Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking the Units: The Specialists (#1)

As we come to the close of our series on the best units of the 2017 Florida football squad, we come to a group that was literally only half as before last season. The addition of place kicker Eddy Pineiro to the roster last year bolstered the unit, but was also responsible for a little more confidence in the coaching staff in a season that produced nine wins. He along with punter Johnny Townsend makes this an All-American type group.

Johnny Townsend and Eddy Pineiro have to be two of the most reliable players on the entire team for head coach Jim McElwain. It isn’t as if they are without fault, but they have shown a consistency in what they do so that they have become weapons for McElwain and his staff heading into the 2017 season.

With that said, let’s talk about them a bit.

The Bad Stuff

The only thing I can think of here was a short stint early in the season last year when Pineiro was trying to do more than he should and in a sense ‘show off’. Against Kentucky he went 1-for-3 on the day and McElwain said afterward he was trying to impress and punch the ball as hard as he could. It appeared that Pineiro learned from the mistake and he missed just two more the entire rest of the season.

Possible Bright Side

While there was still some uncertainty going into last season with the place kicker role, Florida finds themselves in a great spot with the starters at kicker and punter and they also have backups that they feel can step in in case something happens.

Jorge Powell had taken over the starting place kicker role in 2015 after Austin Hardin failed to produce. A freak ACL injury on a kickoff coverage against LSU in mid-season derailed the year for Powell. Powell was just 2-for-3 on the year, but they have a confidence in Powell to do the job if necessary.

Likewise at punter. The name is familiar at that position. Tommy Townsend is the younger brother of Johnny and he transferred in to Florida before the 2016 season so he is eligible to go to start the season. Talk from the practice field is that Tommy is close to his brother in both distance and hang-time right now and that his consistency is approaching that of his All-American punter.

The Good Stuff

One could argue that Johnny Townsend has been about as responsible for a lot of the Gators 19 wins over the last two seasons as anyone. With so many games on the line, Townsend has routinely bombed the ball or pinned the opponent deep in their own territory, allowing a Top 10 defense to combine with him to really change the field position in the Gators favor during the course of a game.

In 2016 CBS Sports tabbed Townsend as a First Team All-American. He earned various All-SEC accolades as well. He punted 29 times at 50+ yards and had landed 27 punts inside the 20-yard line. In 2015 as a redshirt sophomore he averaged 45.4 yards per punt and improved on that number as a redshirt junior in 2016 to 47.9 yards per punt. He is the model of consistency.

As for Pineiro, there aren’t many kickers that received rock star status from the fan base like he did. Part of it likely came from his big social media presence, but the majority of it came when he made field goals in the spring game of 2016 and then followed it up in the opener in 2016.

The Gators needed something from the position after things went so awry in 2015 and Pineiro delivered. Not only has he shown that he can make the routine field goal consistently (84% on the year), he also went 3-for-3 on field goals of 50+ yards on the season. Pineiro made his last 12 field goal attempts of the season to finish off 2016.

BOTTOM LINE

The Gators are in good hands, ummm feet, when it comes to the punter and the place kicker. Both are going to receiver preseason All-American recognition and both have a chance of winning post season awards for their craft. To boot, there are players behind them that can contribute in a positive fashion as well. 


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