Coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday that 216 University of Florida students responded to the call, and the football program was still working to get them cleared by the NCAA before a tryout on Wednesday afternoon.
The call was made after Jorge Powell was lost for the season after a kickoff on Saturday at LSU. That left Austin Hardin as the Gators’ only kicker on the roster, and while punter Johnny Townsend could kick in an emergency situation, McElwain wanted to open the tryout to the entire student body and try to find some depth at the position.
“That’s really good,” McElwain said of the 216 students that responded. “We’re still working through it right now. There’s obviously a lot of things NCAA-wise and making sure things are set that way before we make any decisions. By the end of the week, we hope to have some candidates that can come out and help us.”
McElwain tried the same tactic when he was the coach at Colorado State and said they found a solid kicker through it.
After the Gators took a 7-0 lead early at LSU, Powell fell down with a non-contact injury and had to be helped off the field while covering the kickoff. He was spotted on the sideline with ice wrapped around his knee. McElwain said he “felt horrible” for Powell and that the team had rallied around him since taking over the job.
Austin Hardin kicked for the first three games before suffering a leg injury and missing the next three. That’s when Powell took over the kicking duties, but Hardin dressed out for the first time in Baton Rouge. The Gators were lucky he did. He hit all four extra points and showcased his normal leg strength while booting kickoffs through the end zone.
I’m expecting him to be there,” McElwain said of Hardin’s availability for the Georgia game. “At the same time, you’ve got to have plans. That’s what we’re doing.”
Using a walk-on kicker against Georgia seems like it would create nerves for the Florida staff if Hardin isn’t able to go, and that’s why the tryout was so important to McElwain and the rest of the coaches.
“As long as they can flip it up there through the uprights, I’m good with it,” McElwain said with a laugh.
Florida tight end C’yontai Lewis (hand) was supposed to play at LSU but didn’t end up making the trip.
“I was expecting him last week, but it’s one of those deals with our doctors and trainers where we certainly don’t want to set him back,” McElwain said. “We’ll hopefully get him this week and get some work in, and he’ll definitely be ready for the following week.”
McElwain said offensive linemen Travaris Dorsey and Kavaris Harkless will return to practice this week and add depth to the position.
Linebacker Alex Anzalone (shoulder) remains doubtful for next week’s game against Georgia.
“Anzalone is still a ways away, but as I said, it’s definitely not anywhere near what we thought (when the injury happened),” McElwain said.