Nord wants to rejuvenate UF special teams

Florida special teams coach Greg Nord spent multiple times on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's visiting sideline, watching Florida impact the game in a big way on special teams.

That hasn’t been the case in recent years.

During the Urban Meyer years, the Gators thrived off block kicks. In the last two years, Florida blocked only one kick or punt, a last-second punt block to win against Louisiana Lafayette. Even with Andre Debose returning kicks and punts, the last two years hasn’t delivered much of an impact.

Nord worked at Kentucky from 1979-89 and again from 2011-12, and those were long days against the speed and athleticism Florida put on the field during special teams.

"I want to get us back to playing University of Florida special teams,” Greg Nord said. “I've coached against this university at several other stops in my career and you used to have to hold your eyes with the cats they had back there deep. You used to cringe when you had to protect the guys getting ready to rush the punter. When you were returning a kick, you hoped they kicked it for a touchback because they were going to tackle you on the 10. They had an aura about them of having great special teams. That's what we're going to strive for. That's what we're going to work to try to get.”

Getting Florida special teams back to the top started soon after Nord got to Gainesville. Walking through the halls of the football facility, he would stop players in the hallway and ask what special teams units they were a part of last season. He wanted the players to understand how important the unit was to him, but it also served as his first introduction to many players on the team.

His eyes lit up when he saw one player walking in the football facility. Nord stopped the player and asked what units he played on last year. Confused and hesitant, the player introduced himself as Frankie Hammond and told the special teams coach that, unfortunately, his eligibility was up.

Nord enjoyed his time catching up with Hammond, who was in Gainesville after spending the year with the Kansas City Chiefs, and went on his way to find the next player he could use on special teams.

Having the title of special teams coach and tight ends coach, Nord knows the special teams units won’t all be about him. Florida head coach Jim McElwain actually has 11 years of experience as a special teams coach during his days as an assistant at Louisville, Michigan State and Montana State.

Other assistants will also be involved in the unit, and Nord is excited because it brings all of the coaches and players together as one instead of an offense or defense.

“It's one place that does help you mesh a team together, because you'll have offense guys lined up next to defense guys,” Nord said. “We're on the same team going against a mix of guys as well on the other. Now I get a chance to finally coach the same play next to coach Collins with the same common goal rather than have to compete with him all spring. We've got to blend that in, help that become part of the meshing with us, become part of the team, family, and get our explosive guys on the field, help us win."

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