaches out there that are thinking that the 25-yard line is pretty far up the field to start. I think it's in a lot of special teams coordinator's heads right now," he said.

Since the implementation of the new rule, Sturgis has been practicing different situational kicks.

"Coach D.J. Durkin has told me to work on a few things in the offseason and I'm sure he'll let me try some new things during camp," he said.

The change in the kickoff rule is minor compared to the other changes that Sturgis has witnessed at Florida. The most significant change was the coaching change that occurred when Urban Meyer stepped down. Although it caused a lot of turmoil for the Florida football program, Sturgis feels like the program is finally back on track.

"Everybody loves playing for Coach Muschamp. That's one thing that's really good. He definitely has the team behind him and we just want to play well for him," Sturgis said.

Now that things have turned around, Sturgis is very optimistic about the future of the Gators.

"Things definitely seem to be going in a positive direction. Coach Muschamp is starting to get the players in here that he wants and this team is really starting to shape up. I think the Gators will be good for many years to come. Unfortunately, I won't be here for all of them but I think that this year is going to be a good start," he said.

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