All of the talk in the kicking game in the offseason has been about junior college transfer Eddy Pineiro and his exploits kicking the ball. Certainly Pineiro is a huge story for the Gators, but McElwain also knows his punter Johnny Townsend is a guy that can make a big difference in games and already has done so.
“Johnny Townsend is probably one guy that isn’t talked about enough as far as our success a year ago,” McElwain said last week about his 10-4 season a year earlier. “He changed field position with his leg, he put a lot of opponents inside the 20 and inside the 10 and created long fields. Those are the hidden yardage thingsthat help you win.”
Of course all of Gator Nation has been waiting on someone that can hit field goals and even extra points consistently. McElwain set out to get the best field goal kicker he could get this past recruiting class and had to steal one from the grasps of Nick Saban who already had a commitment from Pineiro.
Alas, Pineiro would see an opportunity at Florida and the proximity of Florida that would change his mind. McElwain is happy to have his guy.
“The excitement in the stadium on Friday night when he kicked an extra point and it went through… he’s a guy that will be fun to watch him grow as a kicker,” he said.
Having a kicker with confidence and having confidence in that kicker should change a little bit of the dynamics of the way plays are called when McElwain gets in field goal territory. With the erratic play of the kicking game last year, the options were much more limited.
“You go into every game with a kick line based on (different situations),” he said eluding to wind conditions, the crowd and stadium, etc. “You know as a play caller where you feel pretty good like you have points in your pocket. That is one of the things that allow you to be a little more aggressive at times. You adjust your game plan accordingly with that.”
Being the offensive minded guy he is, McElwain stressed the bigger picture.
“Ultimately when you get down towards that area, you need touchdowns, you can’t leave points off the board. But, the thing it does allow you do is when you are in that grey area of fringe or high red area, you might say ‘let’s give him a chance’ that really helps when your drives stall out.”
McElwain made sure to point out there is another that no one talks about. Redshirt junior walk-on Jorge Powell was performing pretty well for Florida last year before hurting his knee in the LSU game. McElwain expects a full recovery and for him to be back in the mix this fall.
“It’s good to have (Pineiro) here, it’s also good to have Jorge Powell who came in and kicked until he hurt his knee in the LSU game,” McElwain said. “He was a good kicker until we lost him. He’s back and healthy, so to have two of those guys here… that is comforting.”