Preparing Pineiro is very important for Gators

The Gators just have a field goal kicking game like they did a year ago. That is why Florida head coach Jim McElwain set out to find the best kicker he could to join the program. They found the guy they wanted in Junior College athlete Eddy Pineiro and they went after him hard.

Even though the Gators were first to offer a scholarship, Pineiro visited Alabama a day or two before that offer and fell in love with the place.  A week or so later and Alabama offered and it wasn’t long before Pineiro committed to the Crimson Tide.

When Eddy Pineiro committed to Alabama, McElwain went after him harder.

If schools like Florida and Alabama are after you and really want you, you are probably pretty good at your craft. Yet, there are questions about Pineiro and his future.

He kicked field goals in half dozen or so games in high school. In his lone year in junior college he played soccer, they didn’t have a football team. The question is… how does he perform under the pressure of teams coming after him and under the pressure of being called on in an instant to perform? 

The thing about college coaches is they just want to see the talent. They feel they can coach the players up if they have the talent. There were no second thoughts with taking a guy like Pineiro who has one of the strongest legs the Gators have ever had.

“There was never any apprehensiveness when you’re recruiting him, trying to get him,” Florida special teams coordinator Greg Nord told the media on Friday after the Gators scrimmaged for the third time this spring. “But once you get him, you’re like ‘Alright, now we gotta get him ready.’ So no, there wasn’t. He was our guy from the get-go.”

Recruiting Pineiro was just like recruiting anyone else at any position. You get to know as much about the person as possible before you set out to really take them in the recruiting process. He was the first home visit for McElwain after the season because they really wanted him after knowing everything they could about him.

“You know, you get to know him when they come to the different camps,” Nord said. “They come around you during the recruiting process. You go into their home, have dinner with the family and you see how they respond and ask, and a lot of research goes into everybody on our team that we recruit.”

In essence they likely won’t really know how well he will do this year until he does perform in games, but they like what they have seen from him so far, starting with his mentality.

"I kind of like the guys demeanor,” McElwain said at his presser earlier in the day Friday. “You kind of tell him, 'Hey, we're going to put you in some pressure situations today.' He just smiles and shakes his head and says, 'I can't wait.' That's what you kind of like. And yet, he's missed a couple. I'm kind of glad to see that because he doesn't seem to let it affect him. As much as we can do in The Swamp with the Friday night piece, I think all of that helps. "

Friday’s scrimmage was a big test of that. The offense drove the field on the first series and was stopped short for a lengthy but makeable field goal attempt. Pineiro lined up and missed the shot. Instead of sulking and letting it get to him, he was perfect for the rest of the scrimmage,

“He did alright,” Nord said about his play in the scrimmage. “We’ve actually put him under the gun. We’re simulating a lot of the things that he’s gonna see and making it hard on him. To be honest, we’ve put him in some tough situations so that — it sounds crazy as a coach — but putting him in some situations so he learns how to deal with non-success if it happens. So he had one real long one that he actually missed but he came back and didn’t let it bother him. I know one thing, I’m glad he’s with us.”

This is as much as they can do right now to get him ready and the staff believes what he is going through right now is really making him better and getting ready for the real thing.

“It’s tremendously important,” Nord said. “Everything we do is geared toward making sure we get him game-ready for next year. He’s a tremendous talent. He’s got a live, live leg.”

A lot of coaches will tell you that the field goal kicking is more mental than anything. Once you perfect your leg swing and you get the timing down with the kicking battery, it is all about repeating the right steps of the process and all mental.

Nord has been around some good ones and believes Pineiro will be ready.

“When you get as old as I am, you’re fortunate to have been around some really good kickers and some really bad kickers,” Nord said. “He reacts like the really good kickers I’ve been around. I’ve had guys that have been to the Pro Bowl, I’ve had guys that have won the Lou Groza award. He responds like those guys, not the bad ones.”

What is it that makes him that way?

 “Well his focus,” Nord said. “Nothing rattles him. He handles discipline and adversity well. He doesn’t let outside distractions draw him away from the focus that he needs to maintain for each play.”


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