Florida assistant Greg Nord talks to the media about where things stands with special teams

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Q&A with Florida special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Greg Nord.

Florida's special teams has bailed UF out of a few sticky situations this season. With the Gators offense struggling in the past two games, the spotlight is on Johnny Townsend. The Gators punter is consistently pinning opponents down field helping the UF defense. 

"It's super. I've been blessed that I've had a couple other really good punters in my coaching career that have a got a chance to go play in the NFL, but Johnny might be the best of all of them that I've had," said Nord.  "Anytime you're punting the ball 50-yard average, my gosh, that's as good as there is in the country.

"He also presents a challenge sometimes on covering them because he'll put some of them out there 60-something yards there on a couple of them so you've got to get the guys rolling down the field," he added. "And when you're playing some of these great returners, it gives them a chance to get the ball caught and get running at you so we have to go down there and make sure we get them covered."

In the same vein, Florida kicker Eddy Pineiro is another useful weapon for Florida. He is not only a fan favorite, but a great tool when the offense has struggled to score touchdowns. 

"He’s been fabulous," said Nord. "He makes covering teams a lot easier. I know that. He had a couple misses there, I believe it was the Kentucky game where it was a little uncharacteristic. But he’s been a good, steady weapon for us.”

However, not everything has run quite smoothly. The return game is not quite up to par.

"We've got to get a little more consistent there. We've got to make sure we obviously do a better job of making some decisions on fielding a few of the punts that we've had," said Nord. "We've faced a couple teams that have rugby punted that got the ball on the ground rolling on us, and a lot of times some of those balls that you're catching on the hop that you would have normally had a fair catch on takes away some of your punt return average."

Antonio Callaway has had a few issues on punt returns this season. Callaway has muffed a few punts this season, two against Tennessee

"I think it was frustrating for everyone in the Gator Nation," stated Nord. "It was a situation in the game where sometimes a greater player starts pressing to try to change the momentum and change the situation of the game...In his mind he thought he was going to go catch the ball and return it for however many yards. We work on putting our heels at the eight and not backing up because you have to be able to fair catch it so you don’t get it on the one or two. A good punter, which he was, lands it there and rolls it in. You know, he’ll come along. He’s a great player, he’s prove it, we know he can do it, everybody in this room knows that.”

According to Nord, the returners are not the only ones to blame. 

"You know, we've just got to do a better job of getting the ball and getting running. The blocker's got to block better, the returners have got to run better, I've got to coach better," he added. "All of us got to continue doing the things. Certainly it's something that we think can be a weapon for us as it obviously was last year. We've just got to get back to getting some of the things done that we were able to do in those situations."

Odds and Ends 

On DeAndre Goolsby 

"I think he’s done a good job. He caught several balls last Saturday, and a big number of catches, wanted to get him loose on a couple of those short throws. Looking for some short throws, catch and runs. They did a good job of coming up and making plays on a couple of them. He did a nice job. C’yontai [Lewis] had a couple of good catches in there. He had the big long one on the over route. Then he had the nice option route. Both of those guys have been playing pretty steady football. They’ve improved. I think they finally got over being young and relying on Jake McGee that they had last year. Now they fulfilled those roles and have been able to go seize it and take control of the offense, being able to do things we’re asking them to do.”

TEs behind Goolsby, Lewis 

"Well, we've got Moral Stephens. He's a guy that one day, it's going to be 'Woah. Where's he been?' because he's got talent. He continues to go and he played the whole first game when C'yontai was out and did a good job for us. He's certainly capable. That doesn't mean he's not going to be a good player for us. Right now, we just have two guys that are playing ahead of him. Cam Knight is a guy that continues to work hard and is ready to go if something were to happen to Goolsby."

Emphasis on blocking punts

“We carry a block every now and then. When we have been back there retraining we’ve been, that’s a big time weapon for us. It hasn’t proven out as much so far this year as it was able to do last year. We do work on the different blocks and we had several called in the last game. If you look at them there’s one or two inches from getting a hand on the ball and get one blocked. We have worked on it, we do continue to work on them, we carry blocks in there every week as we think we can attack a team’s protection with and then we also have a return game set up to try to take advantage of what we think will give us the best opportunity to return against.”

41 games since Florida last blocked a punt or kick 

"Well, yeah. I coached against those guys that blocked those punts 41 games ago and the cat they had bringing them off of it, he's still making a pretty good living doing what he was doing then, so a lot of times, if you've got a guy who's special at blocking kicks or blocking punts, then you use him in that capacity. If you've got a guy who's special returning kicks or punts, you use that to your capacity. You try always to see what's going to give you the best chance to be successful and utilize that unit as a weapon. You know, the return game is what we think our strong suit could be. It hasn't shown up necessarily like we think it can and will at some point in the season. We'll go change the field with our return game."


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